Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees visits EOA member Torchbox amid evolving employee ownership landscape

Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees, chats to James Leavesley, Olly Willans and Lisa Ballam, at Torchbox’s Bristol office.

EOA member Torchbox – a 100% employee owned, award-winning digital agency focused on not-for-profit and third sectors – was delighted to recently host a visit from the Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees. The visit aimed to celebrate employee ownership and help to to deepen the mayor’s understanding of EO business models, as well as exploring the ways the council can proactively assist these unique companies with the challenges they encounter.

Lisa Ballam, head of marketing at Torchbox said: At Torchbox, we’re eager to demonstrate how a business can be profitable and responsible when governed by its workers. We invited Marvin to hear about our journey, how EO companies can be socially responsible, and to encourage others thinking about this route succession.”

Over the last four years, Torchbox has transformed from a founder-led team of 60 to a global employee-driven powerhouse of 150 co-owners. This transition has allowed them to challenge the traditional business model and prove that it’s possible to run a respected, progressive, and financially robust company that values its workforce above all.

Torchbox is deeply committed to diversifying its talent pool, minimising its carbon footprint, and exploring sustainable avenues for business expansion in the US.

Torchbox and the Mayor discussed topics including: 

  • The One City Approach, where partners work together to encourage collaboration across sectors, working on shared goals to reduce inequalities in society. 
  • Support to reach wider audiences for the Torchbox Academy, which takes on new students every year.
  • Opportunities for Torchbox to work with schools on tech schemes to educate and inspire early in the educational program. 
  • Opportunities for aligning Torchbox and the Mayor’s connections with the University of Pennsylvania and bolstering relationships in the US.

Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, said: It was great to visit the team at Torchbox, and hear about the exciting work being done from their Bristol office. They are another example of the fast-growing and exciting technology sector we have in the city.

They are doing impressive work, for huge organisations, on an international level. With clients including NASA, Oxfam, the University of Pennsylvania, and Tate London, it’s brilliant to see this work coming out of Bristol.”

I’m looking forward to forming a strong working relationship with them and discovering ways of integrating Torchbox’s expertise into Bristol One City, including connecting their academy to more local talented young people.”

James Leavesley, Torchbox CEO adds: Torchbox has a thriving office in the heart of Bristol. It was fantastic to meet with Marvin to understand how we can work closer with local schemes to give back to the community and help Torchbox prosper.

Lisa Ballam, head of marketing at Torchbox said: “It was a positive experience, with lots of discussion about the benefits of being employee-owned, our set-up at Torchbox, and how the council can work with organisations like ours to help grow our diversity and inclusion and support social impact causes locally.”

The Mayor’s visit times with recent changes in the employee-ownership landscape, including Jeremy Hunt’s proposed overhaul of employee-ownership schemes. While these reforms aim to boost participation in Save as You Earn (SAYE) and Share Incentive Plan (SIP), there’s controversy brewing around the proposed tax crackdown on entrepreneurs who transition their companies to Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs).

Browse more member case studies and insights on our news and resources section