In less than one month after officially transitioning to an employee-owned cooperative, more than 40 percent of Gimme! Coffee's eligible employees have signed on as co-owners of the cooperative, which is now led by a Board of Directors that represents them.
“The co-op builds on Gimme’s commitment to provide stable, dignified careers by giving employees a stronger voice in how we serve our customers, community and each other,” said Kate Smith, Gimme! Board of Directors President and Bakery Director since 2011. “This new structure can become a model for other businesses, especially in the service industry, that a dedication to quality products, employee enrichment and local community investment can increase the health and wealth of everyone involved.”
The company says that moving to a democratic, mutually beneficial co-op structure was a natural evolution for Gimme! Coffee. The company notes that it provides a certified living wage and predictable schedules for its 53 employees and uses sustainable practices at every step in its supply chain, offering customers Fairtrade, organic, and shade-grown coffees at their cafes in Ithaca and Trumansburg, and through their wholesale operations.
The process to become an employee-owned cooperative involved multiple steps, following a management transition from Gimme’s owner and founder to two co-leaders in 2020. Believing the co-op structure aligned with Gimme!’s values, they launched a feasibility study and formed a transition team consisting of a cross-section of employees. Their employee-ownership transition process included consultation from cooperative experts and a law firm that specializes in co-op structures.
“From the beginning, our goal was to be inclusive, keep ownership local and create an operating structure that benefits everyone involved,” Smith said. “Our Board and employee-owners represent a true cross-section of Gimme!, ensuring our connections to customers, suppliers, and communities translate to decisions and actions that best serve the staff and the greater good.”
The Board and employee-owners have collaborated on a detailed decision matrix and equitable operating model to grow the business. Colleen Anunu and Claire Christensen continue to run the day-to-day operations as Co-Managing Directors, reporting to the Board of Directors. Consistent with their commitment to transparency, they’ve involved the full team in numerous all-employee meetings to ensure understanding of the new structure.
“I’m so excited to see what we all can do as a cooperative,” said Wendell Roth, a member of the Board of Directors, employee-owner and Lead Barista who has worked for Gimme! for four years. “I joined Gimme! because I was inspired by its commitment to sustainability and focus on the local community, and now look where we are! We have employee-owners at every level of the company. I feel very proud of that.”