Sarah Beth Hensley, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Vending machines are a convenient way to snag a candy bar, a soft drink, or — with the help of a new Fairfax, Va., business — some hair extensions.
Marcella Ellis unveiled The Mane Vendor, a hair extension vending machine, in her Fairfax salon last week and is working to sell the concept to salons across the country. So far, Ellis — the CEO of The Mane Vendor and her salon, Marcella Ellis Hair Studio — says she's been pleased with the response from businesses interested in getting one of the machines.
"We've gotten all types of people who are interested. Tons of emails from people in the UK, Arizona, Atlanta," says Ellis, who adds stores in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. have showed enthusiasm in the machine. "The response we have gotten has been tremendous."
The idea was born about a decade ago after Ellis says she traveled the country teaching hair extension techniques to salons, and realized that many businesses couldn't afford to stock their hair extension supply. The vending machines are a way to empower hair salon owners nationwide, bringing the supply of hair extension back into the salon, she says.
There's an advantage for customers, too.
"No longer will they need to travel to a hair supply store to purchase their extensions before coming to the salon," Ellis says of the machine, which accepts credit cards.
The vending machines can be obtained through a license. It costs businesses $13,964 to get a license for a large vending machine and $11,667 for a small machine license, which also includes perks like online extensions classes and kickbacks for the salon, Ellis says.
The one machine that is in operation is in Ellis' salon, but customers may start seeing them crop up in salons around the country as soon as late September, Ellis says.
While Ellis says hers is the first hair extension vending machine, the machines have become pervasive and people can now get products -- like pizza -- with the touch of a button.
Ellis says her goals are set high with the machine as she aims to have 10,000 machines in salons across the U.S. and abroad by 2015.
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