Q: Starting a Lemonade Stand?
I read your articles about starting a business in Argentina, but my idea is a little more low-scale: a lemonade stand in the San Telmo Fair.
I’ve been tossing around the idea in my head since I saw the guys making fresh squeezed orange juice on the streets of Buenos Aires — no one sells lemonade.
It is just a thought and of course the idea could only generate a small supplement to my savings. I think it would be a small investment in time and money and something fun to pass the time and get to know people.
My initial thought after looking at the orange juice guys on the street is that I probably wouldn’t encounter much legal trouble opening up a portable lemonade stand without a license. Am I correct? Could I just roll out my stand with relative ease?
Please let me know your thoughts! I am actually semi-serious and I’ve been tossing around numbers and calculating overhead costs. I believe if it is something the market wants then I could make a few bucks on a nice weekend afternoon.
My Spanish is pretty basic and I’m here on a tourist visa.
A: This is a perfect example of how — contrary to what some locals think — there are actually many opportunities for the enterprising in Argentina. The folks from the Buenos Aires Pub Crawl, BA Delivery, BA Bootcamp and dozens of yoga teachers, web designers, freelancers and even artisans from all over South America are all proof that foreigners are coming to Buenos Aires and creating their own opportunities.
According to Buenos Aires law, the sale of homemade items (as opposed to black market merchandise) on the street is legal. When it comes to the selling food or drinks the law is understandably stricter, due to hygiene concerns.
Section 11.3.4 of law 1166 says:
“The sale of water, non-alcoholic drinks, ice-cream and infusions is expressly prohibited.”
It goes on to say that to do so legally you would have to have lived in Buenos Aires for at least two years and would need to register for a license with the department of the Environment and Public Space as a street vendor.
Having said that, everyone knows that the law is not enforced for minor infractions in Buenos Aires. The city is full of illegal food stands, particularly choripan (sausage sandwich) stands along the Costanera, some of which do actually pose a public health risk, but continue to operate.
At the San Telmo Fair you will find dozens of people selling homemade empanadas, turnovers and other baked goods, even marijuana cookies. In the grand scheme of things, fresh-made lemonade doesn’t present a great health risk to consumers, so you will probably be left alone. If the police do bother you, we would suggest being very polite, offering them some lemonade, and happily moving along if requested.
There is also a small possibility that they may try to shake you down for a few pesos — this sometimes happens to illegal street vendors. Most pay the 10 or 20 peso bribe requested, although if you wanted to resist on principal, it is likely that they won’t want to do the paperwork for a tiny lemonade stand run by a crazy gringo.
The likelihood of facing any legal problems is extremely low; after all walking around many Buenos Aires neighborhoods you will see all sorts of infractions including children buying beer and cigarettes and people openly using marijuana and even cocaine on the street.
A real concern is profitability: lemons are currently about 10 pesos a kilo, meaning you will probably want to head somewhere more affordable, such as Mercado Central to purchase your lemons in order to enjoy a profit margin.
Another thing to be aware of is that you will have to watch whose turf you are on — sometimes new kids on the block may experience problems setting up shop on a high-profile corner. You will want to defer to anyone who says you’re in their spot and ask those around you if they would mind if you would set up there.
So, in a nutshell, our suggestions are:
– buy cheap lemons
– avoid being confrontational with the police
– be respectful of the turf of other vendors.
‘La Libertad del Limón’ was a success, selling all 23 liters and earning a gross profit of AR$383 on the first day in the San Telmo Fair.