April 27, 2022

Expanding economic opportunity for Hawaii small businesses

Kaiser Permanente, Project Equity, and Obran Cooperative create the Business Resiliency Through Employee Ownership initiative to improve economic health.

Contact: Laura M. Lott
808-343-2406 (mobile)

HONOLULU — Kaiser Permanente, Obran Cooperative, and Project Equity are partnering on a joint initiative: Business Resiliency Through Employee Ownership. The goal of this initiative is to increase employee ownership of small businesses, which allows employees to build wealth and improves the overall health of the community. Kaiser Permanente contacted suppliers run by people of color or other underrepresented groups to discuss the benefits of employee ownership. Courier Corporation of Hawaii is the first business in the nation transitioning to employee ownership through this initiative.

The Business Resiliency Through Employee Ownership initiative, which guides companies like CCH through the steps of becoming employee owned, is funded by Kaiser Permanente and carried out in partnership with Project Equity and Obran Cooperative. Workers in employee-owned businesses have a longer median job tenure, a higher median income, and a higher household net worth than workers in non-employee-owned businesses.

“Stimulating employee ownership puts profit-generating businesses into the hands of community members in a long-term sustainable way,” said Project Equity chief executive officer Evan Edwards. “We are thrilled that Kaiser Permanente is investing in this work and helping its supplier companies learn about employee ownership.”

Obran Cooperative recently purchased CCH, and now the employees have the option to join the Obran membership. Employees who join are entitled to profit sharing from the entire cooperative. The opportunity to join is open-ended so employees may join Obran today, next month, or next year. It is completely voluntary.

“We’re pleased that so many of the employees are taking advantage of the opportunity to be an employee owner of Obran Cooperative, where they can really own 100% of their daily work,” said Adam Rose, chief operating officer, Obran. “We’re looking forward to growing with CCH and the broader Obran businesses for many years to come.”

As of April 2020, more than 50% of CCH employees have joined the cooperative with many more indicating interest. It is important to note that the day-to-day work of the employees will not change, and this new structure should be seamless for CCH customers.

“We see this initiative as a unique approach to addressing social determinants of health by supporting efforts to increase economic opportunity for Hawaii families and small businesses,” said David Tumilowicz, senior director of community health for Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii.

About Obran

Obran is the country’s first worker-owned conglomerate corporation — a group of interconnected businesses that are held under a single parent worker-cooperative entity. Obran’s unique holding cooperative structure allows it to find, acquire and hold profitable small- to medium-size businesses and real estate on behalf of its worker-owners. This strategy allows Obran to build pathways to better overall health and financial stability for low-income workers and workers of color. Obran was founded in 2016 by a group of returning citizens in Baltimore City. With active businesses in the staffing, construction, and technology sectors, Obran aims to grow its membership by 300% over the next five years through the successful conversion of small to medium sized businesses under the cooperative.

About Project Equity

Project Equity is a leading nonprofit employee ownership consulting firm and community economic development organization. Project Equity raises awareness of the benefits of employee ownership and guides businesses through each step of becoming employee-owned — from initial education to structuring and financing the transition to supporting new employee-owners. Founded in 2014, Project Equity is on a mission to shift employee ownership from “best-kept secret” to “business as usual” and bring it to scale. The organization’s robust team of employee ownership professionals supports businesses and worker-owners across the country, and partners with public and private sector stakeholders to create more equitable and resilient communities.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.5 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.