Co-ops Enable Low-Income Women to Work as Owners and Decision Makers

According to Amy Johnson, co-executive director of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, the majority of established women's co-ops came together at the behest of an agency that then serves as mentor and facilitator. "Women frequently come to a social service organization needing jobs and child care and learn about co-ops from someone there," she said. "Sometimes they've seen another co-op in town, but that's unusual. People rarely know much about the co-op model."

The initial step, she adds, involves education - explaining what a cooperative is and how it can benefit a group of workers. Later, the potential worker-owners will need to learn the many skills necessary to run a business, from marketing to bookkeeping, from democratic management to the nuts and bolts of the industry they're entering.

"The impediments to co-op development and growth are similar to those facing any other business," Melissa Hoover told Truthout. One glaring issue is the lack of capital. "Typically, credit unions don't make business loans and the larger banking industry sees low-income immigrant women as unbankable, especially if they have little-to-no collateral to put up." Still, she adds, capital is not the biggest barrier to co-op development - ideology is. "Both the business support system and entrepreneurial support system are geared to the single entrepreneur. If there was a shift toward shared entrepreneurship strategies, we would see a huge growth in self-started co-ops."

Read the full article at Truthout


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