Vinny: the newest mood marketplace starts work with Neverbland
Vinny is a certified B Corp business dedicated to spotlighting mood-boosting and wellness gifts and products in their funky vending machines and new e-commerce site. We checked in with one of their founders, Matthew Kitchen, to learn more about their growing business.
Neverbland: Where did you get the idea for Vinny vending machines?
Matthew Kitchen, co-founder of Vinny: It was kind of a eureka moment, but also a typical frustrated founder's story in that Vinny was an answer to my own problem. Myself and my partner and co-founder Isla were both travelling in the South of France. We were stuck in this tiny little airport with no shops or food, just a couple of vending machines. Everyone was hammering these vending machines because there was no other option, and we were both vegan at the time so we had even fewer choices.
The humble vending machine that sits in the corner of a space is an untapped resource. Compare what we use vending machines for in this country to how places like Japan use them, and there’s a contest. You can buy a hot meal or even a pair of socks from a vending machine there, so the ones in Europe are useless in comparison.
I was sitting on the plane on the way home thinking about it, asking myself: ‘why hasn’t someone done something with vending machines?’ and it just came to me. I was doing graphic design at the time so I started sketching up some ideas for how something like this could look. When we got home, the idea stuck with me. So once we got home we looked at it seriously and considered creating a concept vending machine.
NB: So, vending machines, but more stylised and better stocked?
MK: Isla and I have always been very purpose driven. We’ve always been conscious of where we put our money, and what kind of brands we’d love to work with. So we always knew that if we’re creating a vending machine it has to stock products that we love, products that we ourselves would buy and like-minded people would spend their money on. Of course, it had to be 100% plant-based, but it also needed to be colourful, loud and thought-provoking. Vinny machines are so pink and energetic to look at, it’s super Gen-Z and millennial vibes. This was perfect because we were passionate about giving new brands with this audience a new route into the market.
NB: How did you bring Vinny to life?
MK: We went to an agency to get some help to create this concept and figure out how you even buy a vending machine in the first place. We found a great company that focuses on creating immersive experiences to create the perfect crossover between FMCG and Tech. We needed these machines to be special if they were going to be the host of our values. I had never seen or heard of anything similar in the UK. no one else was creating a brand-forward consumer experience like we were. It was something really special.
Once we’d launched it, the next challenge was figuring out where these machines should live. Neither of us had worked in the FMCG space before, so we began shopping around for locations which were really challenging. We settled on Vinny being in a shared workspace environment. Something like an office space. Vinny would be the purpose-driven, brand-forward, thought-provoking water cooler moment.
NB: How did Covid affect Vinny?
MK: We were definitely affected by it, but not all negatively. When Covid hit we were tasked with how to keep the momentum going whilst the world ground to a halt. This is where we had to pivot. We started directly approaching businesses and telling them all about Vinny. This is where Isla’s knack for product curation really shone through and worked perfectly.
Instead of waiting for spaces to reopen and for brands to come to us, we created these little Vinny gift boxes and started sending them out all over the place. We hammered LinkedIn, going direct to businesses that spoke to our values and who loved these little Vinny boxes. That snowballed into us doing these gift boxes for events, and we quickly became a part of a perks and rewards system for a lot of different companies.
NB: And now Vinny machines are in collaborative working spaces as well as B2B gifting?
MK: Yes. As the pandemic started to subside a little we landed our machines in Huckletree - a collaborative curated set of workspaces that are all over the UK and Ireland. This was probably the best thing that could have happened to Vinny because they are so aligned with our company values and really got the message that Vinny was saying. We rolled out seven machines in different Huckletree locations and it was a hit.
NB: When did Vinny start to expand into eCommerce?
MK: We wanted to do an expansion on what Vinny offers. We love the vending machines, but we knew that we wanted Vinny to grow into an e-commerce business and not just the machines. We wanted to create a mood-boosting, impact-driven marketplace which appeals to people who think like us and who want to purchase products with a collective well-being benefit. What used to be a business-to-business solution has now grown into a new exciting e-commerce solution, which is why we’ve started working with Neverbland.
The deeper we dove into products, and started to explore more of the wellness and mood-boosting world, we realised that there isn't much out there in terms of places where people could shop for purpose-driven products unless it’s a physical pop-up store or via individual retailers. We wanted to give a platform to the products we love whilst oftentimes supporting startup businesses in the process. I don't see this stopping at just e-commerce. I see Vinny doing pop-up stores, collaborations with brands, and even hosting events to support brands that share our mission and values. Vinny has become a concept rather than just a few machines. We are the curators of meaningful gifts and unique experiences and products for our consumers.
NB: What sort of brands do you like to work with the most?
MK: At Vinny, we think it’s really important to be as inclusive and diverse as possible. We ensure that we are spotlighting minority founders and their products in our gift boxes, and we want to be able to do that 24/7 on our growing online marketplace. We want to be able to give a space to companies that may not necessarily get mainstream exposure, and elevate them on our site. Although we are a wellness business, we keep inclusion at the forefront of what we do.
NB: What’s Vinny up to now, and where are you headed?
MK: We’re continuing to launch more Vinny vending machines into more locations across the UK and continue to offer bespoke wellness solutions to our consumers via our e-commerce website which is soon to grow and improve with the help of Neverbland. I would love to see Vinny expand into a publicly accessible physical experience for more than just workspaces. This shift from B2B to more B2C begins with our e-commerce site, but I’d love to see Vinny in a brick-and-mortar space. It could be a super immersive experience with pop-ups inside, collaborations with artists and other brands, and maybe even wellness workshops. It would just be a real Vinny concept space giving cool, up-and-coming independent brands a palace to explore and discover. I’d also love us to explore a subscription service, where people sign up and receive mood-boosting boxes every month full of Vinny-approved wellness products. Hopefully, you’ll be seeing some of these come to life very soon.