They're in malls, on street corners, at parks and outside office buildings--entrepreneurs who've made their dreams of retailing a reality by opening cart or kiosk businesses. They sell everything from hot dogs to sunglasses, from men's ties to T-shirts. And they do it with overhead costs that are far less than those of full-fledged stores.
For many entrepreneurs who dream of breaking into retail, opening a shop is cost-prohibitive--but a cart or kiosk is a profitable possibility. Just ask Wally Rizza. In November 1995, Rizza, then 21, spent $25,000 to launch Shades 2000 Inc., a sunglasses cart at the Irvine Spectrum Entertainment Center in Irvine, California. Within a year, he raked in $184,000 in sales. Today, Rizza has three sunglasses carts, a watch cart and a jewelry cart, and he expects to gross about $500,000 this year. "A cart business can be very profitable and is economically within reach for many people," says Rizza, now 24.
"If you have the right product and a good location, it's not uncommon to make $2,500 to $5,000 per week [with a cart]," says Bruce Stockberger, owner of Stockberger Marketing Associates, a North Palm Beach, Florida, small-business marketing firm specializing in cart, kiosk and Internet marketing. "You can buy a cart for as little as $11,000 and make $1,200 to $1,500 per day." Kiosks--larger, enclosed, more permanent units in which the operator sits or stands--can pull in $20,000 to $60,000 per week, Stockberger says.
You don't need special training to run a cart business. What you do need is an outgoing personality, stamina and business sense. "The business is stressful," says Stockberger. "Most malls are open from 9 or 10 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. every day, and you're expected to be there. That's a lot of standing. Even if you set up shop on the street or in a park, to build a customer base, you have to show up regularly."
Employees may seem a logical solution to the intense labor requirements, but that's not as easy as it sounds. "I have employees, but I have to watch them like a hawk," says Rizza. "If they're talking to friends instead of pushing the product, I lose business."
Julie Bawden Davis is a writer in Orange, California.