A series of free webinars starts this month, introducing the co-op model to people looking for a more collaborative, democratic approach to running a business start‑up.
The webinars are short online taster sessions that will provide a launchpad for starting a co-op business. They’re produced by The Hive, the business support initiative delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank.
Co-ops do business differently. It’s a business model suitable for people looking to challenge the status quo and find fairer, more equitable ways of working. Co-ops are owned and controlled by their members, giving people a share in the success of the business.
Sharing ownership in this way not only boosts morale and productivity, it harnesses innovation – and research suggests that co-ops are far more resilient and more likely to survive compared to other businesses.
According to the Co-op Economy Report 2021, co-op businesses have better withstood the economic impact of Covid-19, as just 1.5% of co-ops were dissolved in 2020 compared to 6.5% of businesses generally.
The Hive webinar series will enable new businesses to find out more about the benefits of running a co-op business and the resilience of the co-op model – and they’ll help start-ups discover if their business would suit a co-operative structure. Find out more and sign up for the webinars here.
Start-ups that decide to opt for the co-op model can also apply for up to ten days of tailored business support from The Hive to set up their business. This support helps people establish their co‑op, develop their business idea and become a sustainable, growing business.
The support is open to those in the process of starting a co-op, as well as already established co-ops and those in the early days of trading. Existing businesses that want to become co-ops can also receive support from The Hive.
The Hive appoints co-operative development experts to support start-ups with advice tailored to their needs. This includes skills training and help with creating business plans, raising finance and establishing legal and governance structures. The Hive can also organise peer mentoring from an experienced co-op.
InFact Digital Co-op – a thriving North London agency that creates apps, websites and digital tools – was formed with help from The Hive when a group of freelance developers came together with a shared belief in the power of technology as a force for good.
“Traditional hierarchy is going out of fashion,” said InFact developer Lucy King. “We are convinced that co-op working is the future. We didn't consider setting up any other way. We wanted equality, a lack of hierarchy and to be in control of our own destinies. But we didn’t know how best to set up as a co-op.”
The Hive appointed co‐operative development adviser Siôn Whellens to support them. “Siôn’s input and support was invaluable,” said Lucy. “He took us through what we needed to do. The process was challenging in places. Siôn helped to break it down so it didn’t feel overwhelming.
“He was instrumental in getting us to the point where we were able to incorporate as a co-op business. We’re grateful that The Hive’s help got us there. It enabled us to have a sense of structure. It’s given us a pathway to follow and a mentor we could talk to. It gave us the belief we could do it. And we did!”
Felt Nowt Productions is a co-op of comedians that was formed to give comics living in the North East of England more work opportunities in their area. “There’s not a lot of comedy in the North East, so comics based here have to travel to other areas for most of their work,” says stand-up and Felt Nowt director John Gibson.
John and his colleagues received support from The Hive, which enabled Felt Nowt to get expert input from the North East Business and Innovation Centre. “It helped us establish a complete business plan, which wasn’t fully finished because there were areas we didn’t know how to address,” he said.
“We weren’t sure how best to represent our financial forecasts. They took what we had and came back with a new template that helped us represent it in a more financial accounts view of the world. Our business plan was given a level of polish that took it from being an explanation of what we do – to being an inspiring document that’s an effective sales tool for our organisation.
“It’s invaluable because we now have something slick, professional and compelling to present to potential funders. Thanks to The Hive’s support, we can move forward confident that our business is backed with a solid plan that will help us achieve our goals.”
Chorlton Bike Deliveries is a co-op that was created out of a need to serve the local community and give people employment opportunities during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
A group of like-minded people in the Chorlton area of Manchester began talking online. Among them were many keen cyclists. “We wanted to find a way to be more useful, to support the local community and the independent retailers and eateries in our area. So, we decided to start a bike delivery service,” said Abbie Paton, one of the co-op’s directors.
What helped make this possible was the expert guidance Abbie and her colleagues received from The Hive. Hive Provider Adrian Ashton delivered valuable advice that enabled the co-op to register, establish its articles of association and decide which legal form to take.
“Adrian’s business knowledge also helped us explore different income streams,” said Abbie. “The co-op has grown quite a bit now and we have a number of retailers we work with. So it’s thanks to The Hive’s help that we’ve been able to create the solid foundations from which to grow and support more people and businesses.”