Matt Miller | Owner of School Spirit Vending | High Speed Low Drag Podcast

Matt MillerMatt Miller graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989 and was an Air Force pilot for 9 years.

Post military, Matt worked in both medical and advertising fields before venturing out on his own in 2011 to grow his school fundraising company, School Spirit Vending.

Today, Matt and his team provide passive fund-raising for over 1500 schools in over 23 states.

HSLD: Besides the little background that weíve give about you, could you tell us a little more about yourself?

Matt: I spent my time in the military for 9 years and loved the time that I was able to do things that I could have never dreamed up growing up. I finally got to a point where I knew I could do better financially and have more freedoms.

Like you said I spent a lot of time selling in the medical device world and then in advertising. I got a little bit frustrated with the limits there. It always seemed like whatever company I was working for , the rules got changed midway through things and they were never in my favor.

I decided to change all that- started my business moonlighting literally with candy and gum ball machines to start with about 9 years ago. I had about $32 to my name- found a used candy and gum ball machine on eBay, learned from the guy, picked up the machine and went to start and teach myself vending.

Of course things have morphed from just candy and gum balls to where we do our fundraising stuff in schools- selling stickers.

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HSLD: Letís start with your success quote. What is it?

Matt: My quote is from Zig Ziglar. It is essentially:

Help enough people get what they want and youíll be taken care of.

Over the last 7 to 8 years, thatís kind of the mantra Iíve lived my life by. In all of the businesses that I run today, itís a win-win situation where Iíve found a way to help others and in doing so, Iím benefitting myself.


HSLD: Letís focus on your military experience. Tell us a story of your most pivotal moment in the US army and share with us some of the lessons you learned.

Matt: I first went to the Air Force academy to get away from home. I had no military aspirations or family in the military. I just found out about the school and found out that it was equivalent to a full ride scholarship and also got me the opportunity to go to school away from home.

So here I am junior year at the academy, 3 years in with one year to go and we have to decide what our career paths were gonna be. I found out along the way that if you were medically qualified to fly, which I was, and chose not to become a pilot, you had to go talk to the 3-star general in charge of the academy and tell him why you didnít want to fly.

I had never had any dreams or aspirations to become a pilot. Believe it or not, it just happened. I chose not to get the face time with the general and became a pilot, as ridiculous as that sounds.


Air ForceHSLD: Share with us the lessons you got from that pivotal moment in your life:

Matt: The biggest lesson I have from all of that is just to set your dreams and your goals high. I grew up in little town in Illinois, west of Chicago. It had been 20 years since anyone had gone to a military academy prior to me. Nobody I knew flew. Despite the odd way that I became a pilot, I had the opportunity to go to the academy which s a highly regarded school in our country.

Looking back now, to be able to travel all over the world and fly for 9 years is pretty phenomenal. So instead of limiting myself, even though I didnít understand at all, I just learned to go with it and pick up lessons along the way.


HSLD: Letís focus on your transition out and the failures, challenges and lessons you got from it.

Matt: 90% of my buddies that I went to school with and flew with, the obvious path for them was to go to the airlines. In fact, most of them are still doing that today.

Because flying wasnít something that I had aspirations of all my life and quite honestly, the divorce rates are extremely high for airline pilots- so those were the 2 reasons why I decided not to go to the airlines.

It boggled everyoneís mind. In fact, one of the challenges I had to face when looking for a job was companies asking why they should hire me, when I would probably go back to flying for higher pay in a couple of years.

As far as obstacles when I got out the biggest thing was financial. We made some stupid decisions early on, got ourselves into some debt because of some early business stuff I tried to do while I was transitioning.

I was at the point where here I was, an Air Force pilot, but I couldnít even get a payday loan for $100 to pay a bill. That was the lowest point in my post-military career. That was the major hole that I found myself in but thatís also what turned me into entrepreneurship.


HSLD: Can you share with us an AHA moment that you have had that has really spurred you on?

Matt: I had been working in the advertising industry for 4 to 5 years and was frustrated because of the limited money I was making. I was looking to do something on the outside that would provide for me.

I had started a vending business that sold candy and gum and had kinda grown that for about a year and a half. Then 2007-08 hit and the economy had gone south and not many people were going for the businesses I had, and I was frustrated because I wasnít making as much money as I had for my time.

I had four kids come knocking on my door within the span of a week, wanting to sell me stuff for a fundraiser for their school. With my couple of years of background in vending and those kids knocking on my door, I tried to think of ways to utilize my vending experience to get kids off the street and help schools passively fundraise. So thatís where the whole idea of School Spirit Vending came from, as well as sticker vending.

The biggest challenge was not knowing anything about how schools worked. I had to knock door to door, talking to principals and all that, trying to figure out how we could implement our program.


school-spirit-vendingHSLD: What is one thing that has you most fired up about your business today?

Matt: Iím most excited about the fact that Iíve gotten to a point in my business to where weíre taken care of. We have a distributorship program that find people who are looking to supplement their work full time. We provide them a system and a process to do that.

Iím excited that we are impacting so many families and people all over the country. So many people want to be entrepreneurs but donít know how to do that. We can give them the tools to succeed and to see these people flourishing itís really exciting.


4865Matt’s Lighting Round Answers

  • What is the most difficult adjustment you had to make to the civilian world? Hands down was going from a very regimented environment to entering a world where you have control.
  • What business advice would you pass along to someone making the transition now? We are oftentimes led to believe that the military is the only way to go, that Uncle Sam will take care of you but I didnít get that. But itís really okay because there is so much opportunity because there are so many companies longing for the skillset that you have. The entrepreneurial world is made for the skillset that the military has trained you for.
  • What is one of your habits that you believe contribute to your success? I didnít quit.
  • If you can recommend one book what would it be? The Bible, How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
  • Whatís the best way that we can find you? And one last parting piece of guidance. You can do it! Take advantage of the opportunity in front of you. My company is School Spirit Vending, email me at