“Local business woman, Dorothy Francis, is our rock,” says successful co-operative
Dorothy Francis, Chief Executive Officer of Co-operative and Social Enterprise Development Agency (CaSE-da), is celebrating being voted Leicestershire Business Woman of the year in recognition of almost 30 years of working in the co-op movement and her achievements in being at the helm of CaSE-da for 12 years and personally assisting to develop over 200 new co-operative and social enterprises.
Dorothy received her award in front of 800 people at the prestigious Jubilee Awards at Curve Theatre, Leicester on 19th November. The award ceremony was organised by the LeicestHERday Trust to recognise and thank the women who help enhance and change the lives of people in Leicestershire.
Dorothy won the Women in Business category and was particularly singled out for her sixteen-year involvement with Shepshed Carers Co-operative who provide care to elderly and infirm people to allow them to live independently in their own homes.
When Dorothy first began working with Pauline Graves and Sarah Pollard, the founders of Shepshed Carers in 1994, the duo were running the business out of Pauline’s dining room.
Thanks to their own hard work and help and support from Dorothy and CaSE-da, Shepshed Carers now operates across four locations, employs over 100 staff and has a turnover in excess of a million pounds.
They have even visited 10 Downing Street to offer advice to the prime minister on how to promote co-operatives to successfully replicate what Shepshed Carers does.
Their success is overwhelming but Sarah Pollard lays a part of that success firmly at Dorothy’s feet saying, “Dorothy is our rock. She has helped us from day one to be what we have become.”
Sarah particularly cited the way that Dorothy has help Shepshed Carers to develop and implement HR policies over the years. “We started as a co-operative of self employed individuals and then contracting arrangements meant that we had to change our legal structure to all members had to become employees. This brought with it a huge raft of HR and employment changes but Dorothy took us through this with ease. In fact the policies that she devised were so good that the local authority ended up adopting them! There are an awful lot of HR changes required to take a business from a two person enterprise to a multi site co-operative employing over one hundred people but Dorothy has dealt with everything we have ever asked her and has always does so cheerfully and professionally – she really is our personal rock”
Dorothy is modest about her achievements saying “ I have worked at CaSE-da, which is itself a co-operative, since 1985 and have been the CEO for 12 years but I have never lost my love of working with people to help them to achieve their dreams through setting up and running co-operatives and other social businesses. I consider myself fortunate to have spent so many years working with people who run businesses that not only trade for profit but also with the planet and people in mind. It’s an honour to be recognised for doing something that I enjoy so much.”
She continues, “CaSE-da’s business is to ensure that those requiring advice and assistance to set up and run co-operatives receive the best possible service. We take great care to ensure that people we work with are properly trained and equipped to run solid and sustainable co-operatives and social enterprises. I received help 27 years ago from Coventry Co-operative Development Agency to set up a co-operative business and that inspired me to enter this world of work – it’s great to be able to give something back and to work with so many wonderful co-operative businesses.”
A selection of the some of the most successful women in the East Midlands were invited to the Jubilee Awards as guest speakers, including Sheila Lock, Chief Executive of Leicester City Council; Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West; Sandra Pollock, National Chair at CMI Women in Management and Rajinder Bhuhi, Enterprise Learning Officer at University of Leicester.
Sandra Pollock said: “Women are good at business and women in business are good for Leicestershire and the UK economy. It’s time that this was acknowledged and by recognising successful women we are showing what is possible.”