By Kenzie Love
Whatever their area of expertise, small businesses today often face an uphill battle when it comes to competing against large corporations whose resources are difficult to match. But Wayfinders Business Co-operative of Edmonton is trying to make this competition a little easier by creating an environment where small businesses, freelancers and others can join forces.
Wayfinders’ members and partners, ranging from established worker co-ops such as Multicultural Health Brokers to small consultancies, business coaches, and communications firms, operate in a broad range of sectors. All of them, however, recognize that by collaborating with Wayfinders and each other, they are stronger than they’d be on their own.
“The common denominator is that all of these individuals and small organizations need the support system in order to be viable,” says cofounder Randal Adcock, “and to be competitive with some of the larger organizations that are out there.”
Wayfinders grew out of the founding members’ longstanding interest in co-ops, something most had pursued since the late 1980s. They ultimately launched Wayfinders, which was incorporated in 2017, based on the struggles they’d seen entrepreneurs face during the past decades, often lacking benefits and constantly searching for their next client. They were convinced there was a better way to do business.
“We thought by bringing these people into a community of trust, we will be able to encourage them to do business with one another,” Adcock says, “and create that sense of being part of a community. It would also provide the platform management software that they need to manage their businesses.”
Wayfinders is planning to launch the online platform later this year. It’s also in the process of creating a new webinar series on small business management. Down the road, however, the Co-op has a vision for expansion that goes beyond sharing software. They are also interested in the creation of shared office spaces, or perhaps a shared kitchen for members in the food industry. Sharing resources in this way, they believe, would make things easier for small businesses. But the broad nature of this vision, Adcock acknowledges, can also make it a difficult concept for Wayfinders to market.
“Most of the worker co-ops you will find are focused on a single product line,” he says. “One of the biggest challenges that we face at Wayfinders is the fact that we’re trying to be a lot of things for a lot of different people.”
But amidst the challenges posed by an economic system that favours profits over people, Adcock believes Wayfinders has a valuable role to play by fostering a network whose members create something greater than the sum of its parts.
“I believe that the co-op business model allows us to achieve our highest potential as individuals,” he says, “by creating an environment that is conducive to us, our empathy, our compassion, and our sense of justice. Deliberate, conscientious effort can create a culture based on those core values. And we’re trying to do that within Wayfinders. Together in business we are stronger.”