Former British stage and film actor Drew Goodall owns a successful, thriving business in the United Kingdom called Sunshine Shoeshine. His business provides shoeshine services to banks and offices across the United Kingdom, placing workers in buildings to offer simple but valued work.
It may seem surprising that someone who once starred in films alongside famous names like Hugh Grant and Brad Pitt would be working in such an unexpected industry. And as the owner of a company that places a heavy emphasis on providing work for homeless, adaptive-abilities, and special-needs workers, it may seem like Goodall is the most unlikely business owner in the world.
Goodall now lives a comfortable life, bringing in plenty of money with Sunshine Shoeshine. Despite what sounds like a star-struck life, though, it’s the years between his acting career and the foundation of his company that truly highlight what it’s like to push through adversity—and explain where he discovered the need to provide safe employment for society’s most maligned.
Goodall explained during a profile by BBC that his initial foot in the door of Hollywood started to peter out when he was a young adult, leaving him strapped for cash and without any acting gigs.
Embarrassed to move back in with his parents, he instead stubbornly stayed on his own—and when he could no longer afford his place, he found himself living on the streets for six months.
Desperate to find employment that he could take on while homeless, his life was changed when a man suggested he shine shoes. Over time, he expanded his client base to banks and office buildings, eventually saving up enough money to move off the streets and into a place of his own once again.
He could have counted himself lucky and moved on, finding gainful employment elsewhere and giving a dollar or a hot sandwich to the homeless he saw from then on. But instead, he started the company he owns now—and made it his mission to hire as many people in his former situation as he could, ensuring that they were afforded a safe and trustworthy way to make money and better their situation.
“It came organically. I didn’t set up to, in my own way, try to change the world,” he explained.
“There is no magic button for homelessness. It’s something that will always be there … just giving someone some time, talking to them, that goes a long way to finding a solution to homelessness.”
Reuters reports that in 2017, Goodall employed eight workers and pulled in around 250,000 pounds (US$330,000) annually. Of that money, he pays himself and his employees—and then gives to charity as well, estimating that he’s distributed about 20,000 pounds (US$26,000) all in all. In addition to his current eight employees, he hired 40 individuals from 2012 to 2017 who were able to better their life situations.
His employees clearly use the job as a stepping stone, saving up to move on to more stable work or head elsewhere when they find homes. They come to him looking for stability while they battle poverty, injury, or mental illness, looking to overcome handicaps and hard situations so they can move on to better things.
This alans 10 year challenge, he came to Sunshine having never had a job due to a battle with mental illness – well done alan👏
While he hasn’t moved on from the shoe-shining business himself, though, his longevity is clearly paying huge dividends in his community. It provides work for those who may have previously just tried to beg for change on the corner—and more importantly, it helps them get through their days during what are likely the most harrowing years of their lives.
“Often it’s transformative. It gives people a sense of purpose, something to get up for in the morning,” Goodall said.