How to Start a Business With No Money and Open Vending Machines

  • In 2020, Janet Leyva used a credit card to start her lash and makeup business. 
  • Today, she’s expanded to five vending machines and plans to open a storefront in April.
  • Last year, she booked $84,074 in online sales and $13,607 in vending-machine sales.

This as-told-to essay is based on an interview with Janet Leyva, a 29-year-old entrepreneur in Kuna, Idaho, who opened her online lash and makeup business, Leyva Beauty, in 2020.

She used a credit card for startup costs, which included a Shopify storefront, a GoDaddy domain, inventory, and shipping supplies, which totaled about $800. She paid the debt off in three months. Debt financing is a common method for funding a business, but experts recommend this approach only if you’re prepared to pay your bills on time to avoid interest on your balance. 

Today, it’s easier than ever to start your own business or side hustle because all the tools you need are online. Plus, many are free or affordable. This digital revolution is one reason 10.5 million Americans created businesses between 2020 and 2022.

In 2021, Leyva expanded her operations and opened her first vending machine, stocking with it her lashes and makeup for locals to buy in person. Last year, she generated $84,074 in online sales and $13,607 in vending-machine sales, amounts Insider verified with documentation. She has four other vending machines today and, in February, signed a lease for a storefront in Caldwell, Idaho, which she plans to open on April 15. 

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I started a side hustle that turned into my own business

Leyva Beauty vending machine is pink with decals of butterflies.

Leyva Beauty vending machines sell lashes and makeup.

Janet Leyva

I was a stay-at-home mom, in this repeat pattern at home, and I needed to get out. So I became a local makeup artist on the side in Idaho. I eventually wanted to create my own product because I kept having to go to Ulta and Sephora to get makeup for my customers.

Around February 2020, I started to design my own website. But I officially launched it in May because the pandemic kept pushing it to the side. 

I started my business with $800 and used a credit card to finance it. I racked up credit-card debt starting this business, but it wasn’t a big amount. Leyva Beauty started with just lashes because that’s the only thing I could afford, but little by little, I started adding cosmetics.

It was a lot of trial and error trying to find a perfect manufacturer. There were a few times I didn’t like the quality of certain lashes, and that was money thrown in the garbage. But once I found a good manufacturer, it was smooth sailing from there.

It was about three months in when I saw that people wanted to buy from me. Then I wanted to add more to the table for products. I started with a lip gloss and grew from there. 

I lost my first vending-machine location, but it led to something better

Side by side of two images showing a hand holding up a key ring in front of a store door and interior view of the store with purple walls and three shelving units.

Leyva signed a lease for her storefront in February and plans to open her shop in April.

Janet Leyva

My first vending machine was in Caldwell, Idaho, at a marketplace called Oakes Brothers. It gave me a year lease, and I was bringing in so much clientele for them. Then the business switched out ownership, and they didn’t want me anymore. 

Even though I was really hurt by that, I had to find a new location. So I went door-to-door to businesses at that shopping center and pitched them. They all said no. And that truly put me at my lowest.

That’s when I started venturing out to Boise, Idaho. I ended up relocating to an indoor food court called Chow. That vending machine has done even better than it did in Caldwell.

Honestly, I’m so grateful because if all that hadn’t happened, I would’ve never gone to Boise or opened my storefront.

I’ve been dreaming of owning a storefront for a while. I started looking in the area to see what the cost was. I got a real-estate agent, and I was looking for a location in Caldwell and I found one.

So I’m headed back to Caldwell — but in my own storefront.

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