I recall back in the 80s when Thatcher told us greed was good and cash was king, people like me and my family running a small bar in the East End of Glasgow found out that greed wasn’t so good and social responsibility was mandatory.
This was before people were encouraged to partake in social enterprise, but it blossomed organically. Here’s is my story.
We had two homeless guys called Rob and Andy who occasionally offered to sweep the leaves from the front of the bar for some petty cash. Our bar was on the fringes of the Glasgow Green and the Autumnal leaf fall was like a violent sand storm, the bar was often deluged with wet horrible leaves which took up most of my energy clearing them.
It doesn’t sound like a big problem, but when the bar doors blew open due to the Scottish wind and about three hundred decaying leaves came flying in, you know you had an issue. When customers opened the doors, they brought foliage in with them. I spent hours dragging them off the carpet, so I decided my two homeless guys had a good job. Not only for me, but we set up a network with the other bars that skirted the park and they had a full time seasonal job.
Rob and Andy then explained that they collected aluminium cans and sold them for cash, now this was in the mid 80s before we were aware of recycling, and we publicans hated bagging the sticky smelly used pop cans for the refuse guy to collect.
So we got together again with local bar owners and before long Rob and Andy were distributing special plastic sacks and dragging the stinky cans out of our cellars once a week and making some cash for themselves. They had a small micro business that kept them busy, providing a valid and vital service in which we paid them to clean our cellars and take away the aluminium. No one had a business plan, or paid tax or insurance, what we were doing was probably breaking some tax laws, but we didn’t care as we were looking after each other and that was important.
Rob and Andy had fallen on hard times in their past and yet became good friends to me, they were always thinking up ways to provide a service and make some money, and I in turn appreciated that kind of philosophy. It made me more inventive, it inspired me.
The extra cash didn’t change their lives, there is no big happy ending or amazing rags to riches story, but a valid example that the people in the community that surrounds you can be part of and share your business experience and teach you some important lessons about enterprise. If those two homeless guys could come up with fresh and workable ideas about how to provide a service and make money for themselves then we as business owners would find real inspiration from them.
We are delighted to welcome Janey Godley as a columnist in the3rdi magazine. If you haven’t come across Janey before she is loud, opinionated and very funny! Her monthly column will bring a sideways look at the issues we cover here and it is sure to provoke comment and debate!
Multi-award-winning Scottish comedienne, playwright, award-winning blogger, best-selling author and former Scotsman newspaper columnist Janey Godley has performed her comedy shows and one-woman play around the world, including off-Broadway in New York. She is a regular on BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute.
In 2006, Janey was nominated and was close runner-up for the annual Scotswoman of the Year title as ‘the most inspirational woman in Scotland‘. At the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, she won the Spirit of The Festival Award.
A regular 5-star performer at the Edinburgh Fringe, in 2008 she won the Fringe Report Award as ‘Best Performer‘ and two Nivea Funny Women Fringe Awards – as ‘Best Stand-Up‘ and, overall, for ‘Best Show‘ as “one of the most prolific and extraordinary stand-up comedians working in the UK”. In 2008, she also won Edinburgh’s WAG of the Year Award as ‘Best After Dinner Speaker‘, was nominated as ‘Best International Guest‘ in the 2008 New Zealand Comedy Guild Awards and was voted No 3 by readers in London listing magazine Time Out’s list of Top Ten Comedians.
In 2009, her new Edinburgh Fringe show Godley’s World received three 5-star reviews.