Edinburgh print and design firm with 30 staff moves to employee ownership

An Edinburgh-based print and design firm with 30 members of staff has become the latest Scottish business to move to employee ownership.

Launched from the living room of couple Bob and Joelle Kirkpatrick’s home in the middle of the 2008 financial crash, Wee Blue Coo has established itself as a successful business, dispatching thousands of products globally each week and selling its products across several online marketplaces.

The company founders were both made redundant in 2006 before setting up their business, creating posters from public domain images to retail on eBay. They now have a team of 30 people – some of whom have been employed for more than ten years – with the business generating an annual revenue of more than £2 million.

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Having previously gifted a 10 per cent shareholding to long-term employee Allan Gray for his hard work and dedication, the three shareholders have now agreed a switch to employee ownership, safeguarding the future of the Leith business.

Wee Blue Coo Ltd has a team of 30 members of staff and an annual revenue of more than £2 million.Wee Blue Coo Ltd has a team of 30 members of staff and an annual revenue of more than £2 million.
Wee Blue Coo Ltd has a team of 30 members of staff and an annual revenue of more than £2 million.

The entrepreneurs began exploring the succession model in 2019 before enlisting the help of David Morrison of EQ Accountants. The owners began the process of transitioning to an employee ownership trust at the start of 2021 with the move being facilitated by Carole Leslie from Ownership Associates as well as the teams at EQ Accountants and legal firm Anderson Strathearn.

The employee ownership trust was introduced in the 2014 Finance Act to encourage business owners to consider a sale to employees as a feasible succession solution.

Bob Kirkpatrick said: “There are perhaps more well-known ways to make an exit from a business, however, this was the only real option to ensure we safeguarded the futures of those who have contributed to our company’s success. The employee ownership trust seems like a perfect and logical way to structure any business.”

Joelle Kirkpatrick added: “Being a people led business has always been the very essence of who we are, which is why becoming an employee-owned business was the only option that was seriously considered.

“Running our business this way has ensured we have a motivated and dedicated team who feel valued. That has always been more important to us than the bottom line. Relaying this news to our team has, without a doubt, been the highlight of my career so far.”

Warehouse manager Graeme Slater said: “Now that we are an employee-owned company it means that we all have a say in the direction the company takes in the future. This is a great opportunity to help us to grow as a company and offers us the chance to enjoy a more secure and prosperous future.”

Leslie, who has worked on the transitions of more than 80 private businesses to the succession model, said: “We are continuing to see increased interest from a variety of different businesses across contrasting sectors in making the move to employee ownership.

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“It is inspiring to see two entrepreneurs succeed in their business throughout the difficulties of redundancy and a global financial crash. It is testament to their hard work that they have reached this momentous milestone.”

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