How to Start a Street Vending Business

Written by devra gartenstein
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How to Start a Street Vending Business
Street vendors offer a wide range of wares. (Chestnuts on the street - Rome image by Cozminelu from

Street vending is an ancient form of commerce. Modern street vending, however, has grown complicated with license requirements ranging from the right to use a particular space to health department regulations for food businesses. But street vending remains a creative and exciting enterprise for resourceful entrepreneurs interested in selling in prime locations with minimal overhead. Successful sellers see potential in locations that other merchants wouldn't think to try, and are patient and resourceful about developing strategies for access to prime spots.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Licenses
  • Inventory

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  1. 1

    Spend time on the streets of your neighbourhood. Pay attention to foot traffic patterns. Observe the types of products available at permanent storefronts on different blocks and look for an empty niche to fill. For example, if nobody in the vicinity of a tourist attraction sells disposable cameras, consider offering them as part of your product mix.

  2. 2

    Write a business plan demonstrating your strategy for bringing a unique or necessary product to a location where it is likely to succeed. Describe your product, your target market and the reasons why it is well-suited to street vending. Attach financial information to your plan, including a cash-flow projection and a balance sheet detailing your current financial situation. Bank financing for a street vending business is much the same as for other businesses so be prepared to provide solid documentation.

  3. 3

    Obtain the necessary permits. File for a business license and keep it with you whenever you are vending. As a street vendor, you are more likely to be required to verify your legitimacy than if you were selling in a conventional venue. Get signed statements of support from property owners whose spaces you will use, and use these statements to secure a street vending permit.

  4. 4

    Purchase equipment. Buy a pickup truck or van for transporting your wares. Develop an attractive, portable display system that you can set up and break down in a minimum of time. Because many consumers think of street vending as a fly-by-night enterprise, do everything possible to legitimise your operation. Frame your street vending permit and display it conspicuously. If possible, use permanent looking shelves and quality materials to hold your inventory.

  5. 5

    Purchase inventory. Obtain inexpensive merchandise by researching suppliers online and using information on product labels to obtain contact information. Develop purchasing relationships directly with producers whenever possible. Call or e-mail and tell producers you are starting a street vending business and wish to buy products wholesale.

Tips and warnings

  • Although start-up costs can be minimal, it is a good idea to have a sense of how much it will cost to start your business and how much it will have to earn to show a profit.
  • If you will be selling street food, contact the health department and fill out the necessary paperwork to operate as a mobile food vendor.

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