During an event going on downtown on July 1, people were engaging themselves and a crowd gathered to listen to a group of bucket drummers. I admire bucket drummers because they survive off the land. Bucket drummers are street entrepreneurs, which means they are people from the streets who do business. They are more like freelancers and not like your typical entrepreneurs. It’s hard to get a job if you don’t have an address. They found a hobby and a gift to make a living for themselves.They came up with a way to use pots and pans to make music to change their living situations, and to get attention in order to get help in a positive way.
D.C. does not make it easy for street entrepreneurs to do their work and earn a living. The government makes people get licenses in order to collect taxes that pay for city services like the police department and for programs that provide people with assistance. People who try to do business without licenses are sometimes harassed by police officers, and usually they don’t benefit from some business grants and networking opportunities. Their income is always under threat because it’s not guaranteed. For example, if I didn’t have insurance while selling body oils in the streets and somebody had a bad skin reaction to my product, they could sue me.
But I have insurance now. I’m an entrepreneur who owns my own business, and I used to be a street entrepreneur. After getting a business license, I found that people respect me more, and I found it easier to get them to take me seriously.
Street entrepreneurs should try and get into entrepreneurship programs, like ones offered by the nonprofit UPO, but many of them require you to have a high school diploma or GED. I’m in one of these programs, and I like it because you get to learn a lot and network. It gives me ideas about what the city needs.
Street entrepreneurs also could benefit from social services case management. Some people experiencing homelessness hanging out in front of stores are harassing customers and following people, so they need support dealing with behavioral health. They also need a financial advisory firm that helps people manage their money. This could help people save instead of using money to buy drugs, and it could also help people to build their credit.
Maurice Spears is a vendor with Street Sense Media.