Young entrepreneurs aim to become gumball machine moguls

A pair of 12-year-old Minneapolis boys have their sights set on becoming gumball machine moguls, and they're getting a nice boost from a well-known restaurant.

Satisfying your sweet tooth is big business for Alex Jendro and Walker Darst-Rice.

They’re cranking out profits one quarter at a time, and it all started with their common goal.

"I was actually building my own PC a couple of years ago and I did some research on ways to make money," said young entrepreneur Alex Jendro.

Gumball machines came up and after chewing on the idea a bit, they found one — out of service and up for sale online.

They cleaned it, spray painted it, and replaced some of the mechanisms in the machine.

"We would come home from school on the same bus and then we would just work on the machine until like 6 p.m., until we’d go home for dinner or something," said young entrepreneur Walker Darst-Rice. "And then we would do it the next day."

They learned how to fix the machine by watching YouTube videos, but nothing online prepared them for finding a partner willing to give them space.

"One day we, I think we did five businesses," Jendro said. "I don't think any of them said ‘yes’ that day."

All the no’s could’ve burst their bubble, but Alex and Walker persisted.

"It’s really hard to start doing it, but once you do it, it becomes super easy and like, that's really all it takes," Darst-Rice said. "You just have to be brave enough to go out."

Alex Jendro and Walker Darst-Rice maintaining their flagship gumball machine. 

And they finally got a ‘yes’ from Scott Schierman at Pizza Lucé in Richfield.

"I just thought it was kind of a cool idea," he said.

"We were both really excited because we've been working on this for months and months," Jendro said.

They carried the machine into the restaurant after agreeing to pay 10% of the profits.

And the business started pouring in.

The boys make sure their machine stays clean, and they take a lot of pride in it.

"You see these all the time other places," Jendro said. "So when you come here and you see your own, it's pretty cool."

The deal they struck got even sweeter when they tried to give the restaurant its first cut of profits.

"I was like, ‘okay, here's the deal, boys. If you take that 10% and you start a savings account and put it in that savings account every time you want to give us 10%, you put it in your account and save it,'" Schierman said.

They did just that, but they consider it a reinvestment account.

"I think it's extremely smart," Schierman said.

Walker and Alex now want to form an LLC.

They do their own accounting and they have a business expansion plan that calls for buying a couple more gumball machines before going even bigger.

"We're thinking about like a claw machine, a coin pusher or something," Jendro said. "We'd also refurbish that."

Based on their projections, the reinvestment account will have enough to buy another gumball machine in about two months.

Finding it another home may be a challenge, but now they have a proven business model, and as Schierman says, there are a lot of Pizza Lucés in the Metro.