How Namasté Solar Became a Worker Co-op

When Boulder-based solar energy company Namasté Solar first went looking for capital to expand in 2004, it could have gone through the hassle of securing a bank loan or put together a dog-and-pony show to attract outside investors. But the company decided it wanted to partner with the people who knew the business better than anyone: its own staff.

Namasté invited its employees to buy up to 10,000 shares inthe company apiece. The response blew co-founder Blake Jones away, with employees borrowing money from their friends and family to buy in. “The average employee investment was somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000,” Jones says. “And one person invested $100,000.”

Namasté operates what’s known as a worker co-op, a for-profit company owned and governed by its employees. Usually the domain of idealists concerned with workers’ rights, co-ops give interested employees a democratic vote in key business decisions and a cut of the profits. But they can also be a smart economic decision for businesses — so long as the conditions are right.

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