One group of cooperatives that has created a well-designed initiative to scale is Brightly, a franchise of worker-owned cooperatives in New York City that offers cleaning services. Brightly is a licensed nonprofit franchise developed with support from the Center for Family Life, which is a community-based organization that has been incubating worker cooperatives for over a decade.
Traditionally, franchise agreements include the purchase of the local franchised business and royalties for training and for using the franchisee’s brand. The Brightly worker cooperative franchise is different. First, the franchise is a nonprofit endeavor. Secondly, there is no upfront franchise fee and a very lenient non-compete clause, according to Phyllis Robinson, who coordinates the project at the Center for Family Life.
The franchise attempts to remove the barriers involved in successfully starting a worker-owned cooperative. By providing access to a strong brand with visibility in the marketplace and shared resources to reduce costs, a franchise of worker-owned cooperatives enables low-income entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.
The process of forming the Brightly franchise agreements was complex since Brightly aimed to mold conventional franchise documents to serve the interests of Brightly workers.
“We met weekly with the members of the cooperatives to go through the 202-page [legal] document and pulled out the clauses that weren’t fair to them,” Robinson explained. “[The workers] pushed us on it and, in the end, we all got to a really positive agreement.”
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