In a world full of sole proprietorships, corporations, and LLCs, it’s helpful to remember that there are other viable business models that can also succeed, such as cooperatives, which can come in flavors as diverse as farm equipment co-ops, credit unions, or cooperative housing.
In many parts of the US, food cooperatives are probably the most widely known example of a co-op (a consumer co-op), and in fact the word co-op is often wrongly used to refer to any type of “natural foods market”. But a cooperative can be set up for any purpose, with worker co-ops and producer co-ops being two other common purposes, and the structure allows for a more transparent and equitable organization than a traditional “business” structure.
So when a Swedish woman wanted to invest in a nearby wind farm, but didn’t have enough money to make the minimum investment all by herself, she figured out a better way to do that, by joining forces with nine other women and forming a wind energy investment cooperative.
The cooperative born from the initial idea by Wanja Wallemyr is called Qvinnovindar, and the co-op not only helps to support renewable energy, but to also empower women and others living in rural areas.
“The name combines the Swedish words for wind and women. The group bought a share of the three-turbine project near Wallemyr’s farm in 2007. Since then they’ve grown to 80 members and invested more than 10 million Krona ($1.5 million) in other projects, including a portion of a five-turbine installation built on Wallemyr’s farm.
Qvinnovindar members individually invested anywhere from 500 to 300,000 Krona ($77-46,000) each, giving them an equal vote in how the company is run, regardless of the amount they put in. Members come from diverse lines of work: a farmer, a florist, a dentist, a bookkeeper, a consultant, and a retail clerk, among other professions.”