Convert, start, grow, and finance an employee-owned business.
The mission of the Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership (GWCEO) is to promote and support employee ownership throughout the District of Columbia and surrounding counties in Maryland and Northern Virginia to preserve legacy businesses, increase job quality, and build community wealth.
GWCEO serves as the central hub for information, technical assistance, resources, and access to capital to owners interested in selling their business to their employees; employee groups interested in purchasing a business; and entrepreneurs who wish to start up a company with shared ownership.
Meet the team
Established in 1987, the Washington Area Community Investment Fund’s (Wacif's) mission is to increase equity and economic opportunity in underserved communities in the Washington, D.C. area by investing knowledge, social, and financial capital in low-and-moderate-income entrepreneurs. Economic democracy has been a part of our DNA since the beginning: our very first loan was to the Pasadena Housing Cooperative located in NW Washington, D.C. In 2018, with the support of Citi Community Development, Wacif launched the DC Employee Ownership Initiative which revived a long history of employee ownership as a strategy for asset building, job creation, legacy business preservation, and wealth building in the region. The Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership is a continuation and deepening of Wacif’s commitment to community wealth building through worker ownership.
Why employee ownership? Why now?
0%of business owners do not have written succession plans1
0%of business owners do not have a formal retirement plan or a clear idea of the next "chapter"2
0business owners of color are nearing retirement in Washington, D.C.3
Employee ownership is in our DNA
Wacif’s first loan went to the Pasadena Housing Cooperative in 1987, located in Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Nearly 34 years later, we remain committed to developing the D.C. region’s cooperative ecosystem. Employee ownership models are an effective, proven tool to create and maintain high-quality sustainable jobs, generate community wealth, and promote community-driven economic development, especially for communities that have been historically disenfranchised.
Wacif’s story is one part of the Greater Washington region’s proud history of employee ownership. In 1934, six friends banded together and founded the Capitol Cab Co. to survive the Great Depression. By 1950, their firm’s membership grew to 300, and their model allowed the company and workers to thrive during one of the most economic unstable and turbulent moments in our nation’s history. D.C. pioneer Nannie Helen Burroughs also believed that cooperatives were a viable tool to help weather the Great Depression, especially for Black communities. In 1936, Burroughs co-founded Cooperative Industries, a self-help, agricultural, and consumer cooperative. Her leadership helped the cooperative purchase agricultural land in Maryland, form an agricultural producer co-op, and operate a plant producing brooms and mattresses. Ultimately, Cooperative Industries helped generate wealth and economic independence for local Black communities.
The region’s deep need for sustainable, high-quality jobs and community wealth building calls for intentional investments to build community wealth and health. In 2018, Wacif launched the D.C. Employee Ownership Initiative in response to the small business closure crisis caused by the retirement of baby boomer business owners. Approximately 2,650 business owners of color nearing retirement in Washington, D.C., according to the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI). These business owners employ more than 38,000 people and generate more than $4.2 billion dollars in revenue annually. Their retirement presents both a challenge and an opportunity, and employee ownership is a strategy that can preserve businesses, jobs, and build community wealth.
The advisory council is comprised of ecosystem partners, local government leaders, funders, co-op worker owners and ESOP employees. They offer their expertise to guide and shape the programming and operations of the Center.
We take an ecosystem approach to Center design and programming. We're proud to collaborate with local, regional and national partners.
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