Seven student-run businesses provide entrepreneurship experience and provide the community with a range of services

The University has the most student-run co-ops in the United States

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian (2019)

By Alex Genovese, Collegian Staff

The University of Massachusetts has the most student-run co-ops in the United States. Run completely by students, these seven businesses bring entrepreneurship experience to employees while providing campus with food, printing and bikes.

All businesses employ student “co-managers”; no campus business has a hierarchical structure. Instead, co-managers are given the opportunity to collaborate with each other in everything from hiring and training to social media and outreach.

Bike Co-op

Made up of seven students, the UMass Bike Co-op serves as the one-stop shop for all bike-related activities on campus. The co-op can fix bikes, but also sells used bikes and accessories. As Leonard Bonn, one of the comanagers of the Bike Co-op, put it, “there are very few things that we can’t do.”

Bonn joined the Bike Coop after he became interested in bikes during the pandemic. A sophomore studying art history and architecture, he joined without any knowledge of bike parts or service, but was trained to become a full bike mechanic.

“UMass is such a bikeable campus,” Bonn noted. “You can bike to Northampton, you can get to any class in under two minutes on a bike.” Bonn highlighted that riding a bike is not only great for your physical health, but also for your mental health. “I wish every student could have a bike.”

At the beginning of the semester, the co-op was open from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day. Currently, they are open 2 days a week from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., but students can set up an appointment outside open hours through email or Instagram DMs. “Because we’re student-run, we don’t run this business to make money,” Bonn said. “We are the most affordable bike shop in the area.”

Bonn emphasized that the Bike Co-op is a welcoming place. “We don’t want [bringing your bike in] to be stressful or intimidating.” Instead, Bonn wants the Bike Co-op to be a place where everyone, from customers to employees, can learn more about bikes.

If you have a problem with your bike on campus, Bonn put it simply: “Just bring it in!”

Campus Design and Copy

Founded in 1990, Campus Design and Copy provides printing, flyering and design services to the campus community. Nestled in the Student Union, Campus Design and Copy provides student employees with the opportunity to run their own businesses.

Eric Capri has been working at Campus Design and Copy since his freshman year. He found that working at a student business broke down the barrier of freshmen only knowing freshmen. Now a senior studying computer science, Capri has enjoyed having first-hand experience with what goes into running a business. According to their website, Campus Design and Copy “is managed by a team of full-time undergraduate students” at UMass. Every co-manager holds “equal responsibility” in the business.

Despite struggling following the shutdown of campus due to COVID-19, the business still serves Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) and academic departments. Consisting of around 10-14 students every semester, Campus Design and Copy is currently open Monday to Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. according to Capri. For more information, including hiring and service requests, visit their website.

People’s Market

People’s Market, a student-run coop, is an opportunity for students to eat outside of the standard dining options. Their mission includes four main tenants: “To provide a place for the University community to buy natural and fresh foods … to provide the University community with an alternative eating place … to promote the co-operative and collective movements [and] to educate and inform the community about nutritional, political, and social issues in the realm of the food industry.”

Earthfoods

Housed in the center of the Student Union, Earthfoods provides an alternative diet to campus dining. Earthfoods provides locally sourced vegan and vegetarian food to campus. A student-run cooperative, Earthfoods also allows student co-managers to gain skills in self-accountability, communication and sustainability.

“I think that especially in a university where students are the main focus, I think that it’s really important to have spaces that are created and curated by students,” Yojee Kim, a co-manager at Earthfoods, said. Kim, a senior studying linguistics and Spanish, has been working at Earthfoods for four years.

She found that being part of a student-run coop means that you’re pulling your own weight, which means that each co-manager shares equal responsibility over Earthfoods. This collective mindset, however, “helps students to learn how to ask for help and how to work in settings with peers in a non-hierarchy.”

Earthfoods is open Monday through Thursday. Working at Earthfoods is flexible; the co-op ensures that co-managers prioritize academics. Two co-managers begin cooking at 7:00 a.m. until it opens at 11:00 a.m. From there, students run the register, serve the food and help restock. Earthfoods closes around 4:00 p.m.

Kim explained that working at Earthfoods has given her the opportunity to acknowledge the drastic nature of food insecurity. “As we see more research into the sustainability of specific diets, and particular issues in the meat industry, that is something we are really interested in being part of, not just in saying, but in doing.”

Greeno Sub Shop

The Greeno Sub Shop is a student-run cooperative serving paninis and milkshakes for the Central Residential Area. For Elena Greco, a student co-manager, working at the Greeno Sub Shop helped her reduce her work-related anxiety.

“When I show up to work, I don’t fear being watched by a manager or a boss but instead I get to just feel like an equal person with my co-managers,” Greco said. She explained that meals such as the “Gutbuster” are favorites and provide students with the opportunity to have customizable food on campus. She also highlighted the milkshakes as a personal favorite.

The Greeno Sub Shop hires each semester depending on how many graduates there are. Greco highlighted Greeno’s hiring process, including a two-week training where there is “a mix of old hires and new hires to show the new hires the ropes” and a new hire night — this year they went to an arcade to celebrate.

Greco found that Greeno being a student-run cooperative allowed her to feel “in control” while at work. “Greeno’s wouldn’t have its charm without being a Co-op as the environment leads for more open expression and connection between workers,” Greco said. “It also leads to faster progression/changes of its inner workings as there is no chain to work your way up.”

Sweets and More

Sweets and More, located inside Field Hall in Orchard Hill, serves “shakes, baked goods and grilled items such as quesadillas and pizza bagels,” Joanne Arulraj, a sophomore studying marine conservation and education and a co-manager at Sweets and More, explained. “Each co-manager has their own shake, making our menu unique.”

Arulraj noted that each student employee is involved in every aspect of the business, “from bookkeeping to advertising and everything in between.”

“Working at Sweets and More means that communication is key; the business needs to be on the same page in order to be successful. I have learned to communicate efficiently and in a timely manner. I have also learned how to manage my time,” Arulraj said.

Arulraj joined Sweets and More as a way to grow her professional skills and also to find a community where she felt welcomed. “Running a business can be stressful, and I had to learn

how to balance being a co-manager, student, and human,” Arulraj said. “At the end of the day, Sweets and More co-managers are always willing to support each other, which was an aspect of the business I found helpful.”

Sweets and More will begin hiring in the next few weeks. “We will be putting a form out on our Instagram and the UMass Job Board,” Arulraj explained. “Students can fill out the form, pending they meet the requirements.” Students must be in good academic standing, be able to work two shifts per week and can commit to at least three semesters.

Once hired, employees will be trained over a two-week period. “Veteran sweeties are responsible for showing new hires the ropes, and once they are confident that the new hire is ready, they will be allowed to take ownership of their own station and begin contributing to the business on their own.”

For Arulraj, student-run businesses allow students to “develop professional and personal skills.”

“Sweets and More is also a team effort, which is extremely important in the real world. Any issue that the business faces is an ‘all hands on deck’ type situation, which allows you to realize how powerful having more people working on an issue, rather than one person is.”

Sylvan Snack Bar

“At Sylvan Snack Bar, we have a passion for sharing our love of food with everyone we meet,” Sylvan Snack Bar’s website explains. Located inside the McNamara dorm in Sylvan, the snack bar provides late-night dining options “including subs, calzones, and (awesome) quesadillas.” The oldest student-run collective at UMass, the snack bar was started in 1971. Currently open Sunday through Thursday from 7:00 p.m. to 11:45 p.m., Sylvan Snack Bar also offers delivery services to the Sylvan area.

For a full menu or to place an order, visit their website here.

Alex Genovese can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @alex_genovese1.