#GoodNewsCymru | Employee ownership

Employee-owned Welsh waffle maker shows how growth in all weathers is possible when you have fairness, people and community at your core

From humble market stall beginnings to becoming a behemoth of the tasty toffee treat world, Tregroes Waffles has kept its roots firmly in the West Wales community where it originated and puts staff at the heart of its growth.

By Ben Bostock · 4 June 2020

See this page in: Cymraeg

The now partially employee-owned company, originally founded by Dutch-native Kees Huysmans in 1983, has grown remarkably since the cold Guy Fawkes night nearly forty years ago when the gooey stroop waffles were first served up during a display at Henllan Railway.

The positive reception they received amid the fireworks that night lit the touch paper of what is now an international success story built on fairness, as Kees explains:

“All trade should be fair. Business without heart and passion and fairness will not prevail. It never worked, it doesn’t work and it will not work in the future. I think all truly successful business is social business.”

This message of equality at the foundations of the business stretches far beyond the factory walls, including all stakeholders, suppliers, customers and of course the community.

“All trade should be fair. Business without heart and passion and fairness will not prevail."

Kees Huysmans, Tregroes Waffles

Growing from a small shop in Tregroes outside the small town of Llandysul, later moving into the town itself due to increasing demand, brining an expanded local workforce who remain integral to the continued success:

“Everybody in Tregroes Waffles contributes to their own ability to the empire. It’s not about one person and our employee-owned setup means people are generally very loyal and supportive.”

Inspired by the John Lewis Partnership and a local company which became employee-owned, a trust was created in 2015 meaning all Tregroes Waffles employees would become beneficiaries of the company’s growth. Currently, employees own 40% of the business with a further 10% of shares going into the trust every year.

To ensure everyone sees the returns while continuing to support the community, a focus on business continuity, resilience and profitability remains vital, says Kees:

“We run a business that has to create its own income to survive and we should never lose sight of that. This is true whether you are a social business or a ‘normal’ business.

Having also diversified into the savoury food market with a range of cheese crackers, subsequent continued development of bakery facilities and the recent announcement that waffles would be going on sale in all Aldi stores, it looks as though there will be no pause in the prosperity for this people-focussed business pioneer.

If you would like to find out more about employee-ownership and how the Wales Co-operative Centre and Social Business Wales can support your social business, call us on 0300 111 5050 or email sbwenquiries@wales.coop.

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