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Charting a new path for economic recovery and racial justice through worker ownership

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Worker cooperatives are businesses that are democratically owned by their workers. Over the past decade, they have been gaining traction as a tool for creating employment access and building wealth in communities of color. 

During this unprecedented economic and social climate, not only are worker-owned businesses surviving, they are also demonstrating what the next phase of the US economy could look like. Addressing everything from food systems to finance, BIPOC-led worker cooperative initiatives are piloting equitable business models that build wealth in communities of color and center the needs of the most marginalized members of society. In this session, we will hear from two businesses: ChiFresh Kitchen, a prepared meal business owned by formerly incarcerated workers, primarily Black women; and Apis & Heritage, a Black-led private equity buy-out fund that transitions Black-owned businesses to worker ownership. 

This session will also discuss how to support these critical businesses, how investment works in cooperatives, and the vision for how cooperatives can scale up to transform entire sectors in the US economy. 

Confirmed Panelists

Moderator- Alison Powers, Manager of Cooperatives and Community, Capital Impact Partners 

Alison Powers is the Manager of Cooperatives and Communities at Capital Impact Partners, a national Community Development Financial Institution that invests capital and commitment to help people and communities break the barriers to success. As part of its larger mission-driven efforts, Capital Impact encourages co-op development, with a focus on how co-ops can better support historically marginalized communities. Alison works to amplify the potential of the co-op model for all people through technical assistance, grant funding, and financing for capital projects. Prior to Capital Impact, Alison spent 10 years Director of Member Services and Grants Manager at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, where she currently sits on the Board, helping create and sustain low-income cooperative housing in New York City.

Panelist – Edrinna Bryant, Founding Member of ChiFresh Kitchen

Edrinna Bryant is one of five founding members of ChiFresh Kitchen, a worker cooperative based in Chicago, IL. For Chicagoland organizations that serve daily meals, ChiFresh offers food that is freshly cooked, rooted in the culture and traditions of the people being served, healthy, and delicious. ChiFresh worker-owners respect the importance that food plays in our lives, and cook from a place of love.

Panelist – Camille Kerr, Co-Founder and Principal, Upside Down Consulting

Camille Kerr promotes workplace democracy through her firm, Upside Down Consulting. She specializes in designing innovative worker-centered legal structures, cooperative development with members of marginalized communities, policy advocacy and drafting, and supporting existing businesses to become worker-owned. Her clients are academic institutions, field-building nonprofits, labor organizations, social enterprises, and community groups promoting economic democracy. Upside Down also supported the development of a worker cooperative prepared meal production business, ChiFresh Kitchen, which is owned and determined primarily by formerly incarcerated folks living in the south & west sides of Chicago.

Panelist – Todd Leverette, Partner, Apis & Heritage

Todd Leverette has dedicated his life to bringing to utilizing the tools & best practices of big business to mid-market & small businesses and to individuals. After having worked in finance for a major Wall Street Bank and working in residential Real Estate, Todd began a career as an independent business consultant focused on providing value-added financial and operational engineering for SMEs in Detroit, MI. Todd currently maintains a small base of SME clients and also serves as a Program Manager with the Democracy at Work Institute’s Legacy Business Initiative, which strives to utilize Employee Ownership as a means to preserve and build wealth in minority communities. Todd received his JD & his MBA from Columbia University in New York City and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College.

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