Former Big Issue seller now runs multi-million pound vintage fashion business
A former Big Issue vendor who now runs his own multi-million pound sustainable fashion firm has spoken about how his time selling the magazine helped him start his business.
Philip Waltham sold the magazine for three years in Clerkenwell and Hampstead in London after running away from his Hull home as a teen to escape his drug addiction.
The 44-year-old, whose firm Bulk Vintage Wholesale now turns over £9 million a year, said: “The Big Issue helped me put money in my back pocket and feed myself.
“They taught me how to respect myself. They taught me how to budget my money and how important a roof was.
“I had to have money to buy Big Issues so I could sell Big Issues and that taught me how to budget.
“The thing that has saved my life is selling second-hand clothes and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for The Big Issue.”
After his three years as a Big Issue vendor, Philip opened a market stall in Camden, London, and now oversees two high street stores in Newcastle and York.
The Vintage Store is set to open two more branches, in Liverpool and Manchester.
Philip added: “We fight fast fashion. We save clothing from landfills, we go to big factories and take clothing. Last year we saved around 600 tonnes of clothing and then repurposed them to sell on.”
Big Issue founder Lord John Bird said: “Our vendors sell The Big Issue to earn a legitimate income which not only provides them with money to get back on their feet but also helps them develop the key life and business skills they need to thrive.
“They are then supported by our frontline teams, who are always on hand to help, with anything from accessing key services such as healthcare to simply being there to give advice when needed.
“Philip’s story is brilliantly inspiring and a great example of the transformative effect the Big Issue can have on people’s lives.”
The magazine is sold by the homeless, long term unemployed, and those who need money to avoid getting into debt, Big Issue says.
Vendors are given five free magazines which are then sold to the public for £3, with fresh copies bought for £1.50.
Last week Lord Bird launched an appeal for the public to help its vendors as they face ongoing restrictions, severe weather warnings and predictions of large-scale absenteeism at workplaces.
The magazine’s founder, Lord Bird, said there are “challenging times” ahead for the organisation and its 1,800-strong vendor network.
He said: “January is always a difficult time, but with continued restrictions in place, meaning many people are still working from home, coupled with the Government warning that we may see up to a quarter of workers being off work due to high Covid levels in the population, our vendors urgently need support.”
Lord Bird urged people to buy the Big Issue from a local vendor, take out a subscription, or donate to the magazine’s Winter Appeal.
He added: “Big Issue vendors can’t work from home and, with severe weather warnings on the cards, they face a very tough and uncertain winter.”