Our special guest today, from the middle of E-I-E-I-O, Texas, is Matt Miller. How are you?
Matt Miller: Awesome, Dave. How are you?
David Brower: I understand that’s not the real name of the town, but it’s pretty good.
Matt Miller: Yeah, we’re outside of Fort Worth. We live on a gravel road. Whenever anybody comes from the city to visit, they’re like, ‘Okay, are we going to the right place here?’
David Brower: They got to want to come there, in other words.
Matt Miller: Yes, sir. For sure.
David Brower: That’s good. Well, you enjoy … it sounds like you enjoy your privacy a bit.
Matt Miller: Yeah, sure do. Like to see the stars at night and the peace and quiet during the day and in the evening. The only traffic jam around here is when we get behind a tractor on the way into town or something, so it’s pretty nice.
David Brower: Love that, love that. Well Matt’s the founder of School Spirit Vending; been going on for about ten years. It all started with one gumball machine, is that right?
Matt Miller: Yes, sir. As crazy as it sounds, I was in a really bad place financially after I had gotten out of the military and working in the corporate world and had tried a bunch of things to make money on the side, … but had read Robert Kiyosaki’s book, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad,’ and was really looking for that one thing that could be passive income and provide income while we slept. A buddy from church mentioned gumball machines he and his daughters had. One thing led to another and I decided, ‘What the heck? Gumballs are inexpensive, but the margins are astronomical.’ The machines do all the selling. Got my first gumball machine here probably 13 or so years ago and set out teaching myself vending.
David Brower: Wow. I guess your business is really the ultimate in location, location, location.
Matt Miller: Yeah. I did business in local area restaurants and local area businesses down in the Houston area for years with my traditional bulk vending route to begin with. It was great. ’07 and ’08 hit, though, and the market tanked. There was a lot less people going out and frequenting my businesses. I was looking for a way to stabilize things. Along the way, had a bunch of kids come knocking on my door selling me stuff for local school fundraisers; and because I came from a print media background as an advertising executive, I was like, ‘Maybe there’s a way that we can tie vending into the schools, get some kids off the street, and stabilize revenues for my family.’ That’s where the whole School Spirit Vending idea ended up coming from.
David Brower: Wow, what a great idea. Win/win for the schools, win/win for you and your family. You’ve got what? Vending machines in over 2,000 schools now?
Matt Miller: Yeah, we’re in over 2,000 schools. We’re a franchise today and have a franchise team of about just shy of 100 franchisees in about 40 states. We are absolutely growing like a weed. We found a huge need in the schools for what we do, given that money and volunteers are always at a premium for them. We found a huge need for a lot of families around the country who were already doing successful in their corporate careers; but they’re looking to diversify on a limited time commitment. Our program enables them to do that with a proven business model, and also to have a business that their family and their kids can be and are encouraged to be involved in, so that they’re learning entrepreneurship and doing something together along the way.
David Brower: Wow. What a concept. That’s cool, Matt. I don’t know of anybody else in the country that’s doing what you’re doing.
Matt Miller: Not to the level we are.
David Brower: Yeah.
Matt Miller: For sure. We’ve spent a lot of time, Dave, to create value for everyone involved. Of course, we sell custom stickers in the schools; but then we also providing content and creating content for the schools and for the kids who are our customers. My goal is not just to sell stickers, but to change lives and to impact the lives of the kids who utilize and have access to our machines every day. On top of the vending aspect of it, and the money side of things, we’ve created a comic book company. I grew up reading comic books and loved doing so as a kid.
When SSV started to grow, I was like, “Man, wouldn’t it be cool if we created a comic book series that could inspire kids to read, teach them character development, and good citizenship, and that type of thing?” Ran across a couple young guys who had graduated from Baylor University down in Waco who, one was a writer and one was an illustrator; and said, “Guys, here’s what I want to do. I’ll pay you to do it. You come up with the idea.” They came up with this idea of two apes that want to be super heroes called Marlin and Percy.
David Brower: I love it.
Matt Miller: They started out as little … on the little cardboard sleeves that the stickers come out of our machines in to begin with, as little four panel comics; kind of like the Bazooka Joe of our machines.
David Brower: Okay.
Matt Miller: Today we now have eight full length comics, and a children’s novel as well, that are available through Amazon and at MarlinandPercy.com. We’re really starting to make an impact in an additional way for the kids that are our customers.
David Brower: What’s so fascinating to me is the mindset that helped you set up this process. It’s really based on community and paying it forward, and increasing quality of life beyond finance, beyond finances. It’s really a wonderful business model that you just don’t run into very often.
Matt Miller: Appreciate that; I have lived by, for most of my adult life, basically the concept that Zig Ziglar talked about when he said, “You help enough other people get what they want, and you’ll be taken care of.” My focus has been on creating win/win scenarios in every part of life that I possibly can. I was an ad executive, like I mentioned earlier, for almost a decade. I was able to accomplish in a third of the time what other reps accomplished and was always one of the top performers in our office; because instead of focusing on whatever the company said was the next product that we needed to be pushing or selling to make the corporate numbers look good.
David Brower: Right.
Matt Miller: I focused on the product that was going to be successful and yield the greatest return for my customers. In doing so, I had very low turnover. I had very few hassles. They kept coming back for more, where so many others in the office were just trying to sell stuff to sell it because somebody on high dictated it as such.
David Brower: Yeah. Well, and what you’re talking about is relationship marketing. It’s not so much about … I’m sure it’s about the product and the return and all that; but you’re really focused on building relationships and not just hitting a corporate number.
Matt Miller: Correct, correct. That’s ultimately what it’s all about, right?
David Brower: Yeah, exactly.
Matt Miller: Everything is so surface today, in so many ways. Technology has made it even more so. It ends up being sad to say, rare, to have people that are actually interested in you and care about those kind of things.
David Brower: Yeah, it really is. Well, that’s cool, Matt. Let’s talk specifically about School Spirit Vending and how it works with schools, how they participate, or how your franchising works. Let’s go through those scenarios and see how that all shakes out.
Matt Miller: School Spirit Vending, we specialize in hassle free, year round fundraising for the schools. We custom design spirit stickers for the school with their mascot, their colors, that type of thing. Then, we place a sticker machine in the school that those stickers are vended out of. Then, we end up handling all the product rotation, all the servicing, all the money, all that type of thing. The school literally just cashes a check every month. It ends up being a win/win. They don’t need any volunteers to be involved. It’s not going to replace some of the other fundraising that they’re doing, typically; but there’s a huge need out there. To give you an idea, I was at a principals event here in Grand Rapids, Michigan about a year ago. Was talking with a group of principals and one lady came up. We got to talking and she got excited about the program.
I said, “Ma’am, if you don’t mind my asking, what would you do with the money?”
She said like, “Head lice.” She said, “Lice kits. Our district has so much money coming in from donors who want to provide technology and it’s earmarked as such, so the kids have laptops, and tablets, and all that stuff coming out of their ears; but a lot of these very, very basic items that we need to run our school don’t have a line item for them. So, I’d spend the money to start with on lice kits.”
David Brower: Oh my gosh.
Matt Miller: That’s how simple it is.
David Brower: Wow, that’s … Talk about serving a need; and true. Anybody who’s listening and anybody who’s remotely been around schools, or even just opened up your front door, the grass roots approach of ‘Hey, you want to buy some coupons for ten bucks,’ takes so much time and so much organization. Your kind of project really frees that stuff up so they can work on maybe major fundraising events, right?
Matt Miller: Right, right. It’s ongoing, all year round. Unlike everything else, it’s just a one time quick hit, couple weeks and then they’re gone.
David Brower: Yeah.
Matt Miller: We’re there in the school on a monthly basis working with them, developing relationships, helping them out any way we can.
David Brower: What kind of … the vending machine, you mentioned stickers. What specifically are those like and what do the kids use them for?
Matt Miller: They might put them on their notebooks, or many of them will collect them. Aside from the custom mascot stickers, we also provide other stuff, other stickers the kids are into; some licensed items like NFL, and Star Wars, that type of thing. Then, a lot of proprietary product that we literally designed corporately from the ground up, specifically for the age groups that we’re working with. They collect them. They trade them. They do a little bit of everything with them. Kids just seem to love stickers.
David Brower: What’s the predominant? Is it middle school, high school, everything?
Matt Miller: I started the company with the high schools in mind, for like sporting events and everything.
David Brower: Yeah.
Matt Miller: What we found out along the way is the older kids didn’t interact with the machine, but the younger ones did. Believe it or not, most of our work is at the elementary school level.
David Brower: I believe that. I mean, I watch small kids in our family, and neighbors, and all that kind of thing. They’re much more interactive, if you will, with their friends and their playmates, and exchanging anything, really, from model cars to comic books. You just nailed it, didn’t you?
Matt Miller: Yes, sir. We’ve been blessed.
David Brower: That is a true story. Your organization is obviously faith-based. Just from listening to you, I’m going to make that assumption as a faith-based guy myself and my company certainly is. That kind of role model spreads out to kids, and adults, and parents, and schools, in ways that most companies don’t even think about.
Matt Miller: You know, that’s who I am. That’s what I stand for, the golden rule, do unto others. Those types of things [crosstalk 00:11:48] are alive and well in our business, Dave. I don’t apologize for it. It’s who I am. It’s who my business should be. Family is a huge and important thing for me with my three kids and my wife. The family aspect of what we do is intentional in every way as well. As we’re raising up families of multi-generational entrepreneurs with our franchise team, of course like we’ve already talked about, our goal is also to positively impact the kids who are our customers.
David Brower: Yeah.
Matt Miller: Because many of them aren’t going to get exposed to just basic traits of human decency and character development in many aspects, and many of the traditional ways that they’re being taught those types of things, often times won’t reach and get through to some of these kids.
David Brower: Yeah.
Matt Miller: I’m not arrogant enough to think that we’re making an impact on every kid that we work with, but I believe that we’re all about planting seeds. The more seeds that we plant, the more good God can do with them.
David Brower: Yup.
Matt Miller: We’re just planting the seeds, and He does the rest.
David Brower: True story. My wife is a public health nurse. She goes door to door, takes care of newborn babies and moms on MedicAid. That is her mantra. When she goes and visits these kids, and they’re three or four days old, her job is to plant seeds: resources, referrals, information, to help those moms and kids thrive. That philosophy that you have, I’m very well familiar with. In fact, she has a mustard seed hanging from her rear view mirror.
Matt Miller: That’s awesome.
David Brower: I’m with you, man. That’s how I run my business and my wife certainly does as well. Hats off to you. Even if you … I mean 2,000 schools, at least over 40 states. If you touch ten kids in a school, how magnificent is that?
Matt Miller: Right.
David Brower: Right.
Matt Miller: Yes, sir.
David Brower: If people want to learn more about your business and how their schools can participate in the School Spirit Vending program, and franchise, possible franchisees partners can learn about how that works, and get some passive income into their family, how can they reach out to you and learn more?
Matt Miller: On the school side, they can just go to SchoolSpiritVending.com and get some more basic background what we do. There’s a form there they can fill out if they interest in more information. That will get sent to the franchisee in their local area for them to reach out and answer questions, and that type of thing. On the franchise side, I actually wrote a short eBook, Dave, just to give people some background on vending in general. It’s called ‘Live Your Dreams: The Top Ten Reasons Why You Need to Own a Vending Business.’ It shares some insights that I’ve learned over the years as a professional previously, that most professionals never think about in relation to vending. If they want to learn a little bit about vending or if they want to begin a dialogue and learn more about the franchise itself, they can go to SSVBusiness.com forward slash the number 20 Minute Podcast and download that for free.
David Brower: Nice.
Matt Miller: And we can just go from there.
David Brower: Sounds great, man. Matt Miller from E-I-E-I-O, Texas; which is really what? Stevenson? Stevenville? What is it?
Matt Miller: Yeah, Stevenville, Texas.
David Brower: I’m going to have a hard time getting that out of my head today, so thanks so much. … What a great program you have for schools, students, families, all the way, man. Continued success, continued blessings to you and your family.
Matt Miller: Thanks, Dave. Same to you, and God bless you.
David Brower: Thank you. Matt Miller, the founder of School Spirit Vending. He’s been reaching out and helping schools, kids, and families for over a decade now. You need to reach out to him as well. This is David Brower. You’ve been listening to your 20 minute Podcast. Be sure to follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Your20MinutePodcast.