Cooperative Cleveland (CO-OP CLE): A Community of Interest Network (COIN). It a space where Makers (or Ecopreneurs as a friend refers to herself) practice what they’ve learned formally in classes offered by one of the many small business development organizations in Northeast Ohio or informally out of necessity.
If you’re a lifelong Clevelander, you remember growing up in a community filled with amazing people. Neighbors who baked, sewed, crotched, knitted, and gardened. Folks who worked on cars and bikes. Others who repaired lawnmowers, and various appliances. There were also business owners: corner stores, dry cleaners, restaurants, beauty salons, barbershops and more. An entire ecosystem of makers and entrepreneurs.
Flash forward to the present day. We often find ourselves in discussions about “the good old days” when communities were self-sufficient and self-reliant. The conversations touch on food deserts, population decline, and areas filled with blight.
As someone who has worked in public administration (specifically the environmental field) for over ten years, personally resided in several communities throughout Cleveland, and has lived sustainably for many years, two specific questions always come to mind:
- Where are the current local businesses in Cleveland operated by people of color?
- How do we showcase these local businesses in some way as a sustainable alternative to online and big box shops?
This is where an idea formed, Cooperative Cleveland (CO-OP CLE): A Community of Interest Network (COIN). It a space where Makers (or Ecopreneurs as a friend refers to herself) practice what they’ve learned formally in classes offered by one of the many small business development organizations in Northeast Ohio or informally out of necessity. It is also a space for ethically conscious consumers to see first-hand how items are sourced and produced. CO-OP CLE is an innovative “Maker” shop in the Larchmere Arts District helping small, home-based, minority-owned, ecofriendly businesses “take the leap” into retail without taking on all the responsibility.
Members learn what it takes to develop organizational skills, get started in the retail industry, build support, and maintain a new retail business in a shared, supportive learning environment.
Small business owners who become members learn to address challenges faced by social ventures as part of a team, democratically deciding the course of action on day-to-day operations, while incorporating sustainable practices.
Examples of some of the sustainable practices used by CO-OP CLE participants:
- Upcycling items like plastic cups and utensils from events to prevent it from going into the waste stream
- Composting food scraps from events and fruit scraps by members juicing onsite
- Repurposing material from events, packaging, and from previously used items from secondhand shops
- Minimizing waste and packaging from supply orders
- Sourcing locally when possible
- Using material made with post-consumer recycled content
- Being energy efficient by keeping the heat low and the lights off in empty spaces
- Switching out traditional incandescent lighting for CFL’s and/or LED lighting
- Cleaning products are all biodegradable
- All napkins, utensils, cups, plates and bowls are made from 100% post-consumer recycled content
- Incoming and current members agree to work towards creating a zero waste shop by the end of 2018
CO-OP CLE welcomes, minority-owned, small businesses based in the urban core, greater Cleveland area and beyond, specializing in sourcing locally, upcycling, recycling, and repurposing items to make clothing, accessories, skin/haircare, art and more. Makers are invited to participate as members, on consignment or wholesale. As a member participants are encouraged to focus on their personal track long-term. They also attend workshops, courses and events for free. Members also serve as decision makers for the space. Decisions include hours of operation, types of events, new members, and more. As an incubator participant the track is temporary, allowing involvement in workshops and meetings (without voting rights), the focus is on preparing participants for their next steps which are determined during the application, interview and orientation processes. Consignment involvement is limited to placement, selling and marketing inventory provided. This level of participation also allows reduced cost participation in events by Makers for the duration of their involvement.
Next month we’ll feature Gina Washington, Founder of MaTeZa Gallery specializing in commercial and fine art.