fancy tiger
Jaime Jennings and Amber Corcoran have sold their shop, Fancy Tiger Crafts, to its employees.

Photo courtesy of Fancy TIger

Fancy Tiger Crafts, the Denver, Colorado-based retailer for modern fabrics and yarns, has been sold to its employees. Founders Jaime Jennings and Amber Corcoran said in a blog post that they began the process of turning Fancy Tiger into an employee-owned co-op approximately a year ago.

The founding worker-owners are Christina Patzman, Marta Johnson, Negley Garrett, and Pink Pitcher. Patzman, who has been working at Fancy Tiger since 2008 primarily as a sewing teacher, says the four are hopeful that more employees will become owners in the months and years to come.

In the blog post about the sale, Corcoran said, “Jaime and I had been discussing ideas about taking steps away from the running of the business as early as 2016. We could feel ourselves getting burnt out, and we were thinking about taking sabbaticals, or possibly selling the business, but also couldn’t imagine still owning the business and being able to step away for any length of time.” She and Jennings learned about cooperative ownership while looking into becoming a certified B-corp. Connecting with the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center (RMEOC) was a vital step in accessing the support necessary to make the transition.

There are few other retail shops in the crafts industry that are worker-owned. Golden Artists Colors, the paint company, became employee-owned in October of this year.

For Patzman, becoming a worker-owner feels like a great opportunity. “I’ve always felt really honored to be part of Fancy Tiger because it has allowed me to practice the things that I love to do in life,” Patzman says. “I didn’t know that I liked to teach until I started teaching there. I just really liked what it stands for. And I love the people and the aesthetic of the store.”

“As soon as the question was out of their mouth, I was like absolutely, yes, please, because it is a good next step in my life to get more involved in doing something that I really do believe in.”

The co-op is governed by a board in which each member has one vote and Corcoran and Jennings are non-voting members. To be eligible to buy into the co-op, employees have to meet a threshold for the number of hours they’ve worked. Once an employee has met the requirement and expressed interest in joining the co-op, the board can vote them in.

Becoming a worker-owner requires a $1,000 investment from the employee. “That was a number that we set, just because as retail workers, you know, we’re not rolling in the dough. So we wanted it to be affordable for everybody,” Patzman said. At the end of each year, the board votes on how to allocate any profits the business generates, either divvying them up among worker-owners or reinvesting them into the business. Worker-owners are compensated for hours they work operating the business beyond their typical duties.

“This gives other people the opportunity to be a business owner. I think in this culture that we live in, you have money or you don’t and it’s really hard to start a business with no money,” said Patzman. “I feel like, the opportunity to run an already successful business is pretty great. It’s groundbreaking and I feel like that really kind of breaks the unfair system that’s been happening for such a long time. I think we need to give many more people many more opportunities to build wealth in their lives.”

To fund the purchase, the co-op secured a zero-collateral bank loan which they used to pay Corcoran and Jennings for the purchase. Corcoran and Jennings financed the remainder.

In the blog post about the co-op, Corcoran noted, “One of the reasons we really wanted to go down this co-op road, is the fact that unchecked capitalism causes so much damage to our planet and our society. When Jaime and I got our business evaluated, I realized any ‘good’ we have done—things like offering health insurance, living wages, 401k for our staff, donating to causes we support, paying more for wind energy, recycling and composting for our store—all these things take away from the value of our business because they count against our ‘bottom line.’”

“Capitalism doesn’t account for the value of a business’s impact on our society.”

“Jaime and I have spent the last 15 years making our business decisions in a different way. We couldn’t imagine selling the business to someone who might think only about the bottom line. Turning this business into a co-op, filled with folks who care about the community and the environment, will be such a wonderful way to continue to keep Fancy Tiger Crafts on a path of being accountable to our community.”

Abby Glassenberg

Abby Glassenberg


Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

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