Guide: Start a co-operative

Create your co-op

Once you have your co-operative business plan in place you are ready to create your co-op. There are three key steps to consider when formalising your co‑operative business.

Step 1: Identify and choose the most suitable legal form.

Every co-operative needs a legal form.  It is important to consider the variety of legal forms available to formalise your co-operative and establish a best fit with your business plan.

If you are an existing business aiming to convert to a co-operative it is likely that you will already have chosen a legal form. If so, in order to operate as a co-operative business, the first stage will be to choose and adopt a governing document that is fit for purpose.

"Co-operatives UK was integral to the success of our community share offer. We faced many challenges along the way... Co-operatives UK... helped us to not give up and resulted in the development of two successful solar schemes." Emma Bridge, Sheffield Community Renewables

Step 2: Choose a governing document that is fit for purpose.

Adopting the correct legal form for your co-operative is only part of the picture. It is important to ensure that the governing document you choose is written with the co‑operative values and principles in mind. Co‑operatives UK has created a number of model governing documents to make it easier to choose a governing document that includes these values and principles.

The legal form and governing document together create a co-operative’s legal structure.  Check the decisions you have made about the legal structure for your co-operative by using our select a structure tool, a simple online tool to help you through the process of deciding the most appropriate legal structure for your organisation.

Step 3: Create your co-operative

Once you have chosen your legal structure, it will be necessary to:

Incorporate your co-operative with the Registrar, depending on the legal form you choose.


Adapt your chosen governing document (if an existing business). Existing businesses should contact us for advice (Co-operatives UK can help you incorporate your co-operative).

“Co-operatives UK provided tremendous support in our recent, ground-breaking conversion to a Community Benefit Society. The Advice Team guided us through the complex legal challenges extremely efficiently...  and has been a major contributor to an amazing success story.” Simon Opie, Chief Executive Hastings Pier

Registration packages

With our Plus package, we offer a complete incorporation service covering the fee for adopting any of the Co‑operatives UK model governing documents, while permitting up to six amendments to the model chosen.

With an Advanced package we provide a bespoke incorporation service, covering the fee for adopting any of the Co‑operatives UK model governing documents, while permitting up to 10 amendments to the model chosen.

Contact us if you are ready to incorporate your co-operative.