New shop for sandwich firm employing ex-homeless

Josh Littlejohn with employees Colin Childs, Peter Hart, Kenny McLellan, Ian Brown and John Brown. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Josh Littlejohn with employees Colin Childs, Peter Hart, Kenny McLellan, Ian Brown and John Brown. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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A “socially-conscious” sandwich shop which employs ex-Big Issue sellers and donates all profits to charity has opened a second location in the Capital.

Social Bite, the brainchild of Scottish Business Awards organiser Josh Littlejohn, has opened a new premises on Shandwick Place after the success of their first store, opened on Rose Street in autumn 2012.

And as well as employing six formerly homeless staff in the Capital, Mr Littlejohn has now set his sights on expanding further, with plans to open a store in Glasgow in the New Year.

As well as splitting profits between a number of good causes, including microloan foundations in Malawi and Zambia, the shop also allows customers to pay for food and drink which can then be claimed by local homeless people.

Mr Littlejohn, 27, who managed to secure former US President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker at this year’s Scottish Business Awards, revealed that this year Social Bite on Rose Street had donated roughly £10,000 to good causes – but he won’t be happy until that amount quadruples.

He said: “We’re extremely grateful to all the customers who have supported us so far, but the aim is to have each shop donating £40,000 a year, so we’ve still got a way to go.”

Social Bite has also doubled the number of former homeless people working for them, with six members of staff now split between Rose Street, Shandwick Place and the company’s Livingston-based prep kitchen, which will also provide food for a Glasgow shop due to open in the New Year.

Mr Littlejohn said: “Brothers Peter and Joe Hart are still with us, and also came along to see President Clinton in the summer. Pete is now working in the central kitchen and Joe is acting as right-hand man to our head chef. John Brown, who we took on in Rose Street not long after the Harts, is now at Shandwick Place.”

John’s uncle Iain Brown, who had sold The Big Issue on Rose Street for a number of years, is now also employed in the Rose Street store, along with Colin Childs, formerly a well-known George Street Big Issue 
vendor.

Mr Littlejohn said: “Lots of our customers recognise Colin from George Street when they come in, and they’re all really happy to see that he has a new job.”

Mr Littlejohn said: “I think that if you want to best see how the lives of these six guys who work for us have changed – you can look at any income statistics or living standards index you like – but in my opinion the greatest transformation one can have is moving from being the recipient of charity, as all of our homeless staff were, to concerning yourself with helping others, perhaps even less fortunate. The six staff that now work for us are making that transformation, and use their hard work not only to improve their own life, but that of others.”

Inspired by Nobel Peace prize winner

Social Bite’s business ethos was inspired by the philosophy of Nobel Peace Prize winning economist, Prof Muhammad Yunus.

In his book, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, Prof Yunus describes the idea of creating businesses not for the traditional purpose of profit, but for solving social challenges.

The book so inspired Josh that he and girlfriend Alice Thompson travelled to Bangladesh in 2011 to see Prof Yunus’ work firsthand. On return from Dhaka, Josh sold his Ski Show event business and Stockbridge flat to raise the capital to set up Social Bite.