Since their founding in 2004, Namaste Solar knew that they wanted their business model to be different. While there are many ways a business can establish an edge, the company identified early on that employee ownership would be one of their most impactful strategies to incorporate from the ground up.
“If we could have everybody acting and thinking like an owner,” says Co-Founder, Blake Jones, “that would translate into better work quality, better customer service and basically better ability to run the company and be competitive.”
Namaste Solar is a Colorado-based solar company that provides engineering-design, installation, consulting and more for commercial and residential solar energy solutions. Outside of his role at the company, Blake Jones is actively involved in supporting Colorado’s economy. He founded the Kachuwa Impact Fund to help provide funding for employee-owned businesses, serves as a Board Chair for the Clean Energy Credit Union and was an Economic Development Commissioner for the office of Economic Development and International Trade from 2019 to 2021.
When first launching Namaste Solar, the co-founders initially created their own custom employee ownership model. This structure worked well for their first five years, when they then explored the breadth of employee ownership models. The company determined that the worker-owned cooperative model was a great fit, which involves democratic shareholder voting (i.e. one vote per employee-owner) and cooperative “patronage dividends” for all employee-owners.
In addition to this, Namaste Solar is a Colorado Public Benefit Cooperative and Certified B Corporation. Accomplishments are not just measured by profit, but also by its impact on a higher quality of life for employees, a superior experience for customers, and a positive impact on all stakeholders, including its community and the environment.
Now, Namaste Solar could “compare notes” and learn from other worker-owned cooperatives - something they could not do with their custom model. It has been a wonderful fit for them since.
Embracing an owner mindset and seeing how their role contributes to the bigger picture has influenced the way employees accomplish their responsibilities. Each co-owner participates in quarterly “Big Picture Meetings,” stays informed on financials, challenges and opportunities, performance metrics and key decisions that impact their role and the company as a whole.
As many entrepreneurs experience, scaling a company comes with growing pains. Although their worker-owned cooperative model came with its own set of challenges as the company grew, Namaste Solar was pleasantly surprised that it was ultimately a key ingredient for their ongoing growth and success. Their culture has remained strong, and their business model has naturally evolved as they’ve grown to more than 220 employees over their 17-year history.
“The way that we operate, get together and make decisions and inform ourselves is very much engrained in all that we do,” says Jones. “If you're going to harness one of the best advantages of being employee-owned, you need to help everyone to act and think like an owner, and you can only do that by truly living and breathing every aspect of having an ownership culture.”
While Blake Jones wishes they had known about worker-owned cooperatives sooner, he recognizes that all the learning opportunities along the way have contributed to their success and collaborative culture they enjoy now at Namaste Solar.