The Big Issue: "Our vendors are entrepreneurs, not beggars"

"Did You Know?" asks The Big Issue, "Big Issue vendors buy the magazine for 85p and sell it for £1.70, keeping 85p profit per copy sold. The magazines they have bought are not returnable. For the vendors selling it on Britain's streets, this is very much a business."

The Big Issue was founded by John  Bird, Gordon Roddick and the late Anita Roddick in 1991. Its aim: to empower the homeless by giving them the opportunity to earn a legitimate income. In 2008, The Big Issue generated £8m in total revenues for its vendors worldwide.

James Caan, Dragons' Den investor and founder of Hamilton Bradshaw, joined The Big Issue as chairman in 2009. As an entrepreneur himself, Caan is keen to stress the entrepreneurial credentials of Big Issue vendors: he created a real buzz when he took to the streets flogging The Big Issue in London's Covent Garden in July this year.

"In its own way, The Big Issue is about motivating and stimulating entrepreneurship, it's about taking the homeless and making them mini-entrepreneurs and it's a very honourable thing to encourage, so it sits with my own philosophy," he says.

It looks like The Big Issue are using the 'entrepreneur' angle to really push the brand over the coming months: "As entrepreneurs, Big Issue vendors suss out their market; they budget for the copies they need; and they work the hours they need to sell them," writes editor Charles Howgego. "They've developed regular customers, they've perfected their sales pitch and they battle the elements to sell their mags."

So, entrepreneur readers, help out your fellow entrepreneurs and pick up a Big Issue.



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