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Nikwax celebrates becoming an Employee Ownership Trust

In February 2022, Nikwax took a new direction when founder, Nick Brown, transferred company ownership over to employees, alongside sister company Páramo®, in the form of an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) called GearForm®. What did this mean for the company? All employees, now known as Partners, have a share of the business (held in the Trust) so collaboratively the Partners own the business.

Fast forward to June 2022 and we got the opportunity to celebrate what has been a major change.

At an idyllic setting in the East Sussex countryside on a glorious summer’s day, Nikwax Partners from the UK, Poland, the Netherlands, and North America, got to celebrate alongside their Páramo Partners, as well as their new Partners from Colombia (GearForm SAS).

It was fantastic to bring all divisions of these companies together to mark such a large milestone.

We spent the day enjoying what we love most – the outdoors! Watching birds of prey at a falconry display, having a go at archery, and playing a range of outdoor games; it gave us the time to reconnect with one another – something that Covid prevented over the last few years.

It was also an opportunity for everybody to hear from our founder – Nick Brown – whose dream all those years’ ago to create some waterproofing wax for his leather boots so his feet could stay dry outdoors, led to the success that Nikwax is today.
The businesses gave me the chance to express myself. Expression comes in two parts here – an expression of my creativity, and a voice. Speaking of the creativity aspect, it still amazes me that a person with a third-class degree in Anthropology would have their name on 4 chemical patents. I am grateful for having been able to apply my ideas usefully.”

Nick went on to say, “What will GearForm do for you? Apart from supporting your lives, I hope that it will also give you a voice. Use that voice well because you are privileged to have it. It isn’t true that we are powerless to make changes. I hope that this organisation remains one that cares for people, and cares for the world we live in. But now it is down to YOU to define that, and not me.”

Nikwax is a close-knit community and every Partner is incredibly proud of all that Nikwax stands for and what it works to achieve – keeping outdoor enthusiasts dry, comfortable, and protected when active.

So, what do the staff think?

“For me Nikwax feels like a family, with different people sharing common values and common goals. Transition to EOT should preserve these values and ensure sustainable growth.” Tomasz Kruk, Nikwax Director of Mainland Europe Countries.

“It is a great opportunity for every Partner to get involved in the business. Not just being a cog in the machine, but to think like an owner and actively affect changes/improvements in the business they are part of.” Marika Nicholson, Nikwax ROW Account Manager.

Our EOT celebration marked the start of what will be an exciting journey with many opportunities to continue creating reliable, award-winning aftercare that looks after you and your kit – whatever the activity or whatever the weather – whilst continuing to contribute to the conservation and protection of the environment.

Nick Doyle, Director of Group Operations, who was involved in the transference to Employee Ownership says, “After a long and considered journey to becoming employee owned, we wanted to celebrate collectively, through an inclusive event which brought Partners together from across our group of companies. I think everybody should be incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the past 45 years from Nick Brown’s humble beginnings and getting to the point where we are now all Partners in the business!

As we look to the future, we want to demonstrate to the world that being innovative, successful, and profitable can go hand in hand with an approach that places people, sustainability and the planet at its centre. Our Partners are the key to unlocking that and it therefore felt only right to mark this monumental transition, which will continue our legacy, together. Thank you to everyone!”

We leave the last words to Nikwax’s new CEO – Adam Arnold:
“I think what this group of companies – and more importantly the people working for these companies – have achieved over the years is quite outstanding. 45 years later we are still going strong and still adding more people, more profit and contributing more to the planet as we continue to grow.

To Nick Brown – Thank you from all of the 300+ employees for being patient enough to continue the transition project through some very tough years – including the surreal years of Covid. Thank you for believing in the employees and not taking the easy route. Thank you for your generosity and kindness. Thank you for putting in place a set of values that are meaningful and which have set the foundations for us to grow in an honest way.”

Let’s see what the future brings for Nikwax and to the exciting adventures that lie ahead…





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Nikwax and Nick Brown Invest in the Future

45 years after founding Nikwax, Nick Brown is passing control and ownership to his employees

Building on 45 years of Nikwax history
February 1st, 2022, became a historic day for the Nikwax Brand. After 45 years of being owner and founder, Nick Brown has passed control to the employees, on three continents, by selling his business to our newly formed Employee Ownership Trust.

Back in 1977, Nick was living in London and had just finished university; he was both unemployed and in love with the outdoors – specifically long-distance walking and backpacking. Nick also had a flair for chemistry and he utilised this talent to create his first product – Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather – which he supplied to the 1980 Royal Geographical Society Karakoram Expedition, and which went on to sell in more than 50 countries.

Over the years, Nikwax has grown to be an international company, with branches in Mainland Europe, North America and South America. We are the only established waterproofing aftercare brand never to have used PFCs in our formulations (PFCs are associated with cancer and immune system damage, and are now known as the “forever chemicals” because they bio-accumulate). Our innovation is what led to the achievement of winning a prestigious 4 Queen’s Awards, the last being The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development in 2014 – the first outdoor brand to do so.

Nick explained how he feels about the transition,
“By passing on the business to the employees, I feel that I am not only looking after them, but also looking after the interests of our loyal customers. Outdoor people have come to have high expectations of Nikwax, at many levels, and I would not want them to be disappointed. So many companies end up being aggressively taken over and broken up, and lose their soul. This is our best shot at avoiding that and continuing the guiding principles.”

The future of Nikwax is in shared ownership – an Employee Ownership Trust
Nick is now 67, and whilst he hasn’t hung up his boots, he has been preoccupied for more than decade with how to achieve a smooth succession. The Nikwax legacy is one of trying to do business in a responsible way and taking our planet and peoples’ future into account. 4 years ago, the idea of an Employee Ownership Trust was suggested by Nick’s HSBC Bank Manager, Simon Austin, and that started a long and complex project that comes to fruition today, having been delayed by Covid-19.

The founding concept of an EOT is that it exists for the benefit of the employees and all, in effect, are partners whilst employed. Since their introduction, EOTs have become an increasingly popular route for owner/founders to achieve succession, whilst protecting the community of employees they have created.

And, finally, one percent for the planet and for people
Part of the transition is a watertight undertaking that one percent of turnover will be forevermore dedicated to environmental and social projects.

Maïté Angleys, Director of Sustainability for Nikwax, said, “1% for people and planet is about giving back. Nikwax has been here for 45 years and it will still be here in another 45 years’ time, which is why we want to do our best to protect the great outdoors for generations to come. To ensure continuity, Nick and his family will be involved in choosing the projects and organisations we support, giving us the chance to preserve our founding values into the future.”

Watch this space. With so much already achieved, and the buzzing enthusiasm of the work force, where will we, at Nikwax, go next?