Stop me if you've heard this one: What do you get when you combine two guys, an RV and a bunch of ATMs?
Apparently, a very successful business.
Twelve years ago two New Jersey brothers, Mike and Evan Almeida, had the brilliant idea to start an ATM company. While they had both found success in their respective careers — one brother as the owner of a landscape architecture business and the other as a commodities broker, an ATM company would provide the opportunity to work together ... without the fertilizer or stuffy office setting.
Once they started seeing a profit from their ATM venture, Empire ATM Group, they began to think about what should come next. How could they grow the business?
As chance would have it, their church discovered that they ran an ATM company and asked the brothers to place a mobile ATM at its annual fair. The Almeidas had never operated an event ATM, but they figured they could do it.
The pair scrounged up an old WRG machine and fished a phone line from inside the church for communication.
"It was a crude operation but it worked. And even though the profits were donated to the church, we knew this was an untapped market we wanted to explore," Mike said.
The brothers began looking into other mobile ATM opportunities. After successful deployment at local events, they expanded to bigger events throughout the state — always pushing themselves to go further, think bigger and produce better solutions.
But what about the RV?
| The Almeida brothers and their 37-foot Thor Outlaw Class A 'Toy Hauler'|
Over the next few years, Empire ATM Group expanded to include events out of state and across the country. The team used a sprinter van as transport and base of operations, often checking into hotels for the duration of the event — some of which as long as two weeks.
In 2012, their accountant made an interesting observation — the amount they spent on hotel rooms would almost purchase a new RV every year.
An RV? No one uses an RV for ATMs! Except ... why not?
Mike and Evan started doing some research. If an RV was going to work, it would have to operate as transportation vehicle, hotel and base of operations. Eventually, they found a good candidate — a 2012, 34-foot Thor Fourwinds RV.
"It was an easy sell for us and we picked it up for a great price," Evan said. "It was also a write-off for the company. You can't beat that.”
"Sure enough, our accountant was right,” Mike said. "We used that RV for the next two years and it made our lives so much easier.”
A command center on wheels
Running events from an RV saved Empire time and money and made its mobile ATM operations more efficient. With the RV serving as base camp, the Almeidas could park in the area set aside for visiting featured artists and technical operators, and remain onsite to manage their ATMs. The RV has saved the company money on trade shows, as well, as it allows Empire to transport and house staff as well as the company's booth.
In fact, the RV has been so successful that the company upgraded to a newer version in 2015. This time the Almeida knew exactly what they were looking for: bigger.
"Our new RV is 37 feet long, sleeps eight and can fit up to 12 units inside its rear garage," Mike said. "We don't usually like to put more than eight ATMs inside, though, so we have space to haul a motorcycle for transportation while at the event."
For larger events that need more than eight units — some require as many as 60 — the brothers haul a trailer behind the RV or have multiple vehicles on site. With the expansion of their mobile fleet, the brothers are looking to purchase another RV or a race trailer with living quarters and a storage area.
Today, the Almeidas handle a more than 200 events a year — sometimes as many as five in one weekend — and as the company grows, they remain highly conscious of their branding. "Every unit that is sent to an event now goes through a thorough checklist to ensure uniformity," Mike said.
So what's next? The Almeidas are both licensed pilots, so, not surprisingly, there is talk of an airplane in the near future.
As Evan said, "We've come a long way since that first church fair."