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How to Become a Street Vendor

How to Become a Street Vendor

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: February 11, 2016

Everyone has seen a street vendor at some point and many of us have purchased from him or her. Consider for a moment self-employment and the opportunity to work outdoors with a schedule that is always convenient for you. Becoming a street vendor may seem like a relatively easy process but it does involve organization and patience to acquire the proper licenses and permits and operate it as a legal business.

Getting Started

If you’re a first-time vendor and are unsure at first if you’re ready to commit to street vending and peddling, try selling your general merchandise at local flea markets, holiday markets, and street fairs where, in most cases, only a temporary sales license is necessary. However, if you plan to sell food be prepared for a more in depth application process. The bottom line is no matter what type of business you have; make sure that you meet all the legal standards for your state for a small business.

Tips for Legally Selling Goods at Flea Markets & Craft Shows

A flea market is also a great place to test the market. Most cities have a numerous open markets with different demographics, which will allow you to test the waters before you go all in. In addition they are often very established in communities and have a built in following. Once you’ve narrowed down your focus, it would be a great opportunity to build your own following before you venture out.

In addition to customer research a market is a great opportunity to get to know who your competition might be. Due diligence is key especially in the beginning stages.

Licenses and Permits

License and permit requirements for street vendors vary based on location and the items you plan to sell.

You may need to obtain the following permits:

  • Sales tax permit from your state government’s revenue agency
  • Tax ID number your local government revenue agency
  • A general business license from your city or county clerk’s office
  • An additional vendor license from your city or county government

You will also need to comply with any general licensing and registration requirements that apply to all businesses in your state.

If you intend to practice food related street vending contact your state or county’s Department of Health which regulates and issues food related licenses and permits. You will likely be required to attend a Food Protection Course for Mobile Food Vendors. The cost of the course ranges from $50 to $75.00 and can take up to four hours over two days.

Business Licenses & Permits

Starting a Mobile Food Concession Business? Be Sure to Follow the Rules of the Road

Location

Before you complete the required legal documents, consider precisely where your business will be located. Laws concerning dates, times, and locations for vendors to operate usually vary by city. Larger cities like New York and Philadelphia have limits on the number of vendors so be sure to check with your city or county government when considering a location for your business. Going back to the flea markets, they are great testing grounds for a more permanent location.

Additional Resources

FoodSafety.gov provides federal and state contacts for licensing and food safety information.

About the Author:

Mariama Bramble

Contributor