AKRON, Ohio — He's saving for college 25 cents at a time.
For Firestone High School senior David Krichbaum, that means handfuls of peanut M&Ms and shiny quarters, a ton of sales pitches and more than 200 rejections.
This 17-year-old budding entrepreneur bought his first gum ball machine off Craigslist about 18 months ago "just for something to do."
He spruced up the vintage coin machine with fresh paint, tinkered with the gears a bit and plopped it down inside A Wok, a popular Chinese restaurant in Montrose, Ohio.
Since then, David has added six more vending machines in spots around Akron, Ohio.
But it wasn't until he added a full-color "My College Fund" sign above the candy-filled globe that his business skyrocketed.
"My sales doubled when I added that sign," he said.
His goal is to expand his market to 30 gum ball machine locations and generate $800 a month in profits.
He already has been accepted into the University of Akron's business college, where he estimates tuition and books will run him about $10,500 a year.
The savvy businessman is repulsed by the mere thought of taking a student loan and accruing debt and interest payments that saddle so many of his peers. Although his parents are able to help defray his college costs, David is intent on paying his own way through school, one twist of the knob at a time.
"I know my parents could, but I think I'm going to try to do this on my own," he said. "I just want to have some responsibility and at the same time get some experience in sales and business."
Theresa Krichbaum said her son always has demonstrated a creative, intuitive mind. Aside from the vending business, he also runs his own hot dog stand at special events around Highland Square.
When he recently was denied a chance to sell his dogs at a local wrestling meet because of competitive reasons, he bought and opened his own cotton candy stand.
"He's always been a real thinker," his mother said. "He's always coming up with different ideas to make money or invent things."
One of David's first inventions came when he was 10. To quench his thirst to fly, he designed and built a hang glider. He made one successful jump off the backyard shed.
But it's his candy vending business that David hopes will carry him through college and eventually to his own restaurant or other small business. A Wok was the site of his first vending machine. Initially, he sold gum and made no mention of his college fund. Profits were a puny $5 a month.
Late last year, he added the "My College Fund" sign, along with his picture, phone number and email address. It was an idea that just came to him.
The signs have brought him increased sales as well as sales job offers from a local clothier and a potato chip vendor.
With seven machines in business, all boasting his "College Fund" ad, David said he clears about $200 a month in profits.
Zhong Zheng, who runs the family-owned A Wok restaurant, said he admires David's business acumen and his family welcomed the chance to help the high school senior.
"When I was in high school, all I thought was, 'Oh, that girl's cute. I'm going to ask for her number.' I never thought about making money for college," he said. "It's just a smart idea he had. If every high school kid did that, their parents would be happy for four years."
"I don't want the other kids to do it, though," David piped in.
His six other candy-machine locations include Georgio's pizza and Baho's convenience store at Highland Square, and Marco's pizza in Wallhaven.
Another machine is inside Empire Die Cast, where his father, also named David, works as a machinist.