Happy Earth Cleaning preserves 18 jobs, roots business in Minneapolis, Minnesota
In January 2020, the employees of Happy Earth Cleaning purchased and converted the successful, nine-year-old business to a worker cooperative.
Happy Earth provides eco-friendly cleaning services for homes, businesses, and apartment buildings. Five long-standing employees bought the business when previous owners wanted to move to support family members. As a worker cooperative, the business is democratically owned and operated by employees with each employee-owner having equal ownership stake. As a result, Happy Earth Cleaning Cooperative continues to provide eco-friendly cleaning services to customers throughout the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul and the eighteen employees retain their jobs.
“My parents are in their 70s, so it’s time to move back to Seattle” said previous owner Jesse Dunbar who, along with spouse and business partner Marion, will move in May. The Dunbars and employees learned about cooperatives from the City of Minneapolis’ Co-op Technical Assistance Program, or C-TAP. “We’ve been thinking about selling to employees since the beginning” and, after taking C-TAP, Dunbar said his thinking shifted to “yeah, we’re going to do this. And people stepped up.” Dunbar began working with Nexus Community Partners and Project Equity soon after C-TAP and was connected to Shared Capital Cooperative for financing.
“I’m just so thrilled we could do it” said Rachel Battles, one of the new founding members and a supervisor of Happy Earth. Other potential buyers “just wanted our customer list and would have us operating out of a storage container” reported Battles. Being a co-op adds to the quality of work, trust and accountability. “Clients love that we treat our employees well and that we’re a co-op” she continued. The co-op structure protects their staff, contribution to the community and commitment to the environment.
Happy Earth chose Shared Capital Cooperative to finance the conversion. Twin-Cities-based, Shared Capital is a national CDFI loan fund that specializes in financing co-ops. Happy Earth joins over 250 other cooperatives who own and borrow from Shared Capital.
“The fact that Shared Capital exists and was able to offer us a loan is game changing.” said Battles. “The process itself had all these little things and Shared Capital made sure we had everything we needed. It’s been overwhelming the amount of help we’ve gotten.” Battles concluded, “To anyone that is considering becoming a co-op – do it!”
Local Worker Co-op Joins Growing Movement: Happy Earth joins 65,000 co-operative enterprises throughout the United States who generate over $650 billion in revenue and pay $75 billion in wages annually. There are 350 million memberships in co-ops in the U.S. who receive $79 billion in patronage and dividends from their co-op, according to the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives.
Truly Cooperative Finance: Shared Capital works with cooperatives in all sectors and industries for the conversion, expansion and startup of cooperatively owned businesses and housing throughout the United States. Shared Capital has made 875 loans totaling over $52 million since 1979. To learn more, please visit www.sharedcapital.coop.
For more about cooperatives in the United States, see the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International(NCBA CLUSA), the apex organization for cooperatives in the United States. NCBA CLUSA is driven by the mission to develop, advance, and defend the cooperative business model through advocacy, public awareness, development and thought leadership.
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