Imagine going to work every day and being your own boss, in fact, imagine everyone at work being their own boss. Sound far fetched? Not for three Oaklanders who hope to stimulate the Bay Area's economy justly, as well as prosperously. Walfre Cruz, Greg Elenbaas, and Rayna Kilroy hope to use soap to spread the message of worker cooperatives as an alternative and more socially-justifiable form of business ownership.
"Worker Cooperatives are different because each worker has an equal vote in the direction of the business as well as an equal ownership stake. This motivates workers to work harder because their performance is directly related to their income," Kilroy asserts. Their business donates 10% of their pre-wage profits to the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC.org, pronounced "No Boss"), whose mission is to build the worker cooperative movement in the Bay Area.
"We hope to be able to grow enough that we can eventually work with NoBAWC to hold business plan competitions and award grants to teams of individuals hoping to start worker cooperatives in the Bay Area," adds Cruz. While their ambitions are large, their means are practical. Starting small, they are currently selling their products online at co-soap.com, as well as at Homespun Bikes by Lake Merrit, and are currently looking for other merchants interested in purchasing wholesale.
"The idea came from my study of the gilded age, the late 19th century. During those hard times, workers and farmers joined together to form worker and consumer cooperatives that made the difficulties of a tumultuous and unpredictable economy a little easier to bear," says Elenbaas. "Farmers created huge combinations that attempted to lift sharecroppers and small landowners alike out of poverty and into prosperity. We feel that the time has come again for workers to come together to produce and consume goods that benefit our local economy, rather than consuming products from a faceless company who ships jobs overseas."
In addition to being a worker cooperative, all of Co-Soap's products are 100% vegan. Kilroy quips, "While we are not yet there, we are planning on sourcing at least 75% of our ingredients from the California economy."
If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Co-Soap, please call Greg Elenbaas at 619-200-8084, or e-mail him at greg (at) co-soap.com.