Our Vendors 

Survival leads street papers to unique business ideas

Fri, Aug 30, 2013

“Survival” is the street paper’s middle name, whether it’s subscriptions packaged by women or labels on bottles that attract new vendors.

It was unreasonable to expect that women who might have seen domestic violence at the hands of men would be willing to stand on a street corner and sell a magazine or that they would not need child care, said Steven Perssons, CEO of The Big Issue Australia. The Women’s Subscription Enterprise provides part-time employment in a secure environment for packaging and mailing The Big Issue Australia, which comes out every two weeks. The number of subscriptions has grown from 300 in 2010 to 4000, simultaneous to growth in street sales. Its market is businesses, corporations, even the Qantas Airlines airport lounge.

insp2 BISS magazine, meanwhile, sought to gain more vendors for its magazine, a clientele that is hard to reach through mass media. Potential vendors were likely to be entrepreneurs who hunt for bottles to return to grocers for the mandatory deposits: eight euro cents on glass bottles and 25 euro cents for plastic ones. With the help of local breweries, celebrities and readers, BISS placed 30,000 bottles all around Munich with labels that described its operation. The publication saw a 25 percent increase in vendors.

BISS spent several years involved in an even more ambitious project: converting the former riverfront Neudeck women’s prison into a first-class hotel with 72 rooms and 11 apartments for seniors. The project was intended to train 40 young people (10 each year) in the hotel business.

Director Hildegard Denninger and her team had raised 4.5 million euros in donations and 1.3 million euros in private loans. However, in May 2011 the Bavarian state parliament voted against selling directly to BISS in favor of a bidding procedure. The nonprofit BISS foundation entered a bid of 1.6 million euros, backed up with financial statements and letters of recommendation from the city’s top hotels and respected social projects. BISS was later informed that the hotel site had been awarded to an anonymous bidder whose offer was higher.

Asphalt of Hannover, Germany started a bicycle garage program where vendors learn to fix and maintain donated bikes. Some vendors found jobs in bike shops after the training.

Hempels of Kiel, Germany instituted writing workshops for people who are incarcerated long-term, which in turn leads to publication in the magazine. The inmates gain new skills and the readers new insight.

Zeitschrift der Strasse in Bremen, Germany is an alternative publication based on provocative design that challenges ordinary habits; its top portion is inexplicably perforated, which tends to spark conversation between buyer and vendor. Each issue focuses on one city street, which endears it to older people who love their hometown and to collectors. (Sold-out issues have shown up on Ebay.) The project involves roughly 40 students in design, journalism and business each term and 200 registered vendors, 43 of whom are active.

Suzanne Hanney,
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief


Leave a Reply

Your Comment:

WordPress SEO