Fancy Tiger Craft’s new co-op members.
Jaime Jennings and Amber Corcoran started Fancy Tiger Crafts nearly 15 years ago with the vision of an all-encompassing local craft store. After a decade and a half of running the business nonstop, Jennings and Corcoran decided they were ready to take a step back from the craft shop. Here’s how they did it.
Jaime Jennings and Amber Corcoran started Fancy Tiger Crafts in 2008 with the intention of making a wide variety of craft supplies and skills available to their community. Now, both Jennings and Corcoran are ready to take more time for themselves, but they weren’t quite ready to abandon the business they had spent so much time building together.
With the help of RMEOC, Fancy Tiger was able to transition into a worker cooperative, allowing the original owners to sell their company and have the peace of mind that the integrity of the company they created is upheld.
“We briefly thought of selling the business (to an outside buyer), but we have so much love for what we built that putting it into someone else’s hands who we don’t know their intentions would feel kind of wrong,” says Corcoran, referring to the traditional business succession method of selling to the highest bidder.
“We had a lot of amazing employees that we counted on to help us with running the business,” she says, making Fancy Tiger a perfect candidate for a co-op transition. So that’s what they did.
Corcoran and Jennings liked the idea of equity for members that came with creating a co-op.
“They all put in the same risk and no one is taking on more risk than anyone else,” says Jennings.
Before initiating the transition, Corcoran and Jennings proposed the idea to their workers of becoming a cooperative. “I think it was like 50% excitement and 50% not having any idea what they were getting themselves into, but they were willing to learn more,” says Jennings.
That’s where the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center (RMEOC) was able to help. RMEOC connected Fancy Tiger with the resources necessary for its transition — including law firms Jason Wiener , pc and Pote Law who worked to structure the sale and advise sellers and buyers, as well as a grant from the Colorado Employee Ownership Office to help cover transition costs. RMEOC also provided education to the new worker-owners on how to set up and run a worker co-op.
Pink Pitcher is one of the employees-turned-owners of Fancy Tiger Craft Cooperative. Prior to working for Fancy Tiger, Pitcher was a loyal customer and frequenter of Tuesday Craft nights. Before becoming a part of the co-op, Pitcher worked in production.
Pitcher recalls being eager to be involved in the craft shop’s cooperative endeavor. Today, she does graphic design and is able to work on the business end of the company more. While Pitcher had some background in what employee ownership is, she wasn’t quite sure how Fancy Tiger could reach the end goal of establishing itself as a cooperative. Luckily, RMEOC was there to guide the process, helping the new worker-owners make decisions about their co-op bylaws and providing guidance on how to create their new co-op governing board.
“The most attractive thing about employee ownership for me is that you get a lot of democratic input,” says Pitcher. Acknowledging that the previous owners were likewise always receptive to suggestions, Pitcher likes that the cooperative business framework guarantees that people’s voices are heard.
“It opens up a lot of possibilities for the future of the business,” she says.
As Fancy Tiger moves into its next phase as a worker-owned cooperative, there are plenty of ideas bubbling in the creative minds of the new owners. For one, Pitcher is wishing for a successful first holiday season as a new owner. There have also been aspirations of becoming a Certified B Corporation; already Fancy Tiger is a Public Benefit Corporation, meaning it is formally committed to improving their company’s social and environmental impact by “making slow fashion more accessible,” and “uplifting members of marginalized communities,” to name a few initiatives.
All parties involved in the cooperative transition would eventually like to see more employees become members of the co-op.
“I really want to see them be successful, and be able to pay themselves well and have great lives within and outside of work, and to inspire other companies to become worker-owned,” says Corcoran.
Be sure to visit the co-op for all of your holiday crafting needs! You can find Fancy Tiger Crafts at 59 Broadway, Denver, CO 80203 or fancytigercrafts.com.
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