Cooperatives

Okay, so cooperatives aren’t really happening around here. So why am I writing this?  Well, it’s not to pretend I am working with hundreds of cooperative businesses in the city right now.  I’m putting this page out here because I want to work with cooperatives incorporating in Kentucky.  I believe in the model and know that with careful planning they are a smart, sustainable way to make businesses that work to build a community of worker/ owners.  We all know what it’s like to work for faceless corporations.  Wouldn’t you rather work with real people to build the kind of services your community really wants?

Cooperatives are not new and are not uncommon on a global level.   Cooperative owners in Spain, Latin America, Europe, and unlikely places like Madison, Wisconsin continuously prove the cooperative entity is vibrant, adaptable, and profitable.  They come in many forms.  Here are three major divisions:

  • Worker cooperatives are owned by the workers.  Workers are paid based on agreed allocations of profits and hours worked.  Everyone invests equally and owns the business equally.  Everyone is their own boss.
  • Producer cooperatives are business organizations that allow people who produce things, such as agricultural goods, to pool their goods and marketing expertise to negotiate for the best deal possible.
  • Buyer cooperatives let consumers of goods collectively negotiate for good prices.  For example, if your neighborhood doesn’t have a good grocery store, a grocery cooperative might be the solution for bringing the groceries you and your neighbors need close to home.

People interested in creating cooperatives have a lot to consider in a state like Kentucky that does not make the procedures it takes to make a cooperative obvious.  Careful planing can prevent simple oversights from becoming the missing link later.  Remember, you are planning to create a thriving company.  You are going to sacrifice time, sleep, resources, and who knows what else.  It is easy to feel generous and optimistic at the beginning, but later it is important to have what you were planning in writing.  Whether your cooperative is a bust or the next great thing, you and your co-owners deserve to know going into it they are building their business on a solid legal foundation.


Click here to download a copy of the book Elizabeth Jones and I co-authored about cooperatives, Building Commonwealth: A guide to building a sustainable, equitable cooperative business in Kentucky.  Please Pay What Your Want for the book by entering an amount and clicking below (it takes you to PayPal).  $10 is suggested.