Posted by StreetWise in Magazine Articles
By Jennifer Aldrich
It is entirely possible for one single opportunity to change the course of your life, for one question, offer or coincidence to put you on a path that transforms everything you’ve come to know. For some people, that opportunity has been StreetWise. For three distinguished StreetWise vendors, their determination and perseverance not only made them successful in their own personal endeavors for stability, but also led them to a leadership role that gives them the opportunity to help others do the same. The Quality Assurance Team is a group of StreetWise vendors that work on supporting the vendor program in any way that they can, helping the program run smoothly and working in the field to give advice and ensure proper conflict resolution.
In 1992 Lawrence Brown was living in a Salvation Army shelter in Chicago. He had no stable housing or income, until one day a StreetWise recruiter came to that shelter and asked if anyone wanted a job. Lawrence jumped at the opportunity. With no formal introduction or orientation, he became one of the first magazine vendors. The rules were as follows: go out and sell the magazine. For Lawrence, being a StreetWise vendor is both the hardest and easiest job you’ll ever have. Hardest because you are forced to deal with all kinds of people, weather and other challenges. It is the easiest because once you get over those thresholds then you know exactly what you’re going to get every day as long as you stay focused and determined. Within two weeks of working in the vendor program, Lawrence moved out of the shelter and into the Wilson Hotel. Four months later, he moved into his own apartment, paying rent with income solely from StreetWise.
On a Saturday in 2010 Lawrence came into the StreetWise Headquarters early in the morning to buy 60 magazines. Right before closing time at 1 p.m., he came back to headquarters and bought another 100 magazines. It was then that his outstanding performance earned him another opportunity through StreetWise by getting the offer to be part of the Quality Assurance Team. At this time, Lawrence was tasked with going out into the field many times a week to either complete vendor spot checks or to recruit more people for the program. In April of 2014, Lawrence was asked to step up once again, and he eagerly took the job of being the Quality Assurance Team captain. He began to lead vendor orientation, teaching incoming vendors the ins and outs of selling the magazine and motivating others with his guidance as a StreetWise success story. Lawrence currently has a part-time job at StreetWise working as the official field supervisor for the vendor program.
Russell Adams has been a part of the StreetWise family for almost 20 years and has been a part of the Quality Assurance Team for five years now. He is constantly reaffirming his position as one of the most driven vendors at StreetWise, holding the coveted position of top seller. Russell knows firsthand just how hard it can be to find your bearings as a vendor, and he strives to offer support to incoming vendors to the best of his ability. Russell is constantly talking to vendors about the importance of consistency in order to build customer rapport and the necessity of money management. Russell recalls a particular vendor who came into headquarters talking about how hard it was to sell magazines and that his customers did not like him. Russell overheard and pulled this vendor aside and divulged to him all the advice he had. He explained new ways to go about selling StreetWise and how to deal with rejection without losing motivation. A few weeks later that same vendor came into StreetWise and told Russell how well his sales were doing and how much Russell’s mentoring helped him get on his feet within the program.
In October of 2014, Russell was asked to speak at an all-vendor meeting. This gave Russell the opportunity to speak to give the advice he wished he had gotten when he first started. He hopes to show the vendors that selling magazines and using StreetWise as a legitimate job is achievable, that any of the vendors can get up, go to work and make a living for themselves just like he and many other StreetWise vendors have done. Russell said it simply: “That’s how you become successful … you have to want to be successful.”
Russell started his StreetWise journey as just a vendor and has since become one of the leading members of the Quality Assurance Team, as well as a mentor for many of the other vendors. Russell now holds a part-time position at StreetWise doing maintenance and janitorial work.
Don Smith came from Cabrini Green to StreetWise in 1995 as one of the first few thousand vendors to start the program. When he first began as a vendor he wasn’t too sure that it would work out, but with patience and diligence it panned out into something that he is truly proud of. For the past three years Don has been a crucial member of the Quality Assurance Team. At last year’s StreetWise Gala he was named “Vendor of the Year.” He said that receiving the certificate and plaque almost brought him to tears. Don enjoys his role on the Quality Assurance Team, often times going out into the field to give new vendors firsthand guidance. He stresses to them the importance of being nice to everyone that walks by and keeping your spirits high no matter what. When people are in need of a little extra push or confidence boost, Don is there continually reminding them of how far a vendor can go with StreetWise.
Don uses his experience and triumph as a vendor to help other vendors who are in the same place he once was. He helps them build confidence in themselves as a vendor and also teaches them what he thinks is the most important lesson: “What you put in is what you will get out.” Don said that the current Quality Assurance Team is one of the best he has seen in his 20 years at StreetWise, and he is so happy to be a part of it.
Lawrence, Russell and Don are just a few of StreetWise’s outstanding vendors that have made it onto the Quality Assurance Team, with many more exceptional vendors in the running. As the team and the vendor program as a whole grow stronger with each passing year, we recognize the efforts put in by those who have given so much to StreetWise. It is to the benefit of themselves, the company and all incoming or struggling vendors that they are a part of the Quality Assurance Team. Anyone can be given an opportunity. It is what you make of that opportunity that truly shows your determination, perseverance and strength of character.