Episode 93 – Dan & Theresa Willis, All Hands Vending
In the Business of Giving Back
Have you heard the saying, “You never truly know someone until you see how they react when their bag of chips gets stuck in the vending machine”? I'm sure we can all relate, however, Dan and Theresa Willis are determined to change that experience and give back in the process.
All Hands Vending is a company that provides vending machines to businesses to be used by their employees or customers. The criteria for placing a machine include that there is foot traffic of at least 50 people per day. There is no cost to the business to have it placed. The businesses customize the food stocked in the machines.
Dan and Theresa had looked at several businesses when they were considering self-employment and decided on vending machines. Dan explains, “We wanted to structure it a little bit differently. A lot of people are used to getting the different products that are in there, we wanted our customers to be able to customize their products, we wanted our employees to be taken care of, we also wanted to be charity based.”
Impact on the community is important to the Willis' and that's why they structured the vending machines to give back a percentage of the sales to the charity of the business's choice. “There's sometimes a sentiment that large companies don't care about the community, or they can't care. We wanted to make sure that people saw that that's not true and that if people want to start a business that helps people as well you can do both,” Dan said. The businesses and charities are highlighted on All Hands Vending website.
Philanthropy is a driver for many reasons but Dan went on to explain that there were times in his and Theresa's life where they had to rely on a helping hand and programs that were created to assist in times of need. With that experience in their own lives, they have empathy for any who are experiencing similar challenges and they felt the drive to assist in alleviating suffering. “We wanted people to see that they could do it as well and we are hoping to be a little bit of an example so that other companies might choose to do it,” said Dan.
Dan and Theresa's life has been about service. They are both former Navy veterans and met each other there. They always knew that they wanted to start a business. “I wanted the financial freedom with my family, I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family,” Dan said.
When comparing starting a business to the military the couple agreed that the military taught them many principles that have helped them in the business including discipline, organization, and learning how to work with a very diverse population.
Having no role models to follow within their family or friend group to learn how to start a business they turned to books. “I enjoyed getting information from several different sources,” said Theresa. Sometimes they found those books in the free section of thrift stores or even in the trash bin. They have an entire wall of these books that continue to inspire them. “It doesn't take a lot of money to learn what you need,” Dan said.
Facing the challenges of starting a new business have been complicated by the pandemic. They had purchased machines in January but weren't able to place them until September 2020. “We definitely felt like wrong place, wrong time. We've kinda felt like that at many points in our life,” Theresa said. They knew that giving up wasn't an option and so they pushed through. “We refer to it as adding pages to our book. It's never inspiring if you were to say ‘it was so easy',” Theresa said.
As they considered owning a business they had to look at their own reality of being over $20,000 in debt and upside down on their vehicles. They took the advice of experts they got to know in the books they read and changed their situation. “As daunting and impossible as it seemed, we couldn't keep doing what we were doing,” Dan said. Discipline and commitment kept them on track although they agree it was slow and difficult. “The steadfastness is paying off,” Theresa shared.
The business is growing and Dan and Theresa have visions of continuing that momentum. They are looking for businesses to place the machines and hope to be nationwide someday and help others along the way.
For more information on All Hands Vending and the charities they support, visit their website at https://www.allhandsvending.com/.
Thanks to James Manzanares for editing the show. For more information on what James can do for your business visit his website at https://www.servantsheartent.com/.
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