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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.



Businesses owned by baby boomers

New updates!

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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for businesses interested in employee ownership.
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Home » Events and Webinars » Webinar: Why Worker Coop Conversions and Ownership Make Sense Now

About us

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.

Our Team



Evan Edwards

Evan Edwards

Chief Executive Officer

Evan began his career as the International Business Manager at an early leading technology start-up, Quarterdeck Corporation. Bitten by the start-up bug, he spent following years in leadership and consulting roles at a variety of early stage enterprise including Bid.com (Northcore Technologies), Mediaseek Technology and Planesia Corp. Guided by a shift in personal and professional priorities Evan moved into the non-profit sector as Executive Director at YMCA Corporation of Los Angeles, leading the turnaround of an under-performing business unit. Driven by the value of social enterprises and the vision of a generative economy, Evan's work with Project Equity creates strong collaborative partnerships across sectors. Evan is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL (a proud supporter of Wildcat football!), and has certification from Stelter in Professional Fundraising Management. When not working he's playing sports, walking his dogs or cooking a great meal from scratch.
Alison Lingane

Alison Lingane

Co-founder, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer

Alison Lingane has dedicated her career to enabling business to be a force for good. She started her career in community-based work, designing and leading micro-enterprise programs for urban youth. Inspired to gain skills to bring programs to scale that create real, she got her MBA and co-founded what is now the Global Social Venture Competition, the largest international business plan competition for double or triple bottom line businesses.

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

Hilary Abell

Hilary Abell

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.

Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith

Vice President, Program Operations & Client Experience

Stacey has spent most of her career helping businesses examine their impact and aligning it with their values. She started as a CPA with Arthur Andersen, then moved into strategy and organizational development. Seeking to devote her financial expertise to social and environmental issues, she was an early mover in the field of sustainability and corporate responsibility in the US. She joined Business for Social Responsibility in 2001 to build their business consulting practice and spent the next decade guiding Fortune 500 companies to address their negative impacts. Recently, Stacey began consulting to nonprofits and foundations to strengthen their strategy, management, and governance practices. Through her work with the Public Equity Group and her own independent practice, she explored the structural barriers to wealth and other drivers of generational poverty. At Project Equity she is helping grow our team of professionals to accelerate the adoption of employee ownership as a key to building wealth and high-quality careers in communities. In addition to having been a licensed CPA, Stacey has a degree in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and has done coursework in International Business Studies at the University of Copenhagen. When she is not working, you can find her hiking the Bay Area hills, indulging in the restaurant scene, and playing with her family.

Business Development

 Annie Palacios

Annie Palacios

Business Engagement and Partnership Manager

Annie built her career around strategic client engagement and business development outreach for multiple industry sectors across various international consultancies. Having worked for the UK Government from 2013-2018, she developed relationships with investors and provided business advisory services to support expansion projects and promote job growth. Prior roles have included cultivating relationships with financial institutions in North and Latin American regions for a London-based think tank in addition to performing research and electoral analysis work. Annie holds an M.A. in International Relations from London Metropolitan University as well as a B.A. in Political Science (Magna cum Laude) from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. At Project Equity, she creates and nurtures collaborative partnerships to drive forward structured programs and results to clients. Outside of work, Annie enjoys running marathons, traveling the world with her husband, and listening to podcasts.
Donna Sky

Donna Sky

Business Engagement and Partnership Manager

Donna is a long time social entrepreneur and San Francisco business owner. She is the founder of Love & Hummus Co., a mission-driven food start up she operated starting in 2009 and grew from inception into a national brand. Love & Hummus is nationally recognized for its innovation, social and environmental impact and was named twice by B Corp as a “Best for the World Company.” Donna began her career in higher education and later founded the non-profit World Trotters, an early online multicultural education program. Donna’s work with Project Equity is led by her expertise as a business owner, her passion for using business as a force for good, developing a more inclusive economy and the creation of more employee-owned businesses. Donna has an MA from Kean University's Professional Counseling Program and a BA in Psychology from Montclair State University. When not working Donna enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.
Miyaka Cochrane

Miyaka Cochrane

Business Engagement and Partnership Manager

Miyaka is a multidisciplinary partnership manager who has spent time managing and growing businesses in food, accommodation, technology, and arts industries. In Texas he worked with small chain restaurant Freebirds to grow into a multi state brand by opening restaurants, implementing new procedures, and employee development. Returning to his home state of California, he transitioned into the accommodation tech world to help vacation home owners and managers expand their businesses through technology and partnerships. In 2017 he joined industry nonprofit HEDNA where he was elected and served on the Future Leaders board to shape the future of the industry. He studied ensemble based physical theatre at the Dell' Arte International School, and continues to be active in the bay area theatre scene as an actor, clown, and puppeteer. He brings his skills of collaboration, communication, and problem solving from across industries to the business development team of Project Equity, working with partners and businesses to transition into employee owned business models.

Client Services

Alicia Ijewere

Alicia Ijewere

Senior Client Services Manager

Alicia is a well-seasoned business strategy and planning professional with prior experience supporting multinationals and organizations such as the United States Departments of State and Defense over the last two decades. She is passionate about business sustainability, quality jobs and financial security. At Project Equity, Alicia helps business owners and employees derive value from the ownership transition process. She also conducts employee ownership research through partnerships with other institutions.

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.

Courtney Kemp

Courtney Kemp

Client Services Manager

Courtney is passionate about driving positive social, economic and environmental impact in local communities through supporting the operations of small businesses and social enterprises. Over the past five years as an impact investing and strategy consultant for nonprofits, foundations and private stakeholders, her work has spanned eight countries over four continents. Her experience has solidified her belief that shared prosperity powered by multi-sector solutions can positively impact underserved populations and the planet we all share. Courtney is based in the Pacific Northwest and is fluent in French. She holds a BA in Applied Political Economics from the University of Arizona, an MA in Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and an MBA in Social Finance and Impact Management from Middlebury College. In her spare time, Courtney enjoys digging into a good book, exploring the outdoors, and traveling near and far.


David Gray

David Gray

Client Services Manager

After several years in nonprofit leadership, David started his career as an entrepreneur by opening a fair-trade retail store with Ten Thousand Villages, in Montreal, Canada. He later opened Full Circle Thrift, a boutique second-hand store in Pasadena, CA. Most recently, David led business development for one of Habitat for Humanity’s networks of ReStores in the San Francisco region. David is passionate about addressing the unique issues of businesses in transition. He excels in developing strategic governance plans that support growth and frees up vision holders to maximize their time and energy. With training and experience in conflict mediation, David helps groups have difficult conversations that lead to creative solutions. His observation skills and interpersonal dynamics build trust, develop leadership, and cast a vision for viable new realities. When not working, he loves cooking for his family and planning unique trips to explore new places.
Laura Flores

Laura Flores

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.

Melissa Gjerde

Melissa Gjerde

Program Associate

Prior to joining Project Equity, Melissa worked in urban planning, working to deliver mass transit projects across Northern California and engaging communities throughout the planning process. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning from UC Davis, where she graduated with honors. As Program Associate with Project Equity, Melissa supports the transition process to worker ownership for small businesses across the country. In her spare time, you can find her attempting to raise garden veggies from seed, spending time in the sun, and crafting with her hands.

Communications and Marketing

Dallas Shelby

Dallas Shelby

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.

Franzi Charen

Franzi Charen

Communications and Marketing

Franzi has been an independent business owner in Asheville, North Carolina for nineteen years. She is the founder of the Asheville Grown Business Alliance and organized over 550 small business members to advocate for a strong and healthy local economy. She currently co-owns a vintage-inspired clothing shop in downtown called Hip Replacements Clothing. A first generation American, she grew up in a textile family in the South and experienced the devastation of mill towns with the loss of a core heritage industry. Franzi joined the team part-time at Project Equity because she is passionate about employee ownership and documenting its impact. She has a Bachelor of Science in Ecology as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia. She is an avid photographer and loves jogging in the mountains.
Genevieve Adams

Genevieve Adams

Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing

Genevieve has built her career around providing marketing direction, print and web materials and blog content for small and medium-sized businesses, including her own. She joined the Marketing Team after contracting with Project Equity for two years. Genevieve received her BA in Psychology and Film Arts from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and went on to take design classes from both The School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design in NYC. She also holds a Marketing Certificate from the University of Illinois. Genevieve excels at taking a creative project from concept to completion and providing the right approach for the target audience. At Project Equity, she helps increase awareness of employee ownership through local and national outreach. Genevieve is passionate about equality in all forms and is honored to use her creativity and knowledge to advance employee ownership. In her free time, she enjoys going to the ocean, being silly with her kids, and decorating her home.


Ben Platt

Ben Platt

Development Manager

Ben brings 15 years of professional writing experience to his role at Project Equity, including two spent working in the employee ownership space. A dedicated advocate of economic justice, he was drawn to the powerful benefits employee ownership brings to workers, businesses, and their communities. Prior to joining Project Equity, Ben’s career ranged from overseeing  communications strategy for a growing real estate firm, to identifying housing options for homeless families in the Bay Area, to writing Saturday morning cartoons. As part of Project Equity’s development team, Ben supports the organization by spearheading grant requests and reporting, and crafting other written collateral to share the impact of our work with funders across the nation. Ben received his BA in English from Wesleyan University. When he’s not working, Ben loves food, travel, and exploring the Bay Area’s many parks and playgrounds with his family.
Kiara Williams

Kiara Williams

Development Associate

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.


Jason Eby

Jason Eby

Chief of Staff and Senior Manager, Operations

Jason's background blends program development, community engagement, and operations. While finishing school, he joined Chicago’s campaign for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games as part of the Legacy Team which ran international events, promoted volunteerism, and channeled investments into youth organizations. Jason continued serving Chicago as a senior leader of the social impact organization created during this campaign. His team grew to engage more than 50 organizations and 7,500 youth annually through grants and programs. His experience in sustaining partnerships includes networking diverse perspectives to common goals, supporting regular communication, and facilitating shared learning. Jason graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Psychology and Economics. At Project Equity, he builds cross-sector relationships to increase employee ownership and expands our work to new regions. When not working, Jason enjoys exploring, sharing great meals, and is a regular at local Meetups.
Shermany Hickman

Shermany Hickman

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. 

Product Management

Emily Bergstrom

Emily Bergstrom

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.

Peter Lucas

Peter Lucas

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.


Regional Engagement

Max Chaoulideer

Max Chaoulideer

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.

Sarah McBroom

Sarah McBroom

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.

Terron Ferguson

Terron Ferguson

Black Employee Ownership Initiative

Terron is an initiative builder from Miami, Florida. In 2008, he earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated magna cum laude and as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa. In 2015, he earned a J.D. from New York University (NYU) School of Law where he was the Student Convocation Speaker for his class. He then practiced law at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, under the leadership of Bryan Stevenson, a world-renowned litigator, activist, teacher, speaker and author. He advocated against death sentences, children detained in adult prisons, and facilitated parole hearings. In 2017, he was selected to be a German Chancellor Fellow along with 29 other people from across the globe. He partnered with the Communications Sciences department at the Universität Leipzig to study the Holocaust, World War II, and denazification. He currently builds initiatives for corporate and nonprofit clients. Terron is advancing Project Equity's Black Employee Ownership Initiative (BEOI), which centers Black employee ownership in all of our strategic initiatives.