Time for a cuppa sustainabili-tea?

Martin port

By Martin Port

29 June 2023

How much do you know about Bettys & Taylors?

If you have never been to Yorkshire and sat in a Bettys tea room or sipped a piping hot cup of Taylors’ Yorkshire tea, these are two of the region’s most beloved brands.

A century ago, these businesses were rivals. When Frederick Belmont opened his first tea room in Harrogate in 1919, he was the upstart stealing trade from the brothers Charles and Llewellyn Taylors’ flagship branch at Café Imperial on Parliament Street, just a stone’s throw away.

They may have competed for trade but they were united in their values and approach to business: the finest ingredients, the best service, appreciation for nature and our planet, and the utmost respect for community. These were the foundations underpinning these great companies.

I recently met Rachel Fellows, the Collaborative CEO of Bettys & Taylors, at a Business in the Community meeting. I sit on the board of BITC and have been privileged to meet some of the most inspiring and extraordinary leaders from the region. 

She explained the value of strong foundations, and how, as a leader today, she is building on the values and ethos that her forbears painstakingly and lovingly crafted. This got me thinking about entrepreneurship, and the importance of creating companies and programmes within those companies that are built to last.

Right now, I am watching the company I founded become a stronger and more dynamic organisation because a great leader is building on the cornerstone values and principles that I created. 

It’s a wonderful thing to witness. When I started BigChange, I knew that I wanted to prioritise sustainability and community, create an unbeatable culture of opportunity and inclusion for our people, and become a champion for enterprise. Richard Warley, who succeeded me as CEO, has taken those values and continues to build on them, bringing his own ideas and method into play. 

The combination is helping to turn a solid structure into a timeless fortress. Like me, Richard is creating momentum that will enable BigChange to continue thriving 50 years, or even 100 years in the future – we won’t be around to see it, but we know we will have been vital custodians along the way.

In the sixties, Bettys acquired CE Taylor & Company, uniting the brands and building on top of solid foundations, ensuring both unique businesses could thrive. 

Rachel told me about how the organisation’s values have been expressed in the decades since. Betty & Taylors Group launched its Trees for Life campaign – which supports both people and planet – in 1990, with a pledge to plant a million trees. The business soon smashed that target and, today, has planted over 5m trees around the world and helped protect an area of rainforest the size of the Yorkshire Dales.

Just over a decade ago, the Cone Exchange, Betty & Taylors’ community scrap store and recycling facility, was born. This unique organisation encourages school children to recycle in exchange for Cone Exchange rewards, supports social enterprises by providing its own waste and waste from other businesses to use for crafts, provides meaningful work experience and placements for young people with additional learning needs, and raises funds through sales of waste for local good causes.

The idea came from a young man with learning difficulties, who was touring the tea and coffee factory with some of his peers. He asked to take a cardboard cone home to make an angel for the top of his Christmas tree. Soon more schools were asking for cones and the idea of the Cone Exchange was born.

Each leader at Bettys and Taylors has augmented the company’s legacy, adding their own layer. I believe this is why Bettys & Taylors has traded on through more than a century, and is still sought after today.

I love this approach, and I’m enjoying watching my own legacy evolve through Richard’s innovations and dedication to BigChange’s values.

Every business owner should think about the future, and do their utmost to lay the foundations that future leaders and managers can build upon. To paraphrase an ancient Greek proverb, a business grows great when founders plant trees in whose shade they will never sit.  

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