Business Cooperatives

What is a business "co-op"?

A business cooperative, also known as a "co-op," is an organization owned and operated by a group of individuals who come together to achieve common economic goals.  

These goals may include purchasing supplies or services, marketing their products, or providing employment opportunities. Here is a breakdown of co-ops to decide if this is a good option for you and your business. 

Benefits of Starting a Co-op 

  • Shared Ownership and Decision-Making: Co-ops are owned and governed by their members, which means that each member has an equal say in the decision-making process. This democratic structure ensures that all members have a voice in shaping the direction and policies of the co-op. 
  • Economic Benefits: Co-ops aim to provide economic benefits to their members, such as lower costs for inputs or access to markets that might be difficult to reach individually. By pooling resources and leveraging collective bargaining power, co-op members can often achieve economies of scale and negotiate better deals. 
  • Risk Sharing: In a co-op, the risks and rewards are shared among the members. This can help reduce individual financial risk and create a supportive network where members help each other overcome challenges. 
  • Long-Term Sustainability: Co-ops tend to have a long-term focus, prioritizing the needs and goals of the members and the community over short-term profits. This can lead to more sustainable business practices and a greater sense of social responsibility. 

Steps to Start a Co-op 

  • Identify the Need: Determine if there is a demand for a co-op in your industry or community. Research and gather a group of interested individuals who share the same goals. 
  • Feasibility Study: Conduct a feasibility study to assess the viability of the co-op. This study should analyze the market, financial projections, legal requirements, and potential challenges. 
  • Develop a Business Plan: Create a detailed business plan outlining the co-op's goals, structure, operations, marketing strategies, and financial projections. This plan will serve as a roadmap for the co-op's development. 
  • Legal Structure: Choose a legal structure that suits your needs, such as a cooperative corporation, a limited liability company (LLC), or a cooperative association. Consult with an attorney specializing in cooperative law to ensure compliance with local regulations. 
  • Membership and Governance: Determine the membership criteria and admission process for the co-op. Establish governance procedures, including how decisions will be made, voting rights, and board member elections. 
  • Draft Cooperative Documents: Prepare the necessary legal documents, such as articles of incorporation, bylaws, membership agreements, and operating agreements. These documents outline the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of the co-op and its members. 
  • Funding and Financing: Identify potential financing sources for your co-op. This could include member investments, loans from financial institutions, grants, or crowdfunding. Prepare a financial plan that outlines the capital requirements and how the co-op intends to secure funding. 
  • Register and Comply with Regulations: Register your co-op with the appropriate government agencies and comply with legal and regulatory requirements. This may involve obtaining business licenses, tax identification numbers, and adhering to labor laws. 
  • Operationalize the Co-op: Once all legal and administrative requirements are fulfilled, begin operating the co-op according to the business plan and cooperative documents. Develop marketing strategies, recruit members, and start providing products or services. 

Fiscal Responsibilities 

Co-op members typically contribute financially through initial investments, purchasing shares, or paying membership fees. Members may also be required to contribute capital based on their usage or patronage of the co-op's services. Additionally, members may share in any profits or surpluses generated by the co-op, which can be allocated based on the cooperative's bylaws or predetermined formula. 

Financing Sources for Co-ops

  • Member Investments: Co-op members can provide initial capital through equity investments or by purchasing shares in the cooperative. 
  • Loans and Credit: Co-ops can obtain financing from traditional lenders, such as banks or credit unions, by presenting a solid business plan and demonstrating their creditworthiness. 
  • Grants and Funding Programs: Explore grants, subsidies, or funding programs specifically designed for co-ops. These may be available through government agencies, foundations, or other organizations supporting cooperative development. 
  • Crowdfunding: Raise capital through crowdfunding platforms that allow individuals to contribute money in exchange for rewards or equity in the co-op. 

It's important to note that the specific steps, documents, and requirements may vary depending on your state and the type of co-op you intend to start. Consulting with legal, financial, and cooperative development professionals is highly recommended to ensure compliance with local laws and best practices for a co-op to be successful. 


The information provided on is intended for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered as professional advice or a substitute for seeking professional guidance.


Invest in All of Us

Your financial support will help make citizenship more affordable for millions of future Americans.

Invest Today