Local nonprofit helps Mt. Airy childcare firm become worker owned

Shine Nurture Center, a childcare center in Mt. Airy, became worker-owned this month, joining a growing wave of businesses helping to improve quality of life for workers and communities. 

Shine Nurture Center’s worker-owners pose for a photo in the childcare center after it officially becomes worker-owned.

“For the workers, this transition has opened the door to building wealth for their families in a way that would never have been possible,” said Ellen Vera, director of co-op organizing at Co-op Cincy, a local nonprofit that supported the transition. “And for the community, this succession has anchored an important childcare center in the neighborhood long term.” 

Katie McGoron founded Shine in 2015 with the goal of creating a childcare center where children could play outside and eat healthy food. Now that the business has a solid foundation, with a waiting list that typically includes 75 to 100 children, she decided to pursue a graduate degree. This month she finished the process of selling the business to 5 of her former employees. 

McGoron wanted to give the employees an opportunity to make the business their own. “It’s just such a great group,” she said of the current team. “I really wanted to take myself out of it, let them take Shine in the direction they see fit. I honestly think it will get better and better.” 

“The responsibility of a business like that on one person’s shoulders is a lot. When you can spread it over 5 shoulders, there’s more opportunity for growth.” 

Shine’s 5 worker-owners, all of whom are women, will now run the childcare center by themselves. This business model, known as worker-ownership, has been shown to create resilient jobs, generate wealth, and boost the local economy. 

Shine Nurture Center worker-owner Mary Wilder sits during a worker-owner meeting.

“I’ve definitely been celebrating all month and telling my kids, ‘Your Momma owns a business!’” said worker-owner Mary Wilder, who has been at Shine for 2 years. Before now, paperwork discouraged her from owning a childcare center. She changed her mind because Shine was “such a wonderful place to work.”

“If I plan on being here for 10 years, why not be an owner?” she said. 

Other worker-owners at Shine cited the benefits of the worker-ownership model and the strength of the childcare center’s team. 

Beth Heeg, who has been with Shine for 1 year, was attracted to the worker-ownership model because of the emphasis on “wealth redistribution,” while Trisha Hay, who has worked at Shine for 3 years, said she decided to become a worker-owner because she felt she was never going to find another place like Shine. “I was all-in immediately,” she said. “I feel like we all communicate and work really well together.” 

Why embrace the worker-owned business model? Worker-owned businesses are democratically run, giving workers a say. In addition, according to research, they have clear worker, company, and community benefits compared to traditional companies:

  • Employee advantage: Employees at worker-owned businesses have better wages and benefits.
  • Company advantage: Worker-owned companies are more profitable and productive.
  • Community advantage: Worker-owned businesses are less likely to close, relocate, or lay off workers during downturns. 

“We are really excited that Shine has decided to transition to a worker-owned co-op,” Vera said. “Selling to the workers was such a good option for the owner because she wanted to preserve her legacy and keep the business in the hands of the people who had helped her build it.” 

“It also allowed the owner to get a fair market price for the value she had built up in her business over the years, which is especially important in an industry such as childcare that is not known for having a lot of outside buyers that are typically interested in taking over.” 

To create a fairer and more resilient economy, Co-op Cincy’s Business Legacy Fund helps exiting or retiring business owners sell their companies to workers.

The fund, which supported Shine’s transition, helps save jobs and maintain legacies. Financing is accompanied by technical assistance. Co-op Cincy and the Business Legacy Fund partner with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator, the African-American Chamber of Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative, All-In-Cincinnati, and Xavier Leadership Center. The Business Legacy Fund is funded through the support of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the Fifth Third Foundation and PNC Bank.

McGoron said Co-op Cincy offered an essential “support system” for Shine’s transition. “We could not have figured out how to do this without the help of Co-op Cincy,” McGoron said.

Co-op Cincy has recruited transition managers in Cincinnati and is actively conducting outreach to local businesses. In addition, Co-op Cincy partners with organizations across the state and country to promote worker-ownership.


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