CEO, The Phone Co-op
Vivian Woodell is the founder and Chief Executive of The Phone Co-op, one of the UK’s most innovative and most successful new co-operative enterprises. Since 1998, The Phone Co-op, which is owned and controlled by its consumer members, has built a profitable business with 30,000 telephone and Internet customers, over 70 employees, and an annual turnover of £11 million.
The Phone Co-op’s success is built on a radically different ethos from most telecoms businesses, putting customer-owners at the centre of the way the business is run. Its members have also provided all the capital the business needs. The Phone Co-op’s ethics, driven by members, also include more egalitarian treatment for colleagues (the top to bottom salary ratio is under 5:1) and a strong focus on environmental issues.
Vivian is also an elected director of The Midcounties Co-operative, one of the UK’s largest independent retail co-operatives with a turnover of over £1bn, where he also served as President for eight years, and currently serves on the Energy Committee, the board subcommittee which oversees Co-operative Energy. He is currently on the board of Co-operatives UK and has served as a member of the Senate and National Members’ Council at The Co-operative Group.
Prior to starting The Phone Co-op, Vivian had no background in telecoms, but had worked extensively in the co-operative movement. His earlier roles include: Executive Director of the Social Economy Consortium, which managed Co-operative and Social Economy development projects in Central and Eastern Europe, and Project Manager with the European Social Economy Information Network, ARIÉS. In the past he has served as a board member of CECOP (the European Confederation of Worker Co-operatives), as a member of the executive of CICOPA (the equivalent global body, part of the International Co-operative Alliance) and as a trustee of Co-operative and Community Finance.
In a Dragon’s Den style session the three finalists of the #DigiDen competition will pitch their ideas for a digital co-op. The winner of the £2,000 start-up funding and five days of business support will be picked by the audience.
Venture capital is not the solution! This session looks at the alternative forms of funding available to Co-ops including crowd funding, community shares and crypto equity.