An entrepreneur is an individual who recognises an opportunity, converts it into a product or service, determines receipts and profit, and produces a successful business with it. Now, the world is ruled by technology, and a new form of entrepreneurs has shown their ability to the world, they are known as techpreneurs.
Meet Lauren Smee the Co-Founder & CEO of EZ Vending. EZ Vending is a retail technology company that deploys our software onto vending machines and other specialized dispensing smart hardware to create completely automated, cashless, and compliant retail hubs for any good requiring identity validation.
‘’You wear so many hats as an entrepreneur in the earlier stages of a company.’’ Lauren Smee
The platform powers the vending machines themselves, while also providing a super-powerful yet simple EZ admin dashboard while at the same time thoughtfully designing a shopping experience with the end-user customers in mind.
Lauren Smee is the Co-Founder & CEO of this tech company. She orchestrates a million different things, often unrelated, at the same time. In this article, we will talk about the tips to be a successful technopreneur. So, let’s get right into the business!
What was your thought process behind starting EZ Vending?
Why in this age of technology do we have to stand in line and talk to a person to get a beer?
Can you open up a bit about your work and career?
Growing up, I worked in my dad’s auto body shop. From the time I was probably 6 or 7 I remember my mom making me file papers in her back office of the shop. As I got older, my dad gave me more serious roles so that by the time I graduated college (with a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice haha) I had 5-6 years of experience building B2-B relationships at age 22.
For a short time after college, I wanted to be the next Sherlock Holmes which quickly came to a screeching halt after I realized the financial compensation path that entailed. So, I got a job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car which was paying well for new college grad and had a great management trainee program.
Fast forward, a single mom at 23 and several jobs later my sales and relationship capabilities have really what’s gotten me this far.
After having my daughter I started a farm-to-table catering company and did really well for a couple of years until I sold my book of business and went back into the corporate world for some experience that would change my life forever!
I launched 3 different tech startups and they were all multimillion-dollar markets by the end of year 1.
While working for the second one was when I met my now co-founder, and after 2 years and with COVID’s help I was out of the 9-5 world and back into the 24-7 world for a rollercoaster I could never have planned for.
What has been some of your greatest stories involving EZ Vending?
Since starting the company in 2020, it has taken us to some strange places and have had the opportunity to meet some incredible people. The whole experience feels like a chapter book that is currently being written. We have found ourselves at music festivals in the woods, restaurants on lakes, and big businesses in Los Angeles I mean it really is a rollercoaster. My absolute favorite day so far was the day our prototype arrived at our office. After a year of developing software and designing the hardware, it was like I had birthed my 2nd baby!
How did you first become interested working for yourself?
It’s not something I had an epiphany about one day, it’s been through trial and error working for other people. I felt like a caged tiger, in the sense I felt like my capabilities were restricted.
I come from a line of entrepreneurs. My grandfather had 22 patents in his name, 3M bought his auto tape factory for the tape and patents which they still use today.
After selling to 3M he co-founded a chain of auto body shops which at its height had 38 locations across California. My dad worked for him and then moved to a different state to start his own in a new market.
How did you find the right co-founder? What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs on how to find business partner?
Totally serendipitous.. sat down next to each other at the bar of a restaurant. Fate put us in front of each other. After getting to know one another it’s been this very organic ebb and flow of ideas. A safe place where we expand on and support each other. Individually we feel like we can do anything, so together it’s a powerhouse on a whole different level. He’s the yin to my yang.
Whether it’s fate or an intentional meeting, you need to find someone who has the same vision, drive, and willingness to sacrifice for the big picture. Someone who has the same mindset and ideas about what is also important in the day-to-day decisions of running a business. Neither of us are fueled by our ego or vanity. We want to genuinely make the world a better, more advanced place and that’s what drives us—we rarely disagree about business-related decisions and it’s been just about 4 years!
What would a normal day be like for you?
I wake up at 6:30 am. Make coffee and breakfast before my daughter wakes up so I can enjoy in peace and quiet. I get my daughter ready for school and then hit the gym. After that, I go to my office or home office and work til basically 10-11 pm. I take breaks here and there to cook dinner and transport my daughter to school and sports but I am always working and basically take breaks for real life. I take the weekends to spend time at home and regenerate from the week.
Did you plan your career and your business path?
Absolutely not, however, I never felt like I belonged where I was. I have had a lot of different job types, probably more variety than most people. From a chef to a lifeguard to an insurance agent while my Bachelor’s Degree is in Criminal Justice haha. I have always just followed my heart/intuition and did what I felt was right which led to a culmination of professional experience that made me well equipped for the role I have today.
What sacrifices have you had to make during life?
I became a single mom at 23. Single in the sense of having zero physical or financial help ever from her biological dad— and I’m okay with it! It does however require me to sacrifice my own wants and needs 90% of the time. I go months at times without a break from parenting for more than the 6ish hours she goes to school. My daughter is truly an incredible little person who makes me complete and parenting whether you’re single or married is a sacrifice.
If you could go back by ten years, what would be some of the top tips you would give our audience?
Get started now, network, and don’t do dirty business.