The Ohio Employee Ownership Center

Tag Archives: Cooperative

New Issue of Owners @ Work Now Available

Cover imageCovered in this issue:

  • We the Owners: Telling the Employee Ownership Story With Images–An Interview with Mary Ann Beyster
  • George Cheney Returns to Mondragon
  • The Myth of the ESOP as a Gift
  • OEOC Answers Questions About Crowdfunding
  • The Cooperative Development Center at Kent State University: Celebrating the “International Year of the Cooperative”
  • Ohio ESOP Update: Ohio’s ESOP Companies Regain Ground Lost to the Great Recession, While Paying Almost $16 billion to Retirees and Beneficiaries

Available in 3 web-optimized formats:


2013 Up & Coming Up & Running (Food Co-op Conference) scheduled for March 1-2

Save the Date for Up and Coming, Up and Running 2013

Hosted by the Indiana Cooperative Development Center
March 1 & 2, with Optional In-Depth Workshops on February 28

Starting a new food co-op, or in your first years of operation Up and Coming, Up and Running 2013, held in Bloomington, Indiana, offers the resources and connections needed to move new co-ops from dream to reality, ensuring their success.

Learn from expert advisors, industry leaders, co-op resource developers, and your peers. Tour the three Bloomingfoods stores, its Commissary Kitchen, and learn about project management in relation to the newest Bloomingfoods project—a neighborhood store scheduled to open in Summer 2013.

The Up and Coming, Up and Running Food Co-op Startup Conference, now in its 4th year, brings people together who are shaping the future for new co-ops in communities all across the United States. Plan ahead to ensure the participation of steering committee, board, and staff members of your co-op project.

Scholarship Opportunities 

For more information, visit www.icdc.coop and contact Debbie Trocha of the Indiana Cooperative Development Center: 317-692-7707.  A limited number of scholarships are available from the Indiana Cooperative Development Center through a grant from the Howard Bowers Fund.

Food Co-op Initiative is also offering a limited number of registration and travel scholarships to early registrants. Contact Rosie at: rosie@fci.coop for information. Applications are due by Dec. 26.

Scholarships may be available through the Ralph K. Morris Foundation Cooperative Leadership Fund.  Please visit their website at www.ralphkmorrisfoundation.org for more information.

City of Buffalo Honors Cooperators in Recognition of UN’s International Year of Co-ops

On June 12, the Common Council of the City of Buffalo unanimously adopted a proclamation to recognize the value of cooperatives in Buffalo.

We embrace cooperative business principles, including democracy and social responsibility. We use a cooperative business model that strives to meet members’ needs, not maximize profits for a few. . . We believe we are stronger together than we are individually. And we strive to make Buffalo and the Western New York area a better place to live and work.

Official copies of the proclaimation were presented to representatives of seven co-ops including Fancy and Delicious Bakery, the newest start-up worker’s cooperative in Buffalo. Fancy and Delicious will be hosting a Worker Cooperative Forum and will be attending the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperative’s Conference in Boston.

Read more and learn more about the Cooperatives who participated in the Common Council event on Buffalo Rising.

Benefits of Cooperatives Gain International Exposure

2012: The International Year of Cooperatives

 Since 1959, the UN has designated International years to draw attention to major issues of global importance. The International Year of Co-operatives is intended to raise public awareness, highlight the strengths of the co-operative business model and promote the formation and growth of co-operatives.

This is an acknowledgement by the international community that co-operatives drive the economy, respond to social change, are resilient to the global economic crisis and are serious, successful businesses creating jobs in all sectors.

On July 7, 2012, UN member nations will also be celebrating the International Day of Co-operatives, and the theme will be tied in with the International Year, “Cooperative enterprises build a better world.”

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) first celelbrated International Day of Co-operatives in 1923 and the group is one of the key supporters of the International Year. The ICA provides contacts, information on events and resources to help raise awareness of the co-operative business model.

Cooperatives: Doing Business Better

This week’s Christian Science Monitor has a nice article highlighting the cooperative business model and 2012 being the International Year of the Cooperative.

Two important points are made in the piece:

Co-ops worldwide represent much more than hippie grocery stores: They’re a fast-growing way to do business better in fields from finance to agriculture to industry…

…Cooperatives are more widespread than you might think. From banks and credit unions to apartment buildings to worker-owned businesses, co-ops appear in every facet of today’s economy. In most cases, they formed in response to economic crises like the Great Depression, or to let small groups compete in monopolized markets. In 2012, both of those conditions exist – and unsurprisingly, so do cooperatives.

All too often when talking to the general public about cooperatives, misconceptions and misunderstandings occur about the nature and scope of cooperative enterprises. The truth is, there is enough flexibility in the cooperative model to handle any type of business endeavour.

Program Provides Understanding of Cooperatives

If you’re interested in learning more about cooperatives, we invite you to attend the Ohio Cooperative Symposium: Cooperative Business Structure for Small Business Owners and Operators in Akron on April 19. This program is underwritten by the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant and brought to you at no cost.

Cooperative enterprises are successful and common business models playing a vital role in our local communities. This session is for anyone interested in learning more about cooperatives and talking with people who have worked with successful co-ops. Sessions will include basic and advanced cooperative topics as well as tracks on developing Co-ops and Cooperative activities in the Food Community.

For more information on topics to be discussed and registration click here.

A Cooperative Can Be An Innovative and Competitive Business Strategy for Today’s Economy

The AllBusiness website has an interesting article on the use of employee-owned cooperatives in small businesses. The article highlights a number of companies, including Cleveland’s own Evergreen family of cooperatives, who have used the cooperative model to empower and motivate their employees. A few have even used the model as a tool for ownership succession.

The article restates a familiar objection to cooperatives:

Co-ops have long been dismissed as touchy-feely experiments in business socialism, but with growing pressure on many traditional companies, the co-op model is getting increased attention — not just as a political statement of owner-worker solidarity, but as a fresh approach to business success.

For some people, cooperatives may indeed conjure up negative images of “socialism.” But for the many cooperative members around the country, the idea that they are engaging in some form of Utopian exercise would be some fresh news indeed (we cover this and other misconceptions about cooperatives in a previous post on our blog.)

It should be also noted that the author throws different types of cooperatives into the same jumbled bag. Employee cooperatives are part of a broad family of cooperative businesses, which include agricultural co-ops like Land of Lakes or Agland, which are owned by their farmer members (as mentioned in the article); credit cooperatives like credit unions, which are owned by their depositor members; mutual insurance companies like Nationwide and State Farm, which are owned by their policy holder members; and consumer co-ops like some natural food stores, which are owned by their customer members. For many of these other types of cooperatives, the employees may or may not also be owners of the business.

The OEOC has an extensive practice in setting up new employee-owned cooperatives, as well as significant experience with ownership transitions to employee-owned cooperatives. If you are interested in exploring this option in your company, drop us a line.

Guest Post: 7 Myths About Worker Cooperatives

Note: this is a guest posting from Jim Anderson of the OEOC and George Cheney of the University of Texas.


Jim Anderson and George Cheney

The Great Recession has taken a huge toll at all levels of society.  We have little time to debate the causes.  We need pragmatic solutions for economic development, job creation, collective wealth building and bold, creative leaders who can build momentum  in our communities.  Intensive employee involvement within a culture of success makes enterprises work.  Employee-owned businesses, organized as cooperatives, offer great potential for serious consideration across the country.  Yet, there are a number of myths that persist regarding cooperatives.  We discuss these myths and offer our ideas on how to get beyond them.

Myth #1:  Worker cooperatives are a form of socialism.  Fact: At a time when all citizens are concerned with job creation, it’s important to stress that co-ops are not centralized programs but rather grassroots economic development initiatives. Worker cooperatives are capitalist enterprises. However, their equity or worth is not publicly traded in the stock market; nor are these firms subject to the whims of distant owners. Worker co-ops distribute ownership among members, who are all invested equally in the company and its successes. Employees are also nearby residents and consumers; they build on local pride through being owners in their workplace and they keep earnings in the community, creating a multiplier effect in the local economy.

Myth #2:  Worker cooperatives are not-for-profit.  Fact: Most worker coops are private for-profit firms.  They need viable product or service niches and therefore must be profitable to survive.  If there’s no margin, there’s no mission.  At the same time, if there’s no mission, there’s no soul to the enterprise.  Financial solvency is essential, but so is the thoughtful commitment to customers, stakeholders, and community.

Myth #3: Worker cooperatives do not have managers and other experts. Fact:  Worker co-ops enlist various kinds of expertise while also encouraging worker-owners to develop their skills to advance in the company. Effective worker co-ops employ an array of professionals, including experienced managers, accountants, engineers, attorneys, marketers, and so forth, along with workers who are close to the basic products or services.   Worker-owners have opportunities for advancement and leadership, and they also benefit from the company’s commitment to them.

Myth #4: Worker cooperatives suppress creativity and innovation.  Fact: Worker cooperatives are all about entrepreneurship and innovation, while meeting community economic and social needs and growing toward the future.  Beyond mere survival, worker cooperatives use a mix of individual and group incentives to encourage new ideas and their applications.  The array of incentives actually makes worker cooperatives more resilient than many traditional firms in both good and bad economic scenarios.

Myth #5: Worker cooperatives cannot grow to have a big impact on community economic development.  Fact: The cooperative economy focuses on small- and

medium-size business development, but many of these businesses grow through acquisitions, mergers, and strategic alliances.  In fact, most large businesses began as smaller enterprises. Ultimately, through collaboration as well as competition, worker cooperatives can become stable parts of urban as well as rural economic mixes.

Myth #6:  Worker cooperatives are short-term enterprises. Fact:  Stakeholders in businesses, whether traditional or cooperatively owned, are committed to long-term success.  Very few organizations of any kind, regardless of sector or industry, last more than a few decades.  Some worker cooperatives are large, well-established enterprises that have become part of the economic bedrock of their communities and regions.  There are sound examples of this in the United States and Canada as well as in many other countries around the world.

Myth #7:  Worker cooperatives are feasible only for a few kinds of business.  Fact:  There are thriving worker cooperatives in U.S. businesses ranging from agriculture and food and beverage services to clothing and household appliance manufacturing to law and journalism to transportation to high tech and alternative energy development.  The worker-cooperative model is not one-size fits all but rather one that can be adapted to specific business, sector, and community needs.

In sum, the worker cooperative is a flexible and well-tested model that should be part of the tool kit of inventive responses by policy makers and business leaders to today’s community and global economic needs.  Worker co-ops can be designed to take advantage of market niches, fit community needs, and build stable, prosperous, and just enterprises.

For further information, please consult the following resources:

Cooperative Curriculum   http://cooperative-curriculum.wikispaces.com/

Industrial Cooperatives Association (ICA Group)   http://www.ica-group.org/

Ohio Employee Ownership Center   http://www.oeockent.org

Mondragón Cooperative Corporation  http://www.mondragon-corporation.com/ENG.aspx

National Cooperative Business Association   http://www.ncba.coop

Third Coast Workers for Cooperation   http://www.thirdcoastworkers.coop

US Federation of Worker Cooperatives   http://www.usworker.coop


Jim Anderson, Program Coordinator, Ohio Employee Ownership Center, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio 44242. Tel.:  330-672-0999 (o); 330-265-4109 (c). Jander77@kent.edu

George Cheney, Professor, Department of Communication Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A1105, Austin, TX 78712.  George.cheney@austin.utexas.edu

Green Clean Co-op Marks First Year in Business

Congratulations to the the five members of the Beatitude House Green Clean Co-Op for completing their first year in business providing residential and institutional cleaning services in the greater Youngstown area, as of September 30. While brightening the homes for a growing list of satisfied customers, members are honing their own skills in cleaning, business and customer services. The co-op members were recognized for their achievements at the Beatitude House 8th annual Cornerstone Dinner on October 17. The Green Clean Co-op is supported by Beatitude  House and sponsored by the Ursuline Sisters as part of its mission to help disadvantaged women and children transform their lives. For more information see http://www.beatitudehouseonline.org/


It’s National Co-Op Month Too

I was just reminded that in addition to being Employee Ownership month, October is also National Co-Op month. The good folks at the National Cooperative Grocer’s Association (NCGA) have a wonderful intro to all things cooperative. Highlight is their “find a Co-op” searchable database of cooperative organizations. Check it out…