110-year-old Welsh wool mill becomes employee owned

Melin Tregwynt received help with the transition from the Social Business Wales programme.

A woollen mill, shop and cafe on the Pembrokeshire coast has transitioned to employee ownership after being run by the same family since its establishment 110 years ago.

For the past 35 years Melin Tregwynt has been run by owners Amanda and Eifion Griffiths, who have chosen to step back from the business, favouring an employee ownership model over selling to an outside buyer.

The textile mill was bought by Eifion’s grandfather in 1912 and has since gone from strength to strength, and now produces woollen blankets, bedspreads and fabrics.

Melin Tregwynt received support from the Social Business Wales programme, which is funded by the Welsh government and the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by Wales Co-operative Centre, and also took advice from Geldards law firm around the transition.

Chief executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, Derek Walker, said: “It is wonderful to see an employee ownership trust (EOT) being used in this way, to safeguard not only jobs, but also the heritage.

“It is a great way to pass thriving companies onto the next generation and is why we want to encourage more soon to be retiring founders and employees to consider it as an option.”

Geldards law firm is a leading advisor on Welsh EOTs. As well as finalising the terms of the acquisition, Geldards advised Melin Tregwynt on the structure and setting up of the EOT which now manages the business.  

Andrew Evans, partner at Geldards, said: “Geldards were delighted to act for Melin Tregwynt and achieve a smooth transition to ownership by an EOT. The transition will help the continuation of the successful woollen mill business and cafe in its unique location, as well as protecting the business legacy of Eifion and Amanda.

“The usage of EOTs has increased dramatically over the past two years, a trend which both protects the business’s legacy and retains employees’ jobs, and we were proud to be part of this next step for Melin Tregwynt.”

Last year, the Welsh government committed to doubling the number of employee-owned businesses in Wales over the next Senedd term (five years). The Employee Ownership Association estimates that the number of employee owned businesses is growing by 10% every year, currently accounting for 3% of the UK’s GDP.

Welsh Labour and Co-operative MS and economy minister, Vaughan Gething, said he was “very pleased” with the news regarding Melin Tregwynt, adding that the Welsh government recently approved £70,000 in additional support for promoting employee ownership in Wales.

Mr Griffiths said an EOT provided “the perfect solution” for ensuring the business remained viable and rooted in the local community beyond his family’s ownership.

“We will guide the new management board through the transition, but most importantly the 42-strong workforce will keep their jobs and skills and knowledge will remain here and be kept alive.”

He added: “We are still very much a family business – just not in blood, but in ethos, belief and tradition. Many employees have worked here for decades, and we even had three generations of one family as part of our team. I am proud to be passing on the company to the new employee board who I know will take the business to new levels of growth.”

Louise Clarke, Melin Tregwynt’s retail manager and now a member of its EOT, said: “Melin Tregwynt has such a strong base here in West Wales it would have been a tragedy to see it bought out by another company and possibly changed forever, so we are honoured that the Griffiths family has chosen to trust us as employees with their family business. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us at Melin Tregwynt.”

With thanks to Alice Toomer-McAlpine, thenews.coop

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