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  1. TopTop #1
    bluetarp
     

    Advice on cooperative business models

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone here has any experience with worker-owned businesses/cooperatives?

    With the short-term economy continuing to be stagnant, the continued decline of the US economy in general, and with the lack of credit available (even if you have a high credit score, banks are not giving out loans), it makes sense to me to pool resources and to promote and become involved with worker-owned co-ops.

    Here's a little about me: I've been a personal chef for the past few years and I was a baker a long time ago. I also have a couple of certificates in cheesemaking. In between culinary careers, I went to college and I worked as a researcher for a while for several state agencies. Recently I have been updating my skills in Santa Rosa JC's wonderful baking and pastry program, because I want to get back into working with my hands rather than with computers all of the time.

    Even with my experience, education, work ethic, and passion, when I apply to jobs in the greater Bay Area (Sonoma, Marin, Napa, East Bay, SF etc)....the potential employers are offering only $10-12/hr and without benefits....yet they want me to do anything and everything for them.

    Instead of expending all of my energy working for someone else, I've been thinking about starting or joining in a worker-owned co-op. I'm not expecting to become rich - I'm just hoping to be viable and I'm not afraid of hard work.

    I have little experience with this business model, except that I have had friends in the past who were involved in co-ops. Unfortunately, most of these co-ops did not appeal to me - they were not clean, the workers were often slovenly and unskilled, they were badly run as organizations, and they only appealed to a very limited clientele. The most successful of these that I have seen that are very well-run, successful and clean are Arizmendi and Rainbow Foods in SF and Bob's Red Mill up in Oregon (which unfortunately didn't start as a co-op, but is now one).

    Anyways, if anyone has any advice, I'd sure appreciate it. If you have worked as a co-op member or started one, I'd love to hear about it. If you want any pastries or cookies in exchange for in-depth info or help with a business plan or leads to funding resources etc, let me know.

    Thanks, Shane
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  3. TopTop #2

    Re: Advice on cooperative business models

    There is an organization of bay area co-ops that can help you. Their web site can be found at:

    https://nobawc.org/

    Their web site is very informative and educational. They have a staff person that you can reach by e-mail or phone who can help direct you to other helpful places to look for even more information about the questions you ask.
    [email protected]

    Telephone:
    (510) 482-4547

    Within the co-op type business model, there are a variety of ways in which they are organized. The smaller ones are usually collectives in which everyone decides on everything together by either consensus or majority rule. As they get larger, they sometimes have committees that do certain tasks and make decisions. Another model is a Board of Directors and/or a hierarchical management system. There are successful examples of all of these different models in our SF Bay Area.

    Working at a co-op is a labor of Love and can also be frustrating at times, just like any other job, but if you are idealistic and into it, there is no better way to go.

    You will need a business plan, a set of bylaws, members and money to get started. If you are starting a bakery, you may be able to get some seed money and organizational help from:

    Arizmendi. Bakeries/pizzerias specializing in bread, pizza and pastries.

    Emeryville: 4301 San Pablo Avenue, Emeryville, 94608; (510) 547-0550; www.arizmendi-bakery.org
    Oakland: 3265 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, 94610; (510) 268-8849; www.lakeshore.arizmendi.coop
    San Francisco (Mission): 1268 Valencia Street, San Francisco, 94110; (415) 826-9218; www.valencia.arizmendi.coop
    San Rafael:
    1002 Fourth St., San Rafael, 94901; (415) 456-4093; www.fourthstreet.arizmendi.coop

    Good Luck in your endeavor! I hope you are successful!

    Tom

    Quote Posted in reply to the post by bluetarp: View Post
    Hi, I was wondering if anyone here has any experience with worker-owned businesses/cooperatives?

    With the short-term economy continuing to be stagnant, the continued decline of the US economy in general, and with the lack of credit available (even if you have a high credit score, banks are not giving out loans), it makes sense to me to pool resources and to promote and become involved with worker-owned co-ops.

    ....
    Last edited by Barry; 10-25-2013 at 11:17 AM.
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  5. TopTop #3
    bluetarp
     

    Re: Advice on cooperative business models

    Wow, thanks Tom. And thanks to the folks who replied to me privately too. I appreciate hearing about your experiences.

    NoBAWC ("no boss") looks like a great organization. They even have a job board, which is very cool. I have checked out Arizmendi and they are actually looking for another baker right now in the San Raphael location because they are expanding into a lunch/sandwich service. I am going to check them out as an organization ...like how they fund new bakeries and set them up etc and their structure.

    I have been involved in small collectives before so I'm a little familiar with some of their joys and pitfalls, but they were not businesses which I feel like is a whole other realm and I did not help start them. I volunteered with SHARE in Seattle (temporary homeless shelters situated in empty church spaces), Books to Prisoners, Food not Bombs and a couple more smaller ones that didn't last long due to bad infighting and power struggles. One dis-organization was so bad, that the "core" members decided to vote everyone else out in their final and terminally awful decision making process...now that's a great way to build community!!!

    Overall, I'm surprised there's so few worker-owned collectives. I guess I'm a bit naive.

    I keep thinking about my Norwegian relatives though who lived on farms in Minnesota. They were all very hardy and actively farmed into their late 80's and they collectively owned heavy equipment with their neighbors and would help each other out with their harvests and when something needed to be built or repaired. I guess that sort of thing is easier in some ways when you are in a somewhat isolated farming community and you share a common cultural/ethnic background.
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