Episode 65, 38 min listen

Today, the richest 10% of households own 70% of the country's wealth, including 90% of the wealth from business ownership. We know this wealth gap is felt most acutely by everyday workers and people of color. So, how do we fix this very deep, widespread, systemic problem? In this episode, we hear about tangible and practical ways that communities and businesses can contribute to closing that wealth gap. 


You can access this episode wherever you listen to podcasts via our pod.link.


Learn more about Project Equity.

Check out Proof Bakery and learn more about their employee ownership journey.

Check out this article, The Big Benefits of Employee Ownership, from Harvard Business Review.

Up for a little more reading about sharing ownership and assets that could work in any town? Check out this article.

If you can't get enough on the subject of shared ownership, join us in reading Assets in Common: Stories of Business and Community Leaders Remaking the Economy from the Ground Up.


Amanda has fifteen years of multi-sectoral leadership expertise in forging meaningful relationships and bringing diverse stakeholders together for collective impact. As the Director of Advancement and Partnerships at Project Equity, she works with national and regional foundations, corporations, investors, government, and nonprofit partners to collectively advance employee ownership as a means to strengthen small businesses, create quality jobs, and build wealth for low-income workers and communities of color. Previously, as the Director of Corporate Philanthropy and Membership at SPUR, she developed relationships with stakeholders to advance policy for a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous Bay Area region. Amanda holds a B.A. from Gettysburg College and a dual MBA / MPA from Presidio Graduate School. She has been named a “40 Under 40” honoree by the Silicon Valley Business Journal and as a “Changemaker” by Gentry Magazine.



Amanda Calder  00:00

Today, the richest 10% of households own 70% of the country's wealth, including 90% of the wealth from business ownership. So, how do we really fix this very deep, widespread, systematic problem? The good news is that, from our viewpoint, employee ownership is one change that we can make that will have a really significant impact on expanding who gets to benefit from business ownership.

Ame Sanders  00:44

This is the State of Inclusion Podcast, where we explore topics at the intersection of equity, inclusion, and community. In each episode, we meet people who are changing their communities for the better, and we discover actions that each of us can take to improve our own communities. I'm Ame Sanders. Welcome. 

Before we start, a small aside. Our guests freely share their stories with us, so we make the podcast, our newsletter, and related content free as well. However, if you'd like to support us to grow in our work, and help to offset some of our production costs, you can find a link to our Support Us page in the show notes. We're happy that you found us. We're grateful that you listen, and we would be thankful for your support. 

So today, we are happy to welcome Amanda Calder. Amanda is the Director of Advancement and Partnerships at Project Equity. Welcome, Amanda. Thanks so much for joining me.

Amanda Calder  01:51

Thanks for having me on today.

 -About Project Equity

Ame Sanders  01:53

So Project Equity. I mean, the name of your company says a lot. So, I'd like to talk about the double meaning behind the name. When you do that, could you share a little bit about the work that you and your company do? Maybe a little bit about how you even found yourself doing this work? 

Amanda Calder  02:10

Yeah, for sure. So Project Equity, we're a national nonprofit. This is actually our 10th anniversary this year. We were founded on the idea that employee ownership has the power to strengthen small businesses, to create quality jobs, and to address income and wealth inequality. The equity in our name is really twofold, one equity in terms of social and economic justice, and two in terms of building a meaningful financial stake in the business for workers.

 -About Amanda

Ame Sanders  02:47

How did you find yourself doing this work, and what brought you to this? 

Amanda Calder  02:51

Yeah. I come from a very blue-collar background. I was raised in rural Western Pennsylvania. In that area of the country, I have watched many businesses close there over the years. My father worked in one of the last remaining steel mills in the area where I actually worked my summers as well. I saw it in many areas of the country that times are tough for many hard-working Americans. That has really created a lot of divides in our country. But what I've seen is that employee ownership spans these divisions. It offers an approach that's good for small businesses and also for hard-working folks in both red and blue states, urban and rural areas, and conservative and liberal parts of the country. So, that's why I was really drawn to the work. 

I highly respect Project Equity's "both-and" approach of having a deep impact through our direct client services work where we actually are transitioning businesses to employee-owned models, but also not losing sight that only one nonprofit can only do so much and that it really takes change at a systems level to have the kind of greater impact that we're seeking.

 -Employee Ownership Models 

Ame Sanders  04:13

Maybe you could tell us a little bit about the models that Project Equity uses, because employee ownership may not be something that everybody's familiar with and there are different kinds of employee ownership. 

Amanda Calder  04:27

There are. There are three main broad-based models of employee ownership. Those are worker cooperatives, employee ownership trusts, which we sometimes refer to as EOTs, and employee stock ownership plans or ESOPs. All these models have been around for a very long time. Some people may be familiar with certain models over others, but we really try to advise our clients across all three types of models to really understand what's the best fit for their needs and their size of business and the aims that they have for the organization, because there is not a one size fits all model. So, each of those models has different approaches and different structures, but at the end of the day, they're all really trying to build wealth and opportunities for workers.

 -Project Equity's Process 

Ame Sanders  05:20

So, earlier this year, I attended a conference. Over dinner, one of the gentlemen at the table was sharing a story about a business that he owned. It was a very successful restaurant. He wanted to transition to employee ownership for the folks that had helped build the restaurant over time, and they did that. They made the transition happen. But what he shared was that it wasn't at all successful because they did not plan for how to support the new owners, the worker-owners, after the transition. Those folks were not necessarily prepared to take on the business of running the restaurant. They knew how to do all of the other elements of making the restaurant successful, but they did not know how to run the business. So, he was really sad about that process, because he had such high hopes for helping his workers and transitioning the business. So, one of the things I was intrigued by in Project Equity was that you guys have a process for this, which I think, based on my discussion with him and just on observation, seems so important. 

Amanda Calder  06:22

Yeah, I think you hit on a really important point, which is that whenever you are transitioning a business to employee ownership or any other type of transition, you really need knowledgeable, trusted advisors to guide you through that transition. So, at Project Equity, we have a full client services department that works with the businesses that we engage with and transitions throughout the process and after the process for two years afterward. So, from the time that a business owner comes into our pipeline of client engagement through the free consultations that we provide, we're really making sure that the business owner is looking for the right structure for their business. And that the business is the right fit for that employee ownership model in terms of the size of the workforce in terms of the profitability of the business. We do a full due diligence and feasibility study to make sure that that business is able to thrive after the transition. 

The way that we structure the employee ownership transitions that we do...one of the most common myths from owners is sometimes that the employees can't buy the business outright. Well, in the models that we do, we structure a loan for the business. So, in the due diligence process, we're looking at a debt capacity analysis to make sure that that business can carry that debt from the loan going forward. So, the workers really aren't buying the full value of the business. We're helping structure the transition, structure the financing and capital assets, and through that process, we do a lot of worker engagement at different stages to make sure that the business has the right management and staff capacities to run the business after the owner exits because that owner might have been playing key roles in the business that need to be backfilled, or scaled up. 

Then, after the business transitions, we stay with those businesses for two years through our Thrive Program--which is an important point that sounds like it was lacking in the example that you gave--where a lot of those businesses, the workers there are really great at what they do on a day-to-day basis, but they've never run a business. So, just like any entrepreneurship program, or other things like that that provide all those financial and management and governance skills, that same kind of entrepreneurship mentality and mindset and business management needs to be trained to the new workforce who are stepping up into these different positions.   

Ame Sanders  09:05

Yeah, and you also when we talked earlier, you talked about the fact that some owners may have not just management skill, but they may have other technical skills that when they step away becomes a gap for that business and a need to find a way to close those skill gaps.

Amanda Calder  09:21

Yeah, and it's really important to evaluate the current workforce. Oftentimes, those skills can be filled by some of the current workers who are stepping up into these worker-owner roles. And sometimes it's important to hire some of those key positions, to have someone come in from the outside to fill those gaps. 

Ame Sanders  09:39

You're talking about all kinds of sizes of business, right? Sometimes you're talking about smaller businesses, but sometimes you're talking about businesses that have a pretty sizable workforce. 

Amanda Calder  09:48

Yeah, correct. There's really a continuum of businesses--everything from small micro businesses with a couple of employees up to the very large public companies that we're for familiar with and everything in between. So, there is no one-size-fits-all model. It's really about where that business sits within that scale. For us at Project Equity, we focus on small to mid-market businesses. So, in our transitions, we do a lot of transitions to worker cooperatives or, increasingly, employee ownership trusts. We do sometimes transitions to ESOPs. They tend to be for larger organizations, which is normally a little bit outside our pipeline. 

 -Why Is Employee Ownership Important Now?

But the important point that I also wanted to make was that, as one nonprofit, as I said earlier, we can only do a certain number of transitions, even if we double or triple our staff. So, to bring this to scale with knowledgeable advisors and other types of service providers, we started an initiative to help educate those trusted business advisors and provide them with educational content and training so that they can advise their clients (just the same that we do through clients who come through our pipeline) on whether employee ownership is the right fit and to be able to guide them throughout that process and provide resources to them throughout that process. Because that's really how we get to scale, is just making it a natural part of the conversation. 

For us, the important time for that to happen is really right now. There's a sense of urgency because at this point in time in our economic history, it's a little bit of a unique moment in that there is a wave of retiring baby boomer business owners who have these small to midsize businesses throughout the country, who don't have family who are taking it over, who don't have a business that necessarily sells. Only about 20% of businesses sell, and about 15% of family businesses, I believe, pass on to a family member. So, a lot of these business owners are making the hard decision to close that business, and they don't know from talks with their CPAs, financial planners, or others that employee ownership is even an option to consider. So, we just want to make that a part of that natural conversation and a natural option to consider whenever they're looking at all their options for their business.  

 -Employee Ownership as a Win-Win-Win

Ame Sanders  10:02

One of the things you mentioned a little earlier was this sort of triple win idea. I'd like to explore that a little bit. So, can you talk about how this benefits and who this benefits if you go forward with this kind of model?   

Amanda Calder  10:21

Yeah, before I came to Project Equity, I worked for a policy organization. So, I know how hard it is to get solutions that are really this win-win-win for many different stakeholders and employee ownership really is that. It's a solution that aligns the interests of the business owners, of the workers, and of the communities. 

What I mean by that is that for the owners who are looking to exit their business, it provides a fair selling price for their business, and it honors the legacy that they've built with that business over the years. For the workers who have this amazing opportunity to now become entrepreneurs and owners of this business, there are lots of statistics that have shown that that opportunity increases income. It increases wealth. It provides other types of job quality benefits for the workers who are stepping into these roles. 

Then obviously, instead of the business closing, the business is preserved within the communities that depend on it for the services that it offers and the jobs and really making it an institution that can stay in those communities. 

Ame Sanders  13:45

So, you've done a good job of telling us about the process that you follow and about the benefits of this kind of employee ownership or these kinds of employee ownership approaches. But let's get a little bit more practical if we could. Maybe you can give us some examples or our talk about how this actually happens in a community? 

 -How to Start

Amanda Calder  14:09

Sure. It can start from many different angles. So, for example, sometimes it's government, usually economic development departments, who are looking for ways to keep legacy businesses who have been there for decades within those communities. Oftentimes, economic development also has strategies for attracting businesses from outside to come and invest in the community, but it's equally important to keep the businesses that they already have put in the community. It's a lot easier to keep businesses than to keep attracting businesses from outside. 

So, sometimes government reaches out to folks like Project Equity or other organizations to try to do research and analysis on how many businesses there are that have been in the community for years and years, what those businesses are, how to outreach to them to understand what their succession planning is or where they're at in that process. And to make sure that employee ownership is considered in that process and that government (economic development staff) are familiar enough with employee ownership that they can help advise them, provide them resources, and provide resources to their advisors to do those transitions. 

 -The Business Ownership Cliff 

Ame Sanders  15:28

It sounds like one of the things that listening to you describe that brings to mind for me is that a community may not even realize that they have a cliff in front of them. They may not realize that more than a handful of their businesses are about to transition. They may not have thought about this, and that the data that you're talking about, the kind of research that you're talking about doing, can really help any community get a handle on what is the health and the forward projection for the businesses that exist in their community. 

Amanda Calder  16:01

Yeah, so we've seen that here in Greenville County, where I live in work. And in Greenville County, our analysis is based on looking at the number of business owners that might be at risk because of this wave of retirements that are coming. Our data shows that there are over 4,000 owners here in Greenville County who are over the age of 55. So, those businesses account for roughly 55,000 employees, $2 billion in payroll, $9 billion in revenue. So, how do we keep those jobs and those workers intact? 

We've seen some of those businesses close that have been here for 20 plus years recently, for various reasons. So, how do we create strategies to keep those businesses? But it really starts with awareness, like you said, that it is a problem. And it's an immediate problem.

Ame Sanders  16:58

I think the listeners probably know that I also work in Greenville, South Carolina and live here and those are some pretty staggering numbers for me. I did not realize the scale of both the opportunity and the challenge. I do think that a lot of communities focus on entrepreneurship as meaning I'm going to start a new business, and I'm going to grow and nurture an idea or some type of invention, or even, you know, many communities may focus on some kind of minority business accelerator, which all of those things are great. It's not an either-or. It's an "and," because I think it's all needed. But it's really interesting when you describe the importance of our existing business infrastructure and the scale of the transition that might be in front of us. So, you talked about how sometimes it's the government, but who else gets involved in this? How else might this happen? 

Amanda Calder  17:53

So, related to the government, but different, sometimes its workforce development initiatives and departments or small business development type centers that are really looking at creating quality jobs. So oftentimes, workforce development initiatives will focus on upskilling and other great programs to help create these quality jobs. But as I mentioned, employee ownership has a lot of research behind it, including the data that we collect from our clients on different measures of job quality that provide worker-owner opportunities.  

So, this can be income, which is where people's immediate minds go. But it can also be a longer-term asset-building play through equity and generational wealth. In addition to that, there are a lot of things that folks don't necessarily think of as readily as income that is related to job quality, but that is just as important, especially for low-wage workers in some of these industries. So, with employee ownership, we have seen that workers are able to better control their schedules and have better consistency on their working schedules, which allows them to plan their lives outside of work better, and it causes them to remain in those roles longer. So, employee-owned companies have lower turnover as well, which creates stability for the business and for the workers. They also have the ability to look at other kinds of benefits to add, like 401k programs or other things that they may not have had access to before, and they can build for the first time. 

 -Proof Bakery Example

Ame Sanders  19:32

Tell me a story about somebody that's done this or a company that's made this kind of transition or a community that's working on this.

Amanda Calder  19:40

Sure. So, one example that I think shows the power of employee ownership and also highlights the importance of kind of seeing yourself in these transitions was a company that we transitioned in Los Angeles called Proof Bakery. Now, since we've done this transition, a lot of other bakeries have heard about it and have reached out to inquire, which is why I also wanted to uplift it as an example of once you see that it can work for your industry or people who look like you or do the same type of work as you, then you're able to envision that it can also work for your organization as well. 

So, whenever the owner of Proof Bakery, which is a beloved neighborhood bakery in the Los Angeles area, was looking to retire and her next steps and what she wanted to do, she turned to Project Equity for conversations about whether employee ownership was the right fit for the workers there. Since that time, we have been able to help them transition, engage the workers in that process, teach them about running the business, and teach them about really what it means to think and act like owners. We see this at Proof in other places, where all of a sudden, you have a mindset change. Where the owner might have been using like a few different coffee cups for an order, and now, all of a sudden, they're thinking, "Oh, every coffee cup I use is coming out of my eventual profit and paycheck." So, they view the operations of the business differently and have a lot more fiscal stewardship and management overhead, as well as the broader voice within the community as representatives of that business. Just like any business owner would be more concerned about the different policies that affect them in the business, about representing that business externally and their kind of lives and engagement.  

So, there are all these different opportunities for worker voice and civic participation that come out of that. There are also opportunities to really build wealth.

Ame Sanders  22:30

So, was Proof Bakery a big business or a small business? What kind of size was it?

Amanda Calder  22:36

It's pretty small. So, it's a fit for a worker cooperative. Typically, employee ownership models work for businesses with at least 10 employees is a good rule of thumb. Because if you only have a business with a couple of employees, it makes it hard to structure the right types of governance and management for the business going forward. Now, there are other kinds of cooperative models that will work for what we deem micro-businesses, very small businesses. But typically, the businesses that we transition to are between maybe 10 and 100 employees. So, Proof was in that small business size of employees, and that's what made it a really great fit for a worker cooperative model. 

Ame Sanders  23:21

So, have they fully transitioned now, or is it employee-owned now?

Amanda Calder  23:26

They have. They fully transitioned a couple of years ago, and so we have also been tracking and measuring like we do with all of our client companies. All those job quality and impact measurement and metric stats, because that's really how we build the case to show that this is something that can work. It can work for a variety of different industries and people and models. 

Ame Sanders  23:49

So, I like that example because it's not one that you just did. It's one that's happened and now the employees are seeing the benefit of it. The community is seeing the benefit of it. And it has some legs, some lasting legs under it that suggests that it's going to continue to be successful. So, that's a really good, good example. Thanks for sharing that.

  -A Coordinated Community Effort in Chicago

Amanda Calder  24:12

Yeah, so in terms of communities that are working on it, we partner with communities large and small across the country. One of the cities that we're partnered with right now is the city of Chicago, which has invested American Rescue Plan funds into employee ownership, specifically worker cooperatives is what they're focused on. They have put it in this broader wealth-building strategy that they have for the community. So, it's not just worker cooperatives, it's other types of community investment vehicles and building these opportunities for home ownership and business ownership and kind of shared community investments. So, that's a great example of how you can put it in place of a broader strategy. It doesn't have to be a standalone strategy. There are 17 organizations involved, including Project Equity in that initiative to understand how to really further those different pieces of the strategy. 

 -Support Your Local Employee-Owned Businesses

But bring it home in terms of real impact for workers; there are companies here in Greenville that folks might be familiar with who are already employee-owned. Some of them locally are those larger companies like ESOPs, so that means that people probably have heard of them. So downtown Greenville, there is Mast General Store, which I'm sure that some of your listeners who live in the area know and love. There are also companies like Publix, the supermarket or Sphinx, the gas station chain, the Bank of Travelers Rest, and some other construction engineering and environmental landscaping firms. So, there are lots of local examples of companies within your areas. You can look at those local examples. 

What we try to do is lift up those case studies so that people can see that it's already there in different forms within their areas and people are already benefiting from these organizations that have been there for a long time that have this name recognition, and that they probably frequent on a day-to-day basis. So, we've seen a lot of different industries be able to transition to employee ownership. 

Ame Sanders  26:16

So, I like those examples here locally. So, what you're saying for the listeners who don't live here, though, is they can look around their own community, and very likely, there are already very successful examples of employee ownership from ESOPs or stock ownership plans that larger companies may offer, but also from smaller companies. I know from the examples that you shared here locally I think there might also be a reputation element to this as well because the companies that you named are, by and large, very well-respected companies in our area. 

I think a second legacy that company owners can leave which is to take their business to the next level in terms of justice and equity, and community representation. I think that's an important element, perhaps for some of the owners who want to find a path to that work, but they also need to have the value from their business that they've built over the years. So, this is a really interesting proposition. But we haven't talked about some of the barriers that people face. So, we talked about one, which is the transition and support afterward, but maybe talk a little bit about why everybody's not just doing this? It must be a little bit challenging.

 -Building Awareness

Amanda Calder  27:39

It's definitely gotten a lot of headwinds in the past few years. There are a lot of different folks who are interested in this space along that continuum of different sizes of companies that we may want to be impacting. I think that there's a lot of data and awareness, mostly on the ESOP model, because that model has applied to larger companies and because it's been around for a long time, it has tax advantages. It's structured similar to retirement plans, so it might be a little easier for folks to adopt and kind of implement within their organizations. But it is complex. So, it really is appropriate for larger organizations. So, what we've seen coming out of the awareness of certain models or certain trends is driving interest and additional models like worker cooperatives, or increasingly in employee ownership trusts, in a way that maybe hasn't been as widespread adoption in the past. So, I think that's a good thing, increased awareness for the field. 

But with that, as you mentioned earlier, also comes the responsibility for making sure that as folks are more interested in employee ownership, there are places for them to go to learn about it from accredited, knowledgeable sources and resources to make sure that those knowledge and learnings are being implemented in the right way and in a successful way for the different businesses. But historically, and still, awareness of employee ownership at the different points where a business could consider it--whether that's a startup, considering it as a model from the beginning, or as Project Equity typically works with as an intervention point with the succession planning process and understanding that it's an option as the owner looks to transition out, which can also be done in stages. It can be done all at once is a 100% transition, but at least 30% of the business needs to be employee-owned so that if that owner isn't ready to fully transition, they could actually set up a partial transition and a pathway to fully exiting that would do that in stages as well. So, you need all these different considerations at the different points of the business lifecycle to be able to figure out what the right model is and make sure that they have the person at that time in their lifecycle who's saying this is a model and this is the right model.

 -Capital to Support Employee Ownership

Ame Sanders  30:07

Where does the money come from for this? How do people fund this? Because you talked about the fact that you're not asking the workers to necessarily come up with the money to fund this and you talked a little bit about loans. But maybe let's talk a little bit about the financial aspect of this.

Amanda Calder  30:24

You can structure it in different ways. So, how we typically structure the deals is through a debt capacity analysis, and through structuring a loan that's paid from the going forward revenues of the business. That capital stack that's used to structure employee ownership transitions is one of the challenging points in a lot of transitions because sometimes business owners will think, "I'll just go to my bank. I've been with them for years. They'll give me a loan for this. We'll be able to get it done." The problem is that because there's no personal guarantor in those loans, the risk profile that is assessed against that business is very different from that of a standard business transaction.  

So, this is really where there's been a lot of conversation and advancement in the space has been how do we structure access to capital for these transitions? There are different answers depending on the kinds of transitions that you're doing. But in general, with the fund that we set up, which is called the Employee Ownership Catalyst Fund, there has been a lot of impact investment into that fund over the years. We use that fund as a piece of the capital stack in some of the transitions that we do to incentivize and kind of de-risk that investment for other lenders to also be able to come in and be able to go through that transition with us. We partner with a lot of CDFIs, nationally and in the different areas that we work to help finance that as well. 

Ame Sanders  32:01

Could you just say what a CDFI is? 

Amanda Calder  32:04

Sure. It's a community development financial institution. So, they share a lot of the same mission-aligned objectives that we and others in the space have. But. we also have partnered with more traditional banks and others to help finance these transitions and to be able to teach them through this how these transitions work and what their risk portfolio really is. Because we do all that due diligence and feasibility analysis to get to the point of transition, we've been successful in deploying that capital appropriately and making sure that those businesses continue to do well and continue to pay back those loans. The seller will also sometimes take a seller's note during that transition process. In worker cooperatives, we do have the workers put a very nominal amount of skin in the game. They will put, depending on their salaries as a sliding scale, it could be $100, a few thousand dollars, something to really buy in. Because they're buying into that cooperative. So, they will have a small investment in it, but it will not be the main part of the capital stack. 

Ame Sanders  33:18

Thank you for sharing that because I found it interesting that what you're talking about--and it may be obvious to financial people, but maybe not to all of us--is that this has a bit different risk profile. Sometimes it requires combining alternatives to share that risk across different actors and different funders. I think that's really interesting because it highlights the various options that people have to execute this and that communities have. They have the opportunity to create some of their own funds that they might want to put into this approach is well. So, thank you for sharing that. So, is there anything else that we haven't talked about that you'd like to talk about?

 -Building Wealth for Working People and Communities of Color 

Amanda Calder  34:02

I think the one thing that I would like to also underscore is that at the heart of Project Equity's mission--we're a nonprofit. So, at the core of our mission is really building wealth for working people and communities of color. The issue that we are trying to address through the transitions that we do is showing case studies of how employee ownership can impact the extreme wealth gap that we have in our country, which has only grown substantially exponentially in the previous decades. Today, the richest 10% of households own 70% of the country's wealth, and that is including 90% of the wealth from business ownership. So, how do we really fix this very deep, widespread, systematic problem? 

The good news is from our viewpoint, employee ownership is one change that we can make that will have a really significant impact in expanding who gets to benefit from business ownership and just broadening that pot. So, sometimes we view it as entrepreneurship 2.0 in that a lot of times, you're focused on one business owner or one person that's kind of accruing this business ownership potential. So, if you widen that to a workforce of 50 people instead of one person who is benefiting from these wealth-building opportunities, that's going to have an exponential effect that will help close that wealth gap in a much more meaningful way for millions of working people.

Ame Sanders  35:50

Well, Amanda, thank you for joining us today and for sharing about Project Equity.

Amanda Calder  35:54

Thank you for having me on. Thank you for the conversation.


Ame Sanders  36:01

You know, I don't often interview consultants or service organizations on the State of Inclusion. My focus has always been on individuals who are working to make their own community more inclusive and equitable. However, when I heard about Project Equity, I knew that I wanted to talk to them, and this interview didn't disappoint. We have a massive wealth gap in this country, and it disproportionately affects our Black and brown neighbors. 

It was great to be able to talk about tangible and practical ways that communities and business owners can be part of closing that wealth gap. From employee co-ops to employee ownership trusts to employee stock option plans, we heard just how this could work in large and small businesses. And these aren't new models. They're tried and true solutions. That said, Amanda was clear. It's not easy. We heard Amanda talk about some of the challenges, awareness being the biggest one. A lot of owners don't even realize this could be an option for their business.  

There can also be challenges in choosing the right model. Then also challenges in finding the right kind or combination of financing. As in the restaurant example I shared, there is also a need to support the business as workers transition from being employees to being owners. Still, we heard Amanda share positive stories and examples of just how this could work.

So, let's take all of this back home to our communities. Let's find, celebrate, and frequent the local businesses that are already demonstrating their commitment to worker ownership. Let's begin to talk about this model with the entrepreneurs and business owners that we know, even small businesses and micro businesses. And let's make sure that our economic development team and entrepreneurial ecosystem leaders include these kinds of options in their thinking and support. 

But, most importantly, make sure our communities understand the state of the many small businesses on which all of us depend. How many of those small and midsize businesses in your community will transition in the next five years or ten years? And is your community ready to support that transition? 

As always, I'll include more information in the show notes, and a few pictures as well. This has been the State of Inclusion podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share the podcast or discuss these ideas with others. If you'd like to hear more about the practice of building an inclusive and equitable community, head over to theinclusivecommunity.com and sign up for our newsletter. Also, feel free to leave us a review or reach out we'd love to hear from you. Thanks so much for listening, and join us again next time.


Guest: Amanda Calder

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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