David Johnstone

Giving Redefined

David Johnstone has just come up with one of the simplest and most brilliant philanthrocapitalist ideas around and it is eminently scalable.

ChariTable allows you to donate a pound to your chosen charity every time you book a restaurant table without your having to pay for it.  Participating establishments give the foundation £2 per booking, one of which goes towards the foundation itself and the other towards a charity you select from a “menu”.

The concept was launched recently, by Johnstone and his business and philanthropic partner, Stanley (Lord) Fink, at a reception at the Dorchester hotel in London.

So intrigued were we with the possibilities, we met with David over lunch at Franco’s (who donated their £2 to Street Smart) to find out how the idea evolved.

As is the case with most great ideas, it is the man or woman behind them that has evolved.

David Johnstone is charm personified – well-educated, well-spoken, well-mannered.  Beyond the surface attributes is a razor-sharp mind with a creative and opportunistic edge that has allowed him to parlay the urbane appeal into a global lifestyle enterprise.

Like many successful people, he decided to forgo university, going for an apprenticeship program at the Forte hotel group instead.  The accumulated experience and list of international contacts, as well as an eye for market demand, propelled him into the then budding concierge business. At a time when most of his contemporaries were finalising their degrees and applying for jobs he grappled with the scalability and ultimate viability of his start-up.  Those who remember the heady and fun ASW days, will remember the launch of Quintessentially and Johnstone’s Renaissance clubs.

Building on the experience of launching and running this, he understood the easy appeal of a made in heaven marriage between big brands, big corporations and the big privileges that he could secure for their clients.  Key 2 Luxury was born, netting him countless high value contacts and enabling him to launch round the globe events, the Global Party.

The marketing genius in him ensured that collateral businesses sprung up that both complimented and complemented each other, creating a co-branding concern named, appropriately enough, Free Holdings.

Free Holdings is big on philanthropy, at the same time never losing sight of the fact that money has to be made before it is gifted.  Johnstone likes, and takes pride in being ahead of the curve and generating ideas. Lest you think, “I have great ideas too”, there is a very good reason why there are fewer successful than clever people in the world.

Johnstone is not just a thinker, he is a doer.  Above all, he understands market dynamics, the power of media and social media, and the need to grow, adapt and re-invent his concepts as fast as the world moves.

How many of us can put their address books to work this way?