TUFF ENOUGH: Robert Liva
,s idea of making graphic panels for vending machines is now a $1 million enterprise called Tuffronts Inc.
View Larger In the vending industry, my Lays potato chips are the same as everybody else's," says Robert Liva, owner of the Dallas-based vending services company Tuffronts Inc.
"But by customizing the vending machine, you exploit the ego of the location.If the vendor is smart, they use us as a tool to capture market share and retain existing locations.Our services help negotiate higher vending prices and higher-dollar locations." Liva started his business with nothing more than a sheet of plastic, a utility knife and a head full of experience working in the vending business.
company is racking up $1 million in annual revenue. He
is hailed by the Austin Chronicle
as "legendary or notorious, depending whom you ask" after, as a vendor of the Austin school district, he
helped take down district officials in a payola scandal years back.Liva formed Tuffronts in 2001 with business partner Henry Carr.
bought out his
partner's share, sold off the vending assets and refocused the company on a "so-crazy-it-just-might-work" plan.
The idea was to cut plastic panels to fit on the sides and fronts of vending machines, effectively resurfacing and adding value to the equipment.Before Liva's
product was available, vendors whose machines were beat up and damaged used vinyl contact paper, which is difficult to apply and tears easily.He
now sells the original siding product, lovingly dubbed "the old 1-2" (one front, two sides), for $99; the product accounts for about 50% of annual sales. By 2005, Tuffronts had become a family affair, with Liva's three sons joining the company and sales picking up.
Since then, the enterprise has been growing at a 100% annual clip.