Ebony Calloway and Joseph Sydnor left the stability of their full-time government jobs in order to start J&E Vending as self-employed entrepreneurs in an innovative way .
We sat down with them to learn more about why they started their business, what they’ve learned along the way, and what advice they’d offer to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us a bit about J&E Vending and why you started your business?
At J&E Vending, we offer vending machines and kiosks filled with healthy foods and drinks. We focus on providing schools, workplaces, military bases, airports, and more with healthy food options rather than junk.
We also wanted to move away from traditional vending machines because we realized we’re moving towards a more cashless society. So, our vending machines let you swipe and go. You just swipe your card, grab whatever you would like, and, because of RFID technology (radio-frequency identification for those of us who don’t know) we place on every item, we’re able to read who has taken what.
This lets us manage inventory and automatically restock, so it’s pretty innovative.
How did you decide to change career paths and get into this new venture?
Both of us used to work at a hospital and our employer didn’t offer any healthy food options for employees. It’s a bit of an oxymoron to operate a place that’s all about promoting health but then solely providing junk food for patients and staff.
We found working on the unit, it was always really busy. And if you’re on the run or can’t leave, all you’re eating is junk food 24/7. It’s also been shown that people in offices can be sluggish and, statistically, they can be more productive if they’re provided with these healthy food options.
So, we wanted to find a way to serve people with healthy options at an affordable price. And it became our mission.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work? The most challenging?
The most rewarding thing is definitely serving others in the sense of providing fresh food and good meals to people who need them, like active-duty members, children, or people in the ER who are sick or working hard, among many others.
Beyond that, it’s extra rewarding to know that we’ve taken the initiative to donate food to local homeless shelters when it’s nearing its best-before date. It always drove us crazy to see companies throwing away food at the end of the day when it could’ve been donated to those in need instead. So, we wanted to change that trend.
On the other hand, one of the most challenging things for us is showing people how our machine works and breaking the traditional thinking about technology and junk food. We have to spend lots of time educating people on the benefits of healthy food.
What advice would you give to people considering leaving their jobs and pursuing a self-employed career?
The main thing is to bet on yourself and be ready to go all-in.
We both had government jobs with benefits. We were making a good living. And to transition from that safety net of a traditional job to self-employment where you don’t have all of those things can definitely be scary.
3 Tips To Pursue a Self-Employed Career
- If you believe in yourself and stay the course, anything’s possible.
- Be ready to work and put the hours in. There’s no such thing as overnight success. But it’s better to work 12 hours for yourself than 8 hours for other people.
- You’ve also got to be ready to make that jump and go full-time with your business if you want it to succeed. So, understand where you need to get to before you quit your job and know what the indicators will be that it’s time to go full-on with your company.
For us, our locations were starting to increase, so we knew we were going to have to take that leap of faith. We did have a plan. We’d been doing it for two years, working full-time and doing this on the side for the first year, then strategically making the switch.
How did you end up working at Launch Workplaces? How has your experience been?
As we were starting out, we were trying to find a coworking space for our business. We looked up Launch, loved what they do, and what they stand for. It was all so aligned with what we did and what we do and they’ve been excellent to us. We love everything they offer for new business owners. It’s a great hub for entrepreneurs on all levels.
Want to learn more about J&E Vending?
If you’re interested in learning more about J&E Vending or in offering healthy snacks for your staff, contact them online or by phone at 301-955-0760.
And if you’d like to learn about our flexible office services or to book a tour of one of our Launch Workplaces locations, contact us today. Our team is here to help and answer any questions you might have.