Last week, when the new high-visibility vendor vests made their debut at Real Change, vendor Darrell Wrenn was among the most excited. “This is really going to help,” he told me.
But Darrell’s own good news was even more exciting.
“I’m getting into housing this week, and I’m doing it with the money I made from the paper. Real Change works.”
You know who else works? Darrell Wrenn and about 300 other vendors each and every month. Real Change is a way for people to take initiative, build community and create success with their own hard work.
We always tell our vendors that Real Change is here for them to use however it suits them best. For some, it’s earning extra cash to make life a little softer around the edges. For others, like Darrell, it’s a way to get off the street through their own hard work.
Maybe you saw the profile of Darrell in this month’s Seattle Met. You can read his inspiring story online.
Darrell once worked in law enforcement. His security job at Amazon ended when he left for Birmingham to cope with the death of a parent. When Darrell found himself living at Union Gospel Mission after job loss and eviction, Real Change was there.
The rest was all Darrell.
It’s a long bus ride and walk, but it’s also an investment in success.
The first thing Darrell did was commit to building a customer base at a regular venue. Sometimes six days a week, Darrell makes the trek from Union Gospel Mission to Issaquah PCC. “That takes discipline,” he says. It’s a long bus ride and walk, but it’s also an investment in success.
Next, Darrell sees himself as a professional, and takes pride in presenting as such. He doesn’t want to be seen as “homeless.” Darrell is nobody’s stereotype, and takes great care with his appearance. “I’ve had people look at me and say, you don’t look like you’re homeless!”
Selling Real Change is not, as some people think, just begging by some other name.
Exactly. Selling Real Change is not, as some people think, just begging by some other name. “This is a job right here,” says Darrell. “I’m selling a product.” And dressing for success matters.
Finally, Darrell works on his technique and puts the customer first. He shows up with a supply of small bills so he can provide change. He remembers his regulars, and invests in those relationships. He has his raps that have been honed over time.
When Darrell worked downtown, his pitch was aggressive. He held his papers high to draw attention to himself. Out in Issaquah, he’s more low-key: “You wanna buy a Real Change on your way out, that’d be great.”
He says the words over and over, and his customers respond. I’m reminded of Ed McClain, the now legendary University District Safeway vendor who was our undisputed highest seller of all time. His two-part rap was just six syllables.
“Real Change? Have a nice day.”
Consistency. Pride. Professionalism. These are the qualities that our most successful vendors bring to their work.
Consistency. Pride. Professionalism. These are the qualities that our most successful vendors bring to their work. Darrell Wrenn is an inspiring example of how our community of readers rewards individual effort.
Your support of our vendors is the secret sauce that makes Real Change possible. Nearly 70 percent of our budget comes from readers like you, who not only invest in our vendors each time they buy a paper, but also invest in our work with an annual gift.
Every single gift helps us reach our ambitious winter fund drive goal of raising $220,000. Your donation — of any amount that fits your budget — combines with other reader support to help vendors like Darrell find the life-changing opportunity they need.
Please make your gift today on our giving page, or mail your donation to 219 First Ave. S., Ste. 220, Seattle, WA, 98104. Thank you, and happy holidays.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full December 13 issue.