Nexus in the News

MPR Highlights Nexus WOI’s Recent Co-op Conversion

The Nexus Worker-Ownership Initiative is proud to announce the completion of its first cooperative conversion! Starting in 2020, Happy Earth Cleaning Cooperative is now in business. 

Nexus, in partnership with Project Equity, helped provide technical assistance for Happy Earth Cleaning LLC to become an employee-owned co-op.  Over a period of 10 months the previous business owners and employees were guided through a proven conversion process that included feasibility studies, structuring the deal, and training employees to become owners of their own business.

MPR rounds out the story with their article, “Supporters see worker co-ops as way to spread the wealth. How one housecleaning business joined the workers’ cooperative movement”. An excerpt of the story is below. You can listen to the audio and read the full article here.

“With the support of the cleaning company’s founders, employees in January officially transitioned the company into the Happy Earth Cleaning Co-op — a cooperative owned and run by workers. Employees at worker cooperatives get a say in how their business is run and a cut of the profits. As wealth disparities continue to increase in the country, some are hoping co-ops can make the economy more equitable and democratic.”

Thanks also go out to The City of Minneapolis Co-op Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP), Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), The Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD). Project Equity, and Erin Heelan Consulting.

Happy Earth Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2020

Contacts: Theresa Gardella
Vice President of Programs and Operations Nexus Community Partners tgardella@nexuscp.org

Erin Jerabek Heelan
Consultant, WOI Nexus Community Partners erin@erinhconsulting.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.”

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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.

Worker Ownership Initiative Featured in Chronicle of Philanthropy

The Nexus Worker-Ownership Initiative and Kendeda’s radical grant making strategy was featured in the Chronicle of Philanthropy! The excerpt on Worker Ownership is below and you can read the full article here.

“Some grant makers, including the Kendeda Fund, which was founded by Diana Blank, the former wife of Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, have made grants to organizations that give workers more say in running the companies that employ them.

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PHOTO BY KENNETH M. WEISS

The Kendeda Fund has committed more than $24 million to groups trying to increase the number and awareness of worker- owned companies, such as Evergreen Cooperative Laundry.

In August, Kendeda committed more than $24 million to four such organizations: the Fund for Employee Ownership, which buys companies from retiring baby boomers and coverts them to worker-owned outts; the ICA Group, which will support conversions to employee ownership in the home-care and child-care industries; Nexus Community Partners, which will work to promote conversion to employee ownership in industry sectors likely to employ people of color, and Project Equity, which works to raise awareness about employee ownership.

Making those changes in a few select business sectors is minor compared to the task of securing shifts among publicly traded companies that do business in the global market, admits Diane Ives, Kendeda’s adviser for people, place, and planet. Currently only about 450 worker-owned cooperatives exist in the United States. But, she says, the number of startups and business conversions is growing. She hopes Kendeda’s grants can help build a network of worker-owned businesses that advocate for employee-friendly regulations and that distribute profits to employees and benefit the cities where they work.

“There are a lot of motivations for running a business. Profit is not the only one,” she says. “Transitioning to employee ownership allows a business owner to tap into some of those other values, like an appreciation for the work force and the role the business plays in the community.”

Read the full article here

Featured: Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative & Partnership with Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce

Nexus’ Worker Ownership Initiative and partnership with the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce was recently featured in Finance & Commerce:

“Cooperative ownership is a solution both to the challenges facing small businesses and to larger problems in the economy…Elena Gaarder, Director of Community Wealth at Nexus, says, ‘For us, this presents this really once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move where the bulk of the wealth is held in our country and create so many more opportunities for ownership’”

Sixty percent of small business owners were born before 1964, according to the University of Minnesota. Nexus and the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce are working together to address the ongoing wave of baby boomer retirements, keep businesses local, and build cooperative ownership. Read the full article here!

Learn more about the Worker Ownership Initiative (WOI) here!

Bush Prize for Community Innovation 2018

Nexus Community Partners is proud to be recognized by the Bush Foundation as a 2018 Bush Prize for Community Innovation winner! Nexus Community Partners has been at the center of innovative community capacity building efforts for 15 years. Our role as a community partner has served as a vehicle to bring partners from community, government, philanthropy and community development  together to design and implement solutions to persistent challenges. The solutions have emerged over the years because of how we set the table; grounding partnerships in shared values and principles, nurturing authentic relationships, and creating intentional space for shared learning and impact. We want to thank all of our partners who we have had the honor of working with over the years. Together we are building more engaged and powerful communities of color.

Read more from The Bush Foundation

 

Nexus Community Partners: Addressing economic Opportunity on Saint Paul’s East Side

From the Mardag Foundation

Cities Building Community Wealth: Executive Summary

From Democracy Collaborative

KFAI Radio: Truth to Tell

How Nexus Community Partners Uses Cooperative Models to Tackle the Racial Wealth Gap

From Shareable

New Report: Opportunities for Impact Investing in Ownership

Review from Fifty by Fifty (published on Medium)