Vendor of the Week
Global Vendor: Erica Phillips
Erica Phillips, 66, has been selling “The Big Issue South Africa” for the last seven years, ever since she lost her sight and subsequently her office job.
“I did regain my eyesight after some time, but only partially. It became too much of a strain to continue my admin job, so I was forced to resign,” she said. “I was left with no income and no clue what to do; it changed my life.”
One day, while out walking, she came across a notice saying “The Big Issue” offered a job opportunity, “and I decided to give it a go,” Phillips said. “Since then I’ve learned that I love working with people, with ‘The Big Issue’ staff and my fellow vendors, as well as with the customers.”
All this time, she’s maintained her selling spot at the Kenilworth Post Office.
“I’ve gained so much and found people that have really supported me. They notice my determination and my outgoing personality,” she said.
One regular customer has been especially supportive.
“He always buys from me, and he really enjoys the magazine. He said he could see my determination and ‘spark.’ I’m not just a vendor to him; I’m a friend,” Phillips said. “I’m fortunate to have many other customers like him.”
The magazine has published a story about how Phillips lost her sight and got back on her feet. It was also included in “The Light Went Black,” a collection of stories about people who are visually impaired published by The Human Rights Media Centre.
“I always carry the book with me,” Phillips said.
She said what she admires most about “The Big Issue” is how it’s run.
“They have so much going for the vendors. They don’t just expect the vendors to go out and sell the magazines; there is a support system in place for us.”
Phillips is planning to start her own business.
“Through ‘The Big Issue’ I’ve been given the opportunity for financing, and I should be starting it in June. I hate to think where I would be without this job. It has given me determination to carry on. I would probably have given up, but it helped me see that there is hope.”
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