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Philip Waltham was a Big Issue vendor for three years in London after running away from his home in Hull when he was just a teen.
Waltham found himself sleeping rough in the capital and started to sell the magazine to help fund his £30-a-day drug habit.
However, he was able to beat his addiction after being offered help from Big Issue distributors.
Waltham, 44, says his time selling the magazine helped him develop the business acumen he used to set up his own sustainable fashion business Bulk Vintage Wholesale, which turns over a whopping £9 million a year and helps to tackle the problem of fast fashion.
Waltham said: “The Big Issue helped me put money in my back pocket and feed myself. They really did help me so much. 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 right if it wasn’t for The Big Issue and my discovery of second-hand clothes.”
Waltham says he took the skills he used from selling the Big Issue and put them to good use buying and selling clothes, and within two years had his own stall in Camden.
Since opening that market stall, Waltham has gone from strength to strength and runs Bulk Vintage Wholesale, one of the country’s biggest sustainable fashion businesses, with his partner. He also runs two high-street stores in Newcastle and York, under the name The Vintage Store, and is set to open two more in Liverpool and Manchester.
But despite being a huge success, Waltham refuses to forget his roots and even keeps his own bit of vintage fashion with him at all times to serve as a reminder - his Big Issue bag.
“That Big Issue bag goes with me everywhere and it has done for all those years since 1997,” he said. "It’s taught me to be who I am now. It keeps me grounded and humble.”
He added: “For what The Big Issue’s done for me, I'd love to see that somebody reads my story and if it helps to give one person a positive vibe that they can do something to get to where they want to be in life. I’d love that.”
Knowing how much it’s changed his life, Waltham is now urging people to support the Big Issue.
He said: “I know first-hand just how tough it is to be a vendor this time of year. Please do go out and support vendors through this winter by going out and buying a magazine or giving to The Big Issue’s Winter Appeal. The Big Issue has helped me, so please consider helping them to help other people like me.”
To donate to The Big Issue’s Winter Appeal, or subscribe, visit www.bigissue.com/support
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