Advancing the ownership economy: 2024 annual summit highlights

This May 6-8, the 2024 Employee Ownership Equity Summit convened policymakers, funders, business owners and advisors to address some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities around broad-based employee ownership.

Exceptional speakers, ranging from acclaimed journalist and author Nick Romeo to former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs inspired attendees to develop visionary, actionable plans that will help power the ownership economy and foster a brighter tomorrow for America’s workforce, businesses, communities and economies.

We’re looking forward to all the progress that is to come, and we’re profoundly grateful to our attendees, sponsors and employee ownership advocates who continue to make the work we do possible.

Summit highlights and key takeaways follow.

Mayor Tubbs Screens New Documentary

The event kicked off with a screening of a new documentary produced by former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. Called It’s Basic, the film is an exploration of universal basic income pilot programs across the country.

It’s Basic serves as a powerful reminder that access to capital is key to a more just, equitable society and a more powerful economy.

Policymakers chart the course forward

Project Equity CEO, Evan Edwards, opened up the Summit noting the local and national needs for employee ownership to make a true impact on the communities they are serving.

“EO is relevant across everyone’s interest. It isn’t partisan and it isn’t charity. Employee ownership is something that can happen every day in this country as a part of business as usual,” said Edwards.

Up next came JJ McCorvey, NBC News reporter, who interviewed former Mayor Tubbs. The wide-ranging conversation covered everything from hip hop to the impact that the right type of leadership and vision can have on a movement. They spoke about how employee ownership influences a sense of connection, creating a sense of ownership in their future, and having agency.

Krystin Klei Berrero, selling owner of CT3 Education, and Cameron Madill, Founder of PixelSpoke, then took the stage with Project Equity’s Courtney Kemp to discuss their decision and process for choosing employee ownership for their companies.

Employee ownership is more than a transition vehicle. It empowers employees, and it grants them a sense of pride in the work they do. It empowers business owners and allows them to preserve their legacy and instill a sense of community. It empowers local economies to thrive.

“They are making this work better, they should own part of this work as well… I can’t change capitalism in this country, but I can be a lot more conscious about how I operate within that. How can I operate within that, build income equality, train, teach, and empower those that haven’t had the same education I did?”

Krystin Klei Berrero Selling owner, CT3 Education

From government roundtables to full-group discussions, policy progress was a focal point. To close out the event, Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell shed light on the opportunity for multiple levels of government to work together and leverage resources to advance equity. A key theme of conversation: “When the government works collaboratively, we can do big things.”

Project Equity's Hilary Abell leading panel discussion with LA County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Ali Khawar
Nick Romeo shares insights from new book

Nick Romeo joined the summit to share takeaways from his book The Alternative: How to Build a Just Economy. As discussed during this session, “jobs are more than a source of income. They are a source of esteem, community, and ownership.”

During his talk, Nick highlighted several important points. Key among them: Building a just economy is a herculean task, and there is no silver bullet solution. However, broad-based employee ownership (alongside other tactics) can help pave the path toward progress.

Author, Nick Romeo, discusses broad-based employee ownership as a path to progress
Small business owners share their stories

Nothing makes the benefits of employee ownership tangible like firsthand accounts. We were honored to hear inspirational anecdotes from local businesses Maximum Fun, Proof Bakery, and Giroux Glass.

Project Equity's David Gray leads panel of local LA County business owners on their stories of employee ownership

Blake Jones wins Employee Ownership Inspiration Award

We’re proud to share that Blake Jones received our inaugural Employee Ownership Inspiration Award during the summit.

Blake’s work to advance employee ownership is a testament to what’s possible when we empower employees to participate in the wealth they create.

Blake co-founded Namaste Solar, a Denver-based solar design and installation company, in 2005. 

Though he started the company with a self-designed type of employee ownership, Blake and his co-founder soon realized that a worker cooperative would serve their purposes much better. Since transitioning the company to a worker cooperative in 2011, Blake has become serial cooperative entrepreneur and has helped to build a cutting-edge ecosystem using different versions of the cooperative model to support employee-owned companies, small businesses, and leading companies in the green energy movement.

EO Inspiration Award winner Black Jones with CEO Evan Edwards and Co-Founder Hilary Abell

Business advisors explore models of employee ownership

This year’s summit included a track geared specifically to small business advisors, helping them become stronger advocates for and more equipped to counsel clients on employee ownership. The track is accepted by the Certified Financial Planner Board, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), and Exit Planning Institute, and it counted for up to eight hours of CPE. Throughout the experience, exit planners and CPAs had the opportunity to:

  • Learn to differentiate between forms of broad-based employee ownership including ESOPs, worker cooperatives and EOTs.
  • Identify features, benefits and challenges associated with employee ownership for a variety of small business owners.
  • Recognize and recommend suitable forms of broad-based employee ownership to small business clients when appropriate.
  • Strategize how to implement an employee ownership readiness plan aligned to the business lifecycle.
  • Identify and assemble key stakeholders for the deal team and transition.

[Employee ownership] allows the business structure to reflect our values in ways that might not otherwise be possible.

Cameron Madill Founder, PixelSpoke

Get inspired by our ownership stories