Avalon Pack and Ship is in Business

It has been quite a while since I last wrote a blog post.  The last time I wrote on this subject I said that I was working on finding retail space to move forward with the plan to open my Pack and ship store.  Well I found the retail space and I have been all consumed with getting the business going ever since.  Here is the story of how it all came about.

While I was searching for retail space back in December 2018 to early 2019 I learned that an friend of mine who owned the former Radio Shack franchise here in Avalon was trying to sell her business to move on to a new opportunity.  When the Radio Shack franchise program ended several years ago; she converted the store into an independent “Tech Shack” store selling pretty much the same types of products.

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One evening some friends were over on a Friday night, we were sitting around the fire pit drinking wine and having hors d’ oeuvres in the courtyard of the Avalon Hotel, where Laurie and I Live.  Julie was there and in a rare minute of alcohol induced boldness I told her that I am trying to open a pack and ship store and I think my store format can work with what she has, and I would like to talk about taking over her store.  I of course recognized that I was not an a condition to make any serious decisions but actually arranged to meet another day when I am not enjoying some great wine.

After meeting and talking it over I was so excited about the prospects of taking a small consumer electronics store and adding a pack and ship store to it.  It all looked so perfect; initially.  I was ready to start right away to buy her store and start remodeling it.  Then I got cold feet.  I could not sleep for days just thinking and planning and calculating and I sort of overwhelmed myself in my head so I said stop.  It seemed that I was taking on more than I could handle at that time and I became afraid of the sacrifice I would have to make.

A couple weeks went by and I had some good nights of sleep and I backed away from the situation mentally and had a chance to think more clearly.  I was able to put the whole plan into a better and more reasonable perspective.  I asked to meet Julie again and we came up with a mutually acceptable agreement for me to buy her Tech Shack store March 1, 2019 and I did.

Julie was letting the store run out of merchandise, I think she was in the mindset that if she does not sell the store she would just walk away from it. I have been slowly filling the shelves back up again with the products that are the best sellers.  So far our fastest selling retail items are mobile phone accessories, pre paid phones and phone cards.  Our store is also the only place where people can go to pay their utility bills in person which is great because there is a large segment of our community that only use cash for everything.  It is great that I started my new store with already established traffic , so we have a captive audience to market packaging and shipping plus business supplies and services.

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Starting March 1, 2019 I took over and what a wild ride it has been.  There have been battles with losses and victories, some things have been quite smooth and many things that have been nightmarish.  I will be sharing my first 90 days story in my next blog post. However, I have my store and I can now say that it is great, I am loving it, I am making it my own and I think I have been creating the right mix of Pack and ship store with office supplies and consumer electronics.  Avalon PASS / Tech Shack does it all; mailbox rentals, packaging, shipping, office supplies, print, fax and copy, pay your bills here with Check Free Pay, prepaid mobile phones, gift cards and a whole lot more.

 

Packaging and shipping store, part 2

By Timothy Sanchez
This post may contain affiliate links, please see our full disclosure here

Last week I introduced my plan to open up Avalon Packaging and Shipping services or Avalon PASS. I have been in the planning stage of the business for over 1 year already and I have been operating on a limited scale. During my research and planning I have been talking to many people and have been getting valuable feedback about what is needed in our community for such a business.

For anyone who wants to start their business; community involvement in the plan is an important step. Some people may think that they should keep their business plan secret for fear that someone else might steal your idea and beat you to it. That is an understandable concern but it is most important is to get the feedback that you need to develop your plan to cater to the needs of your target customers and your community.

What is needed in your community and how can your business fill that need? Find what problems people are having and find out how your business can solve their problem.

Here is how I am crafting my business plan. I live in a unique island resort community. The US postal service does not deliver mail in Avalon. The only way to receive mail is in a USPS provided post office box. PO Boxes are only provided to full time year around residents, but we have hundreds of seasonal workers who live here for 3 to 8 months out of the year who need to receive mail and packages. Additionally many people have a need to send packages via UPS or Fed Ex but there is no way to do that and pay with cash or credit card. There is a contractor that handles UPS and Fed Ex deliveries but can only pick up packages with pre paid labels, or we have to write out credit card number on the box and they charge it on the mainland. Another local issue is the fact that most seasonal workers live in group employee housing or sort of bunk house arrangements and receiving parcels securely is nearly Impossible. Addresses are not really used here and not clearly recognizable, therefore Packages are mis-delivered, lost or stolen on a regular basis.

Avalon Packaging and Shipping store plus mailbox rentals will solve these problems. I am in the process of contracting with the US postal service as a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency. Avalon PASS can rent mailboxes to anybody; including seasonal residents. A box holder will therefore have a safe place to receive mail and parcels from USPS, UPS and Fed Ex. We can also ship packages via all the major carriers and we can even professionally package the items they wish to send. That is the basis of my business idea. I see a need in my community so I am building a business to fill that need and solve a problem.

There are many other products and services that easily pair with a pack and post store, therefore there are a lot of ways to make money.  Many pack and post businesses also offer print and copy service, notary public service, key copying, promotional products and there are a host of other possibilities. The motto for many such businesses is diversify, diversify, diversify. Find out what people want, see if you can do it and be profitable and add it to your menu of products and services.

I am in the process of securing a retail space for my store. I am going through necessary legal paperwork for the business and establishing accounts with suppliers. If you are interested in building your own pack and ship store or business; feel free to contact me if you want specific advice or have questions. I will be writing a complete guide based on what I am learning and will make it available when it is complete. I will say the first thing you must do is write a business plan. That sounds easy enough, but there is a lot to a proper business plan. I got a little help from an Ecourse and you may find it helpful too, click here to check it out.

If you have the money to invest or can get a business loan and live in a place with a high enough population, buying into a franchise like mailboxes etc. or the UPS store would be a very good way to open a pack and ship business. Franchise companies offer a lot of support and marketing that will help you be successful. For people living in small isolated communities or if you are starting your business on a limited budget; a franchise may not be the best route. My blog focuses on do it yourself entrepreneurs building businesses from scratch with very little money to start.

 

Entrepreneurial disease in the fourth quarter.

By Timothy Sanchez
This post may contain affiliate links, please see our full disclosure here

What is entrepreneurial disease? For some it is a desire to invent and create along with an intense craving for independence that can be so strong that it makes working for other people and doing a “normal job” nearly impossible. Many people with this bug feel confined and restricted working a 9 to 5 clock out in and clock out job.

An entrepreneur is an artist, we are always observing things and thinking of how we can create a business or make money. For example; an entrepreneur will see a guy washing his car and he will think, I can wash a car, ‘I wonder how I can make money washing cars for other people?’ To an artist this type of thinking is an obsession, these thoughts cannot get out of our head unless we try and create our own way to have an independent businesses to create our own self reliant income. One might have a good job but may be thinking;

‘Why should I do all this work and give away my talent and skills so that someone else can get rich while I am earning peanuts?’

This is entrepreneurial disease.

Entrepreneurship in the fourth quarter of life is a new challenge. Entrepreneurial disease does not go away when your older. However with age comes wisdom and fourth quarter entrepreneurs are typically more cautious, less willing to take big risks. Fortunately, many can easily simplify things and learn to live with less and with the internet, services and consulting there are many businesses that have low start up cost. The key is to be able to satisfy the desire for independence while insuring a sustainable retirement income or supplemental income. An endeavor that aligns with what you want retirement to look like. For example; do you want to retire and enjoy where you live? Or are you filled with wander lust and want to travel?

The Fourth Quarter is the time to arrange for working less or not at all while maintaining a fulfilling lifestyle. Business owners may arrange their business so that it can be ran by employees while setting aside a percentage of profits or a salary for the absentee owner as an income.  Some may plan to sell the business and live off the proceeds. Other entrepreneurs might scale down their business or start a new small business that can be operated part time.

There are many ways to create passive or massive income especially with online marketing and / or virtual business. For those who wish to spend their golden years traveling, RV living or who just want the flexibility to work when and where they want to; internet based businesses are the way to go. If you have writing ability and some computer savvy, affiliate marketing is a great way to earn money promoting other people’s products through a variety of avenues like blogging, social media, content marketing or other ways too numerous to list.

Selling on Ebay is a good way to earn some extra cash especially if you have a knack for finding deals so you can buy items at a great discount and sell them for a profit. It is called arbitrage and there are ways to find good deals going to yard sales, auctions or to close out sales at retail outlets. There are some handling challenges with Ebay as you need to be able to pack and ship what you sell, but it is doable even for road warriors living in an RV.

For those who don’t want to fuss with handling merchandise and shipping product, you can sell goods on Amazon. If you are good at finding deals on merchandise by buying in bulk; you can ship loads of product to Amazon and they will do all of the packing and shipping for you. It is called Amazon FBA; or fulfilled by Amazon.

Another way of selling merchandise without handling it is drop shipping. You can build an online store using a variety of platforms that are easy to set up, and you can sell a huge variety of merchandise that will be packaged and shipped by a warehouse directly to your customer. You never have to see or touch the merchandise and you don’t even have to buy inventory in advance. The drop shipping warehouse will charge you for the product after it sells and you keep the profit. There are several companies that do this as a service and represent a large variety of products. These drop shipping services typically charge a monthly fee but if you have marketing skills, you can make good money at it. SaleHoo is the biggest and best drop shipping service provider they have plenty of resources  to help you succeed plus there are other good training and advice from successful dropship entrepreneurs.  It is possible to find a company who makes a product that you can negotiate your own drop shipping agreement with and that is the most profitable way to go. You market their product and they ship it, you both make money.

I will go into more details on each of these avenues of internet based businesses and many more in future articles.

Please stay tuned and follow The Fourth Quarter blog.

The lifestyle of a successful independent vending machine entrepreneur

By Timothy Sanchez

This post may contain affiliate links, please see our full disclosure here

Reflecting back when I owned and operated a vending machine business, I would like to share what a typical workweek was like. First of all I purchased mostly used snack and soda machines from a small business that repaired and refurbished them. I bought brand new gum ball and bulk candy machines direct from a manufacturer. I found my suppliers by doing a lot of footwork and asking vendors a lot of questions.

I mostly got my own locations however I hired a salesman to help me and he got about 20 candy locations. In vending the location of your machines is the most important thing. When I say location I mean the business where the machines are placed. For candy machines I looked for locations where there are waiting areas like hair salons, auto mechanic shops and small offices. For the large soda and snack machines I looked for large businesses that have at least 50 employees and large break rooms. I avoided placing soda and snack machines In areas that are accessible to the public due to the potential for vandalism. High traffic public areas could be very profitable and a high school or college campus could be a gold mine but it requires extra equipment designed to minimize vandalism otherwise maintenance costs could break you. I chose to put my machines in businesses where only employees could access them.

I had about 100 locations between candy locations and soda and snack machine locations.. The service route consists of every two week customers “ETW” which were the candy machines, weekly locations and my large locations I serviced twice per week. I had two locations I visited Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They were my bread and butter locations, one was a large office of telemarking insurance sales people and the other a large warehouse. Monday was shopping day. I got the newspaper on Sunday , this was 1992 we still read newspapers back then. I would look for coupons and big sales on cases of soda and I would go to the store where I can get the best price. I sold a can of soda for anywhere from .50 to .75 cents depending on the location. I tried to buy at .20 per can or less and most of the time I was able to. After I got the cheapest soda I went to Costco to by cases of snacks and candy. I only serviced a few locations on Monday and Friday, I did the majority of my service stops Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday was bank day when I did my accounting and took my giant bags of cash and coins to the bank.

Service consists of stocking the machine with fresh product and taking out the money and doing minor maintenance on the machine. I am not going to go into a lot detail on that aspect on this post, but I am going to share what the real key to success is for being a vending machine entrepreneur.

All of the locations that I stole from other vendors , I was able to take because they did not provide good customer service and the principal people in the business didn’t even know who their vending person was. Times have changed now, but back in the early 1990’s in Southern California there were a lot of people getting into vending. It seems the the business attracted people who thought vending was all about the machine. They had no people skills and wanted to go in, service the machine and not have to deal with any humans. The guys would come in wearing dirty clothes and looked like slobs. I knew from the beginning that I could do better.

The vending machine business is a customer service and sales business. You might not succeed if you don’t have people skills. I sold my services as a convenience to the business so I did not have to share my profit with them nor did I pay for electricity. They wanted my machines in the business so their employees can use them and get convenient snacks while they worked. I wanted them to feel good about patronizing my machines. So when I visited a location to service the machines I always dressed nice with business casual pants black shoes and a button down shirt or polo shirt. I always spoke to the receptionist or manager in charge when I arrived and greeted them. I got to know people and asked what everyone likes in the machines and I made notes about what my main contacts like. I gave away product; I gave a candy bar or a can of soda to the people I dealt with. If there were people going to the machine to use it while I was servicing it, I just gave them what they wanted. People loved that. If someone told me they lost money in my machines I refunded them and gave them something, no questions asked. I made sure that they knew who I am so if a competitor came it to try and steal my business it wouldn’t work because I developed a relationship with them. Their vendor was not some unknown mysterious person who sidled in and out, their vendor was Tim.

So customer service and personal relationships is how to maintain a successful vending business or any business. However you still need to make money, so even though you want to become friends with your client, you need to be able to pull your machines out and place them elsewhere if they are not selling enough or if there is repeated vandalism. A machine is a money making investment that must pay off. Part of being a successful vending business person is finding the best locations for machines. Instead of getting more locations and buying more machines, you find new locations and pull your lowest grossing machines that are not earning an acceptable profit out and move them to a better location. This way you maximize the income from each machine. Once all of your machines are profitable, then you work on expanding the business by buying more machines and getting more locations. Eventually you must split the route and hire an employee and you keep repeating all of that until you build your vending machine empire.

Being a vending route owner was a very enjoyable and rewarding time in my life. Sadly I had to get out of the business because of personal reasons but I sold the business for a good amount. On a side note; I hand sorted all of the coins that came from my machines. I developed a method that I could sort and count very quickly, yet it enabled me see all of the coins. I learned how to spot the difference between clad coins and silver coins. As I sorted I tossed all of the silver coins into a box and stored them. The coins I collected from my vending business is what got me into E-commerce later on. Follow my blog and I will share my story of how collectible coins helped get me into selling on Ebay, e-commerce and where that business is going next.

Avalon PASS; an introduction to the packaging and shipping business

By Tim Sanchez

This post may contain affiliate links, please see our full disclosure here

This week I want to share what my current entrepreneurial pursuit is. My business is called Avalon Packaging and Shipping Services or Avalon PASS. I first came up with the idea of opening a pack and post business from my experience with my e-commerce store and with my work at The Avalon Hotel.

I live on Catalina Island in Southern California. I am a perpetual entrepreneur and I moved to the resort village of Avalon seeking a more casual lifestyle where I can explore independent business opportunities and entrepreneurial pursuits. I broke away from the corporate world in 2005, quit my job as a District Sales Manager for USA TODAY and became a SCUBA instructor. I planned to chase the endless summer dream by moving between the north and south so I can stay in the summer zone and travel the world teaching SCUBA. I got as far as Catalina Island and that is it. The weather is so amazing here year around there is no need to chase summer.

I have been casually doing e-commerce since 2007, since I was working as a SCUBA instructor at the time my niche has been about dive gear. My stores got to the point where I was Packaging and Shipping 8 to 10 orders per day. I became very efficient and was able to get the orders out quickly either before or after I went to work. I also offered to help The Avalon Hotel with their shipping. The hotel sells spa products, robes coffee mugs and various other gift shop items and they receive many phone orders for products to be shipped. Additionally, sometimes guests will forget something in their room and leave the island, so the hotel will send the lost and found items to them. I took over all of the hotels Packaging and Shipping tasks. It had been a struggle for the front desk staff to do it and maintaining an inventory of packaging supplies took up too much space. Finding a box and tape, figuring out how to pack an item, going to the post office and dealing with petty cash for postage were time consuming tasks that took a staff member away from providing customer service or making sales. For me to do the packing and shipping along with what I was already doing was easy and seamless.

Since I started doing pack and post for the hotel, I realized that other businesses could benefit from this service also. I began developing a plan to offer packaging and shipping services to all businesses and residents in Avalon in early 2017. Now I am working on acquiring retail space to make the business modeled after a UPS Store or a mailboxes etc. type of store. I believe there is a need for mailbox rentals primarily for parcel receiving and for temporary residents and summer workers in the resort town of Avalon. As the business grows other services will be added including public access computer stations, hot desks, WiFi, phone charging, copy and print service and other business services including e-commerce solutions.

Please follow my blog as I will share more about the beginning of Avalon PASS and I will chronicle my progress and the process of developing an independent packaging and Shipping business. I will share my success and hopefully not too many failures. I am also anxious to share other business ideas that some of my friends and colleagues have developed. I will interview them and share what they came up with and I am sure that you will find it interesting and motivating. Finally I would like to share the story of how I got into selling on Ebay and e-commerce and how my former vending business created the steppingstone.

How I built a successful vending business

By Tim Sanchez

This post may contain affiliate links, please see our full disclosure here

An entrepreneur is a businessperson who has vision and can see an opportunity and grab it. You must be observant and have an understanding about where there is a need that can be filled with a business and then capitalize on that need. There are so many small business opportunities out there already available and many more that can be invented. This is the first in a series of blogs that will overview various business opportunities and interview entrepreneurs who who successfully built their own business.

The first installment is vending business and I will relate how I started mine and what made it successful. I started, operated and sold my vending business many years ago. The vending industry has changed since I was in it, but the concept of how to go about fueling your entrepreneurial drive still works for whatever opportunity you want to pursue.

First off, when you want to build a successful business you will do the best when you do something that you love. If you love to do it you will naturally have the knowledge and skills to do it, or at least you will have the motivation and interest to develop the necessary skills.

My career choices early on were everything to do with driving delivery vehicles that went from place to place providing services, making sales and deliveries. I was working in a grocery store when I was 20, stocking shelves. Whenever any deliver person came into the store I was compelled to talk to them and ask them about their job and what it is like. One day I was talking to the bread guy and he said he was looking for a helper, so I started working for him delivering bread to stores and restaurants. This was my entry into the route sales business. After that I worked for bottled water delivery, coffee service, courier routes, newspaper route, Sysco foods and UPS. In the middle of all that I decided to start my own vending company.

I was 30, I was managing a bottled water company and doing well. Whenever I was making deliveries to businesses I would always see people getting things from the vending machines, I learned that having vending machines was an important part of a business for a fast and easy way for workers to grab a snack and a drink during their breaks. I was fascinated with this. I also observed, however, a lot of frustration over vending services. Machines were often empty, out of order or not stocked with the things people want. I would often see post-it notes on the machine begging the vendor to put a certain item in the machine. I overheard on many occasions people complaining about the vending machines always being out of the things people want. It was clear, many vending machine companies were not taking customer service seriously. I became passionate about wanting to provide vending machines along with excellent customer service and I would destroy my competition.

That was the motivating factor for me to start my vending machine business. I did not know much about vending other than the fact that somebody goes and fills the machine with stuff and takes out the money. So this is the key to starting any business; I researched and researched. One of the things I did was I went up to vendors when I saw them and asked questions about the business. I would ask questions like where do you get merchandise for the machines, where do you get machines, how do you get businesses to let you put a machine in their place? Many were not willing to answer those questions so I had to ask a lot of people to get a few nuggets of information. I took good notes and continued my research. I followed up on information by finding the places where vendors say they get supplies and I went there and asked more questions telling the suppliers that I am starting a vending business. They wanted another customer so they were more willing to fill me in. No matter what business you want to build, Once you are able to find suppliers who are willing to work with you; you will be on your way.

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I bought a load of brand new bulk candy machines from one vender and went around to retail shops and placed candy machines in hair salons, dry cleaners, offices and bars. These are the machines where you put a quarter in, turn a dial and a handful of bulk candy comes out. It turns out bars were my biggest selling locations especially with Red Hots and Peanut M & M’s. I also found a vending machine repair service who refurbishes soda and snack vending machines and sells them. He also delivers the machines which is helpful because they are big and heavy. I bought a bunch of machines and I negotiated a discount because I bought several machines at a time. Once I had the machines I went to office buildings and factories and warehouses and simply asked the managers if they are happy with their vending service. Many of them were not. So I sold myself describing my many years of excellent customer service in various route sales jobs and promised I would do all of the things that their current vendor is not doing. It was surprisingly easy because vending machine operators in that area were really bad at that time. I know customer service and I convinced the customers that I would do better and they were sold. I convinced them to cancel their vending service and get their vendor to pick up the machines and as soon as they did, I put my machines in.

I bought my product from warehouse stores like Costco, Smart and Final, and others. Wherever I got the best prices or wherever there was a good sale on cases of product. I bought a used cargo van from a clearance dealership who sells fleets of vehicles to large companies. They had a fleet of cargo vans that had been traded in for a new fleet. They refurbished the trade ins and sold them cheap, the one I got was very reliable. I named my business The Snack Specialist. I specialized in providing snacks in businesses. I learned how to repair or replace the components of the machines. I stocked parts so I Could make repairs quickly.

It was a successful business, I built it from scratch and had to sell it due to family issues, but I made a big profit on the sale. I split the business into three routes and sold it to three individuals who were looking to get into the business.

That is my experience with the vending business. I am sharing this because I hope that if you have the entrepreneurial drive and want to start any business weather it be vending or something else, you can apply these principles to create your success.  In a future blog I will relate what it was actually like running my vending business in more detail. Spoiler alert, it was great! I had all the freedom and flexibility to do many other things like pursue my Scuba Diving hobby. And I made some good money that set me up for another successful business endeavor that I will also write about soon.  Please feel free to comment or ask questions.