In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan were struggling. Though government supports were available, some found they didn’t meet the criteria. Many small businesses couldn’t find financing options that met their needs.

The Shaunavon Economic Development Committee got to work on the problem. The committee, which represents the prairie community of around 1,700 residents, thought an investment co-op could help give business owners a boost. By creating a fund in which local people can invest, the co-op could lend those funds to small businesses for things like start-up costs, equipment, renovations, and expansions. The businesses get the money they need, and local contributors see a return on their investment.

With the help of Co-operatives First, this trail-blazing group has now started the first investment co-operative in the province.

Lauren Johnson, the Town’s Economic Development Officer, said they hope the investment co-op will attract new businesses in addition to supporting existing ones.

“The group saw benefit in operating as a co-operative because it encourages members to contribute and play a role in the co-operative, while also having an equal voting structure,” she said.

The Shaunavon Opportunity Fund Cooperative is now seeking investors to help them raise the capital they need to start lending and boost the local economy.

“Working with Co-operatives First was incredible!” Johnson said. “The group helped us through every step of the long journey. Each member of their team is so knowledgeable and each one of them played an important role in making our co-op a success!”