Monday, October 18, 2010

Jose Elias' American dream.














I love ice cream especially those Mexican natural fruit flavored popsicles.

They are called "paletas" and typically I'll flag down one of these budding entrepreneurs and buy my week's cache of five.

Five you ask? I always buy cinco paletas and then rush home; eating one straight away and then freezing the rest so that I can enjoy these treats the rest of the work week.

After several encounters, I had to know more about this one young man. I wanted to know more about my paletero. Jose Elias is the name of my "paletero" or popsicle vendor who I always seem to run into. 

It may be 105 degrees out, perspiring a storm and red faced from pushig his cart - but Jose Elias always has a big smile on his face.

He is always cordial and enthusiastic about selling his delicious treats.

So when I stopped him a few weeks ago I asked him how his business was doing.

With 25 plus days of over 100 degrees, he said that it was going "MAGNIFICO! Jefe he yelled."

I told Jose Elias that I too was trying to start a business and could use his expertise.

He gave me a big smile and then sheepishly asked, "Senior do you really want to sell ice creams everyday in this 100 degree furnace?" 

We both laughed and I told him, "Well since you put it that way maybe I should look at a different kind of business."

Jose Elias went on to describe in detail how he successfully runs his mobile business.

He said the toughest part had been coming up with the initial investment of $280.00.

Then there was the $150 for the cart deposit, $30.00 for the health license and the other $100.00 for the purchase of the popsicles.

He reccomended that to be a successful paletero one needed a good pair of tennis shoes and two pairs of white athletic socks.

With all the miles he covers you have to take care of your "patas" slang for feet.  

A good fitting baseball cap of your favorite team, "As you can see my favorite team are the COWBOYS." 

Another important piece of equipment is an empty gallon jug that he'll refill with water several times throughout the day.

He said he drank three full gallons each day.
He then told me that he wakes up at 6:00 every day and after eating his breakfast, playing with his son and kissing Claudia his wife goodbye he walks five blocks to a bus stop. 

He takes two different buses to get to the distribution center on the other side of town.

As soon as he picks up his cart...  the cart he says, "Is the cleanest cart on the lot because of the "orgullo," pride that I take in running my business." 

He also added that he must pay a daily cart rental fee of $45.00. 

In addition to paying for all of the merchandise i.e., ice creams, popsicles and sometimes potato chips that he plans on selling that day. 

A single paleta costs him .25 which he turns around and sells for $1.00. 

So after carefully picking through the various boxes of near frozen popsicles, he loads all 250 paletas into his mobile cart and on his way he goes..

He says that watermelon, lime and banana flavored paletas sell the most. 

By 9:30 he is on his way to his territory located about 5 miles away.

His business is not without risks, not always selling your inventory, avoiding getting hit when he crosses a busy intersection, dehydration, sun burn, and sore feet.

He was once held up and the thief took all his money.

Yet he loves his flexible work schedule, selling to kids and talking to all sorts of people throughout his selling day.

He will maneuver into each apartment complex, making sure to ring his cart's bells and also yell his different solgans as he turns each corner.

A single apartment complex might take a half hour to cover but if he is to sell all of his paletas, it is important that he doesn't miss anyone.

At the apartment complex near my home (where I usually meet my entrepreneur) he heads towards the tenants who by late afternoon are hanging around outside their front doors watching their kids play soccer. 

Jose Elias will ring his bell and yell, "Paletas! Paletas!"

The kids are the first to hear his bell and immediately flock to his cart.

Mounting the large rubber wheels they take turns peering inside the two small openings on top of the cart. 

Jose Elias told me he loves his job and that he supports his wife and 2 year old on what he earns.

He said that he works six days a week and up to twelve hours each day so that his family can have a better life.

A life he says that would be much harder and more difficult in Mexico, especially now with all the violence.

His sixty-six to seventy hour week earns him between $700.00 and $850.00 a week.

By averaging almost $13.00 an hour he is earning what he would earn working two full days back home. (The average worker earns $7.54 for an 8 hour day in Mexico City).

After taxes he takes home an average of $600.00 a week.

Jose Elias is ambitious.

He told me that he is saving up to help get his younger brother Alejandro start his own "paleta" business.

His long term plan is actually to one day own several carts out right.

That and buy his family a small house with a backyard so that he can set up a plastic swimming pool for his little boy to play in.

He is proud of his mobile business and it shows.

You can't help but want the best for Jose Elias.

He is a personable young man; whose passion, positive attitude and enthusiasm are contagious.

One has to admire his work ethic and his determination.

I have no doubt that he will achieve his dreams of owning his own business and one day owning his very own "casa".

Jose Elias is living his dream - the American dream. 

Make it agreat dia - and if you see a "paletero" try the "helado de fresa" my favorite.... the strawberry flavored one.