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The Entrepreneurial Journey with Guest Matt Miller: MakingBank S2E6


Matt Miller

The Entrepreneurial Journey with Guest Matt Miller: MakingBank S2E6

with Matt Miller

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People take the entrepreneurial leap because of the potential it has to deliver.

The potential freedom from an office or a schedule.

The potential of making a career out of a personal passion.

The potential to earn more money than would otherwise be possible working for someone else.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee any of these “potentials” will ever be fulfilled—at least not without a mind-numbing amount of hard work.

Entrepreneurial success comes at a great cost, and no one knows that better than today’s Making Bank guest, Matt Miller.

Matt Miller started his entrepreneurial journey by selling used books out of his garage, before pivoting away from books and starting a hybrid print-media/vending company called School Spirit Vending.

Though successful today, Matt will be the first to admit his business took more than a decade of grueling, grinding work to become a strong, sustainable (and profitable) entity.

From knocking on doors at local strip malls, Matt has successfully spread his operation to more than 35 states, and built a franchise-based model that allows other aspiring entrepreneurs to tap directly into his success by licensing his business.

Tune-in to today’s episode of Making Bank to hear Matt highlight the difficulty of the entrepreneurial journey, and explain why you need to…

•Have the vision to OWN your life

•Swallow your pride to get where you want to be

•Understand the importance of not “prejudging” potential customers

•Work towards a passive income

•Accept that there are NO shortcut to success

•Appreciate the incomparable value of hard work

And much more…

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Josh Felber: I am Josh Felber and you’re watching Making Bank where we uncover the success strategies of the top 1% so you can take and amplify your business and your life. Welcome to the show. I’m excited today. We have an unbelievable entrepreneur on Making Bank today. Matt Miller has spent the first nine years of his career as an Air Force pilot before entering the private sector to work in both the medical device and advertising businesses. While he was a top performer in the corporate world, his long-term desire to be his own boss has always resided in him.

One day a good friend of his mentioned that he owned gumball machines with his younger daughter and that conversation began a 10 year business quest that has brought Matt’s company School Spirit Vending to the cutting edge of both the vending and school fundraising industries. Today School Spirit Vending’s franchise program provides a proven and profitable business system for busy professionals and their families looking to develop a secondary income streams with a limited time commitment. Matt, I want to welcome you to Making Bank today.

Matt Miller: Yeah, Josh. Thanks for having me on, man. This is fun.

Josh Felber: Man, this is really cool because so many times as entrepreneurs we have questions like hey, how do we … Sorry about that. There we go. How do we really get things started? We want to get something. We’re stuck in that corporate world in the same position you were and how do we get started as an entrepreneur. I’d love to hear a little bit about where you were and how you really made that transition.

Matt Miller: You know, I’d always been a top performer. I’ve always worked hard and done the best I could and really wanted to provide the most I possibly could for my family. I had the opportunity to be in the Air Force to begin with and flew for nine years and that was an absolute blast. Then we started having kids and life changed and I wanted to be home more. Then of course, expenses of raising children and all that kind of change one’s perspective a little bit. I had been a couple of weeks or a couple of years into the corporate stuff and got a … Ended up being number two in the country out of 750 sales reps in our company my first full year at the second company I went to after getting out of the Air Force and was pumped.

I mean here I was kind of top of the world, was making huge money compared to what I had in the military and was excited. Then what happened is my boss decided to utilize my success and kind of ride my coattails into the next year. When they were divvying up quota, they ended up throwing a bunch of extra quota on my shoulders and not as much with others in the office. She increased my quota over 90%. I went from being a hero to a zero overnight because I had a strong book of business, but it was nothing remotely close to what her expectations were.

That decision caused my family about $80,000 in commissions and bonuses that next year and overnight we went from getting out and recovering from taking a pay cut leave in the military to finally starting to get our head above water and to move forward and then that happened. Got way in debt way quick. Struggling just to pay the bills. Around that time I realized looking at the corporate compensation plan that I needed to do something else if I wanted to get ahead and finally figure this whole thing out. I did anything I could to start with. I sold aluminum cans. I sold used books online. My garage looked like a library for several years and we got to where we were shipping out 60 plus books a day.

It was awesome and it helped pay the bills, but I had read Robert Kiyosaki’s book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and bought into his whole idea of passive income. Even though that stuff was working, it wasn’t ultimately what I wanted to do. It was around that time like you mentioned a friend talked about gumball machines he and his daughter’s had and that changed everything. I got focused on getting educated on vending and decided that bulk vending which was gumballs, candy, toys, temporary tattoos, stickers, that type of thing was the best route for me because of how inexpensive it was to get started. About 12 years ago today I started with a $36 used gumball machine that I found on eBay and have kind of bootstrapped it from there to where we are today.

Josh Felber: Wow. That’s interesting. Well first real quick, what did you fly when you were in the Air Force?

Matt Miller: I was a T-38 instructor/pilot for five years and then I was a C-5 transport for three. C-5 for those who don’t know is the second largest airplane in the world. It’s that airplane that whenever they’re reporting from the Middle East they’re standing in front of. The nose is opened up and they’re offloading cargo. You sit about six stories in the air when you’re taxiing the airplane. It’s pretty huge, man.

Josh Felber: That’s massive. Well, awesome. Thank you for your service and everything.

Matt Miller: Thank you.

Josh Felber: Okay. Corporate world and grinding out. Got cut back. You guys thought you had something really happening. What was it then about the whole vending industry that really captured your attention? Was it just the getting started with minimal commitment or what really fascinated you to really take that dive into it?

Matt Miller: Well first off, I could get started pretty inexpensively because I literally had about $100 to get started. I spent half of that on eBooks, on Amazon and then bought my machine and some candy and gumballs at Sam’s Club, right? The other thing was the fact that the machines do the selling for you. Even though it was a gumball to start with, 25 cents apiece, the margins were so high and the beauty was I could look at once I started seeing some monthly numbers, I could take a look at those and say, “Okay. This is where I’m at. This is where I need to be to start having a real impact on my life and then I just had to scale it.” I just put it together on the side, nights, weekends, whatever I had to do and slowly but surely worked my way out of that position.

I didn’t have all the money at once. I didn’t have the ability to go any further into debt. I had to get really, really creative. I’ll give you a great example. When I decided to go into stickers, I found a couple of used machines one again on eBay from a guy up in Tulsa. Now Tulsa’s about nine hours from Houston drive. I found a couple machines. I bid on them and won the auction. Well, there were two different machines. I did some research. Figured out that they’re both each worth new about 350 bucks apiece and I got the auction for $350. I took the listing or the picture of the one that I didn’t like the look of as much. I listed it and before I drove to Tulsa to pick them up, I had already sold the other one for the same amount of money that I paid for the two.

I got my first machine for free except for the gas and the time that it took me to drive up to Tulsa and back one day. I mean that’s the kind of stuff I had to do to make it happen and was scared to do that.

Josh Felber: No, that’s awesome. Just that hustle to really get out there and like you said make it happen for you. You got your machine and everything. Where do you go place a gumball machine or who’s going to let you place the gumball machine?

Matt Miller: Well, I literally went to all the strip centers in my town to start with and I started on the left or on the right hand side of the strip center and I walked and knocked on every single door. I didn’t prejudge. I didn’t do any of that because yes in vending the amount of people that come in and out of the doors and then traffic is important, but oftentimes with those types of machines it’s actually the employees at the location who are your biggest customers. The location doesn’t really matter that much. Instead of trying to prejudge people and significantly narrow my target audience, I just hit every door I could and slowly but surely we found … We’d find three locations in one strip center and one in the next one and zero in the next one.

Before I knew it, I had a business and something that kept me pretty busy on the weekends. By the time I started our company today, School Spirit Vending, I was making about two times part-time with my vending business than I was bringing full-time as an advertising executive. It got to pay off pretty quickly because I worked it hard.

Josh Felber: Yeah, definitely. I think with a lot of times is when we’re starting, we’re trying to really get that side business going, whatever it may be, to make that transition to entrepreneurs. It sounds like you created time for yourself. You said, “Hey. I’m going to take every second I have that’s not with the family and working my regular job and then just fill my pipeline,” and then you figured out creative ways to actually start with $100 that you didn’t really have and make it happen and build your business from there.

Matt Miller: I was burning the candle at both ends, but I had a purpose. I had a vision. I wanted to own my life. There aren’t many people out there that have total control over time and money. If I thought that I deserved to be able to live that way someday, I realized it was going to take an inordinate amount of work and effort to live like other people can. Because if it was easy, everybody would be doing it, right? I was working the vending business. I was working full-time. Active in my church. Homeschool dad, et cetera. Part of the way once we got School Spirit Vending started for about an 18 month period, I added delivering pizzas at Pizza Hut down in Houston area as well because I needed the seed money.

They were growing so quickly I needed the extra cash and wasn’t at a place at the time where I could borrow it. You do whatever you got to do and you don’t take yourself too seriously. There was a lot of times where I was knocking on doors delivering pizzas where I’d come across a friend or somebody from church or whatever and I’m wearing my stupid little Pizza Hut outfit. I could have rolled over and wet on myself and got all upset or worried about the fact that somebody from church saw me as a delivery driver, but I realized it didn’t matter what they think. They’re not paying my bills. They’re not providing for my family. I’m doing what I need to do.

What was cool was once we put things together, we were living in one of the lesser neighborhoods in our pretty upper class neighborhood in Houston. All my friends had huge houses and drove fancy cars and all that. I was driving a Honda Accord with 200,000 miles on it. We lived in a rental that was 1,200 square feet. We were kind of doing whatever we needed to do to hold all that back, to put ourselves in a position to win. What was cool is when I walked away from my corporate career five and a half years ago, I quit my job, never to return. We bought our first house. I moved five and a half hours away to central Texas on some acre ridge and I haven’t had to look back.

A lot of those guys that I knew at the time and hung out with I’m sure are still scratching their heads wondering what the heck happened? Because they’re still getting up at 5 a.m., still getting home at 8 p.m. at night. They got the nice house and a nice car, but they’re never home to enjoy it and their family doesn’t know them nearly as well.

Josh Felber: That’s really cool. I love the story. Can you stick around for a more few minutes? I want to dive into the whole School Spirit Vending and everything?

Matt Miller: Yeah, man. Love to.

Josh Felber: Awesome. I am Josh Felber. You’re watching Making Bank and we’ll be right back. Now you can get your healthy super foods in one drink with no shopping, no blending, no juice. Welcome back to Making Bank. I am Josh Felber. We’ve been speaking with Matt Miller on how he went from corporate executive, getting his pay cut and turn around and hustling nonstop to generate a life that he wanted, a business that he wanted, to be able to spend time with his family and do everything that he’s set out to do. Matt, welcome back to Making Bank.

Matt Miller: Yeah, Josh. This is cool, man.

Josh Felber: The company’s growing and you guys moved five and a half hours away. Tell me a little bit about the whole School Spirit Vending and helping schools raise funds and what you guys are doing now.

Matt Miller: Yeah. In ’07 and ’08, we made a transition because the economy tanked. There was less people going to my traditional vending locations and I was frustrated. Around that time I had a bunch of kids come knocking on my door selling me stuff for local fundraisers for their school. I thought that was odd and that kind of brought the whole idea of custom stickers for schools, sticker machines, that type of thing. Back in October of ’07, I had this crazy idea and brought it to the attention of a good friend of mine who was an elementary PE teacher and shared it with him. He said, “Let me check with my principal to see what she thinks.” A couple of weeks later he called me and he said, “Hey. We’re approved. Bring a machine down.”

We set up a machine. Got some custom stickers for that school made and kind of gave this thing a whirl. The first month the test went great. The second month even better. The third month it was off the charts and I was like, “Man, I think I might be on to something.” We figured out over time how to market to the schools and how to speak their language. We found very quickly that there’s a huge need for funds in just about every school across the county. Our program was a perfect fit for what they were doing. It was something that nobody else was doing. Most everybody else is an event-based fundraiser wherever they do the fun run or they sell cookie dough or whatever. Our program we just come in, do the work. They cash a check every month.

It just goes on in the background and schools really, really love that. We started out just me and a couple of buddies who I’d mentioned it to. Slowly but surely I had friends and family reach out and say, “Hey. I’ve been hearing about what you’re up to. Can I be a part?” We started licensing and setting up distributorship models or distributorships with different folks across the country. About two years ago I hired a business coach. I had kind of accomplished everything that I had always dreamt of accomplishing and to be honest I was bored. I was taking naps in the afternoons. I was kind of doing what I’d always hope to do.

One day he mentioned the fact that he had been doing some research overnight and had seen how many schools were actually out there in America, let alone the ones we were in. His comment to me was, “It seems to me the only reason that you’re not working with those schools right now is they don’t know who you are. Why don’t we get busy figuring out how to let all those other schools across the country know about you.” That led to talking to my attorney and he recommended that we become a franchise because many of the states we were in or that we weren’t in had much more restrictive laws as far as business and that type of thing. About 14 months ago, we became a franchise. To give you an idea, we’re now in about 36 states.

Our team this calendar year will grow over 100% just in one year. What we’re finding is there are a lot of busy professionals out there that are doing great, but they’re not satisfied. They want to do something on the side with a limited time commitment and in many cases want to build a business that their family can be involved in. We fit a very specific niche and have a ton of people that are taking interest in what we’re doing and joining our team.

Josh Felber: No, that’s awesome. With the fundraisers and everything that you guys are setting up for the schools, do you guys go in and put like full vending systems in? I know you mentioned something about stickers and everything. Let’s dive into that a little bit.

Matt Miller: Yeah. Yeah. I mean they’re sticker machines. You go to the local grocery store, a restaurant, there’s probably a sticker/temporary tattoo machine somewhere within those buildings. Ours are very special and had been made specifically for our environment so that they can be customized for the school, but it’s a take off on the exact same thing that you’re seeing and walk by every day except for we’re utilizing it to benefit the schools instead of it just being a business supporting a local business or whatever.

Josh Felber: Okay. Then the kids, students and everybody buys them. Everybody generates revenue from it. Awesome.

Matt Miller: Yup. Yeah.

Josh Felber: Then you took that same model and that’s what you franchised the whole distributorship and process now for other people to become involved in and do the same thing.

Matt Miller: Correct. We’ve developed systems over the years that can be duplicated over and over and over and over again. We also design and manufacture the majority of the product that we actually sell in our machines because we’re very, very cautious about the product that goes there because we’re dealing with kids and schools. There’s a lot of things that we do that are very specialized that nobody else in our industry does. The goal is to really provide value for our schools and for our kids. My goal is they spend 50 cents on a sticker, but that overtime we give them 5, 10, $20 worth of value. We’re putting together all kinds of media campaign or programs that are going to be made available to the kids. I started a comic book company here a couple of years ago.

Hired a couple of young guys who one’s a writer and one’s an artist who had been doing some graphic novels. I was inspired to read as a kid, reading comic books.

Josh Felber: Sure.

Matt Miller: We decided why not incorporate that into what we do as well. Kids get access to our characters Marlin and Percy. They’re kind of like the Bazooka Joe of our machines. They’re a couple of apes that want to be superheroes. They get access to them with every vend. We’re also this year started giving away comic books to the kids as well in download form so that they’re getting a bunch of additional content with many vends aside from just that sticker.

Josh Felber: That’s awesome. I know a couple key points that you mentioned. One of the things was you went out and you hired a business coach. I think as entrepreneurs that’s one of the things that I’ve seen that a lot of people don’t do and then they wonder why they’ve stagnated or not been able to push through certain plateaus and everything. I think having that mentor or that business coach there to push you, to guide you, to balance ideas off of I think is definitely an integral part in what you do to be successful.

Matt Miller: It was a total game changer for me, Josh. I had a limited scope and vantage point that I’ve grown up and learned in. To have a coach changed everything. Now I will tell your audience, I couldn’t afford to have the coach when I hired him, but I figured it out. It took me 14 months to see any financial return for the money I was investing every month, but on month 15 I got a fivefold return in just one month.

Josh Felber: Wow.

Matt Miller: Since then my return has been man, tenfold probably at least, if not more. It’s been crazy, but I had to be willing to go through the process. I had to get to know him. He had to get to know me. Once we figured each other out, he could take his 35 plus years of business experience, multimillionaire, bought and sold eight businesses in that period of time and really start to see where he could help and what insights he could offer that could completely change everything. That’s what’s happened. We’ve gone from just kind of being content and like I said taking naps in the afternoon to where our growth curve is just about straight up.

We’re looking into franchising in Canada and several other countries in the next six months to a year as well because we’re finding a lot of people in other countries have the same needs and are just as excited about what we’re doing.

Josh Felber: No, that’s great. What were some of the biggest breakthroughs that you noticed? Obviously you had the tenfold financial increase and things like that, but for you personally, what were a couple of the biggest breakthroughs that you found working with a coach?

Matt Miller: I’ve been a control freak. I’m a type A driver personality. For me to first off hire my first essentially contractors to begin with, but since then hire my first employees has been a huge breakthrough for me. For years I was a solopreneur and prided myself in the fact that I was kind of the one that was working out of my garage for a time. Now I’ve got an office that we built. I was kind of that guy that did it all and whatever. Well, today I’ve got a whole team that supports what we do and takes care of a lot of the details that make sense for them to be taken care of so that I can focus my time and attention on bigger picture, longer term and that type of thing.

Josh Felber: Cool. Let’s see here. Something else you mentioned too, I mean I know as entrepreneurs we’re just going, going, going, going a lot of times trying to build it, trying to make sure we got the cash coming in, trying to get more accounts, just doing everything. One of the key points is systems. Definitely making sure you have the right systems that you create and build over time. I definitely want to hear a little bit more about that and how you figured out like hey, this is the right path. This is what’s working for us. Now this is what we need to sync up.

Matt Miller: Well, the beauty with systems are if you put them in place correctly, they allow you to scale without taking any additional time to scale. As an example, we had three brand new franchisees here for SSV University on Saturday. We’ve got seven or eight that’ll be here again in two weeks. My workload doesn’t change at all with those 10 new people because of the systems that I spent time to put in place the last few years so that there’s a process that these guys go through. We have mentors on the team that we link them up to do a lot of the training. Another thing that I did that I maybe the first one in the country to have ever done this, I became a podcaster myself about 14 months ago, but I started out podcasting a private podcast just for our franchise team.

There’s only about 70 families that are ever going to hear it at least right now. Here’s the thing, I’ve created an archive of over 100 episodes in the last year. I do two a week. In the process that has become part of the system to where if the newest members of the team want to learn much of what I know and much of what our veterans on the team who I’ve interviewed along the way, et cetera, know, they go back and they listen to that evergreen content that is on our franchise portal and they all have access to. We’ve got an SSV University online where folks can do a self-paced learning as well and have a bunch of video and audio and blog content there as well.

What I’ve learned is systematizing, but also what I really am and what you really are, Josh, when we get down to brass tacks is we’re content creators. The more focused I can be on providing valuable content that is going to help push the needle for my business, but also for our franchisees, that’s my sweet spot at least right now. That’s where I’m providing the most value and getting the biggest return.

Josh Felber: Yeah, that’s excellent. I think that is important is that content creation and that was a key thing I think that you’ve done for sure is just the whole recording of the audio and the podcast and building that database of content is definitely a key win for what you’re doing for sure. I think the last point I really dialed in on was you guys wanted to control the design side of things and make sure what you were putting out there was quality especially since kids are involved with it and everything and just making sure that what you’re doing … I mean tell us a little bit about that because I know and even that’s going into creating their own process and products and everything. That’s a big undertaking.

Matt Miller: Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of content out there. There’s a lot of product out there in the open market, but a lot of it is just … It’s edgy and it’s not made for kids. In a lot of ways I feel obligated to be the protector of those kids with what we provide. My goal is to never get a complaint from a parent or a teacher because of the content that’s in our machine. We’ve gotten to know some very, very accomplished artists over the years. We’ve learned over the years certain things that sell and certain things that don’t. We release a brand new product every single month that we have created from the ground up. Some of them are real simple products. Others are a lot more involved and take a lot more design expertise.

We have an extensive testing platform that we utilize to make sure that the kids want what we’re providing before we release it to our franchise team. That way it’s alleviating a lot of their risk on the product side of things. They can be assured that the things that we’re providing are things that kids have proven that they like and are willing to buy. There’s a lot that’s going into that. It’s taken awhile to put it all together, but it’s been worth it. That’s something that I would share with people just as an overarching learning from all this for me is inch by inch it’s a cinch, yard by yard it’s hard. This is a marathon, guys. It’s not a sprint. If you heard at the beginning, it’s been over a decade that I’ve taken to get to where I am right now.

I’m sorry to tell you, but there’s really not a shortcut. It doesn’t exist. Get rich quick is a fable. The guys that are talking about laying on the beach making millions sitting with their laptop on an EZ Chair, they don’t exist. They probably hired those people. You got to put your time in. You got to pay your price. Yours is going to be different than mine and Josh’s, but get excited about paying it. Malcolm Gladwell on his book “Outliers” discusses 10,000 hours that it takes anybody to really achieve greatness in anything that they do. Well, get excited about your 10,000 hours and get busy becoming great at whatever it is that you decide to become great at.

Josh Felber: That’s spot on, Matt. I think one of the biggest things too is everything you’ve done along the way here you’ve put in the work each time. It wasn’t like okay, cool. I want to do this. Well, let’s just keep moving forward and do it. You put in the work by creating systems in the content and hiring a coach, making sure you have the right design and have set and laid that solid groundwork for the growth of your company. Now with the way you scaled it, now you’re seeing that rocket ship approach with it 10 years later. It’s that overnight like you said 10 years later.

Matt Miller: Right.

Josh Felber: Awesome, man. We’re almost out of time. Let’s let people know where they can find you and tell me one technology piece that you can’t live without.

Matt Miller: Yeah. As far as technology, I got three of them for you. They’re going to be life changing for your audience. The first one is called Google Streak. S-T-R-E-A-K. Go to It is a relatively new CRM platform that ties directly in with your Gmail, your Google Drive and your Google Calendar. It is life changing, guys. I found out about it in June. We have transitioned everything over within our business and it is huge.

Josh Felber: That’s awesome.

Matt Miller: If you’ve got a small list of prospects, 50 or less, it’s free. Otherwise, it’s 20 bucks a month or whatever, but well, well, well worth it. Second one is called YNAB or I always struggled with a budget. Writing it down on paper and then two days later everything changes. Well, YNAB allows you to put together a budget that is fluid. It also syncs across all your smart devices and computers so my wife and I can be keeping track of our expenditures and categorizing them in relation to our budget. Each of us from our smart phone while we’re out living our lives and it’s automatically updated as we do that so we always know where we stand. Then the last thing is called Rev. R-E-V. It’s an app.

You can get it through the App Store. I am great at talking, but I suck when it comes to writing. What Rev has allowed me to do is talk and then transcribes my words into posts that I can then edit and then I can utilize as written content. I can publish in an hour, three, four, five blog posts by talking them and then sending it through the Rev app to be transcribed.

Josh Felber: No. I love Rev. That one I’ve used for a long time and you’re right. It makes life so much easier.

Matt Miller: Yeah, big time. As far as getting back with me Josh, if it’s all right, I’d like to give a gift for your audience. Anybody who’s interested. I wrote a short book, a short PDF. It’s called “Live Your Dreams: The Top 10 Reasons Why You Need To Own A Vending Business.” It shares some insights that I’ve learned over the last 10 years that most professionals have never thought of before. Most of us don’t see real money in a quarter so we just kind of blow that whole idea off. They can go to and download that for free. If they want to talk more about the franchise and what we do, would love to talk to them about that. Otherwise, if they’ve just got general questions about vending, I’d be happy to help there.

In fact, I also do some vending coaching on the side as well for those would like a shortcut into the industry, but for whatever reason the franchise doesn’t make sense to them.

Josh Felber: Cool. That’s awesome. I appreciate the gift to the audience and everything. Guys, make sure you guys have been taking notes today. If not, go back and replay this episode. Matt has delivered a ton of awesome content to help you and your business execute, move forward and push through and break through those barriers to those new levels for yourself. Again Matt, it’s been an honor to have you on the show and really appreciate your time today.

Matt Miller: Yeah, Josh. Thanks a lot, man. God bless.

Josh Felber: You’ve been watching Making Bank. I am Josh Felber. Get out and be extraordinary.