By HAYLEY CHARBONNEAU
It has been half a year since brothers Luis and Juan Fuentes won Kennesaw State University’s Spring Concept-2-Reality competition with their idea of SnackLite, a vending machine that sells healthy foods and drinks. Today, they are still operating and promoting their business.
Having entered the university’s contest once prior to the spring of 2012, the brothers were prepared on the second try with real statistics and numbers to present to the panel of judges this spring. With a $1,000 prize awarded to the winners, they were determined to win and prove their idea worthy.
During their presentation, the brothers were able to validate how successful their business could be to the judges. They already had a beta vending test on KSU’s campus prior to the second attempt, so when it came time to provide numbers of hypothetical sales, revenue, expenses, and all the other business jargon, they could, they did, and they won.
“It just kept going. We met the right people at the right time,” said Luis Fuentes, 25, a graduate of KSU in Fine Arts with a concentration in graphic communication.
Less is More
With some extra cash in their pockets and confidence to top it off, they met someone who became a mentor to them; someone who is still helping them along the way. Their mentor shared essential pointers to help the Fuentes polish off some touches, with simplicity being the motto for the business. Starting with a six-month Excel spreadsheet of all aspects of the business, they were able to get the ball rolling – and in reality this time, not concept.
“We went back to the writing board, we researched what was available online, and ended up with SnackLite,” said Juan Fuentes, 23, also a KSU graduate with a degree in business and a concentration in administration and management.
In the fall semester of 2011, with four machines up and running, they were able to sell more than 15,000 units during their beta run. They still have 49 varieties of natural drinks and snacks, and whether you have a gluten or dairy allergy, or just want a protein shake, you will likely find your preferred choice at the SnackLite vending machine.
Since their beta trial ended on campus, they have relocated and now have machines at different locations and facilities. In fact, SnackLite now has several different companies that are coming to them, asking for their items to be sold in SnackLite vending machines. The Fuentes’ company has also joined the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, and they are currently looking to branch out to the local high schools as well as the Cobb YMCA.
“It’s not always as easy as you expect,” said Juan Fuentes. “The whole summer was spent on the business plan.” Adds Luis Fuentes, “Our parents are entrepreneurs… We were taught to work, work, work.”
And worked they have done, through ups and downs.
They experienced a partner drop out suddenly after putting forward their own money and starting the business. Coca-Cola also made things difficult for them; contracts are made with locations and the vending companies for selling rights and products, and Coca-Cola has a contract as the only company selling water in metro-Atlanta. As a consequence, the brothers had to deal with not selling the healthy option of water in their SnackLite machines – a product that could potentially be a great source of income. Also, the technical aspects of setting up and stocking the machines were obstacles they did not anticipate.
But SnackLite and the Fuentes are building up a presence in Kennesaw. A SnackLite Facebook page exists, as well as a SnackLite website listing its plans for the future. The website also allows the consumer to research product information and provide feedback. For more information, go to http://www.snacklite.com/