Thanks to everyone who attended our recent Co-op 101, Co-op 201, and Co-op Financing events. In addition to sharing information about worker cooperatives, we had deep conversations about specific aspects of cooperatives, and participants had great questions about the worker cooperative model and their ideas for worker cooperatives.
One attendee is a current business owner who is interested in converting their business to a worker cooperative or an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). If you didn’t realize this was an option, the UWCC has a webinar about employee ownership as a way for owners to transition out of their businesses: Webinar: Employee Ownership: A Business Succession and Retention Strategy. We are always happy to talk with business owners about converting to a worker cooperative as a succession strategy to keep local businesses running. And if you’re a worker at a business and the owner is interested in selling, feel free to reach out to us to see if you and your coworkers might be able to purchase the business as a worker cooperative.
Another attendee left with a list of current local worker cooperatives that might be collaborators for their project – including Small Axe (legal services) and Common Good Bookkeeping (bookkeeping and financial services). It’s great to see new cooperatives actively seeking partnerships with existing cooperatives – this is how we want to build our local cooperative ecosystem. If you are interested in learning more about the worker cooperatives currently in operation so you can think about how you can collaborate, MadWorC has a Shop Co-op List with brief descriptions.
We were joined by staff from Kiva and Shared Capital Cooperative to talk about how to finance worker cooperatives.
MCDC is a Kiva trustee, which simplifies the process of launching your campaign for a loan. If you aren’t familiar with Kiva and their model of microloans, you can check out kiva.org to learn more. Kiva’s local staff person, Isabella, is based out of the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) office. WWBIC also offers business development classes. In addition to their “So You Want To Start a Business” class (which is a useful place to learn more about what you’re getting into when you start a business), they have topic-specific classes on things like how to market your business and build a customer base, how to create a business plan, and how to work on the financial aspects of your business.
Shared Capital Cooperative is a cooperative lender. They are focused on lending to cooperatives and are a cooperative themselves. You can join the cooperative by investing – and knowing that any money you invest is then lent to cooperative businesses of all kinds, all around the country. Because they are focused on cooperatives, they understand some of the unique challenges that worker cooperatives face when looking for funding, such as individual guarantees, and their loan officers work with cooperatives to figure out how to make a loan work.
If you missed these sessions and want to learn more about any of these topics, you can reach out to Charity Schmidt at MCDC, at firstname.lastname@example.org.