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Delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank

Apply for support to convert to a co‑op

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Shop front of the Natural Food Store in Diss

The Hive offers up to 10 days tailored business support, mentoring and training to help you understand the options for direct worker or community ownership – and the benefits this brings.

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The Hive support helped us to navigate the process of purchasing the business. We gained a better understanding of what it means to be worker-owned and how best to make collective decisions on all aspects of running the shop.
– Natural Foodstore, Diss

Who can apply?

We welcome strong applications from all sectors and from all regions of the UK. Below outlines specific criteria and objectives that we are looking to achieve and that will make your application for support even stronger.

  • We will support employee buy-outs to enable the business to become a wholly owned co-operative. See Suma Wholefoods.
  • This may be in response to succession issues where the existing owners are looking to retire. It can also be about converting to co-op ownership to make the business more effective in how it is run and on a democratic basis. 
  • We will also support businesses looking to convert to community ownership. Community buyouts are increasingly common in the UK, with local groups running existing shops, pubs, football clubs, piers and transport services. Most of which are delivered through setting up a community co-operative. They mainly arise when a community is driven to rescuing a local business threatened with closure or, in exceptional circumstances, where the community feels poorly served by the business. 
  • We will only support buy-outs for smaller businesses of up to 15 employees. This is to give employees or the local community a realistic opportunity to raise funds to ‘buy-out’ the owners.
  • We welcome strong applications from all sectors and from all regions of the UK. Below we outline specific criteria and objectives that we are looking to achieve and that will make your application for support even stronger.

Application criteria

  • Existing trading UK-based businesses who are looking to convert to worker or community ownership.

What support is available?

The Hive offers up to 10 days bespoke business support, mentoring and training to convert your business to worker or community ownership. Specifically, this breakdowns as:

The Hive has a network of expert co-operative development advisers who are contracted to deliver direct one-to-one advice based on the needs identified in a group or co-operative's application.

One-to-one support is currently limited to phone/video calls and email due to Covid-19, but does not impact the quality of support.

Ways one-to-one support can help

  • An initial diagnostic review working with the existing owners to assess the viability of an employee ownership option.
  • Clarification of the owner’s withdrawal expectations and the most suitable model of cooperative employee ownership for the business.
  • A financial assessment to understand the potential buy-out timescale.
  • Advice and support around how funds can be raised for the buyout.
  • An implementation plan leading to incorporation as a co-op.
  • Where more specific expertise is required, we will signpost clients to industry technical and legal expertise.

Outputs*

We will agree outputs with you if your application is successful. They will vary for each group. but they could include:

  • New registrations / incorporations.
  • New members (employees).

*These are indicative outputs and will vary with each group. The exact outputs will be agreed with you if your application for support is successful.

In‐house training* delivered to your board or management committee. This will be determined by the support needs identified in your application and through further dialogue with The Hive team.

The focus of the training session will be flexible but is likely to address areas relating to governance (such as new director / board training or how to manage conflict), membership or understanding your co-op's finances.

* Training is currently being delivered online due to Covid-19, but this does not impact the quality of support.

Up to three days mentoring is on offer where a group or co-operative is matched with another, more established and experienced co‐operative. The content of support is agreed between you and your peer mentor.

Peer mentoring is currently limited to phone/video calls and email due to Covid-19, but does not impact the quality of support being delivered.

Mentor co-operatives need to be a Co-operatives UK member. We will be able to advise about this if your application is successful.

How to apply
Check if you're eligible then start your application!

How long do applications take to be assessed?

There are two stages when applying to The Hive.

Step 1: Eligibility checker 

Applicants complete an initial eligibility checker. If the applicant is able to demonstrate that they meet our minimum eligibility, they will be directed to the page to complete the full application. This does not collect any information or data from the applicant – it is a self-assessment.

Step 2: Application form

Applicants complete the full application, where questions relate to your support needs.

Assessment

The Hive is open to applications all year round with applications reviewed at monthly panel assessment meetings. We aim to notify applicants of the outcome within two weeks of a monthly panel meeting, which means that the maximum amount of time an applicant will have to wait for a decision following submission is eight weeks.

Commitment Fee

Successful applicants will be charged a small fee by Co-operatives UK to access the support. This will be just £100 or £75 for Co-operatives UK Members, and is a flat rate, irrespective of the number of days accessed.

This fee has been included to ascertain the level of commitment of the client, as learnings from previous co-operative support programmes have suggested that any advice deemed to be ‘free’ is valued less highly by clients. Co-operatives UK reinvests these money into future support provision.

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