The mission of the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center (RMEOC) is to build a more just and sustainable economy through employee ownership.
We believe that a just economy is one that works for everyone, that is built upon inclusive and sustainable systems, and that provides equitable opportunity to build wealth. Our current economy benefits too few, at the expense of too many. But employee ownership is a powerful tool to change that.
Since RMEOC’s foundation in 2012, we see growing evidence of success every day as we help more and more businesses become employee owned, creating wealth for working people, helping to close race and gender wealth gaps, and building more sustainable, resilient, and profitable businesses that provide long-term benefit to our communities.
Why Employee-Owned Business?
- Reduces growing wealth inequality: Business ownership is among the most concentrated forms of wealth in the U.S. and the richest 10% of Americans own 71% of total household wealth in the U.S., according to the World Inequality Database (2022). Expanding employee ownership could quadruple the share of wealth held by the bottom 50 percent of Americans.
- Build a resilient economy: an employee-owned business is resilient during an economic crisis.
- Create more job opportunities for marginalized communities: Employee-owned businesses provide better job opportunities for marginalized communities.
Benefits of Employee Ownership
Benefits for the Company
- 8.5% Higher profit margins of EO companies
- 5% faster annual growth for sales and employment
- Higher success rate for co-ops than traditional firms
- 90% of worker cooperatives stay in business after 5 yrs compared to 20% of conventional firms
- Tax benefits
Benefits for Employees
- 92% of employee owners have a higher median household wealth
- 33% higher median income from overall wages at all wage levels
- Greater access to financial benefits
- Better working conditions
- Reduced risks of job loss
Benefits for the Selling Owners
- Creating a succession plan
- Preserving the legacy of the company
- Tax benefits
- Rewarding and retaining employees
- Creating a more resilient company
Benefits for the Economy
- Worker co-ops keep wealth in the local economy
- Healing the wealth gap
- Fighting inequality
- Boosting employment
- Build wealth and higher standard of living
- Benefits for disadvantaged communities
Types of Employee-Owned Business
- An employee retirement plan
- Set up an ESOP Trust
- Best for a large and profitable business
- A worker-owned business
- One person, one vote
- Democratic & transparent
Employee-owned Trust (EOT)
- Trust-owned business
- Flexible employee benefit plans
- Perpetual. It can’t be sold by other entities.
Minsun Ji (Ph.D.)
Minsun Ji (Ph.D.) is a labor-community organizer, activist scholar and popular educator. She has long experience in non-profit management and employee ownership efforts.
Minsun was a graduate program director of the Center for New Directions in Politics and Public Policy in the Political Science Department at the University of Colorado Denver where she created graduate program tracks in the social economy and community-labor organizing to grow leaders of social economy-labor organizing in Colorado. Minsun organized immigrant janitors, immigrant day laborers and domestic workers and she was the founder and the executive director of Denver’s first worker center, El Centro Humanitario para los Trabajadores (Humanitarian Center for Workers).
She served as a research fellow at the Institute for Cooperative Digital Economy at the New School of Social Science, and a J. Robert Beyster Employee Ownership Fellow at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University. She was also a Colorado Governor’s Commissioner on Employee Ownership (FY 2019-2020) and has been actively engaged in labor-cooperative issues as an Executive Committee Member at the Union-Coop Council of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC). Currently, she is also engaged in building worker-owned platform cooperatives in different cities in the U.S. and other countries, in connection with the worker-owned Drivers Cooperative in New York.
Technical Assistance Director
Ashley Ortiz is the Statewide Technical Assistance Director with Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center, with a background of more than 15 years in entrepreneurial business support and a passion for social justice and an equitable economy. Her previous work includes cooperative business development with the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives in the Bay Area and work as a baker-owner at Arizmendi Bakery in San Rafael. Ashley co-founded the L.A. Co-op Lab, where she now serves as an Advisory Board Member, and she has taught classes about labor/power dynamics and worker-owned cooperatives. In 2019 she was selected for the inaugural cohort of start.coop’s business accelerator program designed to empower entrepreneurs to build transformative, scalable, cooperatively-owned businesses. Ashley earned her bachelors degree in Psychology at the University of Colorado and holds an M.A. in Urban Sustainability focused on social and economic justice from Antioch University.
Erika is a researcher at Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center, where she has a chance to apply her passion for social justice, human rights, and labor rights.
Erika earned her summa cum laude BA in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Colorado, Denver, where she cultivated her dedication to and advocacy for a fairer and more equitable society. She hopes to support workers and communities and advance the cause of employee ownership through her research skills.
Christopher believes in cultivating business as a force for good in the world. Having spent the first 17 years of his career working for large corporations, he has first-hand experience with the damaging effects of profit-centered business mindsets. Today, as founder of BRiiO Advisors, Christopher provides sensible leadership and business practices to leaders who care about the success of their team, their community, AND their business.
George Tsai is a Member in the Employee Benefits Practice Group at Sherman & Howard. George assists all types of employers on employee benefits matters including qualified plans, health & welfare benefits, and executive & equity compensation.
Deyanira (Deya) Zavala is an experienced, collaborative nonprofit leader with experience working in community economic development. She led two community programs focused on creating mobility in people’s lives through entrepreneurship in Texas and Colorado. Driven by her commitment to equity and community collaboration, she currently serves as the Interim Director of Strategic Priorities at Colorado Center on Law and Policy. Most recently, she served as Executive Director of Mile High Connects, a regional collaborative actively working to build a thriving, resilient Denver metro region. In her role, she forged partnership between public and private sector partners while driving community driven change. Ms. Zavala holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Master’s of Public Administration from the University of North Texas.
Greg Weiss, Treasurer
Greg Weiss is a CPA who works on the sexier side of accounting: valuation, fraud investigation and forensic accounting. With 7-years in the investment industry and 11-years in public accounting, Greg has a broad base of experience that helps him get to the bottom of the issues at hand and communicate his findings in a way that is easy to understand and truly provides value.
Abdi is a transportation entrepreneur. Since 2010, he has founded three employee-owned taxi companies: Union Taxi Cooperative in Denver with 262 driver owners; Union Taxi in Portland, OR; and Green Taxi Cooperative in Denver with 800 driver-owners. Abdi currently owns and manages Denver ABC Shuttle.
Ruben was the co-founder of the Huerfano County Ambulance Service in his town of Walsenburg, Colorado. He brings a spirit of servant leadership to RMEOC as he as worked as an EMT-1, a firefighter, and a search and rescue professional. Ruben also worked for the YMCA of Denver for 20 years in a variety of capacities. In addition to serving on many boards and committees, Ruben currently works for the Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities as the Project Manager of the Northwest Aurora/ Montbello Community Engagement. He also has his own consulting company on community engagement and currently works with an NGO out of Nairobi, Kenya. Ruben is a fellow of the ABCD Institute out of DePaul University in Chicago.
Boyung Lee, a native of Korea, is Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, and Professor of Practical Theology at Iliff School of Religion in Denver, Colorado. She is the first Korean American woman academic dean at the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Prior to her current position, for 15 years she taught at the Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA where she became the first woman of color to receive tenure in 2007. She is the current president of the Religious Education Association. She is an ordained United Methodist clergy. She received her BA and Th.M degrees from Yonsei University in Korea, a Master of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology, and a Ph.D. in Theology and Education from Boston College. Her published writings include Transforming Congregations Through Community: Faith Formation from the Seminary to the Church, a forthcoming co-edited volume, Embodying Antiracism: Asian American Christianity and Feminist Theologies, and numerous academic and ecclesiological articles.
Starting his career as a cubicle coder for ANR Freight Systems and the Colorado Department of Human Services, Larry has been an enthusiast of the cooperative nature of open source software for the last 15 years. He was recognized by the Denver Democrats for building and maintaining their website and automating meeting registration. Larry currently works as a freelance software developer.
I am a second-year student at Regis University from Denver. So far in my academic career, I am undecided on a major but am leaning towards a double major in history and communications with a minor in Spanish. Last year, I interned at CIRCLE, a non-profit organization that facilitates connections between inclusive and responsive communities. What drew me to join RMEOC was my experience driving for a food delivery service only to realize the exploitative practices that are used by these rideshare companies. Having just recently joined the rideshare cooperative, I hope to continue spreading the word by publishing a monthly newsletter and reaching out to drivers. In addition to this, I spend my free time playing guitar, going out with friends, and working out.
I am a senior in the nursing program at Regis University and help with driver outreach in the community. I believe in the importance of unions and worker power, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on healthcare workers. While driving for a food delivery service during the pandemic, I realized the exploitative practices of these companies and want to help change this through worker-owned cooperatives. I am also involved in queer activism on and off the Regis University campus. In my (limited) free time, I like to embroider, do yoga, read thrillers and fantasy books, and watch Bojack Horseman.
Originally from the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota, I study Political Economy, Peace and Justice, and Math at Regis University. I am actively engaged in research, driver-organizing, grant writing, and social media projects for the Divers Cooperative, Colorado.
I am passionate about building a more just digital landscape by challenging the power of big tech over our democracy, everyday consumers, and workers. One day, I hope to make lasting change by dismantling tech monopolies as a policymaker, lawyer, or community organizer. On campus, I am an active member of the Debate team and regularly judge tournaments on the high school circuit. I also work at the University’s Center for Service Learning as the co-director of their Engaged Scholar-Activist program. In my free time, I enjoy exploring new recipes, reading nonfiction, and binge-watching the same show several times.
Dick Peterson, Founder
Dick Peterson spent most of his career as a real estate broker. During this time, he started three employee-owned companies, including Re/Max of Cherry Creek. In 2009 Dick realized the need for an organization that supported the creation of employee-owned companies so he — with the help of Bill Kirton and Larry Dunn — founded the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center. The rest is current history.
Bill Kirton, Founder
Bill Kirton is a retired Methodist minister with more than 40-years of experience in community-based, organizational development, including non-profits. He is an experienced writer and communicator. Bill’s interest in and involvement with local schools, local government and local business organizations have played a major role in his professional and service activities,