According to Project Equity, 85% of business owners do not have a succession plan. In Washington State, 49% of small business owners are baby boomers nearing retirement age. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic—from safety restrictions and supply chain disruption to the “Great Resignation”— suggest the majority of small business owners will not find a buyer for their business when they are ready to sell.
As recovery efforts continue amidst new viral outbreaks and changing employee mandates, the need for economic resilience is more important than ever. Conversion to a cooperative business model provides a path for maintaining existing businesses and building long-term recovery. Northwest Cooperative Development Center launched the Co-op Academy to help business owners safely exit their company, reward loyal and dedicated staff, and leave the legacy of a thriving business to their community.
In partnership with the City of Olympia, NWCDC will be offering the Co-op Academy focused on converting Olympia businesses to cooperative ownership either as a worker cooperative or a multi-stakeholder cooperative. Through conversion to a worker co-op, businesses can continue into perpetuity, serving the community while maintaining economic vitality. The workers gain job security, personal development, and a voice in their workplace. The selling owner receives a fair market price for their business and peace of mind as they transition to a new chapter in their lives.
Worker co-ops are businesses owned by the employees and based on one-member one-vote democratic governance, while multi-stakeholder co-ops are businesses owned by a group of stakeholders (often consumers and workers) with voting power distributed between the stakeholder groups.
Over the last decade, Olympia has seen a wave of worker co-ops and joins New York, San Francisco, Oakland, and Philadelphia as one of a handful of cities in the US with more than a dozen worker owned and operated businesses. Beloved and long-term businesses in the downtown such as New Moon Café (converted in 2013), Dumpster Values, Burial Grounds, and Orca Books converted to cooperative ownership in the last five years. John McNamara, coordinator of the academy for NWCDC notes, “These businesses not only keep local jobs thriving in Olympia, they also maintain part of Olympia’s unique vibe and character in the downtown.”
NWCDC will provide weekly trainings on the conversion process as well as one-on-one support for up to five selected Olympia businesses. Those businesses will continue to receive support through the conversion of the business to a cooperative.
Visit The Coop Academy, or for more information, call John McNamara at 360.915.7204.