Fly Guy has lived in Seattle since 1984. During his 37 years in the city, he’s experienced homelessness three or four times.
“But I was able to get back on my feet,” he said.
His most recent venture is selling Real Change. Fly Guy began vending in June 2021. His previous experience as a pedicab driver provided a foundation in customer service skills.
He began biking as a way to exercise.
“About six years ago, I was living down at Belltown, and I needed something to exercise with. And I started with a basic Schwinn bicycle,” Fly Guy said. As he explored his hobby more, he turned his passion for bicycling into a business.
He bought a used e-bike and joined the pedicab business in 2018.
“I started with a small trailer, and when I got through the trailer, I got a six-passenger limo,” he said. Once his pedicab bike motor is repaired, he plans to resume his pedicab business and sell Real Change.
Fly Guy enjoys the flexibility in hours and work locations that selling the paper affords him.
“What I like about Real Change is I get to pick my hours, get to set when I want to go to work… The paper is a good cause. It gives a lot of people opportunities,” he said.
Selling the paper has allowed Fly Guy to expand his customer service skills. As a newer vendor, he has worked to build up a customer base.
After receiving advice about selling the paper from other vendors, Fly Guy has tips of his own. He learned that “the people get to know you as they get to know you. It’s more about smiling, being polite to the customers. Sometimes the customers might have a bad day. Then the next day they’ll come back and give it to you. And after that, they become a regular.”
Location can also influence vendors’ sales. He has found two locations in different parts of the city to regularly sell the paper. About customer interactions, he recommended: “You want to be close to the customer. When you’re closer to the customer, you can smile and make more contact with them. When you’re further away, it doesn’t work as well.”
Familiarity with the paper as a product is another reason why Fly Guy sells it.
“It’s actually really providing the service, and it has its own brand,” he said. “You’re not just out there selling a picture of what it is. It’s more independent local news.”
A change that Fly Guy would like to see in Seattle is improved and renovated bike lanes.
“Some of the bike lanes are bad, and that forces me to drive in the street… If you’re driving a nice bike that runs 25 to 30 miles per hour, and you’re commuting back and forth from work, if you hit a bump or something, it’s dangerous,” he said.
Aside from biking around Seattle, Fly Guy can be found selling Real Change at the West Seattle Safeway at 2622 California Ave. SW and the Trader Joe’s at 1700 E. Madison St.
Laura Muther is a Vendor Program intern.
Read more of the Dec. 22-28, 2021 issue.