FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2020
Contacts: Theresa Gardella
Vice President of Programs and Operations Nexus Community Partners firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin Jerabek Heelan
Consultant, WOI Nexus Community Partners email@example.com
New Year Brings Employee Ownership to Happy Earth Cleanin
Happy Earth Cleaning LLC is the first employee-owned cleaning company in Minneapolis
The new year began at Happy Earth Cleaning with employee ownership. Marion and Jesse Dunbar, founders of Happy Earth Cleaning, completed the sale of the business to their employees on December 30, 2019, and new ownership took effect on January 1, 2020. Five staff members became employee-owners with a plan for additional owners over time.
In 2010, Marion founded Happy Earth Cleaning LLC in Minneapolis, MN, with a mission of providing environmentally-safe cleaning with a people-first culture. In the beginning, Marion was the only staff member: she did all the cleaning, management and client cultivation. In 2013, her husband Jesse joined the business. Today, Happy Earth Cleaning has 19 employees, and they pride themselves on their culture and community impact. This includes participating in community events, offering full-time employment to their staff, and now employee ownership.
In 2018, Marion and Jesse needed to create a succession plan for the business because they decided to move back to their hometown of Seattle, Washington. They valued the unique “people first” culture that they had built in an industry that has been known to exploit its workers, and employee ownership was something Marion had always envisioned for the business.
Additionally, they didn’t want a new owner to dismantle their culture or take their customer list and lay off their employees. These aspirations and concerns fueled a desire to explore employee ownership as part of their succession planning.
In search of answers, Marion, Jesse, and a core group of employees took a nine-week course through the City of Minneapolis Co-op Technical Assistance Program (CTAP). The course helped them understand co-op development and solidified their choice that transitioning to employee ownership was the right choice for the business.
To help with the business transition, Happy Earth Cleaning connected with Nexus Community Partners and Project Equity. “We worked with Nexus and Project Equity to sell to our employees because they provided us with the knowledge, expertise and guidance to ensure our team was set up for success after our departure,” Marion said. “It gave us the confidence to know we are doing the right thing for the employees and ourselves.” In addition to the help from
Nexus Community Partners and Project Equity, the new owners received finance and business plan training from Neighborhood Development Center, and the sale was financed locally through Shared Capital Cooperative.
Nexus and Project Equity formed a partnership to respond to the changing business landscape in the Twin Cities region. A Project Equity data analysis shows that in the Twin Cities Metro alone, an estimated 26,180 businesses are owned by baby boomers. Over 80% of the owners have no succession plans. The partners believe employee ownership provides a solution that keeps businesses and jobs rooted locally. For Nexus, employee ownership is part of a larger initiative that seeks to build community wealth. “The model is not only good for business, it’s good for workers and good for our communities,” said Elena Gaarder, Director of Community Wealth Building at Nexus. Marion and Jesse do not fit the “baby boomer” profile that this initiative was originally created to target, yet, they are part of a growing number of entrepreneurs that are environmentally and/or socially-minded who want to leave a legacy when they choose to exit their business.
Ten years after its conception, the Happy Earth Cleaning team has made history by becoming the first employee-owned cleaning company in Minneapolis. They credit their philosophy and culture with the reason they have been able to retain employees and build a strong client base. Through their efforts, they’ve shown how employee-owned initiatives can lead to a happy team. It’s a new year for employees at Happy Earth Cleaning as they celebrate employee ownership. Zach Dennis, Happy Earth’s Dispatcher, has been serving on the cooperative development team with four of his colleagues. He shared, “I think employee ownership is a valuable opportunity to have a democratically controlled workplace allowing for worker control over growth, wages and benefits that directly affect employees.”
Happy Earth Cleaning Employee Ownership Case study: https://www.project– equity.org/owner-retires/happy-earth-just-got-happier/
About Happy Earth Cleaning: Happy Earth is “A People Company that Cleans.” Their business philosophy recognizes the intersectionality between a happy planet, happy community, and happy people – employees and customers. Happy Earth stays true to this philosophy by using environmentally friendly products, participating in community events, and offering full-time employment to their staff. They credit their philosophy and culture with the reason they have been able to retain employees and build a strong client base. https://www.happyearthcleaning.com/
Facebook @HappyEarthCleaning Twitter: @HappyEarthClean Instagram: @happyearthcleaning
About Nexus Community Partners: Nexus is a community building intermediary that works at the intersection of philanthropy, government, community development and community leaders. The organization builds strong, equitable and just communities in which all residents are engaged, are recognized as leaders and have pathways to ownership opportunities. Nexus supports efforts that build strong, local economies and provides services to business owners and their employees to transition to worker cooperatives. To learn more about the Worker Ownership Initiative and Nexus’ Business Transition services, visit: https://www.nexuscp.org/business-transitions/
About Project Equity: Project Equity is a national leader in the movement to harness employee ownership to maintain thriving local business communities, honor selling business owners’ legacies, and address income and wealth inequality. Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Project Equity works locally and 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. A nonprofit organization, Project Equity provides hands on consulting and support 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. Read more at www.project-equity.org.
Marion and Jesse Dunbar sold their successful cleaning company to the people who know their company best—their employees.