Creating Cooperatives in the Southeast


 Next Introduction to Cooperative Entrepreneurship class at TSU on September 28 from 9 am to noon!

Click the events button at the top of this page for more information.

Learn more about collective ownership and building community wealth. Join us for this free event.


Our Mission:

Shared Ownership.

The Southeast Center for Cooperative Development supports employees’ shared ownership and control through the creation of cooperatives enterprises in Nashville and throughout the Southeast.


It is our mission to…

…increase economic opportunities and benefits by creating and strengthening cooperative businesses and networks that grow an equitable economy. We give priority to developing the power and capacity of low-income, minority, and/or underserved areas of the Metro Nashville and beyond.

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Our Team


Robert “Benny” Overton

Benny is president of United Auto Workers Local 737 in Nashville, Tennessee. His other roles have included vice president of Nashville Organizing for Action and Hope, president of the Dickson County Branch NAACP, vice president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO, executive board member of the Nashville Area-Middle Tennessee Central Labor Council, and adjunct professor at the Tennessee State University College of Business. Benny holds an M.B.A. from Tennessee State University.  

Benny has experience planning and leading experimental worker committees in the manufacturing industry. In these committees workers made decisions democratically on all things related to production.

RHR 2016.jpg

Rosemarie Henkel-Rieger

Rosemarie is a guest-lecturer at Vanderbilt University, author and community organizer. She is an active member of Nashville Organizing for Action and Hope, and serves on the Board of Abintra Montessori School. Before moving to Nashville in 2016, Rosemarie was the community engagement coordinator with the Dallas AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and the the founder of Texas New ERA Center/Jobs with Justice, a non-profit supporting worker rights issues. She holds an M.S. from Eberhardt Karls University (Germany) and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland.


Terry Clayton

Terry is an attorney with Terry Clayton and Associates, P.C., in Nashville, Tennessee. He is an active member of Nashville Organizing for Action and Hope, and serves on the Board of the Tennessee State University Foundation and Samaritan Ministries of Temple Baptist Church. Mr. Clayton served in the Army National Guard for 11 years and as the Equal Opportunity Officer for the Tennessee National Guard for 14 years. He holds a J.D. from Howard University School of Law.   

Terry is the President of our founding Board along with Benny and Rosemarie. 


Our Services

•       Technical assistance and training

•       Support funding and financing of employee-owned cooperatives

•       Educate the public to promote community economic development

•       Build a network of mutually supportive cooperatives

•       Give support for conversions to employee ownership as a succession plan

•       Expand public education and advocacy to increase economic opportunities through employee-ownership in the Southeast


Worker cooperative Start-ups

We support groups thinking about forming a cooperative by offering basic cooperative entrepreneurship class, business planning, democratic decision-making, etc.


Cooperatives are values- and principles-based businesses that put people and planet over profits. This is very different from the maximization of shareholder profit that traditional businesses are built on. And this is where education around worker co-ops usually begins…


According to recent estimates 50% of small businesses are owned by “Babyboomers” who are getting ready to retire in the next decade. Selling a business to one’s employees is an excellent way to save jobs and keep the legacy going.

Financing and Investment clubs

Due to their unusual structure worker cooperatives often have a hard time getting financing. The Southeast Center for Cooperative Development plans to start our own loan/investment fund to leverage local dollars for incubating start-ups and conversions.

Photo by Unsplash

Photo by Unsplash

Our Impact

Income and wealth inequality are not only detrimental for low-income individuals, but also for communities and the economy at large. By contrast, economic growth and social stability are the outcomes of expanding economic equality.

Worker co-ops expand equitable economic opportunity, security, and inclusion for low-income people, people of color, women, and others living in communities that have been left behind socially and economically. We work towards a creative solution for building community wealth and equity through community economic education and shared/cooperative entrepreneurship models.



people attending workshops

We use interactive workshops, classes, and presentations to introduce the cooperative model.



worker co-ops in the pipeline

Currently we are working with 3 different groups (construction, painting, sewing and design) investigating employee ownership. Two of the groups are supported by their union!



businesses contemplating Conversion

We are supporting 2 traditional businesses in their journey to converting to employee ownership.



Father Jose MAria Arizmendiarrieta, Founder of Mondragon Cooperative Netowrk

“We stand united to take the right path, and solidarity paves our way to freedom.”

1worker1vote / Read Full Article



Get Involved

Are you interested in starting a business?

Do you want your business to have a greater positive effect on your community?

Are you thinking about owning a business with others?

Are you thinking about retiring or selling your business? Would you consider selling to your employees?

Cooperative enterprises are alternative business models that bring shared ownership and decision-making into the workplace. The employee-owners of the co-op decide what is produced or what services are rendered, how this is done, and what is done with the profit they create.

Since community members start co-ops, these businesses help create jobs and build wealth in the very communities where they have a vested interest. This keeps investments and profits local.


Sign Up For a Training

If your group is interested in learning more about co-ops, sign up below and we can schedule a workshop or presentation.

Volunteer opportunities

Would you like to share your entrepreneurial or business, legal, organizing, financial skills with new cooperators? Contact us below.

Make a Donation

Our non-profit is dependent on donations from the community. We appreciate your support. SEC4CD is a registered 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.

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