Sir Richard Branson has thrown his weight behind The Big Issue’s first special edition on entrepreneurship by guest-editing the magazine that hits the streets today.
Branson said The Big Issue’s approach of a “hand-up, not a hand-out” was in line with his belief that “it is important for business, government and the social sector to work together to create better opportunities for budding entrepreneurs”.
“One of the things I really respect about The Big Issue is that its vendors are entrepreneurs,” said Branson. “These individuals often support families and are contributing to the economy. Some are even going on to create their own businesses.”
To drive home this message and show his affiliation with vendors, Branson posed for the cover of the magazine wearing a vendor bib and selling the magazine.
Melany Bendix, editor of The Big Issue South Africa, said Branson’s support was an endorsement of the magazine’s vision and reputation. “One of the key benefits of partnering with Virgin Unite — the Virgin group’s non-profit foundation — for this special edition is that it has given us the opportunity to have one of the world’s most prolific and well-known entrepreneurs publicly endorse our vendors and put the message strongly across that vendors are micro-entrepreneurs in their own right, and not simply asking for a hand-out.”
The special edition has a heavy focus on the new trend of social entrepreneurship — using financially sustainable businesses to solve social problems. Or, more simply, “profit-making businesses that do good”.
As well as a full-length feature looking at the state of social enterprise in South Africa, the edition carries an interview with one of the globe’s first social entrepreneurs, Michael Norton, author of 365 Ways to Change the World. There’s also a competition asking readers to nominate their inspiring social entrepreneur. The top three entries will be featured in upcoming editions of The Big Issue, while the nominators will each win a six-month Virgin Active contract and an autographed copy of Branson’s book, Screw it, Let’s Do it: Lessons in Life.
The special issue also puts the spotlight on some of The Big Issue vendors who have used the magazine as a stepping-stone to solo success, ranging from a vendor turned freelance photographer to a former vendor who started his own welding business.
An in-depth report on grassroots entrepreneurs in Africa examines the role cross-border traders play in stimulating the region’s economy, while a sneak preview of a soon-to-be released survey gives readers an insight into what South Africa’s youth think about entrepreneurship.
There’s an interview with the guest editor on fostering entrepreneurship in South Africa through mentorship, along with a look at what some of the graduates of the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship are up to. Branson also took the time to personally answer some of The Big Issue’s readers’ questions on business, which were submitted in the run-up to this special edition.
“This edition is a real coup for The Big Issue,” said Bendix. “Not only is Branson’s endorsement sure to pique interest and boost sales for our 350-plus vendors, but the content will solidify the magazine’s growing reputation for being ‘not just a good deed, but a damn fine read’.”