Revealing the Benefits of Employee Ownership at CreativeMC

EVAN NICHOLSON
10/6/2022
Photography by Jonah Reenders

CreativeMC is part of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which enables staff to own the company through shares of stock. A rare employee benefit, ESOPs have proven to drive retention, motivation and productivity. In fostering a culture of collaboration, creativity and transparency, our team also delivers added value for clients.

CEO Mick Hawk addresses staff at <em>The Wrap event</em>
CEO Mick Hawk addresses staff at The Wrap event

Employee Ownership Explained

Did you know that CreativeMC is owned by our employees? We are structured as an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) – a benefit plan that gives employees ownership of the company through shares of stock. ESOPs are set up as trust funds into which companies put shares, which are then allocated to eligible employees through vesting, granting workers access to employer-provided assets (i.e., the shares) over time. 

There are approximately 6,500 ESOP companies in the United States, and as of 2021, CreativeMC has joined the ranks of employers who recognize the standout benefits ESOPs provide to employees, the office culture, the company’s profits, and beyond. 

“You have to be altruistic to pursue an ESOP. Most of the people who work on ESOPs are working in the industry because they love the idea behind them. The lawyers, the ESOP trustees, the government employees – they really love the fundamental nature of what an ESOP stands for,” said CEO Mick Hawk. 

 

Several members of the Brand Stylist team hit the red carpet with Hawk: (L to R) Lisa Gruzas, Mena Trigueros, Tatiana Gonzalez, and Jackie Gregoire
Several members of the Brand Stylist team hit the red carpet with Hawk: (L to R) Lisa Gruzas, Mena Trigueros, Tatiana Gonzalez, and Jackie Gregoire

Why CreativeMC became an ESOP

When Hawk became our CEO in 2018, he wanted to honor the spirit the company cultivated during the tenure of our longtime prior CEO, Zachary Tyler. Offering ownership to employees, many of whom had long tenures with the company, would not only achieve that but also provide significant potential financial benefits to the company. Those include no longer paying capital gains taxes and federal & state income taxes, as well as enhancing our ability to drive employee retention, motivation and productivity.

“During the process of setting up the ESOP, I would wake up every day and know I did the right thing for the company – it’s great to just give the company away to the employees!” Hawk said. 

As the battle for talent escalates, an ESOP offers employees a rare benefit: a free retirement plan. It motivates our diverse group of workers no matter their level or role, from our brand stylists to our warehouse team and our project coordinators to our C-suite executives. 

This ESOP was perfect for CreativeMC because it fit seamlessly into our culture and provided a competitive edge amongst job seekers who are looking for a dedicated, collaborative work environment,”

Brand Services Director Melissa Miller, who had previously been part of an ESOP company, believes it will absolutely improve people’s work ethics as we get further into our ESOP experience. “I was elated to hear this company was going to be an ESOP,” Miller said. “In my first ESOP company, I saw first-hand how it brought teams together.”

How employee ownership impacts clients and culture

Our employees already worked hard before but now they are even more dedicated to creating a culture of collaboration, creativity, and transparency; providing trendsetting ideas for our clients; to impacting the company’s profitability – all, ultimately, while securing their financial future.

With an owner’s mindset, CreativeMC’ers are already suggesting ideas that will have a positive impact on the business. For example, the selection and vetting of our suppliers and retail brand partners, while always critical to the success and values of our business, is amplified through an ESOP. Understanding how cultivating relationships with top-quality vendors can impact our business at large affects decision-making. 


Over the past two years, the company has developed Swag for Good, a platform to showcase brands and products that are eco-friendly, benefit social impact causes, and support businesses owned by under-represented communities, such as women, people of color, and LGBTQs.

As a Hispanic woman, it’s very important to me that diversity is not a corporate policy; it’s who we are and part of everything we do. I feel even more empowered to advocate for prioritizing these important issues as an employee-owner.” 

In August, we announced our inaugural ESOP share price at our annual employee meeting and celebration dubbed The Wrap –  a reference to the prior year performance wrap-up and a nod to Hawk’s film production roots (end-of-film production events are called “wrap parties”). Following The Wrap, about 50 percent of CreativeMC’ers received their first share certificates (our employees can earn shares after one year of employment). 

Trigueros commented, “This ESOP feels like a reward for our future. I want to work at CreativeMC forever.”

As we continue to deliver stylish, quality promotional products and corporate gifts to our clients, we’ll positively affect the bottom line and our share price will rise, thereby increasing the financial benefit for those who have vested and those who are on track to join their colleagues in this rare employee benefit. 

An ESOP is for the benefit of the company; it’s for the benefit of the employees. We feel deeply about the people who work here, especially those who have been here for a while. We’re like a family.”

ESOP Quick Facts

In simplified terms, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) are free retirement plans for employees.

  • Most ESOPs require no out-of-pocket contributions from employees who can benefit when the company performs well.
  • There are approximately 6,500 ESOPs in the United States with 10.5 million employee owners.
  • CreativeMC became an ESOP company in 2020 and about half of our employees received certificates of shares representing their ownership interests as their shares vest.
  • ESOPs have been proven to:
    • Improve employee retention
    • Increase productivity
    • Motivate employees
    • Contribute to business health and longevity
    • Keep jobs local
    • Counter wealth inequality
    • Excel at providing employee training

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