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Melting Ice Cream

Almost Conversions, But Not Quite
The stories of four attempts at conversions that did not work: Lessons learned*
Meteor Café Bistro | Finlandia Association | Eurocan Pulp and Paper | Earlton Grocery King

We hear more about businesses that succeeded in converting into co-operatives than we do about businesses that did not. But failures are also opportunities for learning and growth. In that sense, “failures” are not necessarily failures; they can be pivotal moments when growth continues in new directions. There seems to be a presumption that if we want to succeed, we should look to those who succeeded, not to those who did not. Learning about others’ struggles can help us with our own.

These mini cases contain the stories of four businesses that explored the possibility of converting into co-operatives and then learned that a business conversion to co-operative would not work for them. A BCC is a way of rescuing a business that would otherwise close by transferring ownership to a group of individuals (be they the employees, the community, the customers, the suppliers, or any combination of stakeholders) whom ultimately transforms the business into a co-operative. The four case studies in this report, illustrating potential BCCs that did not ultimately happen in Canada in recent years, are: a social enterprise restaurant, a cultural hub located in a heritage building, a pulp and paper mill in an industry town, and a small-town grocery store.

*Case study research and writing by Jonathan Silver (2021)

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