Michigan’s booming brewery industry just added a fresh, new ingredient to the growing business of beer making: a cooperative model.
Jim Jones is a board member and director of High Five Cooperative Brewery in Grand Rapids. He joined Stateside to talk about this new approach to making beer as a co-op.
“A co-op is a business organization that is owned by the people who use the services,” said Jones. “That can be true for anything ranging from credit unions to rural electric co-op to food co-op, a housing co-op, or in this case, a brew pub co-op.”
The regular membership, or to become a “member-owner” as Jones calls it, is $150. When you buy a share you become a part-owner of the company and if you also have the option to buy additional investment shares. The money is being used to pay for start-up expenses as High Five seeks to buy their own equipment so they can start brewing as an official organization.
The Tecumseh Brewing Company made headlines in 2014 as Michigan’s first crowd-funded brewery. The brewery became the first success story of the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption (MILE) as they raised $175,000 to get off the ground.
Jones explained that what they are doing is very different.
“In a crowd-funding model … investment is not really the right word. It’s more like a donation,” said Jones. “You don’t have any control or ownership of the organization that you’re giving the money to. In a co-op, when you have an investment … you have the ability to direct the co-op or become involved in the co-op in some way. Usually that would mean a vote for the members on the board of directors.”
Listen to the full interview below to hear more about their brewery's plans and how the nation’s first co-op brewery in Austin, Texas has inspired them.