My Lil’ Healthmart is a start-up launched by Tim Decker and Ryan Snelling. This project was introduced to Wilfrid Laurier University first and will be coming to UTM soon.
Decker gave credit to Andrea Devito (the assistant director for UTM’s Hospitality & Retail Operation) and Vicky Jezierski (the director of hospitality and retail operations), who “were the ones that reached out to us and got us interested in bringing My Lil’ Healthmart to UTM.”
The Medium: What exactly is My Lil’ Healthmart?
Tim Decker: My Lil’ Healthmart is a vending machine that sells a range of personal health care products. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it sells products that you would normally go to places like Shoppers Drug Mart for. Things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, tampons, condoms, shaving cream, cold medicine, allergy medicine, cough syrup—that’s all available in a My Lil’ Healthmart.
TM: Why did you decide to start My Lil’ Healthmart?
TD: Well, there’s a few reasons. For the first one, I think [that] for a lot of business ideas, it all comes down to personal frustration. One of the things that I found was that I used to go to the drugstore for something, and it would usually be just one or two things that had run out—but I would have to go even if it was raining outside. So it was for me to be able to get these products that I need in a more convenient fashion.
Another reason is [that] when you go to these big stores, they’re full of products [but] they’re also full of people [who] are working there that don’t necessarily add value to the interaction, because you don’t usually go there and spend a lot of time browsing around. You just go there and find what you need and then leave. So it just seemed like employing all these people that weren’t adding value [was] an inefficient use of resources.
So what we’re trying to do [is that] we’re trying to solve [the] problem that everyone has had, where you need these products right away, but the place you normally get it from is too far, or it’s closed.
TM: When exactly did My Lil’ Healthmart start?
TD: We were founded in 2014. We launched our first My Lil’ Healthmart, which then was called Robot Retailers, at Wilfrid Laurier University in February of this year. We have two at Laurier, so […] [UTM will be] the second university to have it.
TM: How did you decide on the things you wanted to put in the machine?
TD: We spoke to a lot of different retailers, and we also did a lot of online research, on things like what the top-selling products are in the health care category on Amazon and Walmart.ca.
TM: Will there be any pharmaceutical products, or is it just the basic necessities?
TD: No pharmaceutical products—just things you would be able to get over the counter, like Tylenol, DayQuil, etc.
TM: We were told that the machine coming to UTM will be called Mindy, is that correct?
TD: Yes, that’s correct.
TM: Do you know exactly when she will be coming to campus?
TD: We’re hoping for the end of September. We’re not 100 percent sure, because it’s being shipped from a manufacturer.
TM: What methods of payment will UTM students be able to use for the machine?
TD: Mindy does not accept cash. She will accept debit, credit, and your student card.
TM: Do you plan to roll it out to any other campuses, or any of the other University of Toronto campuses?
TD: We hope to be on every university campus in North America in five years. We chose University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus because it’s in a secluded area, where it might be difficult for students to go out and buy the basic items that we have in the machines.
TM: Were the machines well received by students at the Laurier campus?
TD: The machines were very well received by the Laurier students. The amount of sales we have are increasing on a daily basis, and we’ve just moved it to a new location where even more students can access it, and that has also caused a bigger increase in sales.
TM: Thanks, Tim. Our final question is, why is the machine called Mindy?
TD: The way we name the machines is by naming them after people close to us in our personal lives. The first one was called Linda, after my mom, who passed away. We really felt it would be good luck to name it after her. The next one was named after Ryan’s dad. Mindy is the name of my partner. We choose the name because it’s cute and fun, which is what we want our brand to convey. Who knows, we might name the next one after Ryan’s partner.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.