L.A. stories of inspiration and success

L.A. stories of inspiration and success

illustration of a sidewalk vendor selling electronics
After receiving a referral from another sidewalk vendor, Mario Olvera connected with the Central West BusinessSource Center (BSC) for business assistance and guidance on how to navigate the requirements of the City of Los Angeles Sidewalk and Park Vendor Permit Program.

BSC staff provided Olvera a comprehensive orientation on sidewalk vending for merchandise, license and permits, annual reporting requirements, and assistance on applying for his license and permits. He applied for his sidewalk vending permits in 2020.

Prior to sidewalk vending, Olvera worked full-time at an airplane parts company and, on the weekends, sold electronics at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, an indoor swap meet. In mid-2019, he came across the tight-knit sidewalk vending community in Historic South Central Los Angeles. Olvera decided to align himself with the group and focus on selling electronics full-time as a sidewalk vendor.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the sidewalk vending community in Historic South Central. For eight months between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, consumers stopped shopping with sidewalk vendors due to the state order closure of non-essential businesses. Since the pandemic's start, the close-knit family of vendors saw five vendors die of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, they have continued to support each other and share resources that will benefit the community at large.

Olvera’s primary source for inventory is to purchase pallets of discounted merchandise that have been returned to stores. As a swap meet business owner, his time helped him develop a keen eye for selecting the best pallets from the best buyers. Over the past two years, he has built a loyal following of clients.

During a recent Central West BSC outreach event to other vendors in the area, Olvera reconnected with his BSC counselor. Later, they met again when Olvera outlined his goal to open a storefront location. The BSC counselor outlined a plan to build up his credit and obtain working capital. The counselor also emphasized the importance of developing his business financials, documenting and reporting his sales and leveraging loans to grow the business.

With assistance from the BSC counselor, Olvera successfully applied for a start-up business loan.

“The loan is a help to build up my business. It’s another help for me. The more money I have, the more possibilities I have to improve my [business] situation,” Olvera said. He highly recommends other entrepreneurs to the Central West BSC, run by EWDD partner Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE).

The BSC staff continues to work with Olvera to find other funding sources and is helping to improve his marketing on free online marketplaces.

Mario Olvera's sidewalk vending business is located in LA City Council District 8.

EWDD’s BusinessSource and WorkSource Centers offer a variety of Business Services, including several Financial Programs and Development Incentives for businesses of all sizes. Learn how EWDD can help.

This story is part of the EWDD UPDATES from the week of January 24, 2022. Read this issue and more.

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