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

Support for start‑up co‑op businesses

ODS team

The Hive offers up to 10 days bespoke business support, mentoring and training for start‑up co‑ops.

We can help you to quickly set up your co‑op, develop your business idea and become a sustainable and growing business.

Before you start the process of applying for The Hive, you should have used our step-by-step tool to be able to show you:

  • Have tested your business idea (see step 1)
  • Know if your business will be a co‑op (see step 2)
  • Have an idea(s) about how you will finance your co‑op (see step 3)
  • Have made a start on your business plan (see step 4)

If you still need help to work out the best legal form or type of co-op, or help with registering your co-op, you can apply to The Hive for up to 10 days direct business support, training and mentoring.

    Ready to apply? Find out if you're eligible for support

    Already set up your business?

    The Hive also offers up to 10 days bespoke support to for:

    What support is available?

    Successful applicants will be offered a bespoke package of up to 10 days support including some or all of the following. 

    Up to six days direct one-to-one support

    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, but does not impact the quality of support.

    Ways one-to-one support can help

    • To decide the most appropriate type of co‑operative model and structure, fine‑tune the governance and participation associated with that structure and with the incorporation process.
    • To develop membership criteria and a member engagement and/or member training plan.
    • With business planning, testing out the idea or raising finance.
    • Developing a community share offer.


    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 premises (asset transfer).
    • New community share offers and £amount raised.
    • Number of people benefiting from skills training / peer mentor support.

    In‐house trainingdelivered 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, but this does not impact the quality of support. 

    Up to three days mentoring, where your 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, but does not impact the quality of support. 

    Mentor co-operatives need to be a Co-operatives UK member.

    Who can apply?

    The Hive support is open to groups in the process of starting a co-operative, newly incorporated co-ops and in the early days of trading. 

    Your business idea doesn’t need to be original, but you have to offer something new. You may be filling a gap in the market, responding to market failure or creating alternative solutions to specific issues.

    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.

    Essential criteria

    Your co-operative is or will be based in the UK.

    Your co-operative is or will be a trading and sustainable business.

    • You are already (or you aspire to be) a business with a clear trading model and you aim to sustain or grow jobs or members.
    • You already (or aim to) generate a surplus which will be distributed among members, reinvested in the business or will benefit your local community e.g. a community fund or improved services.
    • You will not be wholly dependent on charitable donations or grants.
    • Please also read this guidance - should my business be a co-operative?

    Additional criteria

    Co‑operatives from key sectors

    The Hive welcomes strong applications from all sectors. However, we are particularly interested in applications if you are:

    • Creating fairer working conditions for freelance or casual workers, particularly in the ‘gig’ economy where work can be precarious.
    • Creating more collaborative digital and tech ownership models e.g. platform co‐ops (see also the UnFound programme)
    • Delivering improved health and social care provision.

    Your co-operative offer

    • Your co-operative offers (or aspires to offer) something new. You may be filling a gap in the market or creating alternative and more democratic solutions to specific issues or challenges. Your model has the potential for scaling-up or being replicated.
    How to apply
    Check if you're eligible then start your application!

    How long do applications take to be assessed?

    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. 

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