The co-operative business model is versatile and can succeed in any industry. The model can also be shaped to suit the unique needs and characteristics of a community. Innovative co-operatives are among the top businesses in the world, and many of these businesses have created brands with national and global recognition.

Some of these well-known co-operative businesses have built their identity and legal structure into their brand, distinguishing themselves from other business models – Co-op Stores across western Canada, for example. But other industry giants focus on their products, services and business characteristics, which means consumers often do not recognize them as a co-operative.

Here are 4 co-operative businesses you probably didn’t know were co-ops:

The Associated Press

Recognizable media companies, such as the New York Times, Torstar, and the Globe and Mail, are often part of large media co-operatives that provide a shared source of content that can be broadcasted in local markets. The Canadian Press in Canada, and the Associated Press in the United States of America, are co-operatively owned organizations that conduct investigative journalism, hold a global presence and share content with local broadcasters and media outlets. The use of these co-operatives ensures that smaller, local newspapers can access the same content as media giants. The Associated Press’ shareholders consist of over 1700 newspapers and over 5000 television and radio broadcasters.

Home Hardware

Each Home Hardware store is independently owned by a local entrepreneur. Each of the more than 1000 stores are shareholders in the larger Home Hardware co-operative that provides collective marketing and wholesale distribution. The co-operative, founded in the 1960s was led by Walter Hachborn to offer competitive prices to local stores at a time when hardware stores encountered challenging economic conditions. The access to high quality wholesale products at competitive prices has allowed the network of stores to gain a significant portion of the hardware market and is recognized as one of the industry’s leaders in Canada. Home Hardware’s brand has focused on its Canadian history and quality products rather than its co-operative business structure.

Green Bay Packers

Many professional sports teams maintain a very strong connection to their community and fans. In some cases, this is built into the business structure of the team when they organize as a co-operative. The most notable example of this is the Green Bay Packers, who are the only remaining community-owned non-profit team in the NFL. The Packers have over 360,000 shareholders and no single member can hold more than 4% of the over 5 million issued shares. This structure has allowed the team to remain functional despite being in the smallest market in all professional sports in America.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Borrowing from the Packer model, the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club is also a co-operative with 2 share classes. The fan loyalty of these two clubs is legendary, and both the Riders and the Packers are top of class in their respective leagues for brand recognition and financial stability.

Other professional sports teams in western Canada with a claim to being community-owned include the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Edmonton Eskimos.

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