Owen Lefkovits was hungry, but Castle Car Wash couldn’t feed him.
Lefkovits’ mom had just picked up the Shiloh Point Elementary School student from a swim practice two years ago and decided to get her car washed. They walked into Castle Car Wash’s waiting room, and Lefkovits immediately looked for a vending machine.
There was none.
“I was surprised there was no vending machine,” Lefkovits said, “because usually there is in most places now.”
Lefkovits fixed that. He owns the snack machine that now stands in the waiting room corner of the Castle Car Wash on Peachtree Parkway – even though the 10-year-old can’t reach the top two shelves.
But Lefkovits makes for a precocious business owner. A one-boy company, O.L. Vending, he is responsible for maintaining the machine, managing expenses and keeping it well-stocked with all manner of candy bars and chips and crackers; there’s even a bottle of hand sanitizer. When something goes wrong with the machine – as it has – the car wash’s employees call Lefkovits.
Lefvokits isn’t sure where his entrepreneurial bent came from, but his parents, M’Lee and Jeremy, say it was evident early on. He loved watching “Shark Tank,” the reality TV show where emerging entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of industry giants. He also grew up as M’Lee and Jeremy started their own business, an organic farm in north Forsyth, and he regularly asked them questions.
“He would ask questions like, ‘How does a bank work?’” M’Lee said.
Jeremy added: “He asks very, very intelligent, intuitive questions.”
M’Lee was the one who proposed that Owen should get Castle Car Wash a vending machine. She says it was a joke, but for the next three days Owen researched vending machines on the internet. About a month later, he called Castle Car Wash’s owner, who happened to be a friend’s dad, and set up a meeting. Owen crafted a presentation that pitched the owner on how a vending machine would improve customer satisfaction. “Satisfy your customers by satisfying their hunger,” it read on one of the slides.
The day of the presentation, Owen said he was nervous at school. M’Lee was too. She had an ominous feeling, so much so that she decided to drive over to Castle Car Wash before the presentation. Her suspicions were correct; the car wash had already added a vending machine.
“That was a little bit disappointing,” Owen said.
Owen resolved to make his presentation anyway. On the car ride there, Owen edited his slides, revising his pitch to emphasize the benefits of having someone local who could maintain the vending machine.
“He said he really liked it,” Owen said. “So he gave me the opportunity.”
The next step was for Owen to buy a vending machine. He and M’Lee found a company in Norcross that sold used ones. Owen picked out a unit, but he didn’t have the money to buy it. A vacation to his grandmother’s fixed that. Owen told her about his possible business venture. She agreed to loan him $2,200 to purchase the vending machine. Owen agreed to pay her back $64 a month.
Owen then made final preparations. He bought his first stock of snacks from a wholesale vendor. He put change in the machine. He added a debit and credit card payment system, at the Castle Car Wash owner’s request. He was in business.
This isn’t a cute hobby for Owen, either. He visits the machine once a week to collect money and deposit it in a bank account. The card payment system tracks what customers buy, so Owen knows which items are selling well and which aren’t. He uses Excel and QuickBooks to manage expenses. Once, when the family was on vacation, the car wash called to say the door was not shut properly. Owen had to get a friend to fix the situation.
“It’s not a hobby that he does whenever he wants to go and do it,” Jeremy said. “He generally does it with a seriousness that a business needs.”
But Owen isn’t overly concerned with turning a profit. He just paid off the loan from his grandmother. What revenue he doesn’t spend on regular expenses he donates to the Humane Society of Forsyth County to help pay for adoptions fees for dogs, which he advertises on the side of his vending machine.
A year and a half after it all started, Owen is as committed as ever.“It’s preparing me for the future,” Owen said.