Worker Ownership

Posted by Lily Kunning on

So as you may know, Haven Herbs is a worker-owned company. But what does that mean, on a daily, weekly, or annual basis? Many people are unfamiliar with what a worker-owned company is, much less how it differs from any other kind of business. So we thought we'd take a moment to share with you how our company is run, how it is the same and different from other companies, and why we believe that worker-owned companies are the thing we all need to thrive.

We will be looking to fill additional worker-owner positions soon- so make sure you are on the newsletter list to find out about that!

1.

1. Everyone you meet from Haven is an owner. While we may employ contractors from time to time (I mean, who wants to do complicated taxes?), everyone doing the daily operations for Haven- from formulation, education, marketing, finance and administration, and order fulfillment- we are all owners. We are invested financially, emotionally, and totally in the well-being of our company.

2. We are all equals. No one has a larger voting share than another. While we may have different skillsets, availability, and abilities, we all contribute and benefit equally from the business. While in the future we may have supervisors over other workers, that does not mean they own more of the company. One worker-owner may only fulfill orders and package formulas, and another only do social media- but we all have a say in the running of the company.

3. Currently, we do not make hourly wages. Currently, our IRS designation is a "multi-member LLC"- and as such, we get paid monthly based on profit and loss statements. In months we profit, 30% stays with the company to ensure its health and well being, and 70% gets split up between the owners. To be completely fair, we split the profit based on hours worked- because we understand that it is our labor for the company that makes profit. So someone on vacation for half the month is likely doing fewer hours- so they would not be paid the same as someone working all month long. (Eventually, we plan to move to a new designation- a T corp- which will pay each worker-owner an hourly wage, help to pay taxes, etc. That is about 5 years down the road, though!)

4. We all currently work for Haven part-time. Each of us works about 20 hours a week to make the business thrive, and have side hustles to make ends meet personally. Some work for standard employers, others are self-employed in another way. All of us are working towards and looking forward to the time that Haven can support full-time employment and wages for all worker-owners. We have grown so much in these last two years and know that day is coming soon!

5. We have an ownership mentality, rather than an employee mentality. When you work for someone else who calls the shots- often you just put in your time and do what is necessary and then clock out. Why go the extra mile, when you do not see any more benefit? Owners do not do this. We know that if we put things off, it won't get done and the company (and in turn, we as owners, suffer). We do what should be done, even in "off hours" or it's outside our realm of primary responsibility. For example, when we got a massive wholesale order this summer- it was "all hands on deck!" to fulfill it! Owners think long term and are sometimes willing to sacrifice personal gain for company gain- knowing that down the road the company's gain means more for us as owners. Examples of this are: setting aside additional money (out of worker-owner profit) for rebranding and building a super spiffy website (coming soon!).

6. We believe in doing well by doing good. We only use recyclable and compostable packaging and re-use bubble wrap and other plastics that get shipped to us to lessen our carbon footprint. We also compost at our production facility. We believe in education, and not only publish a blog but teach a monthly class at Cancer Support Community and are planning a YouTube channel. We give remedies to the local Herbalists Without Borders chapter and do other good works on the regular. We also source ethically- fair trade, organic, ethically wildcrafted.

7. As we grow, owners will see the benefits of ownership grow. Currently, we pay out monthly and offer free products to owners, among other perks. Once we move to a T corp, the company will pay more tax share for owners, we will start increasing benefits, and look to see what else our current ownership needs to thrive. The company thrives when workers are treated well. 

Why is worker ownership is important to us personally?

Lily: "I look for ways to make a living and contribute to my communities beyond the limitations and problems of capitalist exchange. I believe that food, health, and wellness should be accessible to all. I believe that worker-owned companies are better places to work, better companies to purchase from (for workers and the planet they live on!), and encourage a better, fairer model for commerce. I also love that we can do special projects that promote justice and wellness in our company, like the Justice 4 All tincture project."

Bethany: "I believe strongly in knowing and accepting everyone's strengths and weaknesses. In a worker-owned business, we all lean on one another through good and bad. There is a large emphasis on being open, transparent, and real about both business and personal issues, so we can all find ways to work together most effectively. I also see great value in a business model that is built around "what we put into the business we get back out". So no one person is stuck with all the work, and no one person/group is given all the credit. It is about working as a whole, collaboratively."

Interested in becoming a worker owner for an herbal apothecary company? Feel free to reach out with a letter with your reasons for wanting to join us and a resume! We will be increasing our number by the end of 2020!


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