About a year and half ago, after working for years in the food industry, three of us got together to discuss the idea of starting our own bakery here in Austin, TX. We wanted to provide the community with superior vegan baked goods (starting with vegan donuts!), while building a business that valued equality, cooperation, independence, community and the environment over financial gain and exploitation. The seed was planted and the idea for Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery was born. But while we all had commercial baking experience, none of us had experience starting a business, let alone a worker cooperative.
Luckily, just when we needed it, we came across Third Coast Workers for Cooperation in the local newspaper and enrolled in the full-length certification course through their Cooperative Business Institute (CBI). That’s when our real journey began. With Carlos Perez de Alejo and Andi Shively as our teachers and guides, we studied the history, values and principles of cooperatives, other worker cooperative models throughout the country, the basics of worker self-management, what it means to be a worker-owner, financial and business concepts, and began to develop a feasibility study and business plan. Carlos and Andi shared their wealth of knowledge on worker cooperatives and business, engaging in and facilitating a dialogue with us, and were always receptive to any feedback we had. It was an amazing learning experience that we won’t forget. It gave us the tools we needed to start our cooperative, as well as the strength and confidence to do it ourselves and give it everything we had.
And the best part? The learning did not end after we graduated from the CBI. In true cooperative spirit, Third Coast Workers for Cooperation continues to guide and support Red Rabbit, lending whatever resources they have, helping us make connections with the community, and answering our numerous questions. They have been an integral part of our development as a small worker-owned bakery. That’s why we mean it when we say we would not be where we are today if it weren’t for them, and we are so grateful for their work with us and other groups in Texas who are learning about or starting worker cooperatives. Join us in supporting Third Coast by MAKING A DONATION TODAY to help empower future workers like us and strengthen the cooperative movement here in Texas.