eQS acquires Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training and consultancy specialist Challenge Consultancy in seven-figure deal

Left to Right – Femi Otitoju, Founder (Challenge Consultancy); Jane Farrell, Founder (EW Group) Rachael Wilson, Managing Director, DEI Division (eQS); Donna Carty, Training Director (Challenge Consultancy); Anna Arbuthnot, Operations Director, DEI Division (eQS); Luise Usiskin, Training Manager (Challenge Consultancy)

eQS acquires Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training and consultancy specialist Challenge Consultancy in seven-figure deal

Leading Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) specialist eQuality Solutions Group (eQS) has acquired Challenge, a London-based DEI training and consultancy business in a seven-figure deal as part of its ‘buy and build’ strategy.  The move accelerates eQS’ goal to become the leading UK’s provider of DEI solutions and further solidifies its target of achieving £30m turnover by 2023.

Founded in 1988 by Femi Otitoju, Challenge Consultancy has a formidable and successful reputation in DEI, having delivered dynamic, transformational training on the global stage across four decades. Challenge Consultancy are pioneers in creating positive change in the private, public and education sectors.

Speaking on the business, Andy Gough, eQS CEO, commented “Challenge has an outstanding reputation in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion and has done incredible work to influence positive change in the workplace.”

This is the fourth acquisition in the last 12 months for the North-East headquartered Group which will see Challenge Consultancy’s 41 employees and consultants join forces with recently acquired EW Group, cementing eQS’ position as a leader in providing DEI solutions in the workplace. Femi will move to a founder role within the business alongside Jane Farrell, EW Group founder. The resulting DEI Division will be led going forward by EW Group’s current MD, Rachael Wilson.

Speaking of the acquisition, eQS’ CFO, Michael Hall, said: “The global DEI market is forecast to reach £6billion in the next 5 years and the acquisition of Challenge Consultancy is an important milestone for the group, instantly doubling the size of our DEI division and making eQS one of the largest independent players in the UK. The addition of Challenge Consultancy will see eQS’ revenues exceed £15 million and the accumulation of talent reinforces our ability to deliver industry-changing DEI strategies across multiple sectors and geographies”

On how it felt when the teams first met, Andy went on to say “there was an instant synergy and alignment of culture and values between the businesses. Through this acquisition we are perfectly placed to deliver a full suite of evidence-based DEI solutions across our three key verticals of education, business and government and adapt to the ever-changing needs of these sectors.”

Commenting on the acquisition, Femi explained: “The deal with eQS was perfect timing. Andy, Rachael, Michael and the leadership team at eQS are passionate about influencing positive change within the world and their ambition to be the leading global provider in DEI strategies and to make the world a more inclusive place, really stood out. eQS has a proven track record in delivering industry-leading disability solutions and we have always seen EW Group as a like-minded pioneer in DEI. I am confident that the market will respond positively to the combination of two of the strongest players in the sector, and to the greater capacity and expertise the wider Group will now offer.”

Femi went on to explain more about the business “The Challenge Consultancy team all identify as Black, Asian or Minority ethnic or LGBTQ+ or as disabled people – resulting in all trainers and consultants bringing direct, lived experience of diversity and equity issues. Most of us are also active in our communities, as volunteers, board members and campaigners and we bring the same passion that inspires us in these areas to the work we do with Challenge Consultancy. Our training is both challenging and fun. We have an established global client base – many of whom have been clients for more than 10 years. Our track record demonstrates the change we have created in multiple sectors including higher education, media and both public and private sectors.”

Confident that this new strategic partnership will deliver success, Rachael Wilson, MD of eQS’ DEI Division, explains: “The two organisations are leaders in the DEI space, with a combined heritage of 64 years as specialists. Together, our depth and breadth of expertise covers every industry and sector. The extent of our combined experience means we are able to respond to societal and workplace shifts, and to be leading on DEI concepts. The coming together of these two organisations creates a truly full-service diversity consultancy, with the capacity to operate at scale. Our combined team of experts numbers over 100 people.”

Advising eQS on their 4th acquisition was Corporate Finance Partner Carl Swansbury and Corporate Finance Director Rhiannon Nightingale of RG Corporate Finance, whilst financial and tax due diligence was carried out by RG’s Partner, Grahame Maughan, supported by Andrew Cameron and Jonathan Delaney.

Legal advice to eQS on the acquisition was provided by Corporate Partner Tom Pollard and Corporate Solicitor Liam Stubbs of Ward Hadaway LLP.

Sofia Jørgensen, Corporate Partner at law firm Gunnercooke LLP provided legal advice to Femi Otitoju.

RG Corporate Finance Director Rhiannon Nightingale said: “eQS’ latest acquisition enables the Group to expand its service proposition and geographical reach through the strategic acquisition of London-based Challenge Consultancy. This transaction brings together two market leaders in EW Group and Challenge Consultancy and enables eQS to achieve their goal of being the leading provider of DEI solutions in the UK.”

In December 2020, eQS secured a £20m funding package, with £12m committed along with a £8m accordion from Shard Credit Partners which has fuelled eQS’ recent spate of M&A activity as part of its ‘buy and build’ strategy. Further acquisitions are in the pipeline during 2022.

The latest acquisition of Challenge Consultancy follows hot on the heels of a series of recent acquisitions – including the purchases of South West-based Amano, as well as the acquisition of EW Group and The Educational Guidance Service (EGS).

Tyneside ed-tech firm eQS snaps up Devon firm Amano Technologies

Tyneside ed-tech firm eQS snaps up Devon firm Amano Technologies

A South Tyneside education specialist has made its first acquisition, two weeks after completing a management buyout and £20m investment deal.

Hebburn-based eQuality Solutions (eQS) has snapped up Amano Technologies, based in Devon, in moves it says put the company on track to achieve its turnover target of £20m by 2023.

The education technology specialist for inclusivity and mental wellbeing said it acquired Amano Technologies, in West Devon Business Park, Tavistock, to expand its geographic reach and to add capabilities in the education and workplace support market.

The acquisition marks eQS’s first step in an ambitious ‘buy and build’ strategy, supported with the £20m funding from London-based Shard Credit Partners, and aimed at expanding its specialist technology and service offering.

Amano’s 10 Devon-based staff and 160 consultants based across the South West will join eQS’ 120-strong team.

eQS provides assistive technology equipment, training and software that help to remove barriers to learning, and following the acquisition of Amano, it also provides learning support services known as non-medical help (NMH).

Amano’s services cover a range of one-to-one learning support services, designed to help study skills tutors, mental health mentors and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters.

eQS CEO Andy Gough said: “Amano has an outstanding reputation for providing high quality services that improve people’s chances at life and the genuine care of its staff and company culture in maintaining these quality standards, reflects how we work at eQS. The undeniable synergy between our companies made this feel like a natural fit for both companies.

“We plan to double the Amano contribution to the eQS group over the next two years by investing heavily in marketing and utilising our existing sales channels.

“Our aim long-term is to build a national presence offering innovative, high-quality, specialist services, all led from our North East base.”

Amano cofounders Graham Coiley and Paul Wood launched the business 10 years ago and, having been approached by eQS, made the decision to sell the business earlier than planned.

Mr Coiley said: “The inclusion of Amano into the eQS family will give Amano much greater scope for growth in the future.

“We know the eQS team well, they are a professional company who share our approach to student support, particularly around quality and innovation.

“We are very proud that eQS plans to preserve and enhance the Amano reputation, continuing to use our fantastic systems and understanding the value of our committed consultants. We are excited to follow the future of Amano as its specialist support reaches even more people across the UK.”

Advising eQS on the acquisition was Newcastle-based RG Corporate Finance (RGCF), while legal advice was provided by Ward Hadaway.

RGCF partner and head of corporate finance Carl Swansbury said: “The acquisition of Amano is the first step in the fast-track growth plans eQS has set for the next three years.

“The team at RGCF will be actively identifying further acquisition opportunities, particularly of businesses that provide specialist disability and mental wellbeing services to the private sector and have their own proprietary software that can add value to eQS’ capabilities. We look forward to helping the eQS management team scale the business over the coming months.”