Public Markets as Sites for Immigrant Entrepreneurship in East Hollywood

The Thai Community Development Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to community and economic development in the greater Los Angeles area, has requested research on how public markets can act as incubators to expand opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs.  That is, can a public market housed in a multi-tenant warehouse with shared services help recent immigrant entrepreneurs?

The key findings of the public market vendors were the following: (1) Public markets attract primarily local residents;  (2) some vendors advertise their products in popular ethnic language newspapers and radio;  (3) some markets that offer ethnic products and/or services attract customers.  (4) many vendors have not enrolled in business  training or financial literacy courses; however, whether this education affects the success of vendors is unclear;  (5) a majority of the vendors have utilized their savings to start and maintain their businesses resulting in few bank loans.       

In addition to interviewing public market vendors, public market operators were also interviewed in the aforementioned cities.  Some of the findings were the following: (1) public market operators help incubate vendors by charging low rents with flexible leasing terms.  Sometimes, the rent includes shared utilities, amenities, and administrative services;  (2) few public markets advertise because it is very costly;  (3) most of the public markets do not offer business training or financial literacy courses; however the effectiveness of such courses is unknown;  (4) public transportation that is located close to the public market will attract more customers. 

This study showed that, if approached carefully, a public market can provide significant benefits to immigrant entrepreneurs in East Hollywood.  The next step for Thai CDC is to identify public sources of funding that will enable a full-scale planning effort.  Additionally, Thai CDC needs to identify a site for the public market and exercise a great deal of caution in major decisions such as renting or buying the building because this is the most costly portion of the project and therefore potentially the financially most risky.   

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