Brooklyn is known for its entrepreneurial spirit—from startups like Genius to the Park Slope Food Coop, one of the largest and oldest coops in the world, there is just about every kind of business imaginable. It’s no surprise that at Brooklyn Creative League, there are many different types of business models from sole proprietorships to nonprofits and more. We spoke to BCL member Annie Sullivan-Chin about her business, A Bookkeeping Cooperative, and why they chose to form as a cooperative corporation.
Why a Worker-Owned Cooperative?
“ABC is a cooperative corporation, all of our owners are also employees of the cooperative. The spirit of the cooperative, regardless of what legal entity it is, is that all of the workers share ownership, responsibility and the reward of the business,” said Annie. “We also offer profit sharing, which gives all the workers the ability to share in the profit and/or loss. Cooperative workplaces have been used as a vehicle across the country and the world as a tool for economic and social justice and equality. In the U.S., it's a really great way for people to build wealth and have ownership and have control over their workplace conditions.”
Bringing Their Ethics to Their Work
In addition to making sure that they have their worker-owners’ best interests at heart, the company brings its approach to its work with its clients. “All of ABC’s services are available in both English and Spanish. We really like to work with immigrant communities and communities of color that are building their own businesses,” said Annie.
Not only does ABC offer accounting and bookkeeping services, but they also bring their cooperative expertise to other organizations. Annie told us, “For people that are starting their own coop business or they want to make their nonprofit organization more democratic, and experiment with open book management, we can consult on best practices and such.”
They also facilitate trainings and workshops that help clients to become more self-sufficient in terms of their accounting. “We run several workshops primarily around themes of financial literacy—building skills, sharing resources and tools to really enhance the financial literacy of an organization. Our workshop format is based on principles of popular education, so it's very participatory and starts from scratch,” described Annie.
ABC along with a few other organizations and professional curriculum developers is currently developing a bilingual toolkit for businesses that will eventually be free and downloadable toolkit. The information will be debuted in a seminar in Oakland, CA, this September 22-24. Click to register for the seminar.
Why is BCL the right space for ABC?
For Annie, being a BCL member is a family affair. “My wife introduced me to BCL, she actually works for the architecture firm that designed BCL. I heard wonderful things from her so we decided to check it out and I moved into BCL originally in September . At that point, I was sharing a desk with somebody else [another BCL member] to test the waters. Now, [ABC is] sharing two desks and we're thinking about continuing that path of upgrading to have a private office, which is on the horizon.”
She added, “It’s all of the perks of your own office but at just a much more accessible price. It's even better than having your own office space in whatever building because you do have that community aspect. I think it's a really great space for networking and everyone is quite friendly. So, it's a wonderful balance of having like a private professional space for you to conduct your business and also being able to socialize and network in the times that you want to.”
At BCL, some of Annie’s favorite things are:
“The cold brew iced coffee! No, I’m kidding. I’m sorta kidding, it’s an amazing perk.”
“Plenty of nooks and crannies.”
“BCL feels more community-oriented than any other co-working space I've ever experienced. The way the office space gives us a place to consolidate and is really good for meeting with our clients. It's a really good catalyst for teamwork in a way that remote work is not. BCL was really helpful for social events, the networking, cross-pollination, and cross-promotion.”