Penny Wilson, 32


Magazine publisher and mother


Income support


Central London

A magazine publisher on income support? Explain.

I used to be a social worker but my life changed four years ago when my son, Angus, was born with pseudo tumour cerebral. He has a range of difficulties to cope with and I gave up my job to look after him and he became the focus of my life. I separated from my partner, Simon, when Angus was two. The relationship didn't stand a chance. All our emotional energy was used up on Angus. Having said that, Simon and I are better friends than ever and he is a wonderful dad.

So where did the magazine come in?

I needed something for me. I found myself in that double guilt thing where you feel guilty if you're going out to work and guilty if you stay at home and don't use your brain. Everyone said that I must write, and one weekend when Angus was with his grandparents it came to me that I wanted to produce a magazine for parents showing the humour in the role. That's how Wipe was born.

So (yawn) another parenting mag...

Watch it! It's by parents for parents, not full of features on how to make your child brainier. And it's not a glossy aspirational women's title either - I'm too knackered to aspire, and why do I want to read articles on the new season's knickers?!

Indeed. Does your business partner agree?

Yes she does.

How did you meet?

Angus had started nursery school two hours a day. I spotted this woman and even before we had spoken I knew she was going to be important to me. Jane (Cobbs) is a former RE teacher with three sons and we hit it off from the start. I've never had so much fun. Initially we were going to produce an A3 sheet folded in three but it snowballed.

So you know what you're doing then?

Um, everything is done by gut instinct, shall we say! We decided not to get advice from professionals and be constrained by a formula. We have been able to do loads of editorial work while Jane is breastfeeding her youngest son. The help we have been given is just amazing: Jane's husband is putting up the money and my old boss did the photography for the first issue in Jane's back garden. A friend did the art direction and design. I interviewed AA Gill. We're keen that in addition to the usual channels, the magazine is distributed through hospitals, charity shops and by parents themselves, with the proviso that any money they get is spent on themselves.

It sounds like a cross between Citizen Kane and Bob Geldof.

Well that's my social work background.

Talking about being social...

You mean dating, I presume? Well, it's not something I'm good at. But I'm hoping retread will come along.

And what will happen to Wipe when love strikes?

Well we go national in December so I think the magazine will survive! We're not getting anything for producing the early editions, but I'm hoping in time it will earn me enough to get out of the benefit trap. It's the only thing I can think of that I can do and still be Angus's mum.

And what does Angus think of the enterprise?

He's very excited. He was talking on the mobile and was asked how I did it and he said, "I think she's doing it with glue."