Former drug addict goes from selling Big Issue to owning £9m fashion empire

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A former Big Issue vendor now runs his own fashion firm, worth a whopping £9 million.

Philip Waltham says his time selling the homeless magazine helped him start his business.

He sold the mag for three years in London after running away from Hull as a teenage to ­escape his drug addiction.

The hard-working 44-year-old, who created the sustainable fashion firm Bulk Vintage Wholesale, said: “The Big Issue helped me put money in my back pocket and feed ­myself. They taught me how to respect myself.

"They taught me how to budget my money and how important a roof was.

“I had to have money to buy Big Issues so I could sell Big Issues and that taught me how to budget. The thing that has saved my life is selling second-hand clothes and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Big Issue.”

Philip first opened a market stall in Camden, London, and now oversees two high-street stores in Newcastle and York.

The Vintage Store is set to open two more branches in Liverpool and Manchester.

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Philip added: “We fight fast fashion. We save clothing from landfills, we go to big factories and take clothing. Last year we saved around 600 tonnes of clothing and then repurposed them to sell on.”

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird said: “Philip’s story is ­brilliantly inspiring and a great example of the transformative effect the Big Issue can have on people’s lives.”

Philip isn't the only recent rags to riches story – last year, Harry Sanders, from Australia, was in and out of government housing and even ended up on the streets for a year with nobody to go to for help.

But now his search engine optimisation (SEO) company, StudioHawk, is worth an impressive £5.83 million.

The talented entrepreneur said: “To go from nothing to this has been a crazy ride and it’s so surreal getting on planes and doing all these things when not that long ago I was literally trying to scrape $10 together to get food.”

  • Homelessness

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