Making a case for co-ops: how the rarely-taught business model is gaining traction in Bellingham

The conversion process won’t be easy. Dubrow and the company’s future owners have a lot of details to work out, such as how much it will cost to buy an ownership share, and how the cooperative will buy Dubrow out when he retires.

It’s complicated by the fact that few business service providers are familiar with cooperatives; cooperative business models are rarely taught in business schools said Art Sherwood, Western Washington University’s David Cole Professor of Entrepreneurship.

“One of the problems people have is they can’t find a lawyer who knows about cooperatives or a bank or a credit union or whatever,” Sherwood said.

Sherwood is trying to change that. He teaches about cooperative businesses at Western and he’s part of a local movement spreading knowledge about cooperative business models. If Dubrow’s experience is an indication, that movement seems to be succeeding.

Assembling a team of business advisors for the upcoming transition wasn’t hard for Dubrow, and that’s partly because there are already other cooperative businesses in Bellingham. In fact, A-1 Builders won’t be the first builder cooperative; Bellingham Bay Builders, a worker cooperative, formed in 2008 and its owners have helped Dubrow get started.

“We went to Bellingham Bay builders and said, “Who did you use as your attorney and would you do it again?”” Dubrow said. “And that’s actually the attorney we’re working with. Same with the CPA.”

Read the full article at the BBJ Today


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