The beginning of the beginning

Momba: a different type of business


By Steven Duque

Momba’s primary mission is to give students the things they need where they live, whenever they need them; a significant portion of our profits will be given to schools’ financial aid programs. And, we plan to offer student social entrepreneurs an opportunity to make good money while making a positive impact on their immediate communities.

A former dirty college kid on financial aid cleans up

Laundry Piling UpOnce upon a time, I was a dirty college kid on financial aid, who was awake at all sorts of weird hours of the day, as my former roommates will attest. Incidentally, I also often exposed myself to a lot of unnecessary danger by wandering campus and neighboring areas, especially when I needed essential items like toiletries and/or clean undergarments (you can probably guess that I wasn’t super religious about doing my laundry).

In my late-night college wanderings, I saw that I wasn’t the only one awake. Whether for studying, partying or just hanging out, people away at school are awake at all hours of the day. Not only that, they also often need things at all hours of the day. Even when it’s daytime, the thought of dropping what you’re doing and leaving your dorm to buy essential items can seem daunting and time-consuming. In the grand scheme of dorm life, taking care of oneself often falls lower and lower on a growing priority list.

And that’s where Momba comes in. Momba aims to help improve dorm quality of life conveniently, safely and smartly by giving students access to things they need 24/7, delivered directly via Momba machines. What’s a Momba machine, you ask?

An old dog with new tricks
Old dog doing new tricksWe’re retrofitting best-in-class vending machines to deliver our products. While I don’t want to give away too much here (and ruin the surprise!), I can assure that they will be awesome, not to mention interesting and somewhat peculiar in their look and feel. Our aim is to make visiting a Momba machine more of an experience than a transaction. More on this to come!

In thinking over the problem of late night needs in the dorm, vending machines became the obvious answer because they can serve students 24/7, don’t require that a non-student be inside a dorm, and can help time-pressed, tired students get what they need without having to deal with the (bad kind of) weirdness of convenience stores in the middle of the night.

Helping hands and scratching the entrepreneurial itch

Helpful hand & EntrepreneurshipAs a former financial aid student with the entrepreneurial itch, I feel strongly about helping deserving students, through providing funds for financial aid programs and opportunities to enterprising students. The latter inspired the idea for the Momba Student Entrepreneur Program.

The basic idea is to give enterprising students roughly 20% of first-year profits of the Momba machine(s) they help us place on their campuses. Their compensation is directly tied to the success of the machine, so they will be encouraged to continually spread the good word about Momba among classmates. We’ll arm them with materials, training and special promotions to help them be successful. At the end of the day, Momba Student Entrepreneurs will have money in their wallets, valuable work experience and the peace of mind in knowing that their work is helping defray other students’ tuitions.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, please contact me directly at

Keeping it real and staying relevant

Keep it realAll that said, we can’t succeed if Momba machines are serving things that students don’t want and are delivering an experience that sucks. So, we’ll always welcome and ask for feedback from students, schools and parents to shape our product mix and customer experience.

To that end, we’ve put together this student survey to begin validating the ideas we’ve had over what “essential items” students need and want in their dorms. If you’re a current student or recent grad, please take it and tell others about it! We’ll be giving free gifts to all respondents as thanks! Stay tuned for more on how Momba will provide students ways to tell us what they want and need from their Momba experience.

Closing thoughts and thanks

Albert Einstein Likes Momba!Albert Einstein once said, “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.”

Like most beginnings, Momba’s has been exciting thus far, but in searching for models of people who have done what we’re aiming to do, it’s pretty difficult, if at all possible (I personally haven’t found any). Fortunately, I haven’t had to pursue this dream entirely alone, so I want to devote the final part of this post to thanking those who have helped thus far.

A big thanks from the bottom of my heart to my newly minted wife and co-founder, Heather Lapham Duque — for believing in me, in Momba, and our future. Also, a huge thanks to my former colleague at Bullhorn, Bryan Roy, for his amazing design help and invaluable thoughts on customer experience. Thanks, too, to Bill Cioni at Technivend, who took the time to walk me through the lay of the land of the vending business and, like me, believes that the industry has just begun to scrape the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. And, last but not least, to the students and (hopefully) future customers of Momba: you are my inspiration and motivation for taking a risk and trying to make this real.

You can get in touch with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or email. Please follow Momba on Twitter, and connect with us on Facebook and/or Google+