For Battle Ground friends Donna Rivas and Patty Johnson, starting their own bending business last January meant shifting gears from the corporate world.
The business, Three Friends Vending, supplies snacks and beverages to smaller area offices, typically with 100 employees or less.
Rivas worked in Los Angeles for years and hated the freeways.
Johnson kept her job in insurance billing, but hopes to cut back hours as the duo's new venture increases.
"This gave me the opportunity to get out of the big city and lifestyle," said Rivas. "It's a dream come true to be able to kick back."
Rivas and Johnson named the new business Three Friends Vending because of the extra help that comes from Patty's husband, Jim Johnson.
"Plus, it sounded better than "Two Old Broads," said Rivas, smiling.
The women purchased the machined through a Culver City, CA based company, Antares/Natural Choice. It's not a franchise; the women are considered independent business owners.
Vending company officials say the market is growing particularly as larger companies downsize and start-up businesses begin.
Antares/Natural Choice has about 5,000 vending locations nationwide. Officials say this is barely scratching the surface: America has about 2 million possible locations of businesses with 10-75 employees each.

  Company supports endeavor

Rivas and Johnson had little knowledge of how to run their own business before starting. But Antares/Natural Choice provides an almost "turnkey" operation, aiding to place machines in businesses and offering technical support, Rivas said.
Natural Choice really takes the terror out of owning your own business," she added. "They really hold our hands through this. It's a step-by-step operation. There's even a computer program to do the books."
Rivas and Johnson are responsible for stocking and checking machines, rotating products, and collecting money, usually on a weekly basis. They now have five machines and hope to build the business to about 80 within a few years.
Rivas described the vending centers as state-of-the-art, mechanical machines, not electronic. Mechanical machines actually work better and are more reliable, she said. Company officials say no technical ability is required. The only tool needed is a screwdriver.
Rivas estimates they can stock each center in 12-15 minutes, and now spend about three hours weekly at the job, which includes paperwork.
"My stress level is way down." Rivas said. "And I have a lot more free time."
Company officials estimate 30 centers can be serviced in 15 hours per week, many during evenings and weekends. Because so little time is required to service a vending route, most distributors begin part time to pursue other employment.
According to Bridget Baker, Spokesperson for Antares/Natural Choice, most distributors begin part time, but enjoy it so much they move into full time operations.
Ideally, a distributor starts with a minimum of three machines, Baker said. It takes almost as much time to service one machine as it does three.
Machine slots can sold virtually any product. Distributors provide a menu to each company, so options can be custom-tailored to individual company choices.
Unlike other vending companies, distributors pay no ongoing fees, no royalties and no commissions to Antares/Natural Choice.
Baker said the reorder price for a snack vending machine is about $3,300. First time purchasers pay additional money to cover the cost of support materials and services.
By law, the company is forbidden to forecast earnings. Nationally, vending machines earnings vary by location, number of employees at the location, foot traffic and services provided.
For more information about Antares/Natural Choice, log on to www.naturalchoiceusa.com, or call 1-800-669-8064.