Drew Goodall thought he was destined for success early on in life when he began getting gigs as an actor in blockbuster films. The London-based actor appeared in films alongside superstars like Brad Pitt and Hugh Grant in films like Snatch and About a Boy.
However, Goodall quickly learned that life in Hollywood is a constant struggle, and after his early success, his work began to dry up and his life spiraled out of control.
“I didn’t want to face my parents. When I left home I was the big hope. I couldn’t face the ignominy of having to go back with my tail between my legs,” said Goodall.
By 2001, Goodall was homeless and living on the streets begging for food. Luckily, one of the people who would regularly stop to give Goodall change suggested that the former actor should start a business shining shoes.
Goodall took the advice of the kind stranger, and used some of the money that he earned from begging to buy the supplies that he needed to shine shoes. He purchased a brush and a can of polish and posted up in the middle of London’s financial district, offering to shine the shoes of wealthy business people walking by.
Goodall was first operating illegally without a license, but within just six months, one of his regulars offered to let him set up in his office. Once Goodall was in a prime location, he began to expand to other banks and financial buildings and hired other disadvantaged or homeless people to staff the new locations.
Goodall currently employs a team of eight people, and the company has an annual revenue of roughly 250,000 pounds or $330,000. In addition to hiring the needy, Goodall also gives a significant portion of his earnings to charity.
“To date we have given in excess of 20,000 pounds ($26,000),” said Goodall.
Over the years, Goodall estimates that his business has helped about 40 people to climb out of poverty since he began expanding in 2012.
“It came organically. I didn’t set up to, in my own way, try to change the world. There is no magic button for homelessness. It’s something that will always be there … (but) just giving someone some time, talking to them, that goes a long way to finding a solution to homelessness,” Goodall said.
Goodall says that just having a job and the ability to support yourself makes a huge difference and gives people the hope and strength to continue.
“Often it’s transformative. It gives people a sense of purpose, something to get up for in the morning,” Goodall said.
Image credit: Drew Goodall