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A St. Louis coop works through the kinks as it transitions from sole proprietorship

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A young man in a blue T-shirt leans on equipment in a white workshop. Wooden-handled tools hang in two rows behind him.

“Our biggest challenge is trying to figure out how to make it a good job for everyone," says Collin Garrity. Courtesy Garrity Tools

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Last year, we spoke to Collin Garrity, then the sole proprietor of Garrity Tools, about transitioning his pottery tool company to a worker cooperative, where employees own and manage the business. It hasn’t been an easy or fast process. Garrity used to make decisions on his own, but now it’s everyone’s job, and the process can be overwhelming, he said.

He and the other worker-owners are still figuring out how pay structure and job roles will work within the cooperative, and there are more meetings to make sure all the stakeholders have a say in where the company goes. 

“Our biggest challenge is trying to figure out how to make it a good job for everyone,” Garrity said. “And no amount of company ownership makes up for a bad job.”

And there are still the everyday problems a business needs to solve.

“Becoming a co-op hasn’t fixed any of the challenges the company has on its own,” Garrity said. “We’re also trying to figure out how to have a company in 2023 that makes things and sells them.”

Is it still worth it to make the switch to a coop? Garrity says yes. Plus, “it’s a little too late to not. …
“I think we’re gonna get this right, but we’re learning, and we’re gonna keep trying pretty weird things,” Garrity said. “I think we’re finally figuring out how to shape this into something that can keep growing.”

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