Entrepreneur Jasmin Smith’s business idea came to her in 2016 after she ran out of diapers while shopping at the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall with her then-infant twins.
Her twins stay involved too. She’s given the 6-year-olds unofficial titles of CKO, or chief kid officer.
“Sometimes (my twins) go with me to restock the machines, especially right now during the summer. Other times, my daughter and my son bring me random supplies and say, ‘Look, Mommy, this could go in your vending machine.’”
There are now machines in Alaska, Florida and Georgia, with more on the way for Arizona, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Washington.
When Baby Vend took off, Smith wasn’t in a place to support so much expansion, she said. Now that she has a solid manufacturer, distribution center and team, she feels confident in delivering on the hundreds of requests the business has received.
Baby Vend’s first contract was with Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in 2019. Since then, Smith has added machines across the state, including at the Anchorage Museum, the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall and the Dimond Center.
Part of the expansion this fall will bring Baby Vend machines to the Alaska State Fair and the Fairbanks Children’s Museum, and to locations as far away as Miami.
The new locations will also include new machines that are cashless and can read QR codes, Smith said. The machines already on the market, which include some in-state and out-of-state locations, will be switched out too.
“The big difference is the new machine is very touch-screen centered. ... You can’t see the products, you just see high-resolution photos,” Smith said.
Smith doesn’t own all the machines being added to the market this fall. People can buy their own machine and begin a business venture of their own, she said, or they can become machine operators.
She receives questions daily from people asking how to operate or purchase their own Baby Vend machine.
“We always had a dream to let other people own our machines and buy them — and we just provide support, startup support, training support, help (to get) the products that they need,” she said.
Baby Vend is currently fundraising on WeFunder with a valuation cap of $1.88 million.