Well, it's been about a year since I started a discussion here about opening a specialty cafe using the worker-owned cooperative model. It was an interesting discussion, but in the end I had to stop running my mouth and make it happen. And so we did, and it was sweet.
We've been open for 2 months now with a nice streamlined operation in a little storefront. I guess you could call it an espresso bar though instead of a bar we have stadium style benches we built and some outdoor seating. Next month, we'll start cutting paychecks, I'll be quitting my part time job, and we'll expand our hours. Not bad considering when we started, the other two founders and I had not a nickel to our names, no property to borrow against or use as collateral, and not a rich relative between us. Our business was funded by a kickstarter campaign, a few tiny loans from friends, and $300 membership buy-ins (and a couple of crazy fundraising parties). We should be debt-free within a year.
There are 6 of us now. We decide everything democratically, split up the dirty work, and share all the satisfaction and the frustrations of owning a business. On one hand, it can be frustrating to not be able to just do whatever I want whenever I want with the business; but on the other hand, by putting all the tough decisions through the brain-filters of 6 people who just want the business to succeed, we've come up with some much improved solutions to things that I would have done differently and not as well on my own. Pay is simple; we set our own wage month by month according to our income, and when there's surplus, it'll be divided by hours worked (including administrative work and things like shopping). Having every drink made by an owner of the cafe has tons of obvious competitive advantages, and I can't even begin to tell you how much better customer interactions are when they know they're talking to an owner, and you're talking to someone who's contributing directly to your paycheck.
Anyway, yes, partly I'm just bragging because we actually did it, and dammit, I deserve to brag a little, but I'm also just putting it out there because many of us are of a generation reaching full adulthood in a protracted recession. We have college degrees that we either had to have jobs to pay for while studying, or took out massive loans for with no careers waiting on the other end. I wouldn't trade my education for anything, but the degree itself is not much more than high grain toilet paper. Starting your own business has always been tough, but now it's even tougher. So, here's a possible solution for troubled times. And I'm no Zuckerberg, what we did can be done by just about anyone with the patience and persistence to see it through. Maybe you can do it better, and maybe you can avoid some of the unnecessary struggle and BS, or time-wasters that we went through (though anyone who's started a business will tell you that there will be plenty of BS to wade through-that's just part of the package). So, there you go, it can be done, it's not easy, often it's fun and sometimes it isn't, but it is pretty goddamn satisfying :)
Wow! That's really incredible. I'm excited to see your business grow in the coming years. Kudos.
Congrats, and thanks for posting back with an update. Best of luck in the future!
Congratulations. Be interesting to hear the state of the "ownership committee of six" a year from now.
Will keep you posted, this is just the beginning.
Glad to hear you are doing well! My only advice would be when you have a surplus, set a good bit aside for slower times. My friend owns a car supply business and set an amount he pays himself each week, if he makes over that he leaves it in the bank. Had he not done that, these last few years would have been bad, real bad at times.