The Write Machine
Appealing to millenials, these repurposed candy machines dispense greeting cards for a variety of occasions.
Bring out your quarters!
That’s the rallying cry behind Easy, Tiger Co.’s new idea of creating greeting cards and selling them through refurbished vending machines.
“Really, we just thought that greeting cards get a bad reputation sometimes. We always have heard people say that they are old and outdated, or just completely unnecessary in today’s world. We felt differently though,” says Melanie Bridges, the company’s co-founder. “We knew there were opportunities here for a different consumer, ones that were younger, hipper, and socially active.”
“We feel like physical sentiments [on paper] are even more valuable today, with how transient everything has become,” Bridges says. “But everything had to be different for it to work…from the content of the cards to the way it was shopped and delivered.”
The company’s foray into this experiment was with a little green vending machine dispensing cards for every occasion. Keeping the target demographic in mind, the cards are written and designed for a “millennial” mindset. “We offer nine cards at a machine at any given time, and we switch them out on a monthly basis, to keep the selection fresh,” Bridges says.
Machines with a (re)purpose
The first installation was at Quay Coffee in Easy, Tiger Co.’s corporate home of Kansas City, MO. “These are self-contained machines that live in other establishments frequented by our audience. It’s symbiotic really. We have found that we drive traffic to the businesses that host us, coffee shops and student unions so far, and they do the same for us. We couldn’t be happier.”
The company refurbishes old candy vending machines that have been sitting in basements, storage units or garages, so cleaning them and making them presentable is often a challenge. “It’s amazing how much dirt, trash, rust, and other ‘interesting’ stuff builds up over the years,” Bridges says. “We strip each machine completely down, and thoroughly clean, sand and refinish them. We usually end up having to take parts and pieces from various machines to make workable new ones. Sometimes we have to fabricate a new part or two because they aren’t that easy to find.” On the plus side, the vending machines were designed well so it’s easy to diagnose and fix a problem if there is one. “We had to do a little experimentation on the first machine to get it to perform the way we wanted, but now the machines work great,” Bridges says.
Right now, Easy, Tiger machines are available in four Kansas City locations, but the company, which has a loyal following, is in the process of expanding its coverage into other areas of the country. “We are refurbishing machines as we speak to meet the demand,” Bridges says. “Immediately, we are working to expand the placement of our machines beyond the Midwest. Then, the sky’s the limit really. We have ideas about expanding our product assortment, and experimenting with other unique ways to get our products in front of the people that love them.”
Bridges says the company tries to live by its motto of “trying to make awesome things, and sell them to awesome people.”
“It’s been great. It’s fun to just sit in a coffee shop and watch people interact with our machines. It really does become entertainment for them,” she says. “We watch people talk, and laugh, and just have fun reading our product. We watched a couple buy cards together, and high-five afterwards. When was the last time you saw someone high-five over a greeting card? People from all over have reached out, where we don’t even have machines, and have been so supportive of what we are doing. It’s really been amazing.”
At a time when e-cards and quick Facebook posts have become more the norm for birthdates and special events, Bridges believes the time is right to get back to a more personal approach. “We don’t want card-giving to be a chore. We want it to be fun. I just think about myself, and my card-buying habits. If it’s fun, and clever, and in front of me, I’m game,” she says. “I’ll find a reason to give it. It’s a shame because cards given out of the blue, just because the person wanted to, mean so much more than the obligatory ones. We want to help people realize that. We want to sell cards to people who aren’t thinking about buying a card.”
For more information, visit cardsforawesomepeople.com.