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Coffee Cranks: Cappuccinos, co‑operation and community spirit

Case study

6th September 2022
What is a co-op?
A Coffee Cranks cart

Find out how a worker co‑op in Manchester is making a difference to local people while empowering its members – and giving them a better working life…

One of a series of case studies produced by Co‑operatives UK as part of The Ownership Hub programme, in partnership with the Employee Ownership Association. The Ownership Hub is working with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority to highlight the benefits of employee and worker owned businesses.

Coffee Cranks is a mobile espresso bar operating from cargo bikes and supplying fair trade coffee with no environmental impact. A worker co‑op with three core members, it’s been in existence for more than 10 years, serving the people of Manchester, as well as providing ethically sourced, organic coffee at festivals and events throughout the country.

For five of those years, the co-op was situated in a café in Manchester’s Alexandra Park. In addition to providing quality food and drinks, Coffee Cranks offered its space as a resource to community groups and customers. In the park, it was home to local film nights, music nights, a climate action group, a creative writing course for wellbeing and more.

Coffee Cranks coffee stall

For member director Leah Revington, being part of the co‑op is an empowering way to work: “When I started at Coffee Cranks, I’d been working in hospitality for a long time and was tired of the exploitation that tends to go with those kinds of jobs,” she said.

“We have control and the ability to influence things, rather than being told what to do. We make decisions based on the interests of our customers and staff, not just the bottom line.

“And there’s more opportunity to think creatively about what we’re trying to achieve and how to use profits. We can look at putting them towards ourselves as a workforce or the community.

“There’s no automatic suction of finances to a manager at the top level. It’s great that our profits remain in the business and the area. The money stays local and generates stuff people in Manchester can use.”

Leah and her colleagues moved into the premises at Alexandra Park five years ago, after winning a tender with Manchester City Council. And being in control of the business enabled them to make the decision to end that relationship, based on their values and vision.

“We’d like to see co‑ops take over Manchester, that would be fantastic. We didn’t think the council’s strategy was conducive to supporting co‑ops and social enterprises, so we decided to move out of the premises when our contract ended due to uncertainty working with them and the council’s strategy for the future,” she said.

Coffee Cranks at an event
Coffee Cranks regularly serves up ethically sourced coffee at local and national events

Now back on bikes, Coffee Cranks remains busy and in demand, regularly serving up cappuccinos, lattes and more at local markets and events. Its members are also talking to other local groups, co‑ops and social enterprises to create a network that will strengthen community business in Manchester.

“We’re exploring how we can create a progressive strategy going forward. We’re talking to small community interest companies and groups that operate out of parks or council buildings,” Leah said.

“There are lots of people trying to make a difference and we want to link these organisations up so they are not operating in isolation. On their own, they don’t think they have much power – but we believe that together we can have the power to influence strategy.

“We are trying to make people a bit more aware. We’re galvanising the message and sharing our experience with other groups. Our big push for the future is to get co‑ops to be a pride thing throughout Manchester and to have the local council recognise the value of co‑ops for the tenders they put out.”

Find out more

  • Coffee Cranks – Website
  • If you’re based in South Yorkshire and would like to talk to someone about starting a worker or employee owned business, get in touch with the Ownership Hub
  • Find out about The Ownership Hub programme, in partnership with Employee Ownership Association, and its work with South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority

  • Our Step by Step Tool is a great free resource to help work ​your way through the steps of planning and starting a new co-op.


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