Teacher-turned-entrepreneur builds DAC Total Refreshments to A+ operation

March 16, 2023
Kim Miros of DAC Total Refreshments is bringing the same passion she had as a teacher into the business, and she shares her secrets to success in this operation profile.
Kim Miros taught elementary and high school for many years with a deep passion for educating and inspiring her students.
But, a few weeks after the start of her 18th year as a teacher, Miros learned from a friend that a local vending business was for sale. She had always been intrigued with the possibility of being a business owner, and it seemed to be the turnkey opportunity she had long sought for the next phase of her career.

Miros decided to take a chance and partner with her friend to purchase the vending business.


As is often the case, what was presented on paper as a minimal effort, lucrative venture immediately proved itself to be far less profitable than expected – and far more work. It was also evident from the beginning that Miros’ business partner did not have the time to devote to the new business due to her personal obligations.

“In reality, that first week, I thought, ‘What have I done?’” Miros recalled. “With other jobs, you can turn in a resignation letter. As a business owner, quitting is not an option. I knew I had to make it work.”

When she found herself in the red by thousands of dollars at the end of the first month, Miros delved deeper and discovered the four employees she inherited who were running two routes and the warehouse lacked integrity and were draining revenue. So, within the first three months, she systematically let each of them go.

“I had to roll up my sleeves and figure it all out,” she said. “I had to run the routes, which meant starting at 4:30 a.m. and work until 8:30 p.m. I needed to learn where all the accounts were located. I had to order products and pick up those products using a trailer. I moved vending machines. I even hired a homeless man once out of desperation to help me move some machines.”

Miros knew she needed to land some new accounts to get her business in the black. She had to get off the truck and free up time to call on potential customers. Her family stepped in, using their collective skills and talents, and was instrumental to the beginning growth of the company. On her first day off from running routes, Miros landed a large account. That’s when she knew her place was in sales and building customer relationships.

“Establishing new business is my strength, but I was doing all the labor-intensive operational work,” she said. “I had to get the business into the black, and the only way to do that was to get out and acquire new business. I also wanted to establish a relationship with existing accounts by having the time to get to know them better.”

Family to the rescue

Miros’ son, Matt, while earning his degree in economics, took over the task of receiving inventory at the warehouse. Her son, Thomas, and his wife, Aida, who lived out of town, would come visit and hop on a truck to run routes. Her son, Drew, who was a business owner, set up a bookkeeping system. Steve, Miros’ husband, was her biggest cheerleader. He supported her in many ways: helped her network, moved machines, supported her when she fired employees, and helped her create a better flow in the warehouse.

It was clear to Miros that she needed to be off the truck, so she convinced her son Drew, who worked remotely in Cocoa Beach, and his wife, Kayla, to move to Ocala so Kayla could run and manage a route. The addition of Kayla, and all the skills she brought with her, proved fruitful. Not only did Miros gain a route driver, but Kayla, who is naturally mechanically minded, watched YouTube videos and taught herself the fundamentals of the mechanics of vending machines. From repairs and installing credit card readers to replacing compressors, she became a self-taught expert technician.

With the growth of the company and the new accounts Miros was gaining, it became clear that she needed to take her business to the next level. That meant investing in a vending management system. This would allow her to maximize efficiency in the warehouse and at each stop by having the right products pre-kitted in the warehouse.

The operator enlisted the help of her daughter-in-law, Aida, a data analyst, who extensively researched all of the different VMS companies, ranking and scoring each in different categories. She ultimately selected Parlevel as the VMS of choice. Soon after, Miros attended her first National Automatic Merchandising Association trade show in Las Vegas, where she and Aida sealed the deal with Parlevel.
The implementation of the Parlevel system, with the help of its technical experts and sales rep, Frankie Skyvara, was a seamless transition. Now, with the ability to prekit accounts and analyze data, Miros was beginning to optimize her operation. Additionally, when Miros purchased the business, there were only five machines out of 250 equipped with credit card readers. Now, with Parlevel’s technology and expertise, all of DAC Total Refreshments’ machines accept cashless payment.

Industry support

Miros knew there were benefits to attending conventions not only for her company but also for herself as a business owner. At conferences, she met fellow convenience service providers who validated the fact that, even in the most perfect of worlds, vending is everything but an easy business. Miros was comforted to learn she was not alone, and the encouragement and support she gained from other operators was instrumental to her persevering.

“I knew everyone wanted me to be successful. You have to make friends in this industry; that’s how you learn. It was a total leap of faith buying this business, but from my first NAMA show to the first Fly-In industry-lobbying event I attended in Washington, D.C., everyone in the industry was friendly and was eager to help me be successful,” Miros commented. “Now, I love telling new people I meet who are just starting in the business that we will be their new friends, because they won’t have time for their old friends!”

The rookie operator continued to work from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the first three years, overseeing and running various routes, ordering products and unloading shipments in the warehouse.

“I didn’t take a salary for three years. I just kept re-investing it into the business,” she said. “Finally, by 2020, we started to grow.

The three C’s

There are many variables involved in growing a business, but Miros found none more critical than having the right people in place. This was key advice from her son Drew before she made the final decision to purchase DAC Total Refreshments.

After initial struggles with employees who lacked integrity, Miros looked for, and only hired, employees who showed they had the “three C’s,” which became her guiding principles: they must be competent; they must show commitment; and they must have the capability to do the work.

Key players

In the summer of 2021, Miros received a phone call from a gentleman who asked her how she was doing. Miros responded with: “I’m tired.” The caller was Mark Turk who explained to Miros that he had been an operational manager for 20-plus years at a large vending company in Los Angeles and had recently moved to Ocala. He told her he wanted to continue to work in the industry and asked if she happened to have a position open to keep him in mind. The rest as they say is history.

“Turk was a godsend. He and his expertise have been a key piece to building and expanding the business,” Miros said.

The final piece pivotal to DAC’s success fell into place when Miros made a cold call to Dollar Tree distribution center during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was a challenge in itself. In her pursuit to install her second large micro market, the operator met Norman Scalf, the facility manager. He not only knew he wanted to install a micro market in the breakroom, but he was also set on choosing a locally owned operator instead of a national vending company.

He took an interest in the business, having a B.A. in construction management with an extensive background in engineering, facility maintenance management and IT, and made the decision to purchase a stake in Drop A Coin Vending, knowing he could help take the business to the next level. So, in January 2022, he became Miros’ partner.

New name, new look

When Miros purchased the business in 2017, she kept the original name, Drop A Coin Vending, to build upon its 36-year reputation. Now that she had Scalf and Turk in the business and had hired outstanding route drivers, along with expanding into micro markets, coffee and pantry services, it was time for a new look and new name. She wanted to move away from the image of coins and vending.

Linda Saldana, co-founder of Seventh Wave Refreshments in Atlanta, Georgia, suggested she enlist the marketing expertise of Neil Swindale of VendCentral.

“It was tough writing out that first check for investment in marketing, but we knew it had to be a piece of the puzzle to help with the growth of the business,” Miros recalled. So, together they gave the original name an updated twist: DAC Total Refreshments.

Secret to success

Miros emphasized that to continue to secure accounts, it is extra important to be actively involved in the community, including her local Chamber Economics Program (CEP).

“We luckily have a strong CEP in Ocala that is always working hard on bringing industries and jobs into our area,” she commented. “Kevin Sheilley and Bart Rowland from the CEP want DAC to be in all the breakrooms in Ocala, and we like supporting the local business community in every way we can. We sell local restaurants’ food in our markets.”

Miros is also a member of the Mid-Florida Regional Manufacturers Association.

“These associations are basically all the people whose breakrooms I want to be in,” she noted.

Within the industry, attending events held by the South Eastern Vending Association (SEVA), Florida School Nutrition Association (FSNA), Atlantic Coast Exposition (ACE) and even the Texas Merchandise Vending Association (TMVA) through a personal invitation have been invaluable networking opportunities.

Golf with the gatekeepers

Miros makes it a point to never miss an opportunity to hit the greens with potential customers when her local CEP or Mid-Florida Regional Manufacturers Association hold a tournament.

“It is like a stage for me,” Miros laughed. “Some of these locations have strong ‘gatekeepers’ who are hard to crack. It’s always fun to meet the decision-makers on the golf course at a tournament and tell them, ‘I’ve been calling on your business for years; can we meet and discuss how I can help with your breakroom needs?’ Invariably, I’ll get a call and we schedule a meeting. Golf provides a face time you wouldn’t normally get in a business setting and helps bond relationships, so I use the sport to my advantage.”

When it comes to making cold calls, there is a process. First, Miros analyzes the location’s needs, number of employees and current status of its breakroom. She then drops off a business card and brochure detailing that it’s a locally owned business, along with a coffee mug filled with snacks, and always follows up with an email.

“I have come across some difficult gatekeepers, so my next step is to take a well-packaged basket filled with our nicest snacks and drinks for the gatekeeper,” Miros continued. “I can make friends with gift baskets. Even the toughest gatekeepers will soften when you take the time to make a nice gift for them. My advice to new operators who are wanting to grow is to get involved with the community, get past the gatekeepers by bearing gifts, to look for new buildings under construction and make friends with the foremen in the trailers, and never give up.”

For a shining example: Miros consistently called on an Auto Zone distribution center – starting from the time it broke ground.

“I made friends with the general manager and helped him get acclimated into the community and consistently called on him for two years,” she said. “I remember the day he called and said, ‘OK, I’m ready to make the switch.’ All of my accounts are like my babies. I worked hard to obtain them, and keeping a good reputation with excellent service is most important to me.”

COVID resilience

Luckily, DAC sustained its business throughout the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic because the majority of its key customers were essential businesses in the manufacturing sector.

“Our high school business took a beating while they were closed for half a year. We were able to keep our employees paid thanks to the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program funding,” Miros said. “I still got out and made sales calls during COVID. And if I couldn’t get in, I FedExed brochures. General managers will open a FedEx package that’s addressed to them.”

Giving back

Beyond business, the former teacher still holds a special place for students, and at schools, her baskets serve a different purpose. She has made it a practice every year for Thanksgiving to distribute food baskets that include a turkey and all the fixings to all of the area high schools for families in need, identified by the principals. She also gives Thanksgiving baskets to her business and industry accounts, knowing they have an employee needing help during the holidays.

“It’s one of my favorite days to hear their stories and bring them holiday cheer and comfort,” Miros commented.

At one high school, the assistant principal recently approached Miros to ask if she would be willing to work with special needs students to teach them how to operate a vending machine, along with the life skills that accompany the business. Miros is enthusiastically onboard and hopes to soon kick off the program to teach the students how to run and manage the snack machine in the school’s teachers’ lounge. She will donate the vending machine and instruct them on the fundamentals of planogramming, purchasing, forecasting, mechanics and bookkeeping.

“I’m so excited about the potential for this program and the possibility to expand it to other students in other schools,” Miros said. “I love entrepreneurship. I helped one girl write a business plan and promised I’d donate her first two vending machines if she found a location. She found vending to be harder than what it looks. I’ve given machines to many people who wanted to start a vending business and taught them the basics.”

Ringing in the new year

DAC started off 2023 installing micro markets and coffee stations in a large manufacturing company with 1,000 employees. It is also expanding into Alachua County, installing its first market, vending and coffee service in a student apartment complex.

DAC Total Refreshments currently has three routes – one that serves business and industry; one devoted to high schools; and one exclusively for micro markets. The company will soon be adding a dedicated coffee service route.

The company is also hiring three more employees to support this new round of growth and booming demand in the OCS and micro market segments.

“I’ve been growing our office coffee service by picking the customer’s brains to fit each area, employee base and budget,” Miros said. “One manager recently came to me because he wanted to build morale. I told him I’ll make him very popular by offering free coffee to his employees. His employees loved it! When I send him his invoice I tell him – especially if it is a high bill – ‘You were very popular this month.’”

The operator recently attended her first NAMA Coffee Tea and Water show where she gained a wealth of knowledge from panelists at educational sessions, fellow operators and suppliers to ramp up her offerings and standard of excellence.

Another big plan for the new year in support of DAC’s micro market growth is to launch an in-house commissary to ensure the highest quality of fresh food and variety. The company recently acquired another building that will house the operation.

Support from DAC’s supplier partners runs deep and is integral to ensuring its high standards and reputation are upheld as the company continues to grow.

“That’s how I determine everything we purchase,” Miros concluded. “My Parlevel representative Frankie helps me launch large customers; we’re now friends and she stays at my house. Our G&J rep Kathy Ben­­­­­­nett took me under her wing and now we attend events together. It’s a shared passion that unites all of us, and just like I tell newcomers to the industry, I really don’t have time for other friends, but I love the ones that vending has brought me.” ■


Sirness Vending Services
Larry Bach, Barbie Nesser, Tom Nesser and Tom Bach at the main entrance of their Rochester, New York, headquarters.

Sirness Vending Services wins a loyal following in western New York

Nov. 9, 2022
Sirness credits its success to its high standard for exceptional service gleaned over three generations and its commitment to continually invest and adapt to changing times and...
Seventh Wave Refreshments
Team Photo 1

Seventh Wave Refreshments is bringing joy to the workplace

Sept. 12, 2022
Centered on that simple mission to bring joy to the workplace, Seventh Wave Refreshments’ founders are no newcomers to Atlanta’s workplaces, but they’re off and running with a...
Capital Provisions
Michael Lovett, Chris Watson and Franco Benitez lead Capital Provisions’ rapid growth trajectory by harnessing the power of data and consumer engagement.

Capital Provisions engages customers and leverages data to operate like a retailer

Aug. 15, 2022
One of the things that makes the San Diego-based team’s not-so-conventional approach possible is its use of technology, telemetry and mobile payments products that together increase...