Week One

From time to time, our founder, Isabella Stevenson, will write about her own thoughts and experiences as being a part of the StepUp Shoeshine team….

End of my first week as a fully-operational social entrepreneur!

It’s been a rollercoaster ride since the idea of starting a shoeshine business popped into my head at 3am back in June last year. Within a few weeks, I got into conversation with Firstport about the viability of my plan, applied for start-up funding and was overjoyed to get £4100 from its partner organisation UnLtd in October. It went a long way to covering the costs of equipment, insurances, branding and the website design. Moreover my award manager Eileen is a great source of encouragement and has asked some of the more awkward questions that have forced me to take a bird’s eye view now and again. The preparations have become all-consuming over the past few months but really worth it to start with ethical, solid foundations.

We officially launched this week and I’ve been both humbled and encouraged by the positivity of the team members now on board. From the outset, we (that’s the diverse and highly insightful team of directors) knew that we had to keep our focus on recruiting and empowering people who had been unemployed or very under-employed. Walking alongside them to build a stronger future is why we do what we do. However, it works both ways, and in those moments when I “feel like I have nothing else to give”, I remember the comment from a shoe valeter early this week that it was the best day that they had had in six months, or another who had a huge lump in their throat when I handed over a pair of brand new leather shoes donated by a high street store.

We need more big offices in Glasgow city centre to open their doors to us, not as an act of charity, but in recognition that life can throw a curveball at anyone. Yes, this is all about corporate social responsibility, but it’s also about allowing us to pay a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. We are offering a professional shoeshine service with all profits reinvested into the business to help even more people rebuild their lives. After all, everyone loves shiny shoes but few people have the time or inclination to keep them that way. We figured that this was the perfect opportunity to meet a growing demand and do so as a social business before a profit-driven company saw the gap and used it to exploit workers.

Here’s to next week….