Michael’s Money Moves

Meet Cal State LA’s self-made entrepreneur.

Danny Robles

Chances are that you’ve seen a young man sitting on a ledge for long hours on the corner of King Hall every Thursday afternoon–that’s Michael Alvarez, a 23-year-old Cal State LA Mathematics major with the ambitions of a businessman.


Thursdays at noon, “Mac” disassembles his portable clothing rack, loads his clothes, hangers, boombox and book bag into his car and sets out to Cal State LA from his home in Echo Park.


Once Alvarez arrives on campus, he finds a parking spot on the northeast side of campus and unloads his equipment onto a green dolly cart that he hauls to the quiet patio near King Hall.


First things first, he connects a bright orange extension cord to his boombox that hooks up to his iPhone. The first song on his playlist: “Drip Too Hard” by Lil Baby. In the meantime, he patiently assembles his handmade clothing rack made of plastic PVC tubes, a steel pipe, and displays his vintage garments on individual hangers piece by piece – he is in no hurry.


“Most people are bothered when I bump music loud, I’ve had many people complain about my choice of music but you just have to do it because most people won’t do it”, says Alvarez.


Over the course of several hours, customers approach him and browse through his clothing rack, other passersby gaze from a distance.


“I’m pretty much used to receiving negative feedback from people, I’ve even had people walk past and laugh on the side”, he says.


While Alvarez has had to endure the criticism that comes with his humble business, he has also received a fair share of positive feedback that simply keeps him motivated to keep the hustle alive.


“I’ve gotten so many good comments from my clients and other people who support my business, but even if its negative feedback, I know that people are still creating buzz for my business by talking about me”, he says.


As if it were a full-time job, Alvarez sits through the weather for 7 hours – rain or shine.


“Almost all the time, right when I am about to leave, that’s when someone wants to buy something. I can literally be here for 6 hours and not sell a single item, but that 7th hour, I can make an entire day’s profit. Especially if someone is walking around cold at night, I can supply them a warm jacket at a reasonably low base price for them.”


Alvarez says that the next step is to invest in bags printed with a brand and a logo to, “make it feel a little bit more like a business.”


Alvarez’s prices range from $20 for puffer jacket, $15 for a Gucci-inspired cashmere sweater and $5 for a streetwear t-shirt, all of which are pre-owned from his personal closet collection. He accepts payments through Venmo and Square cash apps – and cash of course.


He also operates through social media, where he posts more of his streetwear collection for sale on his page @illtrades on Instagram. He’s even willing to drive a few miles to deliver to his local customers in person upon request.


“On average, I have about 10 people come to me per day, maybe 6 of them become customers, but at $20 a piece, it’s a decent profit. Personally, it’s not about making money completely, I actually get a good feeling for putting people in nice clothes because sometimes students can’t afford good looking clothing at a low cost, that’s when I become the go-to person for something good on the low”, stated Alvarez.


As an event coordinator, Alvarez’s goal is to raise $3,000 for the Mad Scientists club on campus in an effort to launch the third Mac and Cheese Fest. Aside from clothing sales, he plans to fundraise for this event by selling 3D-printed Dodgers necklaces at $10 each.


“Even if this doesn’t go anywhere, I want to inspire people and do something live at a commuter school because students just come here and then go home,” he said.


“Just because I buy all of these clothes, it doesn’t guarantee that all of it will sell, but if enough of it sells, then I don’t need everything to sell”, he added.


Alvarez revealed his positive mindset with the University Times.


“If there’s something that you want to do, just do it. You will get nervous when you try something new, but it’s just going to get easier after that. All it takes is getting out of your comfort zone. Just because your idea isn’t successful the first time, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be successful the second time”, he shared.


Alvarez’s positive outlook resembles a “survival of the fittest” approach that will push just about any business above and beyond.


“It feels scary to have nothing in your bank account and no one is going to just give you money, so you’re either going to make it yourself or you’re just not going to do what you want to do in life.


For one thing, Alvarez’s positive attitude hints at a bright future.