Webinar: Why Worker Coop Conversions and Ownership Make Sense Now
Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank
Recorded Thursday, October 15, 2015
Employee-owned businesses bring tremendous benefits to workers, businesses, and the broader economy. In this webinar, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank, we will review the main features and benefits of worker owned cooperatives, talk about why worker ownership is an important community economic development strategy, and introduce strategies for how traditional businesses can convert to coops.
An important approach for worker coop conversion is supporting retiring business owners to sell the business to their employees. The pending ‘silver tsunami’ of retiring baby boomers makes this issue not only important, but very timely. Baby boomers own 66% of all privately-held businesses with over 20 employees or nearly 4 million companies. Most businesses do not have succession plans which portends the tremendous risk of losing large numbers of these businesses altogether, or having them sold to out-of-state buyers or private equity firms that often relocate jobs or the entire business.
For business owners who want to see the business remain in their communities, who want their employees to be well taken care of when they retire or sell their business, and who want their mission and the core strengths of their business to remain intact, employee ownership is an excellent solution. But often this option is not considered because of the lack of knowledge about the mechanisms to accomplish it. In this webinar, experienced practitioners will explain the process of “converting” a traditional business to a worker coop, some approaches to financing these employee buy-outs, and additional insights from case studies.
Our latest study across the United States indicates millions of businesses are at risk of closing and point to employee ownership as a solution.
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- San Francisco Bay Area, California
- Twin Cities Region, Minnesota
Project Equity is a national leader in the movement to harness employee ownership to maintain thriving local business communities, honor selling owners’ legacies, and address income and wealth inequality. Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Project Equity works with partners around the country to raise awareness about employee ownership as an exit strategy for business owners, and as an important approach for increasing employee engagement and wellbeing. We also provide hands on consulting, support and financing to companies that want to transition to employee ownership, as well as to the new employee-owners to ensure that they, and their businesses, thrive after the transition.
Chief Executive Officer
Co-founder, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer
Prior to launching Project Equity, Alison held executive roles at mission-driven businesses that are designed to have human impact at scale, including Benetech (where she built and launched their first product, a digital book service for individuals with visual or reading disabilities), GreatSchools (the 6th largest parenting website, a nonprofit using information to drive school improvement), and InsideTrack (a venture-backed scaled services company that has delivered 1:1 coaching to millions of college students, resulting in increased college completion rates). She brings those scaling lessons back full circle to her work at Project Equity, turning businesses into community change agents through employee ownership.
A serial ‘social entrepreneur,’ Alison co-founded a thriving PreK-8th grade dual immersion school in Oakland (Escuela Bilingüe Internacional) that serves over 360 students. Alison has her B.A. from Harvard University and her MBA from the Haas School of Business. She has been selected as a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow, a 2017-18 Aspen Institute Job Quality Fellow and a 2019 Ashoka Fellow.
Co-founder, Chief Policy & Impact Officer
Hilary was “bit by the cooperative bug” when she was a worker-owner at Equal Exchange in the 1990s and forever changed by witnessing how Latin American farmers used coops to transform their communities. After a decade of international community empowerment work, Hilary has been advancing cooperative development and employee ownership in the U.S. since 2003. As Executive Director of WAGES (now Prospera), she led the organization in creating a network of five worker-owned green cleaning businesses that sustained 100 healthy, dignified jobs for low-income women. Worker-owners increased their family incomes by 40-80%, built assets through robust profit sharing, and gained business skills and social capital.
In co-founding Project Equity, Hilary hoped to make these profound benefits of employee ownership a reality for millions more workers all over the country. For her work with Project Equity, Hilary was awarded Presidio Graduate School’s Big Idea Prize (2013), an Echoing Green Fellowship (2014), a 2016 Local Economy Fellowship, and a 2020 Executive Fellowship with the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University.
Hilary is a passionate advocate, practitioner and thought leader and has authored or co-authored several publications, most recently The Case for Employee Ownership (2020) and California Cooperatives (2021). She has her B.A. from Princeton University and her MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio and, in her spare time, loves to explore redwood forests, California’s coastline, and good books and movies.
Vice President, Program Operations & Client Experience
Business Engagement and Partnership Manager
Business Engagement and Partnership Manager
Business Engagement and Partnership Manager
Senior Client Services Manager
She holds a BSc in Applied Mathematics from the State University of New York at Stonybrook, an MBA in Finance from the New York Institute of Technology and is currently working on a doctorate in Business Administration. Alicia also has a post graduate certificate in Data Science and Business Analytics from the University of Texas at Austin. When not working, she enjoys reading, crafting, exploring new destinations and sampling cuisine.
Client Services Manager
Client Services Manager
Client Services Manager, Oakland
Laura started her career as a community organizer and developed a passion for advancing equity and social justice. In her most recent role, she supported 10 nonprofit organizations to build operational infrastructure that drives their mission. As a Client Services Manager for Project Equity, she simplifies the process for owners to sell their business and for employees to become owners. She is an agile facilitator and capacity builder with a knack for making information accessible and engaging diverse audiences. She received her BA in Global Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MBA from Mills College. She is a wannabe bookworm who enjoys a good cortado, meditating, and nurturing her creativity.
Communications and Marketing
Director, Communications and Marketing
Dallas is an experienced nonprofit leader passionate about leveraging his talents to bring about real change. At Project Equity, he leads the communications and marketing team, helping to shape the narrative of employee ownership through storytelling and media engagement strategies.
With a background that spans both commercial and nonprofit organizations, Dallas has worked as a journalist, a filmmaker, a writer, an entrepreneur, a teacher, consultant and marketing strategist. Before coming to Project Equity, he served as a Director at National Arts Strategies, a nonprofit that provides leadership training and coaching for nonprofit leaders in the arts and culture sector. He also consulted with purpose-driven organizations on strategy, planning, leadership development, branding and communications.
He is an active volunteer in his hometown of Carmel, Indiana, where he is involved in state and local politics as a communications consultant, Democratic Precinct Chair and Indiana State Convention delegate. He also serves as the President of the Board of Trustees of the Carmel Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to students and innovation grants to teachers.
Communications and Marketing
Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing
Kiara Williams passionately supports and advocates on behalf of people of color marginalized by negative statistics and cyclic struggles. Based in Orange County, CA, her work is largely driven by her desire to be of service to at-risk communities, and to eradicate barriers faced by socio-economically disadvantaged groups of people.
Kiara has over ten years experience as a community advocate in Southern California working on various initiatives and partnering with organizations to lift up low-income communities through high quality, accessible resources. For the past 5 years, she has built a solid background in the nonprofit sector working at social services organizations, serving homeless veterans and families affected by neurodiverse disabilities.
As the Development Associate with Project Equity, Kiara supports a range of efforts related to fundraising, grants and donor stewardship. She is eager to expand employee ownership by cultivating funder relationships that align with the mission of improving racial equity and minimizing unjust wage gaps nationwide. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, writing creatively and nurturing her family.
Chief of Staff and Senior Manager, Operations
Operations Coordinator and Executive Assistant
Shermany has several years of experience utilizing interpersonal skills, excellent time management and problem-solving skills towards operational excellence in both the private and non-profit sectors. Through this experience, she developed a passion to take on the finer details allowing everyone to be rockstars individually and as a whole. As Operations Coordinator and Executive Assistant with Project Equity, she will be instrumental in maintaining internal records, a facilitator of internal and external events, and will be assisting Project Equity’s executive team.
Shermany holds a bachelor's degree in English from Michigan State University. She also gives back to her local community as an advocate for mental health research. In her free time, she enjoys learning new languages, starting DIY projects, and wrangling cats.
Senior Manager, Investments & Partnerships
For over a decade, Emily worked at McMaster-Carr Supply Co, a privately held industrial supplies distributor much loved and respected by makers worldwide. That work developed her passion for the domestic manufacturing industry. At McMaster, Emily experienced first-hand the incredible power of company profit sharing to engage, retain, and benefit employees.
At Project Equity, Emily advises owners on the benefits of transitioning their company to an employee-owned structure. Emily has an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a focus on operations and economics. She received a Fulbright scholarship and spent two years abroad in Latin America, becoming fluent in Spanish. She earned her undergraduate degree at Michigan State University and comes from a long line of hard-working Detroiters. Emily lives in Chicago with her family and is usually found outside in the garden, on a hike, or biking.
Senior Product Manager, Service Provider Adoption
Peter's career has been focused on learning product development. He has done this work as an entrepreneur, as a learning partner with Fortune 1000 corporations, with non profit organizations and for both professional and trade associations. Peter's work focuses on supporting our strategy to increase awareness and adoption of employee ownership by service providers, builds capacity in the business ecosystem and helps drive additional revenue. He is passionate about learning and creating scalable systems that enable people to do their best work. In his spare time I like to enjoy time with my family, mentor and volunteer on boards in his community.
Program Specialist, Public Sector Engagement
Max is a teacher, researcher, and organizer committed to unifying environmental and economic justice. Before joining Project Equity, Max taught college courses on food politics, German philosophy, and environmental fiction. He holds a Ph.D. in German Studies with an emphasis on the Environmental Humanities from Yale University and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Chicago. Max was awarded a 2022-24 ACLS Leading Edge fellowship to join Project Equity's work in public sector engagement, helping to foster a nationwide movement to embed employee ownership in local and state initiatives. He views employee ownership as a key element in building a sustainable and just economy. Outside of his work, Max is an avid cook, amateur woodworker, and transportation justice advocate in New Haven.
Sr. Manager, Regional Engagement
Sarah has spent her career committed to building shared prosperity and well-being. She began her career in state-level economic development and most recently was an equity officer at a private, regional foundation in Arkansas. She is driven by a commitment to economic and racial equity and passion for developing partnerships, collective strategy, and infrastructure to advance systemic change. At Project Equity, Sarah focuses on building regional partnerships with government, non-profit, private sector, and philanthropic organizations to support, scale, and sustain a local employee ownership ecosystem. Sarah has a joint Master of Public Service and MBA from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and Walton College of Business and BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Outside of work, she loves canoeing, camping, and hiking with her family.
Black Employee Ownership Initiative