[messengers] Homeless Kids Start Bike Delivery Business

Date: 13 Jul 2010 14:20:09 +0200
From: Joe Hendry <messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx>





Homeless Kids Start Bike Delivery Business

 

Siblings hope hard work is the way out

 

By Eilene Zimmerman

 

San Diego.com, July 9th, 2010

 

 

Just a few years ago, Abraham, Laura and Ruth Sanchez were
homeless. They lived at the San Diego Rescue Mission downtown with their mother
and other brothers and sisters. Soon, Laura and Ruth were moved to the
Storefront Shelter, a shelter for teens. Life, clearly, had gotten complicated.
Their father was in jail and the family business—a San Marcos bakery where the Sanchez kids had
also worked—was financially ruined. They were homeless for about a year before
moving into a small apartment in Southeast San Diego,
where the three siblings and their mother still live.

 

But back in those darker days, Abraham, Laura and Ruth wound
up at The Monarch School in San Diego,
the largest school for homeless children in the country. While they were there,
they met retired businessman John Rosicky, who volunteered at the school,
helping students run Butterfly Enterprises, which sold student-crafted jewelry
and other products.

 

That training inspired the Sanchez siblings to become
entrepreneurs themselves. This month they launched Sanchez Delivery, a bicycle
courier service for the downtown area. Abraham is now a high school junior at
Sweetwater High, Laura is a senior at The Charter School of San Diego and Ruth
graduated high school last year and is hoping the business will help pay her
way into college.

 

It’s a gray day in early July and Abraham, Laura and Ruth
have parked their bikes outside the Starbucks in America Plaza,
across from the Santa Fe Depot. They wear matching, dark blue, Sanchez Delivery
t-shirts; each of them sports a gray courier bag slung across their shoulders.

 

Ruth says she and her sister Laura were looking for jobs for
months this spring and couldn’t find anything. It's not surprising. The teen
unemployment rate is about 26 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics. Then, in the midst of their search, the girls and their brother
Abraham stopped by Monarch to visit with their old teachers and saw Rosicky.

 

“We told him we had been looking for jobs but couldn’t find
anything. And he said he had this great idea for a bicycle delivery service,
and thought we might want to try it,” says Ruth.

 

Rosicky says he had the idea for courier service a long time
ago, and thought it could be a great service for downtown businesses. “I knew
it would take a big commitment, a lot of determination and perseverance, to
make something like this work. And these three kids are so bright and capable,
so reliable and industrious. They were perfect for a business like this,” he
says. Rosicky has been both mentor and benefactor to the Sanchez siblings—he
bought them their shirts, courier bags and even their bikes—which he found on
Craigslist.

 

Abraham did some research to figure out what kind of
competition they would be up against. It turned out there were five courier companies
doing business downtown, but only one used bicycles. “We thought there was room
for us in the market,” says Abraham. In fact, Laura says the three
entrepreneurs spoke to several of the other courier companies downtown, as part
of their market research before taking the plunge. (“They wished us luck,” says
Laura.)

 

Sanchez Delivery will pick up and deliver just about
anything for a flat rate of $10, whether it’s documents or Chinese food or dry
cleaning. They will also pick up legal documents from law firms and file them
in court for a flat rate of $15. There has been one brief snafu—Ruth’s bike was
stolen last week, the lock cut clear through. “It was terrible,” she says, her
eyes beginning to fill. She wipes the tears. "It was a really good bike, had
a very comfortable seat too. I was so upset about it," she says. Luckily
the partners did have another 26-inch bike available, but it’s slightly
damaged. Still, they are soldiering on, because there is much at stake in
this--and none of it ego, as is common in most other kinds of start-up
enterprises.

 

Ruth needs the money to pay for City College,
and all three partners want to help support their mother, who is disabled and
can’t work. The Sanchez's work ethic is, by any standard, rigorous. Even though
business has been slow to get going—as it is for the majority of startups—the
sisters and their brother are in America Plaza riding around and waiting for
calls from 8 a.m.—5 p.m.; when they aren’t on a delivery call, they hand out
flyers to downtown businesses and passerbys.

 

Laura says although they are young—15, 17 and 20—they worked
in their family business for years and saw the mistakes their father made. “He
opened a lot of businesses over the years and we saw all the the things he did
wrong, especially the way he handled money. He couldn’t hold onto it; he would
get it and it was gone,” says Laura.

 

"We decided we won’t make those kind of mistakes
ourselves,” says Abraham. “We really want this to work.”

 

 



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