On my way into work today I passed my local Big Issue seller, standing in his usual spot waiting for people to stop and buy a copy. He looked bored. And to be honest the Big Issue looked a bit bored too so I passed on by. But I got to thinking, is the Big Issue due for a bit of business model innovation? What else could be done to change a relatively passive income into something a bit more dynamic?
Here’s my rough train of thought:
- Revenue is created through a straight margin with vendors making 60% on each issue (I think). What if there was some other means for vendors to attract revenue? What else would people put money towards? Another product or service, or is there something better?
- Vendors stick to their same patch, often standing around for hours getting cold and bored as they wait passively for passers-by to make a purchase. I bet the vendors have more to contribute than standing still. What if we could sponsor them to do something more interesting (and profitable)? What ideas would the vendors have?
- Kiva do a great job raising small loans for the poor to set up a micro business of some sort. Lenders can pool funds until a target is reached, and recipients are expected to try to repay their loans. What if this was applied to the Big Issue?
And there you have it, micro finance applied to the Big Issue.Vendors could pitch their ideas alongside the magazine (with more on-line or in print), with passers-by able to contribute funds on-line until a target is reached. The vendor would then launch their venture, make a profit and repay the loan. This could be anything from renting a vegetable patch and selling the produce, through buying an instrument to go busking or buying into a low-cost franchise.
The Big Issue would introduce a loans based model alongside the existing cost plus print business, with online tools used to manage funding pools and loans as well as provide ongoing information and feedback. Local business could start to engage with collaborative communities set up to mentor vendors as they start to realise their dreams. With luck, the model would increase engagement on both sides, and lead to a few successes.
It might be a bit idealistic, but why not?