Rolling Your Way To Profits

Using vending carts to sell everything from hot dogs to handbags has become big business. Here's how to turn your modular merchandising venture into a moneymaking machine.

Vera moore, owner of vera moore cosmetics, discovered the true meaning–and beauty–of mobile merchandising after locating her 150-sq.-ft. kiosk in the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York. But it took a while. In 1982, after waiting three years to obtain a spot, Moore, who sells a complete line of skin-care products and cosmetics, was told she could open an in-line store (a regular retail venue in a mall) next to the food court on the second floor. Then, in 1992, when a major conglomerate bought out the entire second floor, Moore had to move.

“When the mall operators shifted people around during the renovations, they put me downstairs on the first floor,” says the entrepreneur. “But it was a blessing in disguise. I went from a second-floor store in the back of the mall to a free-standing kiosk on the first floor with high visibility. Now I’m right in front of Sears and the traffic is great.”

Doing business from a kiosk is not a bad way to make a living, says Moore, the first black tenant in the history of the mall. Today, she earns nearly $400,000 annually, come rain or shine.

It can also be lucrative to run your business outdoors. Ask Denise Clark what her first day in the vending cart business was like on New Year’s Day 1988, and she’ll have but one word to describe it–profitable.

Waking at 3 a.m. on a Saturday, Clark, who lives in Compton, California, loaded her two-door yellow Volkswagen with bags of buns, cases of canned sodas, packs of hot dogs, a freezer chest of ice, and containers of mustard, ketchup and relish. She then hitched her 5-ft. frankfurter cart to the back of her VW and headed for Pasadena to sell at the Rose Bowl Parade.

“I was driving about 30 miles an hour trailing my cart behind me,” recalls Clark. “I think I got cursed out in every language because I was driving so slow,” she laughs. But arriving before most of the competition, Clark readied her cart for a crowd of some 250,000 people. And before the parade even started, she had not one hot dog or cold soda left. “It was incredible,” says the 30-something vendor. “I made $3,178 that day.”

From New York to Los Angeles, thousands of people like Moore and Clark are rolling their way to profits in the vending cart business. They sell everything from hot dogs to handbags to handmade scarves from simple pushcarts on street corners and fancy kiosks in malls, airports, train and bus stations throughout the country.

But starting and running a vending cart business is not as easy as it may look. “A lot of folks think that they can just buy a cart, roll it up to any location and start collecting money,” says Jeffrey Morris, president and owner of All A Cart Manufacturing Inc., a vending cart company in Columbus, Ohio. However, it takes more than just a few sandwiches and sodas to turn your modular unit into a

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