When Paul, Steve and I first embarked upon the idea of a motorcycle cooperative it was more along the lines of the way gyms sell memberships and members get to use the gym while the owners of the gym rake in all the profits. Not that there's really anything wrong with that-- the owners also bear most of the risk-- but that just didn't feel like what we were wanting to do.
Most recently we've been talking non profit organization but while non-profits have some advantages being a non profit ties your hands and makes you always depend on others for your very survival. And frankly, we don't cotton to being tied or just surviving.
That's why I'm writing about a different way tonight. Instead of a small partnership that sells memberships or a non profit, we are considering the possibility that the Carolina Motorcycle Cooperative Association might be formed as a member owned corporation. Now that might mean a 3rd name change before we even open the doors. I'll explain as best I can.
In the beginning we used the name, Carolina Motorcycle Cooperative. But as I soon learned the word, "cooperative" comes with some very sticky meanings and a lot of legalese that I'm not sure I fully understand. So when we started thinking non profit I added "association" as associations are allowed to handle up to $25,000 per year in gross receipts without being registered as long as their goal remains to become a 501 3c non profit at some point in the future. At least, that's how I understand the law to read. Being that we've handled exactly $0.oo in gross receipts thus far I think we're in the clear no matter if I'm right or wrong.
As it turns out, most of the ventures into this new way of doing business are private for profit ventures and they don't use the word, "cooperative." Instead, they describe themselves as "collectives" which apparently doesn't have as strict a legal definition as "cooperative" even though you and I probably use both words to mean pretty much the same thing. So in the end, I suspect we'll end up renaming ourselves the Carolina Motorcycle Collective.
But, like everything else, nothing is set in stone until it is.
Back to forming a member owned corporation. If we were to do such a thing, a membership would not only entitle you to regular membership benefits but to stock in the company and some sort of voting rights. Exactly what I don't know because a board has to be established to work that out and lawyers are needed to work out the legalese I can't write.
There's also one more problem that's turned out to be far bigger that we ever imagined. We were hoping to price memberships at $100 per year but it appears that insurance is going to exceed $4,500 per year and that must be paid before we can open the doors. Or, at least a hefty down payment. That means we need 45 plus members to start and that still doesn't give us gas money to come pick up a broken down bike or pay the power bill in the shop.
We'll be rethinking our plans.
So tomorrow I do something I didn't want to do. I go back to working a full-time job that has nothing to do with motorcycles. Well, almost nothing. I wanted to wait and work full time for CMC but money is running out and life is what it is. But that doesn't mean we're giving up. By going the corporation route we can create reasons even those who don't own motorcycles might want to invest in CMC. But if that's not the route our members want to take then we'll rethink it again.
If you'd like to sign up for the Carolina Motorcycle Cooperative Newsletter or whatever name we end up using... Well, that was the link.
As for the building? Still waiting on the electrical inspectors.