June 15, 2016

4 Pieces Of Advice You Need To Become a Worker-owner

Translated by Ada Recinos

Anahi is currently finishing her Cooperative Developer Fellowship with Prospera. She has ample experience in cooperatives as a worker-owner of eco-cleaning cooperatives for over 7 years, where she was able to make business decisions with her fellow worker-owners and even held various leadership positions in the cooperative. Daniella is the general manager of Home Green Home, a Latina-owned cooperative. Most recently she began her Cooperative Developer Fellowship with Prospera, which includes completing her certificate as a Community Coach.

Both entrepreneurs recently led a Charla con Cooperativas (Chat with Cooperatives) our community education initiative that brings together local entrepreneurs, small business owners and aspiring worker-owners in a safe space to discuss business successes and challenges. Read more about the advice they gave to aspiring worker-owners below:

 

How did you become involved in cooperatives and how is being a worker-owner different from having a traditional ‘job’

ANAHI: I came looking for a regular job, I stayed because my income increased and because I saw a big difference in myself. In comparison to previous jobs, in a co-op I had a voice and a vote. I liked that the studies I had completed in Mexico were useful in various administrative capacities in my cooperative.  It was also my business so I was receiving the profits! I had the opportunity to grow as a person and learn about being ecologically-minded, socially conscious, and how to fulfill administration and communication responsibilities that a business requires.

DANIELLA: In 2013 I was contracted by Prospera (WAGES at the time) to be the Manager of Operations at Home Green Home LLC. The following year, I was elected by the members to be the General Manager. Being a worker-owner of a cooperative is totally different from every job I’ve ever had. All of the benefits, growth, highs and lows, depend on us, the members. Every decision we make is a group decision, it's a very enriching experience, because you’re not only thinking about the benefit you’ll receive but also the benefit the decision will make to your fellow worker-owners and community. Your voice and work are valued, considered and compensated.

 

What has been an impactful challenge you’ve had in your cooperative and how did you resolve it?

ANAHI:  One of the biggest challenges was having to change my mentality (from a worker to a worker-owner) and that of those around me because the idea of a cooperative was not familiar to me and it wasn’t a part of my life.

DANIELLA: As the general manager of a cooperative, my biggest challenges have been transforming from a worker to a worker-owner who leads the group. It's important that I make sure all choices and decisions are understood by all of the worker-owners because this in turn creates a transparent administration process where all the worker-owners are empowered to be involved in the decision making process and the governance of the co-op.

 

What are the most important opportunities that being in a cooperative have brought you?

ANAHI: The biggest opportunity this experience has brought me is learning cooperative principles and then paying it forward, because cooperatives have brought me so many opportunities that have changed my entire life.

DANIELLA: It has brought me the possibility of professional and personal growth, the challenges of being part of a movement that is directly related to the changes we need to do together as humans. For example, we care about working in the community, and promote support among members of the cooperative to support the growth of the business. It's also important to understand, respect and take advantage of all the diversity for mutual benefits between the worker-owners.

 

What final advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to launch or join cooperatives?

ANAHI: Make sure you have a mission and a vision of what you want for your cooperative and always keep it in mind. It’s YOUR businesses, remember that. It takes love and care. Ultimately, everyone in the cooperative has to be willing to make the best decisions for the cooperative, not as just as individuals.

DANIELLA: I think people should understand what being in a cooperative really means. They should know the process of forming a cooperative and the different levels of development, as well as the vision, mission and values that the business will represent. It has to be an intentional process before starting a formal business, so that you can have group agreements and clear policies from the beginning.


 

What is next for our Charla hosts? Anahi is completing her fellowship at the end of June and is focused on working toward using her cooperative expertise to become a consultant, and a founding member of her  new cooperative venture. Daniela is half way through her Fellowship and is currently taking a course on community coaching via Leadership That Works. She wants to apply what she knows about the world of cooperatives, participate in cooperative develop cooperative development programs and fortify her co-op, as well as its growth and sustainability as a business.

 
Anahi presents her experience to rising entrepreneurs
Daniella leads entrepreneurs in Charlas discussion