The Business of Street Vending
By Eric Hammer
Street vending, i.e. selling things on the street, is a popular
business, though it's not one which is particularly well paid.
The advantage is that the barrier to entry is pretty low. You'll
need to get a license from your city or county to engage in street
selling (unless you want to constantly fear confiscation of your
goods by the police, not to mention arrest and prosecution
this is why some New York City street vendors will pack out in
a hurry when they spot a cop down the block. In New York, it
is virtually impossible to get a license as a street vendor for
anything other than food.). You'll also have to scope out a corner
to sell on which has good street traffic because you are unlikely
to get much in the way of word of mouth sales.
If you plan on running a street based food operation, like
a hot dog stand or a truck which sells sandwiches, you will also
need to apply for a food handling license, which can cost more
and require more training than simply selling dry goods (i.e.
anything and everything which is not food clothing, purses,
nick knacks and the like). In addition, those choosing to sell
food on the street will be subject to inspection by the health
department on a regular basis.
However, for all that it's no glamour job, street vending
is a business which attracts thousands of people to it every
year and which is particularly popular amongst immigrant populations
and in large cities like New York and Los Angeles.
How Much Can You Make?
The amount of money you'll make as a street vendor is largely
up to you. It depends on what it is you sell, how many hours
you are willing to work a day, where you set up your street vending
business and how much competition there is. Don't expect it to
be a get rich quick scheme, but do expect it to provide a living.
It's not completely unheard of for street vendors to take in
high five figure gross salaries if they work hard and have a
certain amount of luck, though you should expect your initial
wages to be lower. Also, realistically, you shouldn't expect
to earn much more than you might at working any other unskilled
labor job, in other words, a living, though nothing special (think
anywhere from $15,000-$30,000 a year if you work really hard).
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
No matter what product you are hawking in your street vending
business, there are always other things you can branch off into.
Selling hot dogs out of a hot dog cart? Consider adding hot pretzels
ala New York City. Selling women's purses? Try adding in some
wallets for the men who pass by. You can also get extra cash
by helping other street vendors to get established, both by being
a middle man who sells them their goods and by offering training.
Keep in mind that you are running a service business and your
advertising is your smile and your personality. If you are running
a food business, make sure you have that extra flourish which
will make people want to buy their food from you and not from
the competition down the block. If you are selling dry goods,
put on a show for people. Make yourself memorable and get your
customers to smile and laugh while they're purchasing your products.
You'll get more repeat customers that way.
Also, consider the possibility of street vending outside of
sports arenas. When the Yankees are playing in the Bronx for
example, dozens of street vendors set up shop to hawk Yankees
memorabilia for several blocks on either side of the stadium.
Another way to earn money from the street vending business
without actually getting involved in standing around on street
corners is to be a supplier. You can arrange to import dry goods
directly from the manufacturer in China and then resell them
at a profit to street vendors who then turn around and sell them
to the public.
Qualifications / Requirements
The biggest challenge you will face by far in getting into
the street vending business is getting the necessary licenses.
You may need to provide proof that the business owners you plan
to set up shop in front of are willing to have your business
established there. You may also need to provide proof of where
your merchandise is coming from (don't forget that street vendors
are common places to find counterfeit and or stolen goods
if you plan to get a license, you'll need to document where your
merchandise is coming from and that it's legitimate. If you don't
plan to get a license, be prepared to lose your entire stock
and possibly earn a fat fine every time a cop spots you and you're
not able to clear out quickly enough). Other than that, there
are no formal requirements. You just need to be willing to work
hard and to have a winning personality that gets people to keep
coming back to you for more.
Spend some time scouting out likely locations for your street
vending business. Pay particular attention to foot traffic patterns
as most of your business will be based on people walking by,
not on repeat business.
Becoming a Street Vendor - Some information
article on how to get started.