Periodically we get emails from people who have visited our store asking if we have any advice to share on how to start an artist's co-op. Our business was started in 1974 and none of our current members have been with us since the beginning. So we don't have any first-hand knowledge on getting a co-op set up. However we are more than happy to answer questions about how our business is currently structured.
This week we got these specific questions, to which we wrote the responses that follow them.
1. Do you own or rent the space you are located?
We rent our store front space. The current owners inherited the property from their mother. She was a huge booster for our business.
2. How are utilities and liability insurance managed; any information on how the budget or expenses are managed via the co-op is appreciated?
All business payments go through the business setup of the co-op. We ran as an S-corp for years and transitioned to an LLC business a few years back. We have a bookkeeper/accountant who handles all our bank accounts, commission payments, and regular business transactions.
3. Do you have an electronic document which outlines the expectations and benefits of joining the co-op?
You are welcome to peruse our Membership Application packet at http://www.commonwheel.com/call-for-artists.html
You'll find a lot of information there about our membership structures and requirements.
4. Is the co-op organized with a board or leadership structure?
We have an 8-person Board of Directors, 4 of those positions are officer (president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer) and 4 are at large. The terms are for 2 years and we have it set up so that 4 terms expire every year.
5. How many artisans participate in the co-op?
We have between 30-35 active members. The actual number will fluctuate as people leave and time lapses as we search for someone to take their place. We have a static number of spaces available in 4 media groups--wall artists, jewelers, potters, and 3-D.
Please keep in mind that our current structure has changed over the years and not all co-operative businesses look like ours. Also be aware that a co-op is not a utopian business model.
If you have any specific questions about how our co-op is structured, please ask in the comments section.