What is a Co-op?

What is a Co-op?



 Co-op stands for cooperative business. What makes a cooperative business unique is that the members are also the owners. In essence, a cooperative exists to serve its members. While also using the business to provide the goods and services they need, a cooperative business member is also involved the decisions made by the business.



While the Many Hands Food Co-op is a grocery store, there are many different types of cooperative businesses. For example, a credit union is considered a cooperative business.  In fact, there are really only seven main principles a business should adhere to in order to be considered a cooperative business.

1.Membership is open and voluntary: In other words, you don’t need to be a member of the business in order to use its services, unlike places such as Sam’s Club where you need a membership to shop at the store.

2. Cooperatives are democratically controlled by their members: One member, one vote.

3. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative: Each member contributes an equal amount of money into the cooperative.

4. Cooperatives are autonomous:  Meaning they are self-governed by their members with no outside influences effecting the decisions of the business.

5. Cooperatives provide education and training to members and to the public.

6. Cooperatives collaborate with cooperatives.

7. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities.



Becoming a member of a cooperative business is an investment.  However, a cooperative investment differs in several key ways.

  • Members own the business they invest in.
  • Members participate in the democratic control of the business. Every member has one vote and all votes count equally.
  • Members receive a patronage dividend which is a share of the cooperative business’s surplus revenue divided into proportions based on how much a member shops at the co-op.
  • There is reduced risk: a cooperative member’s investment does not inflate or depreciate.
  • Members can pay for their membership over time.
  • If a member decides decide to leave the cooperative they can receive a refund and have their money returned.

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