Running a successful business in the current challenging economic climate requires nerves of steel and unwavering entrepreneurial spirit – so how do you turn a profit and trade in an ethical manner that makes a tangible difference to those most in need in the community?
If there’s one person who’s armed with all the answers it’s Josh Littlejohn MBE, one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs with a proven track record of establishing thriving businesses that power a global movement to tackle homelessness and displacement.
Josh, who has raised more than £25million for charities and homelessness causes, will be coming to Dorset on Thursday 21 September to share his unrivalled insight into tackling homelessness with the BCP area’s business community. His inspirational and thought-provoking speech, to be delivered at the Homelessness Partnership BCP’s inaugural Gala Evening at Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, will throw the spotlight on how local enterprises can play their role in breaking the cycle of homelessness and creating thriving communities.
Hollywood A-listers and a royal seal of approval
Josh is the founder of Social Bite, a pioneering Scottish social enterprise that began as a small chain of sandwich shops, offering employment and free food to people experiencing homelessness. Rooted in the belief that a safe place to call home is a basic human right, Josh’s eateries shot to global fame when Hollywood star George Clooney visited an outlet in Edinburgh in 2015, followed by Oscar-winning Leonardo DiCaprio in 2016.
Social Bite’s cafes have even lured royalty, with Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and The Duchess of Cambridge calling in to find out more about the enterprise’s mission to eradicate homelessness in Scotland. Social Bite has employed more than 100 people with experience of homelessness and gives out over 140,000 items of free food each year to people in need.
Speaking about his upcoming talk at the Gala Evening, Josh said: “I’m excited to be sharing the story of Social Bite – it has been a whirlwind journey, and one that has taught me that to eradicate homelessness, we need to listen to the stories of people who have experienced homelessness, learn from them and embrace change. Collectively, as a business community, we have a responsibility to look after people who are marginalised and isolated from the system and bring them in to the fold. It’s a fundamental stepping stone of building a brighter future – one that provides hope.
“As a vibrant community of innovators and leaders, the BCP business sector is in a prime position to drive meaningful change. I was excited to learn that the BCP area has been selected as a trailblazer region for Homewards, the new homelessness prevention programme from The Royal Foundation, led by HRH The Prince of Wales. I’ve always believed that anyone can change the world, and with the high-profile backing of Prince William, the BCP area has been empowered to deliver a pioneering approach that makes a tangible difference to the lives of those who have suffered from homelessness.”
While Josh’s speech is under wraps until the Gala Evening on September 21, he offered an insight into the uplifting tone of the message he will deliver to BCP business leaders.
Josh explained: “In my talks, I often quote the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, who said: ‘When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and your life is just to live while trying not to bash into walls too much. But that is a very limited life. Life can be much broader when you discover one simple fact: everything around you that you call life was made up by people who are no smarter than you. Shake of this erroneous notion that life is just there to live in it – embrace it, change it, make your mark on it. When you learn that, you will never be the same again.’”
Delivering innovative housing solutions
With the housing crisis escalating nationwide as mortgage interest rates and private rents soar, could Josh’s innovative approach to novel solutions inspire housing professionals in the south to follow his Highland lead?
In 2018, Josh and his team built the Social Bite Village – 11 prefabricated, two-bedroom wooden homes with gardens and a community hub, established on vacant land. The project houses people recovering from homelessness for 12 to 18 months, providing skills training and extensive support to get lives back on track.
In addition, Josh’s organisation created and launched Scotland’s Housing First programme, securing 830 flats across five cities to provide permanent homes for people who had been rough sleeping. Alongside the Scottish Government, the project helped to fund wrap-around support to help people sustain their tenancies. The result has been a triumph, with more than 1,333 people provided with homes and support.
Sleeping under the stars in solidarity
With a contacts book packed with celebrity connections, Josh teamed up with Dame Helen Mirren and Will Smith in 2019 to launch The World’s Big Sleepout – fundraising events in 52 cities worldwide. More than 60,000 people slept outdoors in the largest display of solidarity for people experiencing homelessness, raising millions in the process. Josh also co-founded Brewgooder, a social enterprise brewery that funds clean water projects in Africa.
His dedication to improving the lives of people without a safe place to call home earned Josh an MBE. He has received five honorary doctorates, a Robert Burns Humanitarian Award and has made Debrett’s list of the 500 most influential people in the UK. This month, Josh’s debut book, called Paying it Forward: How to be a Social Entrepreneur, will be published.
Described as “part memoir, part manifesto for social entrepreneurship, and part manual for putting purpose ahead of profit”, the book reveals what it takes to become a social entrepreneur and make the world a better place.
With unrivalled vision and leadership in social enterprise, Josh’s ground-breaking speech at the Homelessness Partnership BCP’s Gala Evening is a must for anyone in the business community with an interest in ethical trading and ending the scourge of homelessness. Tickets, which cost £100, are selling fast – please reserve yours here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/gala-fundraising-evening-at-the-chewton-glen-tickets-657525706087