ONE of Scotland’s richest businessmen has given a chain of sandwich shops a massive financial fillip.
Big-hearted tycoon Sir Tom Hunter has invested in Social Bite, which has two branches in the Capital.
The firm donates 100 per cent of its profits to charities and at least one in four of its staff comes from a homeless background.
Now the Hunter Foundation has ploughed £200,000 into the chain, which – combined with a further £200,000 from Social Investment Scotland – will allow Social Bite to open its second cafe in Glasgow and fourth in total.
Co-founder Josh Littlejohn insisted this latest backing would pave the way to more investment, helping the organisation realise its vision.
He said: “This strengthens our Edinburgh shops, and our whole business model. That such a big name in the business world has come forward with such a vote of confidence is a big thing, giving the shop added kudos. This is part of a whole business model. We need a certain number of shops to make the central kitchen in Livingston successful.
“We are really excited to open our fourth shop. With this infrastructure and a central kitchen we should be in a position to donate around £4000 to charity every month.”
In the short term, the money will allow the organisation to take on two additional staff.
But Mr Littlejohn said he also hoped to open cafes in Aberdeen, Dundee and Newcastle, helping more homeless people in the future.
The ultimate ambition is to grow into a large chain of sandwich shops competing with big brands such as Pret A Manger and Greggs.
Edinburgh already has shops on Rose Street and Shandwick Place, and Mr Littlejohn would not rule out another in the Capital. He said: “There is a possibility of us opening another shop in Edinburgh with the support we receive.”
Social Bite was founded by Mr Littlejohn and partner Alice Thompson just over two years ago. They were inspired by a visit to Bangladesh where they met Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus and learned about his idea of a “social business”.
But unlike other cafe chains, no individual will ever get rich from the business, no matter how big Social Bite grows.
Neither Mr Littlejohn nor Ms Thompson own a share in the business. The shares are owned by a parent charity which distributes the profits to good causes.
Sir Tom’s investment was prompted by his admiration for the founders and their work.
Scotland’s first home-grown billionaire said: “Josh and Alice are an inspiration, and at the forefront of the social enterprise movement in Scotland. The government needs to take a long, hard look at how businesses like Social Bite can be incentivised further.
“If you analyse the net gain to the taxpayer of taking young but ambitious people off the homelessness register, surely more could be done to support them?”