The Community Language Cooperative Utilizes Employee Ownership to Achieve Their Business Mission

The Community Language Cooperative was founded in May 2014 and began immediately as a cooperative (co-op). It was created from three LLCs that joined together to form the co-op. 

At the heart of Community Language Cooperative is an understanding of the power that language holds. By providing interpreters and translators to communicate in other languages, they can bridge any language barriers to opportunities and resources. 

Indira Guzman, one of the founding members, joined the Denver Foundation on a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, to learn more about The Cleveland Model. This model is a collaboration of organizations to promote large-scale worker-owned and community-benefiting businesses. It was during this journey that inspiration struck and Guzman wanted to consider similar principles of entrepreneurship to invoke the same energy into the Community Language Cooperative. 

As she worked alongside other interpreters, Guzman knew that by creating a cooperative, each member would have ownership and hold the same integrity as any other business owner would. 

In other business structures, the interpreter may not receive as much benefit as the agency would, making it less accessible to communities. With the cooperative model, Guzman is happy to offer a stronger community wealth building model and offer each interpreter the majority of the profit from their work.

“The cooperative model has impacted our business in every way. The services we offer are high quality because our interpreters know they are representing themselves,” said Guzman. “We are creating a space for economic opportunity for all and having those values in our business helps everyone grow.” 

Since its start in 2014, the Community Language Cooperative has since grown to 68 interpreters, 10 translators and the opportunity to outsource to another agency with languages they don’t offer in-house. 

For Guzman, employee ownership means peace of mind. All members are working to grow their skill set and support one another--leading to every interpreter and translator being able to provide the same quality as Guzman herself. If she isn’t there, she can be confident that any of her members can still exceed expectations of the client. 

When looking forward to what is next, the Community Language Cooperative has big plans. They are developing a sister cooperative in the San Luis Valley to further support their mission of language justice and equity. In this effort, they will be able to continue training communities throughout Colorado on language justice and ensure they have what they need to succeed. 

Learn more about the Employee Ownership Office