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Street Vending

A Multi-National Bank Put Money Where Their Mouth Is, Commits $5 Million to Help Latina and Black Street Vendors in L.A.

This past Wednesday, four community-based organizations, part of the Open Air Collaborative, received a $5 million grant and a three-year commitment from CHASE to help Latina and Black street vendors in Los Angeles. The collaborative includes Inclusive Action for the City, California Reinvestment Coalition, Public Counsel, and East LA Community Corporation. These organizations have provided valuable resources to street vendor communities in LA for over a decade. 

“After nearly 15 years of organizing and fighting for systems change, Los Angeles street vendors are receiving the national recognition and resources they rightfully deserve to formalize their businesses and build a more secure future,” said Elba Serrano Schildcrout, Director of Community Wealth and Services, East LA Community Corporation.

The investment will help 500 street vendors and micro-entrepreneurs with one-on-one coaching and more than 200 street vendors with low-interest loans. It will also assist vendors with overcoming financial challenges and give them access to support services. The organizations will also be able to help micro-entrepreneurs through the permit approval process, which has been proven to be difficult and confusing for street vendors. So much so that according to a report done by UCLA School of Law and Public Counsel in August 2021, out of the estimated 10,000 sidewalk food vendors working in the City of LA, only 165 received permits

"Street vendors are an essential part of Los Angeles' economy, and street vending offers a vital pathway for Latina and Black women entrepreneurs to establish successful businesses for their families and communities," Chase's Business Banking California Division director Diedra Porché said in a statement. “Even with recent changes to local laws, vendors continue to face barriers that prevent them from formally participating in Los Angeles' local economy.”

Vendors like Tina Renee Williams, owner of Whiffs on Wheels, a mobile candle vendor who has benefited from the support Inclusive Action for the City has provided for her. Williams began her journey in late 2020 when she left her eight and half year corporate America job to follow her love for candle-making. She first heard of IAC at Leimert Park while selling her 100% vegan candles. 

Someone mentioned they were giving out $400 cards for gas and resources, and I inquired and found out about everything else they do. It was eye-opening for me,” Williams tells L.A. TACO. 

At the time, Williams did not have her mobile store, and even after she was able to buy her trailer, she had no idea about the stringent process of acquiring multiple permits. 

“At first, oh my goodness, I mean didn't know about the legalities. I didn't know I needed my vendor's permit initially, so I just got a seller's permit and thought I was fine,” she said. “I didn’t know I needed to get a business license for every city that I may pop up to, but thankfully over the course of time, I found out about organizations like Inclusive Action that walked me through the entire process.”

The grant was well received by the collaborative, but it is important to note that these organizations have been putting in work in the streets of LA for many years. For example, Inclusive Action for The City, founded in 2008, focuses on efforts to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life of residents in low-income neighborhoods. One of their focuses is on street vendors. They help support over 3,000 street vendors and micro-businesses through their campaigns, outreach programs, financial support efforts, and collaborative work with other organizations every year. 

“The collaboration is very exciting, particularly for its opportunity to intentionally create tissue between our organizations. These are partners we've worked with for over a decade,” said Nicole Anand from Inclusive Action for the City. “But the bigger picture for us is we’re trying to build infrastructure, policy infrastructure, and this connective tissue that I’ve been talking about. It takes collaboration across sectors to do this.”

The California Reinvestment Coalition, which has worked with IAC before, is an organization that has been around for 30 years. They are looking to see how banks invest in communities and small businesses with one goal in mind. Through their Promotora campaign, they have built community outreach where they educate communities on economic and financial preparedness. They want to equip community members like street vendors with skills to find economic success.

“We're grateful for this opportunity, and we feel more like finally!” said Patricia Villaseñor of the California Reinvestment Coalition. A sense of relief is noted in her voice. “Its investment that should be consistent for these organizations and communities, through these types of collaborations, we’re really showing how important this is and how there needs to be more of this, more support not just for us but other organizations too, who are doing great work.”

Community organizations like Community Power Collective, CHIRLA, Local Hearts Foundation, and smaller but compelling individuals like Edin Enamorado and Jesus Morales have individually provided financial and security services to vendors through community donations. As for the support for vendors, it comes at a great time seeing as many of them received little to no financial support during the pandemic's peak. Despite them playing a pivotal role in keeping their communities afloat by providing easy access to affordable food and necessities. The grant inevitably highlights the importance of local organizations, the importance of supporting their efforts, and the need for more investment. 

“It's extremely important to support them because, in return, individuals like myself get to pour back into the community thanks to the help they provide. If they don't get the grants, they cant continue to do what they do, at least not on a grand scale,” Williams said. “So definitely more companies and the city itself should pour more into these organizations, provide them with resources so that they can continue to be a financial and educational resource for people like myself.”

Any women street vendors who are interested in applying for the program email:

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