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From InTouch Magazine Spring 2018 Issue

RHONDA DUNN

Owner/Operator, Machine Cuisine Vending

California State San Bernardino
WIN member, Trade Show Advisory Committee, AAMC Treasurer


How did you begin your career?
As a young mom of two kids, I learned quickly that I didn't fit the mold for a regular job. I developed the entrepreneurial bug quite quickly and started a house cleaning service. This enabled me to work less and spend more time with my children.

What are the skills you use most in your career?
Vending definitely utilizes all the skills that I have developed in life. My best attribute to my business is my accounting background. Being an owner operator, you quickly learn you have to be able to do it all...route driver, warehouse picker, service technician, sales, customer satisfaction, purchasing agent, and HR - just to name a few.

How did you get into the convenience services industry?
In 1998 my father-in-law passed away. My husband and I were living in Las Vegas at the time and decided to relocate back to California to assist Mom with the vending business that they started for retirement. At that time, the business owned about 50 pieces of equipment. I started by helping my husband two days a week on the route.

Give us an overview of your role and key responsibilities.
As a business owner, you must be able to be flexible as most days do not go as you plan them. I am the CEO, CFO, Human Resource officer, and responsible for accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales, purchasing, and most importantly, customer service.

What does an average day for you involve?
I start my days usually by 5 am, deal with any route driver issues, and then begin working the office. Inventory is always at the forefront of my activities every day. My days end in the count room after all the drivers return.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges you face in your business?
Currently, my biggest challenge is dealing with the new labor laws and minimum wage requirements. In the past year our labor cost rose almost 20% with the new mandated minimum wage requirements. We had to make several adjustments to offset this rise in operations. In an industry as competitive as ours, that has proven to be a difficult task.

What are the greatest opportunities?
Opportunities present themselves if you are aware and receptive to your customer's needs. You can start an account with vending and then upgrade them to other services simply by showing you care. Be flexible and be innovative.

Moving forward, what are your personal/professional goals?
Machine Cuisine started as a family owned and operated business and has retained that model during its 20 years of service. Eventually, my son Kyle will step in to take over the show, and I will my experience from vending and move into another business venture. I don't know that I will ever completely step away, but I am looking forward to new opportunities in life.

Tell us about the most memorable work experience you’ve had.
Well now, that's a tough one. I have so many memorable experiences, but I guess the one that resonates with me the most is when the economy tanked in 2007. Being a small operator during the economic downturn proved to be quite challenging. As larger operations were moving into our territory to offset the closing of so many businesses in Southern California, we started feeling the effects quickly. We only had 20 accounts and when we started losing them, we felt the pain. At the time, we were building a home in Arizona. I took the opportunity to canvas Kingman, Arizona one day and was pleasantly surprised with the responses. I called my husband at the end of my day and said, “Honey, how do you feel about moving the business to Arizona?" His response was, "Why?” I explained to him that I just landed eight new accounts that day! He stated, "That’s impossible! Nobody gets eight accounts in one day. So I explained that I just did, and said “So what do you want to do now?” We took the biggest chance of our lives and moved our business to Arizona and never looked back.

What advice would you offer young people starting their careers in this industry?
You have to have disciplined. You can't survive in this business if you aren’t. You have to have a passion for what you do and have a willingness to KEEP learning. Education doesn't end after school. It is a lifelong process. Always know that your customers come first and everything else will fall in place.

As a WIN member, in your own words, what is the value of participating in the group?
I am involved with many aspects of vending and know several women who participate in this group. I love to see the support and comradery that exists in this industry. Networking is the biggest value you can achieve with your peers. It is priceless.