Alice Thompson was an events student at the Queen Margaret University when just in a span of two years she realised that mere studying will not help her accomplish her goals and hence left to join with Capital Events as an intern. At the same time, Josh was looking for an intern who would join his events firm and work with him for free and that was the inception of their long collaboration. In 2011, Josh and Alice were heavily inspired by the philosophy of the Nobel Peace Prize Winning economist Prof. Muhammad Yunus after reading his book “Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism” where the idea of ‘Social Business’ – running a business not just for profits but for solving social challenges – had been described. Stirred by this school of thought, Josh and Alice made a move to Bangladesh in October 2011 to meet Prof. Yunus and had a life changing experience. They paid a visit to many businesses and start-ups by Prof. Yunus himself that were involved in resolving issues like financial exclusion of poor women, malnutrition of children and blindness of the poor, which were transforming lives of millions in Bangladesh. Enthused by the vision of Prof. Yunus to establish a broader economic system, of serving the society and not just maximizing profits, Alice and Josh sold off their events business to venture a new social start-up – Social Bite.
Social Bite was conceived in the background that the power of business should be used to harness goodness and not just greed. It is a sandwich shop chain that operates as a social business. A quarter of its employees are people who were homeless before and are working here. The sandwich shop chain donates 100% of its profits to charity.
The duo realised that business was the centre of the entire world and it should be used in influencing and cultivating the good in the society and not just greed. “Government is too slow and political; charity is not always well enough funded. But if you can design a tool that uses business to improve society, you have something magical in your hands and the sky is the limit. We were excited that if it worked we would have something self-propelling, unlike charity which relies on donations and volunteering which are much more unpredictable.” mentions Alice. It was launched in 2012 and grew faster than Alice had anticipated.
Social Bite faced many challenges in the course of its endeavour. “Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should” is Alice’s takeaway from the initial years of Social Bite. They are now in a much more organised place. They plan on promoting from within and build a strong company by using the people who are already in it, who know it, and believe in it. The founders understand that the need of every individual differs and for this reason they have a program for counselling of the employees who were homeless earlier. Social Bite wishes to provide an individualised support system to these employees and in order to achieve this end, a counsellor from Cyrenians works with the start-up. They have also found support from big corporates which have availed the catering services from Social Bite time and again.
Social Bite started by providing employment to 20 people and at present delivers employment to 95 individuals – 20 of which are from homeless backgrounds. It invests its profits into the Micro-finance businesses. Social Bite has strongly supported the Micro-Loan Foundation Malawi financially and has also witnessed the development of the businesses of the women they helped first-hand. Recently, they initiated a fundraising campaign this Christmas for a “homeless village” where 20 shipping containers were renovated into modern accommodation for at least 20 homeless individuals in Scotland. This village shall have 24/7 security, vegetable growing gardens, chicken coops as a means to employ the formerly homeless individuals and also counselling and drug addiction therapy to help these residents to emerge socially compatible.
With efforts like these, Social Bite gives a new meaning to the term ‘Business’. It has provided a new line of thought for many who intend to venture in an entrepreneurial direction and has laid a foundation for a future that is PROFITABLE AND INCUSIVE FOR ALL.
You can contact Social Bite here.
This article was originally published in The Optimist Citizen – Issue 19 dated 16 FEB ’17. Get exclusive early access to the stories, SUBSCRIBE NOW.
NAZNEEN KACHWALA AND KRITIKA VIDYARTHI | TOC
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