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Everyone purchases something from a street peddler at some point in their life - hot dogs, pretzels, meat, vegetables, fruit, cold drinks, flowers, small souvenirs, or mementos from a vacation or trip.A street vendor is someone who sells food, goods and merchandise on the street or in an open-air market rather than at a traditional store. The street vendor's "store" is either a small outside area that can be locked and shut down at the end of the night, or a cart that can be moved from location to location, and taken home at the end of the day.
A street vendor sells merchandise from a cart or station located near an area where pedestrians walk by. A vendor's main objective is to make money by selling items that people need or want. Often these items are food-related, as those are the easiest permits to obtain.
Selling food or other merchandise from a cart or stand on the street may seem like a perfect way to earn a living while at the same time owning a small business. Self-employment and the opportunity to set one’s schedule, all the while being outside may seem like the best job opportunity around. With no building lease costs, overhead of employees, and few bills besides the cost of the merchandise being sold, street peddling appears to be a relatively simple business venture. However, like any other small business, street vending requires time, patience, some upfront costs, strategic planning, basic marketing strategies, and the proper licenses or permits required by the state or area.
Generally, a vendor will need to obtain a sales tax permit and a tax certificate from the government's revenue agency, a general business license from the city or county clerk’s office, and an additional vendor or peddler’s license from ones city or county government. These permits can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to obtain depending on the area and time of year. It also should be noted that many areas throughout North America only allow a certain number of permits to be given each year, so it is important to research the area where one hopes to work to be certain that a permit or license can be obtained.
A vendor will also need to be aware and be in accordance with any other registrations or licensing requirements that apply to the area in which they will be working. If the items being sold are food-related, contact with the area’s local Department of Health will need to be made in order to obtain permits as well as to be advised of health codes and regulations. A food vendor will likely be required to attend a Food Protection Course for Mobile Food Vendors.
A street vendor's workplace is ideally a highly trafficked area located in an area with plenty of businesses and people. The weather is an element that all vendors must deal with. Days with perfect weather will yield higher profits, but vendors will also have to contend with days of pouring rain, high winds, and biting cold in which they will be lucky to break even for the day. It can be a long day that slowly drags by when no one is coming to a vendor’s cart, or it can be just the opposite with lines of people waiting to buy the items being sold.
There is no special degree needed to be a vendor, though having a few business and marketing classes can help a business grow. Some universities have classes available online that can teach valuable tips for starting up ones own street vending business.
It takes hard work, dedication, patience, and a cheerful and positive attitude in order to be a successful street vendor. It also takes persistence to consistently bring in customers and make sales.
Kevin Rosenberg unfolded a table on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Garfield Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn, covered it with camping gear and raked in $500. For the ex-naval officer and former lawyer, it was the start of his career as a street vendor.
Unlike most other business opportunities, street trading offers the ordinary individual a realistic chance to start their own business for a reasonable investment, very few restrictions, low overheads and little, if any specialist knowledge, skills or experience.
This week, I spent a day wandering around SoHo with nothing but a pen, notepad, camera and mind full of questions for street vendors.
Street vendors are the lifeblood of some downtown areas. They attract tourists to the city, promote community harmony and provide a service to customers who enjoy shopping outdoors.
For every beautiful day when the streets are teeming with people, there are many days of rain or cold when you will be lucky to break even.