Childbase Partnership, which runs 44 nurseries in the UK, took home the award for the Employee Owned Business of the Year.
EOA chief executive Deb Oxley said: “It was clear to see that the culture at Childbase is one of everyone having a voice. Every nursery has an elected employee ownership ambassador who is trained and empowered to represent staff on all major strategic decisions.”
Angela Brown of Childbase added: “For us, employee ownership is all about sharing your knowledge. That’s what we always try to do and it’s at the heart of our business.
“It’s a really exciting time for us at Childbase as next year this belief is we’ll be 100% employee owned, so it’s great to mark this important step with this award.”
The awards celebrate the contribution of employee-owned enterprises, as well as individuals who have been actively promoting the model. Lucy Humphrey from Leading Lives was declared Employee Owner of the Year for championing and promoting the model. A worker co-op, Leading Lives has over 20 years’ experience in social care.
Ms Humphreys said: “I’m proud to be nominated and to have won the award. It’s a lot to take in and overwhelming, especially in front of the huge audience.
“The sessions I will go to at the conference tomorrow will also inspire me and leave me going back to work feeling more creative. So I will take away a lot with me from this year’s conference.”
David Erdal, who chairs the Employee Ownership Trust, won the Phillip Baxendale Fellowship Award, which goes to an individual who has made, or is making, an outstanding contribution to the growth of employee ownership in the UK.
Mr Erdal introduced the employee ownership model at Tullis Russel, a family business which became employee owned in 1994. From 2000 to 2006 he was managing director of Baxi partnership, where he launched a capital fund that supported the creation of more than 20 employee owned companies.
Receiving the award, he said: “Employee ownership is definitely the right way for businesses to go. It works for the businesses and it works for the people. Collecting this award tonight was humbling, but to have your efforts recognised in this way feels incredible.”
Rising Star of the Year category, for businesses which have recently switched to the employee ownership model, went to RISE Mutual CIC.
Since becoming the first employee-owned mutual in the UK delivering probation services, it has witnessed a 3% increase in operating profit, retained and increased its staff by 43 employees with 7% progressing to more senior roles.
Kuljit Sandhu of RISE Mutual CIC said: “We’re just thrilled because this has been two years in the making and is a testament to the hard work of all our staff – we can’t wait to go back and tell them.
“It’s a really challenging environment working in criminal justice so this is great recognition of our team’s achievements, which will encourage them to find new and innovative ways of working.”
The awards also highlight innovation. The winner in this category was Union Industries, which became employee owned two years ago. Following the transition employees were encouraged to submit ideas for business within a tin tub named “Eureka bath”, which resulted in a number of new business initiatives.
Isabelle Schofield of Union Industries said: “We’re all delighted to say the least. We never thought – two years to the day we made our move to employee ownership – that we’d be standing here.
“We’re so proud to prove that employee owned companies really can thrive when they’re set free. It’s amazing to be part of an event like this that celebrates employee ownership, especially to be at the fore and to win this award.”
EOA is a not-for-profit organisation that represents businesses owned or transitioning to employee ownership across the UK. The awards were presented as part of the Employee Ownership Association annual conference, which took place on 21-22 November in Birmingham.