WYPR published an article about Joe Squared. Written by Emily Sullivan, it explains how this business has stayed afloat amidst this pandemic. Joe Squared is just one of several Baltimore businesses converting to coops. Converting to a cooperative saves the business and all the workers receive the benefits.
One of the personal benefits of the cooperative structure is group decision making. Business hours, infrastructure, and pay, all become decisions made by everyone. This puts the power in the hands of the workers as a whole.
Sullivan writes “In the midst of the pandemic, those decisions include setting the price of drinks and establishing COVID-19 safety protocol. Using a voting system, the worker-owners have decided to operate take-out only in order to limit contact/covid spread and established a $3 service fee on each takeout order to boost the pay for front of the house employees from $3.63 an hour to $12. They decided to spread tips to the entire staff, ending the industry tradition of excluding back of the house employees, who work in the kitchen.” How amazing is that? To read more, follow the link below.
Taharka Brothers was the first business to receive a loan from BRED back in 2016. It is so wonderful to see them welcome the first round of worker owners. Converting a traditional business to a worker owned cooperative is so empowering. It benefits not only the workers but also the community. In the latest article about their conversion, Taharka Brothers talks with Next City about their experience with BRED.
“We only have loans through BRED. Part of that is the comfortability we have with them and who they are, them being the first company to give us a solid loan,” says McCoy. “The process has been quite educational, being a part of tracking the payments and having to really get a return to make those payments. BRED also helped with budgeting. The loan process just opened up a whole door to financial education for everyone here.”
After Obran Cooperative acquired Appalachian Field Services, AFS received a $1M investment from Seed Commons. Now their newest project, Obran Rising, has also received a $1M investment from Seed Commons. Obran Rising operates from the belief “that housing should be a human right” for everyone.
Joseph Cureton explains that “members have deepened their collective effort in the housing market to turn an extractive business model into an opportunity for collective wealth”. Therefore, all of the members of Obran Cooperative share control of the units as well as equity. Through Seed Commons’ investment, Obran Rising will be able to double their member-focused housing this year to ten units.
Congratulations on all your accomplishments Obran Cooperative! We love seeing your growth.
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!
This month we put together a series of free virtual webinars. Jim Johnson and Joseph Cureton helped viewers learn about cooperative basics and cooperative conversions.
During Introduction to Cooperatives, they shared everything from the basics of getting started to legal structures and capital. Management structures to decision making. We also talked about the pro’s and con’s of owning a cooperative, and the differences between these flexible forms of doing business.
Intro To Cooperative Conversions & Employee Buyout, was for small business owners. It was geared towards those considering their next steps during the time of COVID-19, or maybe approaching retirement. Cooperative conversions are an increasingly compelling option for business owners. They sell their business to its employees which helps retain jobs and keep small businesses in their communities. During this webinar we discussed steps of the conversion process, and answered questions about whether or not an employee buyout is the right decision.
If you didn’t get a chance to join us, don’t worry! We recorded the sessions and they are available to watch at any time. Find them below and make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for updates on future happenings.