The boss of a flourishing PR agency has revealed why she gave 10 per cent of her business away for free.
Sophie Milliken MBE founded Newcastle-based Moja in 2022 and is looking to hit £800,000 turnover in its third year.
Now she’s promoted Rachael Cook to the role of chief operating officer and given her a tenth of her business.
The gesture could be worth £500,000 in four years’ time if Moja hit all their growth targets.
Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies has praised Milliken’s actions, describing it as a ‘cracking deal’.
She wrote: “I’ve known Sophie for years – she’s a fantastic entrepreneur and a truly inspirational businesswoman and for me this just epitomises how you can do ‘the right thing’ in business and it’s not about money or profits. I can tell you that I know first hand when you’re this sort of person you get back in spades!”
Moja specialises in helping founders and corporates raise their profiles and as well as five full-time staff they work with a number of freelancers.
Cook officially joined Moja in October 2022 and Milliken said she quickly proved herself be a superstar.
“The fact that everyone I come into contact with in business asks me to help them ‘find a Rachael’ speaks volumes,” she said.
“She is very hardworking and has high standards. She really cares about people – both clients and the team. She is also exceptionally loyal.”
Cook even turned down the offer of a £20k pay rise from another company to stay with Moja.
Asked about her decision to give Cook 10 per cent of Moja she replied: “Because she’s worth it! It is a significant amount but I feel this reflects her current and potential contribution.
“We both started our careers at John Lewis where co-ownership is a key part of the business and this feels meaningful.
“I know Rachael is probably with me for the long haul but you can’t take loyalty for granted and I believe you should reward people fairly whenever you can.
“I don’t think Rachael would leave if I hadn’t have offered it but I also think it will encourage her to think more as a co-owner which will make her even more focused and strategic in how she leads the team.”
The entrepreneur admitted several people tried to talk her out of doing what she did.
“The legal team who set up our scheme told me it was very unusual to give so much away to one employee,” she said.
“They suggested 0.5 per cent was more typical. I’m aware of this from previous experience so made the decision consciously.
“Interestingly some fellow business owners that I thought might talk me out of it, (including our fractional CFO), told me she was worth every penny – and I couldn’t agree more!
“If we get the planned event in four-five years and she gets that cash, I think I’ll be more excited for her than for me. It will be a life-changing moment for her.”
Milliken recalled the first words Cook said to her after being told she’d get 10 per cent of the business. “You’re a legend, Milliken’,” she said. “It wasn’t a huge surprise as I’d spoken about doing this. She thanked me for always doing what I say I will.
“I think it’s really important to reward people fairly for their contribution. You should never take anyone for granted and look for ways you can incentivise and reward team members.
“For me, it’s always included flexible working and development opportunities. My team have all had opportunities to study for degree level qualifications which has been a real plus for them.
“One of my strongest values is doing what you say you will and when I spoke to Rachael about leaving the last business and setting up Moja, it was important that I could bring her across as soon as I was able to. She took a chance and it was right to show appreciation for that.”