The new Employee Ownership Equals campaign (“EO Equals”) launches to help American small business owners understand the broad business benefits of employee ownership (“EO”) and get the support they need to transition to the EO model that is right for them. EO is a business model in which the employees have an equity stake as full or part owners, which builds dignified opportunities for business owners to sustain their companies, empower their workers, and strengthen their communities.
“Since we awarded these grants in 2019, we have seen businesses across the country struggle as communities grapple with the compounding effects of the pandemic and racial injustice”
The EO Equals campaign was born out of a new partnership among four mission-driven nonprofit organizations, each with a proven track record for advancing employee ownership in the United States: Evergreen Cooperatives’ Fund for Employee Ownership, the ICA Group, Nexus Community Partners and Project Equity. The campaign is being funded and supported by The Kendeda Fund, an Atlanta-based foundation with a long history of supporting community wealth building initiatives toward a more inclusive, equitable economy.
While there are more than 32.5 million small businesses in America, only a tiny fraction are employee-owned. EO Equals increases awareness of the countless benefits of EO, including increased profits, secure owner retirement, motivated employees, and access to capital for growth. Through EO Equals, the founding partners work with small business owners to help them transition to the EO model that is right for them. More detail on the campaign, including a free workbook to help owners understand what EO model could be best for their business, is on the campaign website (https://EmployeeOwnershipEquals.org).
“Small businesses are the backbone of our local economies; when they suffer, so do their communities. But the reverse is just as true: when small businesses thrive, so too, do their communities,” said Diane Ives, Kendeda Fund advisor. “By working with our grantee partners at the Evergreen Cooperatives’ Fund for Employee Ownership, the ICA Group, Nexus Community Partners and Project Equity to develop the EO Equals campaign, we aim to help thousands of businesses across the country unlock countless opportunities to thrive.”
The EO Equals campaign supports the goals that Kendeda identified in 2019 when the Fund announced a $24 million commitment to the four partners in service of expanding employee ownership in the United States:
- Make communities more vibrant by retaining more businesses and expanding local ownership;
- Improve job quality and confront the racial wealth gap that has long divided American communities and inhibited economic growth; and
- Inspire the philanthropic and impact investment communities to see employee ownership as a necessary — and profitable — strategy for business growth.
“Since we awarded these grants in 2019, we have seen businesses across the country struggle as communities grapple with the compounding effects of the pandemic and racial injustice,” said Ives. “The events of the last two years have only strengthened our commitment to bolster employee ownership in our communities.”
The EO Equals campaign connects businesses to the resources they need. Kendeda and the founding partners conducted in-depth research into the state of employee-owned businesses in America, the existing information available about EO for business owners, and the attitudes and motivators of small business owners. The research revealed that most existing EO information is aimed at owners who have already decided to transition their businesses. There was far less practical guidance for people who do not know how EO could help their business – or who do not know about EO at all. The EO Equals campaign was designed to meet that need.
“The research helped us understand the need to broadly share the benefits of EO to business owners who are thinking about retirement, exhausted from the past 18 months, and/or seeking ways to reward loyal employees with ownership of the wealth they are helping to build,” Ives added. “The gap is in knowing that EO is a viable option. Through the EO Equals campaign we hope to increase the number of business owners who are knowledgeable about, contemplating, and taking action to transition to EO.”
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