CWCF’s Worker Co-op Fund, the Tenacity Works Fund, is an investment fund whose purpose is to create new and to expand existing worker-owned co-operatives and multi-stakeholder co-operatives with substantial worker control.
Tenacity Works has been owned and operated by the CWCF since its creation in the year 2000 after several years of sustained lobbying efforts with the federal government*. As a revolving loan fund, capital is used to invest in worker and multi-stakeholder co-ops, in all regions of Canada.
The main purpose is to allow these co-operatives to leverage a Tenacity Works investment to obtain additional financing from others including financial institutions, private investors, the Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund, etc. CWCF’s Fund seeks to partner whenever possible with the significantly larger Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund (“CCIF”), which has a similar mandate to Tenacity Works and which CWCF worked diligently for 10 years (from the 2009 Congress of the Canadian Co-operative Association) to help incubate, and in which CWCF has committed to invest one-half of its Tenacity Works Fund.
To date, Tenacity Works has approved more than 35 loans. Loans are available for amounts between $15,000 and $50,000. By contrast, CCIF has loans available for amounts from $50,000 to $1.25 million. In addition, CWCF can help cover the cost of consulting support to help the chances of success of worker co-operatives applying to either the Tenacity Works Fund or to CCIF, and strongly encourages co-ops to apply to our technical assistance program for small grants for this work.
All Tenacity Works investment decisions are made by the Fund Investment Committee. This Committee includes two CWCF Directors and three other members drawn from the co-op and credit union sectors in Canada. The committee members come with professional expertise in commercial lending, development investing, venture capital, and/or worker co-op development and management; currently as follows:
- Reba Plummer, Chair; CWCF Board President and Co-Executive Director, Urbane Cyclist Co-op, Toronto,
- Jessica Provencher, Vice Chair, CWCF Quebec Director and Representative of le Réseau COOP, Quebec City,
- Tracey Kliesch, Director of Strategic Alliances, Concentra Bank, Vancouver,
- Bernard Ndour, MCE Conseils, with 10 years’ prior experience with Desjardins; Montreal, and
- Willy Robinson, recently retired from management of iNova Credit Union, Halifax.
The Canadian Worker Co-op Federation gratefully acknowledges the support of of the federal government’s Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), as it was called at the time, in the establishment of the Tenacity Works Fund.
Situations That Qualify for Support
The Tenacity Works Fund may invest in conventional worker co-ops, worker-shareholder co-ops and multi-stakeholder co-ops (“coopératives de solidarité”). To receive consideration for assistance, the enterprise must meet the CWCF strategic objective of being a viable market-driven enterprise that can contribute to creating a sustainable local economy and can provide its member-workers with the level of income required to enable their long-term commitment to growing and developing the enterprise. The Tenacity Works Fund will be used primarily to leverage other capital and will normally invest no more than 30% of the total capital package. The worker-owners will normally be required to provide a minimum of 15% of all capital as equity, with each member providing a minimum of $1,000 in capital.
To receive an investment from the Tenacity Works Fund the proponents of the enterprise must agree to:
- Incorporate their business as an eligible cooperative with complete or partial worker ownership;
- Upon incorporation, join the CWCF as a regular member;
- Include in their bylaws the requirement that all employees be given the opportunity to become members, and that a minimum of 75% of permanent employees will be members, within the timeframe set out in the federal Cooperatives Act;
- Include in its by-laws that a minimum of 10% of surpluses must be allocated to an indivisible reserve, which will revert to the CWCF’s Worker Co-op Fund in the event that the cooperative dissolves;
- and In the case of expansions, give all new employees an opportunity to become members, and have a minimum of 75% of them be members, within approximately one year of their hiring.
- And further, that the proponents will continue to uphold these commitments for at least the duration of any Worker Co-op Fund investment in their cooperative.
Types of Loans
The Tenacity Works Fund generally provides term loans over a 5-year term with a fixed rate of interest. The rate is 3 percentage points above the prime lending rate with a minimum of 4% up to to 8%, with the rate set based on the risk level as assessed by the Investment Committee. The loans are usually placed as subordinate debt, which only has priority over the members’ own investments. By receiving the loan as subordinate debt the co-op has an increased chance of securing additional conventional financing from credit unions of other financial institutions as the conventional lenders can have first claim on the assets of the co-op.
Occasionally the Tenacity Works Fund also provides a loan with interest-only payments for an initial term of 1- 2 years to assist the co-op with its cash flow during early period of the loan. The interest rate for the interest-only period may be slightly higher than the regular rate which is charged during the interest and principal payment period.
How To Apply
The first step in applying is to review the attached brochure to decide whether the proposed project appears to you to be a good fit for the Tenacity Works Fund.
The next step is to contact the Executive Director Hazel Corcoran, at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your project. She will be able to give you an indication of the availability of funds and the likelihood of whether or not your co-op is a good candidate for a Fund investment.
After this initial discussion, an application in the form of a business plan with the following components is submitted.
Feasibility Study/ Business Plan Requirements
The following is a brief outline of the information required in the completed plan. Of course depending on the proposed business, the scope and amount of work will greatly vary from project to project. The methodology and approach is at the discretion of the proponents and the contracted developer. However, whatever approach is used the outcome must result in the following information with sufficient depth to evaluate the project’s viability.
1. Title page
Includes the date and your co-op’s name and address.
2. Table of contents
3. Business concept
A clear description of your business and the co-op’s organization, its past history, the type of product or service it will market and where.
What, where and how big is your target market? Who is your competition? What share of the market do they have? How can you improve on their product or service? Why are people going to buy your product over theirs?
5. Marketing Strategy
What price will you charge? How will you advertise and promote your co-op (posters, a grand opening, newspaper or radio ads)? What are your unique selling features (price, service, accessibility, etc.)? How will you get your product to market and ensure repeat customers?
6. Management and organization
- Outline the co-op’s structure (responsibilities of members, board of directors and management), including how key management duties will be carried out (by an appointed manager or shared among the members with outside assistance).
- Detail qualifications and experience of individual members of the management team or outside assistance.
- Outline keys steps in start-up plan.
- Describe how the co-op will provide its product or service.
- Identify equipment, facilities, how the work will be organized and how long each task will take.
- Identify raw materials and supplies required and secured suppliers
8. Financial data
- Project your start-up costs
- Complete a break-even analysis, clearly identifying and justifying your cost and margin assumptions.
- Complete 3 year pro forma income statements and balance sheets. (Should the project not show profitability within the 3 years please extend the projections until the project reaches profitability.)
- Complete 3 year cash flow projections with a monthly cash flow for the first year and during project start- up.
- Outline sources of financing and their uses.
- Indicate the minimum investment required of each member.