In so many ways, this has been a year (not) to remember. Even so, there have also been times that have made our mouths smile and our hearts fill with pride. So, we would like to take a moment and highlight the positive changes that happened for us and our family of projects during 2020.

Cooperatives have always been particularly adept at pivoting, but this year pivoting the ways of meeting and conducting business became essential. Many of our food sector co-ops, like Red Emma’s and Taharka Brothers, altered their operation models. They added home delivery and/or switched to take-out only. Likewise, Thread Coffee opted to close their cafe entirely and focus exclusively on wholesale and direct-to consumer sales. Mera Kitchen Collective, known for their catering, had to make a pivot as well. They teamed up with Alma Cocina Latina and World Central Kitchen to offer free meals. To date they have cooked and served over ninety thousand completely free meals to communities around the city.

We are happy to be able to say that all of our projects have been able to remain open in some capacity. Some projects were even able to see an uptick in business. For example, Baltimore Bicycle Works had an increase in bike sales; Taharka Brothers increased sales when the option of home delivery was added.

Changes within BRED itself also took place. As a technical assistance provider, not being able to be in close contact with our coops and visit them onsite was a big change. All of our meetings moved to Zoom. We streamlined our online disbursal and loan application process. And we learned a lot about how to effectively build and maintain close relationships in a largely digital space.

Our public programming and training moved online as well, and we offered two series of webinars this spring and summer: Introduction to Cooperative Conversions and Co-op 101. We’ve doubled down on these online training modules. Working with one of our staff members, we created self-directed digital versions of our Coop Jumpstart tools, which will be released in early 2021. Last, we welcomed a current project officer to our staff collective, and we hired a new full time staff member.

BRED took on several new projects this year in varying stages, from infancy to established. Some of our proudest moments are when we can help a traditional business transition to an employee own cooperative business. Three businesses went through this process with us this year: Taharka Brothers, Appalachian Field Services, and Joe Squared. We are so happy to welcome them into our cooperative family.

Last but not least, we brought new investment into Baltimore City! BRED made our first $1M investment this year, and surpassed $3M in non-extractive loans made over the last five years.

There is still a lot of work to do in the new year to dismantle the corporate world. We are proud to be a leader in creating a cooperative ecosystem in Baltimore and will continue to uplift this work and contribute to the community of Baltimore City. Happy New Year!

Please Visit Some of the Co-ops We Support:

Taharka Brothers Ice Cream
Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse
ToBo Hair Salon
Thread Coffee
Cajou Creamery
Baltimore Bicycle Works
The Greener Kitchen
Mera Kitchen Collective
Appalachian Field Services
Joe Squared
Obran Cooperative
Montgomery County Taxi

Upcoming Supported Cooperatives:

Earthbound Building
Yeleen Beauty Makerspace
GRASS Baltimore