Susanne Ward, owner of Rock City Coffee Roasters and Rock City Cafe, is looking forward to transitioning the company's business model to that of an employee-owned cooperative. Kevin Malmstrom, the head coffee roaster, will be one of the owners when the transition is complete by the end of this year or the beginning of 2017. "I feel really good about it," Ward said. "I think it's the best solution I can come up with."
Susanne Ward, owner of Rock City Coffee Roasters and Rock City Cafe, is looking forward to transitioning the company’s business model to that of an employee-owned cooperative. Kevin Malmstrom, the head coffee roaster, will be one of the owners when the transition is complete by the end of this year or the beginning of 2017. “I feel really good about it,” Ward said. “I think it’s the best solution I can come up with.” Photo and caption by Bangor Daily News

Rock City Roasters owner Susanne Ward of Rockland, Maine, never intended to spend her career as a business owner. Instead she describes Rock City’s success as a happy accident that owes a lot to the passion and commitment of her employees. Soon, she’ll join their ranks and become a worker-owner when the business converts to a worker cooperative with help from CDI. At age 64, she’s one of many owners looking to transition their companies to the next generation.

The Bangor Daily News recently profiled Ward and her company. She told reporters that she was excited about the transition:

“I’m really looking forward to that,” she said. “My crew, the average age is probably 35 years old. That’s a fabulous age for an entrepreneur. They all have energy. They’re all committed to Rockland. It’s a great, great time. They are the future. And for me, I’ve been doing this so long. It’s easier for me to get stuck in a mindset. I try to stay very open now. And I try to treat them like they are co-owners. I want them to have that sense of ownership.”

Ward will stay on to help run the company for two years if all goes according to plan. She wants to ensure that the employees receive sufficient training, and she’ll most likely fill the role of general manager during the transition period. Though Rock City is a vibrant community center, the business had some minor financial difficulty after the death of Ward’s husband. Rockland, like much of Maine, has a seasonal economy, which adds to the complexity of how to best manage financial ups and downs. Ward cares for the business and her employees and wants to ensure they get started with the right skills.

Read the full story about Rock City’s conversion in the Bangor Daily News.

Rock City Roasters Plans to Go Co-op
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