• Cooperative Business Incubator

    Program Purpose

    The primary purpose of the Incubator is to support successful businesses that are transitioning to worker ownership from another form of ownership. We aim to provide the tools, advising, training and connection to resources that will support a successful transition, and support a sustainable future for your business and its mission. By participating in the Incubator, you have the opportunity to interact with other businesses that are going through a similar transition, to learn from them, share what’s working, and create a network of support.

    Project Equity will co-develop a specific plan of support with each of the 4-6 businesses participating in the Incubator based on their needs and timeline. See below for more specifics.

    Eligibility Criteria

    We are seeking companies that fit the following criteria:

    Required

    • Size: Currently have a minimum of 20 employees (in some instances, we can make exceptions).
    • Commitment: Have made the decision to transition to a worker cooperative (if you’re still exploring the possibility, the Incubator isn’t a fit for you at this time. Please contact us to talk about how we can help you in that process.)
    • Future growth: Have both the potential and the aspiration for continued business growth and job creation.
    • Core participants: The owner (or one of several owners) and at least two employees must actively participate in the Incubator program.

    Preferred

    • Lower-income workforce: We have a strong preference for supporting companies with lower-income workforces. We give preference to business with more than half of their workers in positions that don’t require a college degree and/or that are at entry level or close to entry level.

    Geography

    • Bay Area-based or able to participate virtually: We are located in Oakland, CA, and have a San Francisco Bay Area focus, but a national scope. We will hold in-person Incubator sessions in the Bay Area (most likely in Oakland), and welcome remote participation by businesses that can effectively do so virtually. Businesses out of the area must commit to having their core participants travel to Oakland for one or two 2-day “intensives” over a 12-month time period and are responsible for covering their own travel costs.

    Program Description

    We will co-develop a specific plan with each participating business to provide support in the nuts and bolts of transitioning your business to a worker-owned cooperative. The plan will include some or all of the following components:

    • Cooperative education & training workshops, focused on coop structure, governance, management and culture that engage workers in the design and development of the new worker cooperative
    • Developing bylaws for the new cooperative
    • If the owner has plans to leave the business, developing an owner transition plan
    • Support developing sales terms, including the sales price of the business
    • Connections to coop-friendly lenders
    • Developing an ownership culture, setting up worker cooperative governance and other topics
    • Training for your full employee base, with options for remote participation
    • Designing support systems and identifying ongoing resources for employees / worker-owners after the transition

    Timeline & Time Commitment

    • The Incubator program runs for approximately 12 months.
    • Each participating business will have their own customized schedule and timeline, with built in opportunities to interact with other Incubator participants to learn from their experiences.

    Your Commitment

    As part of the Incubator experience, businesses agree to:

    1. Assign core team members

    We require at least one (1) current owner and at least two (2) current employees; ideally, we prefer teams of 3-5 people from each participating business. Having a team of both owners and employees involved in the planning and execution of a new worker cooperative creates greater buy-in and ease of execution during and after the transition.

    1. Commit to co-developing an Incubator plan for your business with Project Equity, then participating fully in the components of that plan. The minimum building blocks of your plan will include:
    • Biweekly meetings of your core team with Incubator staff, in-person or online: this is the building block of the Incubator’s technical assistance and customized support.
    • 2-day Intensives: up to twice a year. Participants will be required to pay their own travel costs for these Intensives. This means that businesses participating from outside of the Bay Area will likely have additional costs.
    • Working with Advisors: 1-4 hours / week.

    We expect that your participation will require an average of 3-5 hours / week for your core team, but this may vary depending on the specifics of your business and will be different from week-to-week. We require a minimum of 80% overall participation in the individualized plan for your business, but hope that it will be closer to 100%.

    1. Incubator membership

    We have designed our Incubator to have some similarities in operation to a cooperative, to enable your team to ‘practice’ some of the components of cooperative governance. Because of this, the Incubator is set up as an LLC, and each participating business will become an LLC member during the term of their participation (and ongoing, if mutually desirable).

    1. Ensure that your full employee base is available for trainings

    Your full employee base must attend at least one training, up to three, depending on your specific plan.

    Costs

    Member buy-in: $250 (you get this back when you are no longer a participating member.)

    Monthly fee on a sliding scale of $250 – $1,500 per month based on the number of employees. Businesses commit to at least 9 months, and can participate for up to 18 months, depending on the specific needs of the business.

    Note that any costs of service providers like legal, accounting, financing, or other are the responsibility of the participating business.

    Application Instructions

    To apply, please fill out this short application: http://goo.gl/forms/a5DYovO5SC

    We accept applications on a rolling basis, with preference given to earlier applicants.