Locating startup capital for any organization has always been difficult — in today’s economy it is even more complicated. If the business is a worker cooperative, which many banks consider a fringe business structure, the chances of getting money for a new venture are near zero.
The Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund (NCDF) is a cooperatively owned community-development loan fund committed to fostering economic democracy by investing in cooperative enterprises. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, NCDF currently serves more than 170 owner-members in 30 states, including natural food, consumer, producer, housing and worker-owned cooperatives. Since its founding in 1978, NCDF has originated over $31 million in cooperative financing.
The Worker Ownership Fund (WOF) is managed by the NCDF on behalf of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), to increase access to financing for worker-owned cooperatives.
The NCDF and the USFWC understand the business structure of worker cooperatives in a way that traditional lenders can’t, and not only offer a financing option for co-ops, but technical assistance and mentorship so cooperatives can develop a viable business plan and loan application.
Several MadWorC members already have a relationship with the NCDF through investments or with loans. Christina Jennings, the Executive Director of the NCDF recently met with us to discuss the funds and investigate the possible needs of MadWorC’s members.
From this meeting a new opportunity may have presented itself: MadWorC is working with the NCDF to develop a start-up fund specifically for new Madison worker co-ops. In the future, investors in the worker ownership fund might be able to mark some of the investment to be available to higher-risk investments, such as startups. MadWorC could help qualify and assist these startups and provide a path to the NCDF for loan qualification.
Future developments concerning this fund will appear in future editions of the WorCPlace news-poster. If interested, please contact MadWorC firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Worker Ownership Fund, call 612-331-9103 or email email@example.com.