Young Americans are eager to channel their entrepreneurial energies to turn their passions into sources of income, but many often lack the capital it takes to get off the ground.
Enter the food truck culture and pop-up restaurant trend.
For Millennials, this approach to small business ownership offers the opportunity to be their own boss while bringing in a steady income and satisfying creative impulses.
In Manhattan, where street vendors are as much a part of the city as the tall skyscrapers that engulf the crowded island, lively city blocks are filled with vendors selling food from all over the world. However, vendor regulations have become so strenuous and costly over the years that many hopeful entrepreneurs are denied the opportunity to become small business owners.
In addition to the endless paperwork and regulatory hoops through which potential vendors must jump, the city strictly limits the number of vendor licenses it distributes. For young people, many of whom are relatively new to the workforce, this restriction makes it even harder to get ahead—let alone get a start. By no fault of their own aside from simply being born later than their competitors, young people must wait until licenses become available before they can even begin their business ventures.
Rather than waste time and money on a process that may not even result in a license, many vendors have resorted to either purchasing black market permits- which can cost upwards of $20,000- or not obtaining a permit at all.
While the city council recognizes the need for 21st Century updates, their solution to a government-created problem has been to call for more government intervention.
Recently, city officials introduced the Street Vendor Modernization Act, which, among other things, calls for the establishment of the “Office of Street Vendor Enforcement,” which will essentially serve as a task force to ensure that regulations are consistently enforced and that no one is falling under the city’s radar. However, this does nothing to solve the real problems.
While the city’s new proposal will incrementally raise the vendor license cap by 635 permits per year until 2025, it is still unclear as to why a cap is needed at all. For those willing to put in the hard work that running a small business requires, denying them a permit simply because the cap has already been met seems like a punishment without any real rationale behind it.
Equally harmful to the small business owner, the city’s proposal will add even more regulations to the permit process by mandating that each vendor post prices, keep a precise distance from curbs and bus stops, and obtain additional certification specifying that the vendor understands the law.
Street vendors in New York City are responsible for bringing in a combined income of about $192 million each year, a number which will likely grow if the sector becomes more accessible to more individuals. Instead of making it easier for young entrepreneurs to start businesses which will generate revenue for the city, New York has burdened would-be business owners with unnecessary red tape. Unfortunately, these new laws will do more to serve government than they will to serve the street vendor population.