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Why did we become employee-owned?

Canopy & Stars began in 2010 as part of Sawday's, a travel company founded in 1994 with a commitment to finding special spaces and working in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Founder Alastair Sawday wanted Sawday’s, “to promote what is good and decent and to do so in perpetuity.” When he decided to step away from the running of the business, he felt that selling to an outside investor posed too much of a risk to the principles that he had embedded. Employee ownership meant being able to give Sawday’s and Canopy & Stars a deeper purpose. Having always employed like-minded people, he could hand the company over to them and be confident that it would continue with the same ethos.

While the decision was certainly idealistic, it was also based on the success and sustainability of employee-owned companies. EO companies perform better, are more profitable, have greater levels of innovation and have less stressed workforces. Their employess even live longer. We are proud to be a part of the Employee Ownership Association and a movement that is spreading better business practice across the UK.

What is employee ownership?

Employee ownership is a way of setting up a company that gives the employees control of its direction and purpose. Colleagues hold a combined majority share, which in our case is 52%. We have a unique hybrid model, with the rest of the business split between a Charitable Trust (24%) and the Sawday family (24%).

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How it works for us at Canopy & Stars

We are still finding our way on the employee ownership journey, but already there have been benefits and important decisions made in consultation with everyone, such as the vote on how we would split any dividends that derived from our ownership. It’s an exciting challenge that is helping us grow and making us think about how we can all work better together. 

This is how we have it set up:

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This structure allows communication and the flow of ideas between everyone in the company. We all have an awareness of the business’ financial position and pay structure, an influence over its choices and a genuine interest in seeing it succeed. We are all part owners of the business, invested in our finances, culture and future.

Our board reflects our structure

Our board reflects the company structure, with representation from the Sawday’s family and employees at every level ensuring we stay true to our values. It is comprised of:

Sarah Flanagan (Non-executive Chair), Mike Bevens (Managing Director), Alastair & Toby Sawday (Non-executive Directors), Tom Dixon (Director) and Nicola Crosse (Employee Director).