North Coast SBDCEureka and Crescent City California

Worker Owned

Worker Owned Cooperatives

Worker owned cooperatives (co-ops) are entities that buy and sell goods and services, just like traditional businesses, but they are owned by their workers, rather than by shareholders. Worker cooperatives empower workers to make decisions that impact their lives and livelihoods, learn new skills, and share equitably in a business's profits.

Cooperatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees or residents they have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the profits. Whether it is a new business idea or a current business that wants to convert, we are here to help you through the necessary steps - and to coach you in the most important aspect that sets co-ops apart from other businesses; to work as a group, equally taking part and sharing in the work and rewards. 

Worker Ownership Program

Worker Owned is committed to supporting existing co-ops and incubating new co-ops. The Worker Ownership Program helps you start or convert to a cooperative by offering you:

  • A free Introduction to Worker Ownership (3/23/2021) followed by a six-session Worker Owned Academy (April 2021).

  • The Worker Owned Academy is for you if you are serious about starting a cooperative and want to take skill-building classes to start your planning and development process. You also get the chance to get inspired by others who are thinking of starting Worker Owned Cooperatives. 
  • One-to-one business advising and coaching for the business owner converting to worker ownership and/or for the team of worker owners getting ready to launch.
  • A Worker Owned Incubator, where groups with a viable business idea complete the Academy then apply for intensive mentoring from the Worker Owned team. We provide the advising and coaching above, plus we also join your Cooperative Development Team meetings as guides and facilitators, from the beginning of the process to the launch of the business. 

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Cooperative Values

The International Cooperative Alliance lists the following principles as guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice:

1. Voluntary and Open Membership. Cooperatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control. Cooperatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

3. Member Economic Participation. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4. Autonomy and Independence. Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5. Education, Training and Information. Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of cooperation.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives. Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

Apply Now

It all starts here. Complete the application and submit your request. A member of the SBDC will follow up with you and help you achieve your small business goals -- at no cost to you.
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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.