How did you first get involved with employee ownership?
I experienced the resiliency and power of shared ownership while working in New York City’s affordable housing cooperatives. Inspired by that, I looked for opportunities to join the cooperative community for employment in Boston, where I’d planned to relocate. I jumped into a job as a barista for the legendary cooperative Equal Exchange. The more I learned about worker ownership from the company and self-study, the more certain I became that I wanted to pursue building and growing employee-owned businesses as a career.
What inspired you to focus on working with ESOP businesses?
Determined to enter the field of employee ownership, I marched to the nearby office of Chris Mackin whose consulting company, Ownership Associates, is in Cambridge, MA. He was happy to point me in the direction of organizations doing work with cooperatives, and asked if I had heard of ESOPs. Once I learned about the success and scope of ESOPs, I knew it was the field for me. In the United States, cooperatives have a median workforce of 10 employees and between 6,000–7,000 employee owners in the whole country. While they are an extremely important part of the employee-ownership ecosystem, I saw that ESOPs had the ability to truly transform the U.S. economy on a much larger scale currently affecting roughly 14 million people. I wanted to be a part of creating more ESOPs and engaging employees in their workplace as owners. I started my journey working with clients and teaching workshops with Chris at Ownership Associates.
What’s the best thing about working with employee-owned businesses?
We spend an average of one-third of our life at work, so it’s important to me that employees feel the ownership difference. I love the creativity that comes with the job: Each company has a different culture, different employees and different needs. It’s always a puzzle to figure out the best approach to building an ownership culture or addressing the needs of each new company. When it comes down to it, the best thing about working with employee-owned businesses is knowing that every day I’m building stronger and more sustainable companies where employees benefit financially. I feel so lucky to do work I believe in each day.
You’ve got a knack for making learning new ideas fun. Where does that come from?
I’ve always loved developing games and using my imagination. Because I grew up playing music and doing theater, I’m comfortable performing, improvising, and trying new things. I can also be pretty competitive, so I’m always ready to make learning into a challenge. I love to laugh and connect with others, so I want learning to be joyful.
Where did you study and work that enabled you to develop Spanish proficiency
I took Spanish classes in school, but it wasn’t until I studied abroad in Argentina and traveled by myself for two months through Chile and Peru that it really clicked for me. After I graduated from college, I moved to Spain for a year. I will never forget the first time I hung out with a friend at a bar and managed to speak Spanish for six hours straight! I don’t get to use Spanish as much as I’d like these days, but I’ve kept it up over the years through leading bilingual nature programs for families, travels around the world, and in my work as a community organizer in neighborhoods with Spanish-speaking populations.
When you’re not helping employee-owned companies succeed, what do you do for fun?
Well, most often you’ll find me running 50-60 miles a week and training for my next marathon. I have a lot of hobbies and love to do anything outside or physical, especially long backpacking trips. I enjoy cooking vegan meals, spending time with my rescued Pitbull, Missy Sun, playing boardgames, and making art. Right now, I’m on a fermentation kick and just made huge batches of fermented carrots, pickles, kimchi, kvass, and kombucha. I’m just starting up the garden again and can’t wait for my tomatoes and okra this year.