Self-described as a “hardworking man,” Lawrence Brown vends outside of a Walgreens in Wicker Park seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. With the hope of restarting his own construction company, Lawrence demonstrates the determination and ability to persevere through anything.
MARISSA: How long have you been with StreetWise?
LAWRENCE: I’ve been with StreetWise off and on for 22 years. Off and on, I say that with emphasis because it’s the truth. I move around a lot. I follow where the work is. And when the work dries up, I come back to Chicago. I’ll leave StreetWise for six years and come back, and the door’s still open. I’m the only vendor with two numbers because I refused to give my first one up [when I came back]. It’s important to know where you came from.
M: What type of advice do you give vendors when they come in for training?
L: You have to be consistent through rain and shine. You have to get out there. When you’re first starting off, it’s not going to be a cakewalk. I tell everyone in orientation that this is not an easy thing to do. It’s really not at first. But as you go along with it, you build up clientele. As you get to know these people, they’ll ask you, “What else can you do?” And then you get job offers.
M: Have you gotten a lot of job offers from your customers?
L: Of course! I started stuffing my magazines with my resume and fliers and it just took off from there. I do construction and that’s what I’m qualified to do. I pay my rent through selling StreetWise and doing these other construction jobs. But for the most part, my main source of income right now is StreetWise. Without StreetWise, I would totally be out there. I was able to move [into my own apartment] with StreetWise money.
M: What has your greatest challenge been?
L: Starting another construction company. I had one in Flint, Michigan for four years, but then we ran out of work. After that, I came back to Chicago. I hit the streets again and went nuts for a little while. I realized that it wasn’t me, and got myself back on my feet and have been going strong ever since.
L: Yes, definitely! I was raised here and I’m going to make it happen here. Every time I leave the city, I make something happen, and I don’t want to come back. But then, I have to go home. I’ve lived in pretty much every major city in the country, and I’ve done a whole lot of travelling. Chicago, there’s just something about it. It’s my home.
M: What’s your greatest inspiration?
L: My mother. We had hard times and we had excellent times. Getting through the hard times, you just learn things. I can accept the good and the bad, and that’s a darn good lesson. I help her out a lot now, but I don’t mind doing it. She’s the backbone. Period.
M: Do you have anything else you want to add?
L: I want to thank my StreetWise customers for their support over the years, and I hope they continue to support me as I grow. Soon, very soon, this construction company will be up and running. Hopefully by August, it’s going to happen.
Story and Photos by Marissa Diekhoff