On why it’s important to challenge the existing perception of Big Issue vendors, Jon explained: “The thing now is that the Big Issue is part of the high streets, yet it’s surprising the public still don’t seem to know exactly how it works. I mean, I still get people come up and say, are you homeless? And the Big Issue has moved on rather a lot in 30 years. Yes, it was started to help the homeless, and they still do, but they help in all sorts of situations – unemployed people, whether that’s long term or short term, people who’ve maybe got into accommodation, but they’re classed as vulnerably housed.”
He continued: “They help so many people, yet there’s still this preconception that you have to be homeless and have a dog and a can of beer in your hand or something.”
Jon went on to explain how he sees his role as a vendor: “I see myself as both a micro business and an entrepreneur, because you’re working for yourself, so you’re like a little sole trader, micro business. We’re not a big conglomerate and you have to sort of think on your feet – you’re the one that has to sell the copies. And, well, you know, the office will give you lots of tips and help with how to sell it. But, an entrepreneur is someone who gets out there and makes things happen. So I think that’s why Big Issue vendors are entrepreneurs really. And yeah, I’m a, I’m a sort of sole trader.”
On why he likes working as a vendor, Jon said: “The good thing about the Big Issue is it does help you explore other hobbies and passions outside. They have lots of different projects that they’ll help vendors with, and different sorts of training. So, yeah, it’s very flexible.”
On why this stunt and the new initiative are important for vendors like himself, Jon explained: Yeah, I think there’s this persisting preconception. And I’m still getting it, where people say to me oh, I don’t have any change. You know, I’ve had it here this morning by the mural. We’re trying to sell a product and promote it.”
He continued: “But this mural is like a big poster, advertising what we do and who we are. It’s got the latest high tech QR code people can scan, which will tell them lots of things about vendors and the organisation, and can hopefully help people change their preconceptions. And with this mural, they have a visual representation of what the Big Issue is about.”
He added: “I think the QR code will help, it’s got my story as well. It’s just so modern. So many people do everything on their phone now, the QR code is ideal, because you’re not asking them to stop and fill something in. And customers are not only able to read all about me but they can share my story and share how to buy the magazine off me with their friends and family.”
The initiative has been created to empower vendors with personalised QR codes on lanyards and webpages allowing customers to share their local vendor’s subscription, pitch location and story with friends and family to help boost vendor earnings. This initiative will eventually be rolled out to all vendors.
The creative campaign also aims to reframe the public’s perception of what it means to sell the Big Issue and to highlight the hard work of its vendors. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of Big Issue vendors as running their own mini enterprises.
Vendors buy magazines for £2 and sell them on for £4. Customers can also subscribe with a vendor online, which provides a vital additional source of regular income.
With the support of BIG, these micro-business owners learn vital skills that help them grow and develop, meeting their personal, social and financial goals. However, these businesses wouldn’t be viable without public support.
The importance of supporting vendors cannot be overstated, especially in light of the cost of living crisis, and with 14m living in poverty, which has driven more people to find different ways to stay afloat. The challenge people are facing is reflected in vendor numbers, which have increased by 10% since last year. BIG’s recent Impact Report also revealed demand for food and fuel support from vendors had increased sevenfold.
Lord Bird, Founder of the Big Issue Group, said: “I started the Big Issue to help people help themselves off the streets and out of poverty. Sadly, the work we do has never been more important. And just like any small business, it simply doesn’t work without the support of the community. We hope this mural will resonate with the public and help boost the visibility of our vendors and the work they do.
“We are also pleased to mark the launch of yet another way by which customers can further connect with their local vendor. Which is why we are urging you to help boost your local vendor’s income by scanning their personalised QR code to share the vendor’s story and subscribe.”
Big Issue Group collaborated with a creative team and Global Street Art to bring the realistic 3D storefront to life. The artwork is located at Village Underground, measuring 7.4 metres high by 16 metres wide and will be on display until the 24July.
To boost vendor earnings, buy a copy of the magazine or subscribe online by visiting www.bigissue.com/boost-vendor-earnings .