Junior operates his own vending machine business

Jideonwo learns real life lessons as part of the job


Nick Bozzelli-Levine

During the school day, junior Joseph Jideonwo is just another khakis- and Cathedral-sweatshirt-wearing student. But after school, he is the owner of a vending machine business.

Nick Bozzelli-Levine, Reporter

Many students here on the Hill, particularly the upperclassmen, spent their last lingering days of their summer working a job and making some extra cash to save up for many purposes, ranging from college, to a dream car, to a new gaming console.

From the Sullivan’s Hardware to the Chick-fil-A’s to the many Crew car washes dotting the greater Indianapolis area, Irish students can be seen working away almost everywhere.

But one student, junior Joseph Jideonwo, has taken it a step further and actually owns his own business, a vending machine company, which he says will help him gain life skills far more valuable than any amount of money. 

Jideonwo’s business, J&J Vending, currently supplies and services two vending machines in the area, one at a local charter school and the other at an Ashley Home Store in Greenwood. The business model is seemingly quite simple yet quite effective. “Mainly, we usually rent or buy them, we put them in a place, we set them up, and we ask the customers what kinds of snacks and drinks they want,” Jideonwo said. “If you want it, we put it in there.”

After a customer signs a contract stating no other vending competitor can be in the area and the machine is installed, the brunt of the work has only just begun. Every other week, Jideonwo refills his machines, making sure they are always well stocked and well maintained. “We usually get the snacks and drinks that we sell from Sam’s Club, and then we fill the vending machines, usually on a Saturday, sometimes a Sunday,” he said. Most of the products Jideonwo stocks them with “only cost around a buck,” he said, allowing for affordability and accessibility to a broad scope of consumers.

Getting an early start

A businessman since childhood, Jideonwo started this business way back in third grade. “I came to my dad and I wanted some money (to buy games). He said, ‘All right, instead of me giving you money, why don’t you create a company,’” Jideonwo said. “So, we started a company right there. After that, we spent the summer building it up, creating business cards and getting my name out there.”

Once Jideonwo and his family filed through the legalities of the myriad permits and forms that one would expect when starting a business, J&J could finally get off the ground, spreading his message via cards, social media and word of mouth. Today, he said his business has progressed greatly and is doing well. “It gives me a solid income,” Jideonwo said.

While business is good now, there have certainly been some bumps in the road.

The spring Covid-19 lockdown of 2020 really damaged Jideonwo’s company. “We took a serious hit,” he said. When schools, stores and offices closed, as Jideonwo explained, naturally, no one is going to use the vending machines in those buildings. “When that happened, we were losing money, obviously,” he said. “Because, in order to run the vending machine, that requires power, there’s a credit card bill to keep it up, let’s not forget that we’re still renting it out, and we’re not getting a return on investment.”

After that frightening rough patch, Jideonwo was able to get people to both of his machines again by the second quarter of the last school year.

While those times were tough for everyone, particularly small businesses such as J&J Vending, Jideonwo said he believes a valuable lesson came out of that lockdown for him and his company: the value of overcoming challenges. “In order to have success, there must be failure,” he said, and added, “Michael Jordan didn’t just wake up one day and start balling, Tiger Woods didn’t just wake up one day and (be) the best at golf.” 

Today, with his business afloat again, things are starting to look brighter.

However, Jideonwo wanted to make clear that he couldn’t have done any of this alone, and still can’t, without the love and support of his family.

Father and brother both help out

As J&J doesn’t really have any employees, given the inconsistent nature of the vending machine’s service and the lack of need, labor wise, for additional hands helping, so a lot of the work falls on his younger brother and his father. His brother currently holds the title of product manager. “He chooses most of the snacks that go in the vending machine,” he said.

His father, however, has not only played a critical role in helping run the business, but also teaching him important life skills and how to apply them to his company. “I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this without my dad,” Jideonwo said. “There is no way you can be successful in this life without getting some help. I’m fortunate enough to have a dad who knows how to run a business effectively.”

With the wisdom from his father, the lessons from running a business during a pandemic, and the drive to push himself further, Jideonwo has big plans, not only for his business, but for himself.

“It started out as a project just for me to get money. Personally, I hope it grows before I go to college,” Jideonwo said. In college, as well as in his future career, he hopes to continue pioneering and improving. “I’m thinking of studying in the field of engineering. I could probably get a major in engineering and a minor in business and I can go and create a product, a service, (or) maybe a software that will change the world and (I can) build a business off of (it).” 

Not only has this business given him some solid money and some priceless business expertise, it’s given him people skills, something many adults say there isn’t enough of in kids these days. “It gives me more experience, dealing with people, (and making) more connections,” Jideonwo said. 

That, he explained, is the key to any good business operation. “Personally, it’s all about connections,” Jideonwo said. “My dad said that one of the most important things is connecting with people. The first vending machine I set up in that school, (my dad) knew the principal. They knew each other from college. I went to the principal, I came with a presentation, and I asked her if she thought it would be a good opportunity, and she said yes.”

Jideonwo isn’t like most high school students. “Not a lot of people our age own a business,” he said. “Most kids, they go home, they do their work, and they jump on social media, or whatever.”

As Jideonwo has learned these past few years, it’s no wonder why most young people, and most people in general for that matter, don’t want to be a business owner. “Running a business can be very hard and rigorous,” he said. However, as he made clear, that is the name of the game. To be an entrepreneur is a high stakes, high rewards situation. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. From schlepping bulk snacks and drinks from the store to the vending machines, to dealing with the stress of mounting credit card debts during a pandemic, business ownership is not by any means for the faint of heart.

Through all the hardships, all the challenges, and even all the failures, there is another side to it. It’s all the lessons learned along the way, all the skills acquired, and all the connections that are formed. For that is how one becomes successful not only in business, but in life.

Meeting new people has so many advantages in the long run, as Jideonwo explained, saying the more people he meets, the more he puts himself out there, and the more he overcomes failures, “the easier things can come,” the junior and small business owner said.