Why this work matters

We work with business owners at every stage of employee ownership—from those making an initial inquiry to those fully transitioning to employee-owned companies. We help city and county leaders, economic development agencies and workforce and business serving organizations retain jobs and support local economies. We also collaborate with other leaders to develop and advocate for the best policies and practices to support employee ownership.

Unfortunately, too many people face daily challenges that interfere with planning for their future or their family's future.

But the truth is, you can’t pass down what you don’t have. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the working poor made up almost half of the American workforce. These households struggle with the basics like paying for transportation, childcare, health care, or even just putting food on the table. Far too many families are stuck in a cycle of intergenerational poverty.

And, we can’t ignore the fact that Black and Latino families are often the hardest hit. Black and Latino workers make, on average, one-third less than white workers, and their families also have significantly lower rates of homeownership. According to the US census, the vast majority of wealth-generating businesses are white-owned and white households are nearly three times more likely to inherit wealth than Black households. Given that business ownership is the second most effective way American families build wealth, behind home ownership, employee ownership is a critical strategy.

The U.S. economy needs a solution to help more people participate in the American Dream.

Small businesses are important wealth-building engines for families and are the lifeblood of the American economy, employing almost half of all workers. Yet 3 million businesses in the US—half of small businesses with employees—have retirement-age owners, most of whom have no plan for succession. Many other owners want to leave their businesses to launch new projects or ventures. If these owners are unable to find buyers—and sadly, most won’t—neither the company nor its jobs will survive.

And just as owners are pivoting, communities are looking for new directions to increase job quality and wealth building opportunities for working people and Black and Latino families across the nation.

Transitioning businesses to employee ownership enables more people to fully participate in the benefits of business ownership and strengthens those companies and their communities. In addition, employee-owned businesses experience fewer layoffs, especially during recessions.

The national business ecosystem is primed for a large-scale shift, and so are we.

Employee ownership:

Strengthens local economies

Locally-owned businesses play a critical role in their communities. Employee ownership ensures the current owner can transition their business for a fair price while giving employees at every income level the opportunity to share ownership in the company they work for and build wealth through profit sharing. As business owners, workers gain critical financial and decision-making skills that not only grow stronger businesses but enhance their personal lives. They also take on responsibilities and leadership skills that spill over into civic life. By helping businesses become employee-owned, communities build wealth in more ways than one.

Builds a lasting legacy

Engaging and retaining employees is critical for businesses, and employee ownership is part of the solution. When employees become owners, responsibility and rewards are tied directly to their labor. Research shows that household net worth can nearly double for employee-owners early in their careers. In addition, when employees become employee-owners, a cultural shift in the business often happens. Companies become more resilient because employees become more deeply engaged and invested in the business’ success. Through employee ownership, businesses can live on for generations, leaving the founding owner with a compelling legacy.

Helps employees build generational wealth

Employee ownership is a driving force in replacing long-standing wealth inequities with tangible, long-term solutions. In one study employee-owners of color reported nearly 80% higher median wealth and 30% higher median wages than non-employee-owners of color. Employee ownership creates quality jobs, providing workers with higher incomes and better benefits. It helps employees build equity and family wealth, further allowing them to invest back into their communities.

Find out more about how transitioning successful businesses to employee ownership improves workers’ lives in this Project Equity impact report.