Season 4, Episode 9: The Fund for Employee Ownership's Reflections on the Kendeda Fund's Big Bet Grant

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Summary

Back in 2018 the Kendeda Fund, a philanthropic foundation based in Atlanta, decided to make a series of big bets in areas that were both critical and timely. One of those areas was employee ownership and the investment made by Kendeda was historic. Over 5 years a total of $24 million dollars was provided to 4 employee owner support organizations. Those organizations include The Evergreen Cooperatives Fund for Employee Ownership, ICA Group, Nexus Community Partners, and Project Equity. The investment was made with four broad goals in mind – grow the number of employee-owned businesses, use patient capital to leverage investments, strengthen core elements of the employee ownership ecosystem, and amplify media coverage of employee ownership. Upon entering the 5th year of the grant, Kendeda contracted with the Ohio Employee Ownership Center to carry out a reflection process that looked back on what these four organizations where able to achieve, assess what they learned, and identify future actions that would further develop and expand employee ownership in the US. The reflection process relied on numerous forms of data collection including in-person meetings, long form one on one interviews with grantees, selling owners, and new employee owners, analysis of transition data, and comparisons of the four grantees models for transitioning companies to employee ownership. The culmination of our findings was then published in a narrative report that drew on the insights of all stakeholders involved, which we encourage you to read. However, like all reports, we could not include every bit of information we gathered. But we strongly felt it necessary to provide grantee organizations with the space to explain, in their own words, how and why they do the work they do, how Kendeda’s investment helped them expand their impact, and where they see their work going in the future. So, this interview with Jeanette Webster and Emma Sherrie of the Fund for Employee Ownership is one in a series of interviews we carried out with organization that received support from the Kendeda Fund.

Guest Bios

Jeanette oversees Evergreen’s Fund for Employee Ownership, which supports good sustainable jobs through acquiring and converting companies to employee-owned organizations. She has served in senior finance positions in major manufacturing and service companies, including as CFO. She has years of mergers and acquisition experience, having overseen acquisitions in 17 countries. A native of the United Kingdom, Jeanette earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Windsor, in Windsor, Ontario, and an MBA from Ashland University in Ohio. She is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Financial Planner

Emma Sherrie is the Business Development Manager working with the Fund for Employee Ownership. She has been with Evergreen since 2019 and manages support for the Fund and its network of coops in various capacities, along with coordinating company-wide IT infrastructure, project management, and marketing and design. Emma has years of experience with middle-market mergers and acquisitions, executive management support, and design. Emma graduated magna cum laude from Kent State University with a bachelor’s in anthropology and a non-profit management certificate. Emma is a proud facilitator at Joel’s Place, a peer-to-peer grief support group for kids, teens, and families.

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About the Podcast

The Owners at Work Podcast is a continuation of the biannual Owners at Work Newsletter which ran for 19 years (1990-2019). We are hoping to continue the same conversations and focus on providing updates on everything employee ownership. We plan to interview practitioners with expertise in different facets of employee ownership, academics doing new and interesting research, and most importantly, individuals who have a personal experience with employee ownership, including current and former employee-owners, mid-level to C suite management, and selling owners.

We Want to talk to YOU!

We want to produce a show that engages with relevant questions and provides practical lessons and information. We want this podcast to include the voices of those who practice employee-ownership each and every day. To that end we want to hear from you! We want to highlight what you are doing, whether you are an employee-owned company, a practitioner, or researcher.

***Please reach out via email: oeoc@kent.edu

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