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

Support for start‑up co‑op businesses

Where ideas turn into plans

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.

Already set up your business?

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

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

    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. This means that most of the beneficiaries for your co-op are in the UK and most of the value and benefit will be for those in the UK.
    • Your co-operative is or will be a trading and sustainable business. By trading businesses, we mean you are not wholly dependent on charitable donations or grants and aim to sustain jobs, trading income and generate surplus.
    • Please also read this guidance - should my business be a co-operative?
    • The support you are applying for will be completed within six months. A decision on your application will be made within a maximum of 8 weeks from the date of your application.
    • If successful, you should be in a position to accept the support and immediately progress the plans outlined in your application. We ask that the support can be delivered and completed within a six month timeframe.

    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.

    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. 

    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

    • 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.

    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, 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.


    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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