Resources for community-owned businesses

This blog is a companion to the article, "Community-owned Businesses: How Communities Become Entrepreneurs," published in Main Street Now, April 2010. Main Street Now (formerly Main Street News) is the journal of commercial district revitalization published by the National Trust Main Street Center.

Throughout the nation, engaged community members are organizing themselves in new ways to become community entrepreneurs. Often motivated more by mission than capitalistic ambition, community groups are opening new businesses.

Community-owned businesses differ from traditional businesses in that they are motivated by a purpose. They usually arise to fill a void where the marketplace is too slow to act on its own, or the risks appear too high (think decayed downtown). Founders of community-owned businesses see an opportunity which the market has failed to see, and in times when capital to fund new ideas is scarce, community-based entrepreneurship can give life to new business ideas. In many ways, a community-owned business is the same as any other mercantile endeavor: it must satisfy a market need and it must offer the potential to generate a profit.

Community-owned businesses fall into four broad categories:
  • Cooperative: A communally owned and managed business, operated for the benefit of its members;
  • Community-owned corporation: A traditional, for-profit corporation that integrates social enterprise principles;
  • Small ownership group: A small, ad hoc investor group that capitalizes and/or operates a business as a partnership or closely-held corporation; and
  • Investment fund: A community-based fund that invests debt or equity in local business ventures.
For examples and resources, click the pages listed at the top right. For assistance in starting a community-owned business, see Consulting services or contact us at josh[at]

A few of the businesses linked on these pages were also profiled in a 2008 article, "Community-Owned Stores: New Anchors for Older Main Streets," written by Stacy Mitchell of the NewRules project and published in the National Trust's Forum News.