A Business Model that Brings Jobs and Wealth-Building to Local Communities
At OFN’s 7th annual Small Business Finance Forum, more than 500 mission-driven small business lenders and partners gathered in Chicago to learn best practices, address challenges, and network with peers. The Forum’s opening plenary focused on worker-owned cooperatives. This model, while not new, is gaining momentum as a sustainable one for community development.
The plenary discussion was led by Oscar Perry Abello, editor, Next City, and featured Rebecca Dunn, Executive Director, Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE) and Daniel Fireside, Capital Coordinator at Equal Exchange. Equal Exchange is a pioneering worker-owned cooperative Fair Trade food and beverage company based in Massachusetts. Daniel has raised nearly $10 million in preferred stock and loans as working capital from over two dozen alternative lenders and several hundred investors, but when Equal Exchange was a small cooperative in the late 1980s, they sought financing from the CFNE.