#VendorWeek 2019: CEOs put on their vests and pitch in for The Big Issue Australia’s selling event

By Kaitlin Jock

Kicking off #VendorWeek celebrations this year, The Big Issue Australia is holding its annual CEO selling event, when almost 100 business leaders from throughout the country take part in sales for a day. This annual event helps to provide perspective for these industry magnates and the general public concerning what goes into selling a street paper each day.

Head of The Big Issue Australia Steven Persson said the street paper sales event is about raising awareness of vendors and praised the hard work they do every day to change their lives.

Shayne Elliot (CEO, ANZ) with BIA vendor Sue

“Vendors are truly remarkable people;” Persson remarked. “They come to The Big Issue from backgrounds of homelessness, marginalization and disadvantage. Despite their circumstances, they’re choosing to work and get back on their feet.”

The business leaders who took part in supporting the cause this year included Microsoft Managing Director Steven Worrall, Deloitte CEO Richard Deutsch, Telstra CEO Andrew Penn, and ANZ CEO Shayne Elliot, among many others.

Their business backgrounds are far and wide, and these leaders spent a day lending their own experience while learning what it takes to be a street paper vendor. The opportunity not only offers a helping hand to the vendors by contributing to sales but also provides public support for the vendors and their paper.

“CEO Selling is all about our corporate leaders showing the rest of the country that vendors are legitimate businesspeople who sell a brilliant product.” Persson continued.

Cassandra Goldie (CEO, ACOSS) with BIA vendor Rachel Bruce Cooper (Deputy Chief Executive Partner, Clayton Utz) with BIA vendor Marcus

Among the wide array of stories from the big day, REA Group CEO Owen Wilson contributed to the REA Group’s company blog. Wilson called the experience a “privilege.”

“It’s a powerful thing putting on this uniform,” Wilson wrote of the day, “and an experience that opened my eyes to how confronting it can be to sell The Big Issue even if it is in a neighbourhood you know well—an experience I won’t take for granted.”

Wilson and his vendor partner Phil bonded on the day as Phil shared his story, having been separated from his siblings until very recently and suffering injuries after being hit by a car about 10 years ago:

“Personally, I find Phil’s story fascinating. That he, and others like him, can go through such hard times in their lives and still find the ‘get up and go’ to get their lives back on track is very inspiring.”

A marker of change during this year’s #VendorWeek for The Big Issue Australia is the introduction of cashless payments. Angela Clark, CEO of Beem It, an app which provides contactless pay services among others, took part in the CEO Selling event as customers used the app to purchase the magazine for the first time.

In Australia, 550 vendors sell The Big Issue every edition. They buy copies of the magazine for $4.50 and sell them for $9, earning half the cover price with every sale. Since The Big Issue launched in Australia in 1996, vendors have sold more than 11 million copies of the magazine, earning $28 million.

Read more coverage of #VendorWeek 2019 here.