You may be familiar with social entrepreneur Simon Griffiths – perhaps even intimately so if your bathroom is home to rolls of Who Gives a Crap, the subscription-based toilet paper that donates half its profits to WaterAid. Then there is Shebeen, Simon’s bar in Melbourne that donates 100% of its profits to charitable projects, your drink choice determining where they end up.
Like all good ideas, the brilliance is in the simplicity. The words ‘I wish I thought of that’ instantly spring to mind when hearing about Simon’s social enterprises, because they respond to the most ordinary aspects of our daily lives. From environmentally sustainable toilet paper to beer and Bánh mì, what gets Simon out of bed in the morning is tapping into what we do every day, to inspire people to engage with social issues.
‘One of the trickiest things about getting people to contribute and be engaged, is that it often requires drastic changes in their behaviour. I’m really interested in how you can get more money flowing into the social impact space without asking anyone to change,’ Simon says.
For Simon, alleviating poverty and drastic global change can be stirred by individuals doing the smallest thing slightly differently. ‘There are multiple ways to approach everything you do, and if everyone can think a little bit deeper about even small decisions, it can ultimately have a really big impact.’
From moments of procrastination with his cat, and the benefits of working from home, to the daily juggle of running two businesses while still having the ability to be spontaneous, Simon shares a day in his shoes.
My wife Melissa Loughnan and I are both self-employed and tend to be night-time workers, so we get up pretty late in the mornings.
I start the day looking at what has happened with Who Gives A Crap’s sales the night before: checking the end of night wraps for Shebeen; checking where the foreign exchange rate is at; checking all of our social media channels, and I might do a social media post – all on my phone first thing in the morning while I’m still lying in bed.
Because Who Gives a Crap’s team in particular is split across three time zones, often I will wake up and there are questions that need responding to really quickly so other staff can wrap things up for the day in the US, and so I try to do all of that before I get out of bed.
I am usually the first one out of bed, and it’s into the shower, then breakfast which typically involves walking to Babka. It’s a good way to wake up, especially if I aim to get there just before ten before the fresh sourdoughs roll out of the oven.
I’ll make a coffee at home and then head downstairs into our home office. I don’t work in the main part of the house as a general rule. Normally by around ten I’m switched on and get stuck into the catch up for Who Gives a Crap. I usually try to have dedicated days for each business, but recently it has been a bit more free-flowing.
Sometimes I’ll get an email in the middle of the night that means I need to jump straight out of bed and onto Skype to chat about an issue, so I will run downstairs in my pyjamas and work through something. I might end up coming back upstairs at eleven am, in my pyjamas, hungry and needing a shower.
There are definitely pros and cons to working at home – some would see it as a blessing and others a curse. Personally I love it. I am probably less fit as a result of commuting less on my bike and it also means there are some days I don’t go outside until the afternoon. But on the upside I get to spend all day working alongside our cat!
I don’t really know how to describe my job anymore. I used to do everything, but now that we have built up five full-time staff with Who Gives A Crap, and fifteen with Shebeen, it is mostly about supporting the teams to get through all of our daily tasks.
With Who Gives A Crap, we work in a fully distributed mode where everything is online – mostly through Google Docs, Dropbox and Skype. Slack is our main communication tool, which prevents us from filling up our inboxes with too many emails.
As soon as I start getting hungry my brain function deteriorates, so I normally stop pretty early for lunch. I might walk to Casa Iberica and get one of their giant Spanish deli sandwiches, or go and get a pie or sandwich from Babka. For me, lunch is also about stepping outside and clearing my head, going for a walk and getting some fresh air so that I can be more productive when I get back.
I’m at Shebeen a few afternoons and evenings throughout the week, but my days at Shebeen vary from week-to-week depending on what’s on. There is still a lot of fluidity that comes into my workload.
If I have meetings or Skype calls, I normally try to schedule them in the early afternoon, when my efficiency is usually wavering.
Working on Shebeen means sending emails, running reports, working with our bookkeeper, and making sure the staff are on track, but it is also checking on the consistency of our products – an important part of my job is taste testing our sliders and bánh mì!
There’s also cocktail tasting – you have to schedule that stuff for the end of the day because you don’t want to end up slightly buzzed from tasting cocktails and then have to take an important Skype call!
If I’ve been working from home all day I normally find that I start to lose efficiency again by late afternoon or early evening. Generally I try to not to work through that, I don’t like forcing it just for the sake of keeping to a timetable, so I ride my waves of inefficiency and let myself take a break.
At around this time I might also check in on Who Gives A Crap and Shebeen’s social media channels, or go out and do some grocery shopping and start planning dinner.
In terms of dinner, Mel tends to cook the go-to meals, and I cook the longer ones, like when we’re hosting dinner parties. If I’m working from home all day I’ll occasionally put something in the oven at lunchtime and have it slow-cooked in time for dinner.
We’ll wrap up dinner at around eight and then I tend to jump back on my computer again. I know that between eight and ten I can get a really productive two hours of work done, and there is no way I could achieve the same level of productivity between four and six. But I’m also very conscious that you don’t want to do that five nights a week because it damages your social life and relationships! It’s a matter of finding a balance, I guess.
Usually Mel and I will watch an episode of a series before bed – we recently finished Bloodline, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.
I usually don’t get to sleep before midnight, but if a series is so good then we’re pushing one o’clock on a weeknight and that’s a big no-no! This point in the day is about letting go, so if something comes into my mind I send myself an email with the thought as the subject line so that I can pick it up again in the morning. Every now and then I will wake up to a nonsensical email that I sent to myself in the middle of the night!
'Everything I do is about improving the quality of somebody’s life. That is the big picture. But on a day to day level, it is really about the small things – the nitty gritty, the quick wins, and the small victories. I guess for me, finding a balance of those two is what really makes me tick. Then there are all the other things in life, like a wife, friends, family and cats and everything else.' – Simon Griffiths