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Taking It to the Streets

Street Vending Program Offers Hope to the Unemployed

Andy Hart

December 02, 2010

It’s no secret that getting a job in today’s economy is far from easy. But it’s far harder for people who are just coming out of prison.

That’s why Cord Smith, founder and executive director of the Lost/Found School of Thought (LFST) and an ex-offender himself, started a special program to teach people to become street vendors two years ago.

LFST, working in conjunction with Theo’s of Hartford, a clothing designer/manufacturer, supplies the materials to be sold as well as a two-week training course. Those that complete the course can purchase a vending license from the City of Hartford for $30, rather than the usual $250. This is because LFST purchases its own license for the normal $250 fee. The licenses must be renewed annually.

The merchandise supplied by Theo’s includes purses, hats, gloves and numerous other items of clothing and accessories.

Although Smith began the program to assist ex-offenders, he has since opened it up to anyone who needs a job and is willing to work hard. “Many people say they’re looking for a job but they don’t really want to work. During our two-week training program, if you miss one day, you’re out,” he said. Smith also does periodic checks of his vendors to make sure they are following company and city rules. “It’s been two years and not one complaint from the police,” Smith said.

Currently, about 60 people are working as vendors, mainly in Hartford. Another 10 are in training. Two of the vendors that started with Smith have now opened stores of their own. One, Aaron Atwater, has stores in Bristol and New Britain and has hired two of Smith’s vendors to work in his store. Another, Lawno James, recently opened Heaven, a new store in East Hartford. He has hired three vendors from Smith’s program.

Smith said he pays the vendors minimum wage for four hours a day plus a 15 percent commission. Most are typically able to bring in about $100 a day.

Smith said the City of Hartford currently has about 80 vending slots open and he is working to fill them. He is also hoping to set up a carpet cleaning business for those who are looking for work but want something different from the straight selling that street vending requires.

For more information on the LFST street vending program, call Cord Smith at 860-796-8972 or 860-778-4757.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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