SME cooperatives 2021: A record few cooperatives were established

The number of new cooperatives is falling for the eighth year in a row. Only 78 cooperatives were founded in 2021, compared to 92 the previous year. In 2019 the number of new cooperatives was 142 cooperatives, and a total of 235 we established in 2014.

There is still a lot of work to be done to get more cooperative entrepreneurs to our country. The huge popularity of joint-stock companies, on the other hand, remains stable. 21 706 of them were established in 2021, more than the previous year and 254 limited partnerships were established.

Although few cooperatives are established, business expert Matti Ketola from Pellervo Coop Center does not see the situation as exclusively negative. “It has still been quieter than in previous years. However, the established cooperatives are very functional and the founders are often well informed about the business form.”

According to Ketola, the most common questions that cooperative founders ask are often related to, for example, the organization of activities and the relationship between the member and the cooperative. Ketola believes that the low number of new cooperatives is due to at least a couple of different reasons: “The so called “light entrepreneurship” services have certainly fulfilled the need for an invoicing channel for some of those who might have founded a cooperative before. Also, the ambiguities of the past years regarding unemployment benefits of cooperative’s members have also possibly reduced the number of founders.”

Can the situation be improved with different campaigns? Ketola thinks it is possible. “The cooperative business model should be known as a model of joint venture among company founders, business advisors, decision-makers and the wider public.”

Kilon Osuus-Auto (Kilo Car Cooperative) takes the top spot

Kilon Osuus-Auto took the first place for the eleventh time in a row in the Yearbooks analyze of cooperatives in the SME sector. The turnover of the cooperative increased in 2021 from the previous year to 15 million euros. Founded in 1987 by transport industry professionals, the cooperative employs around 200 people.

“The factor that explains the increase in turnover in 2021 is the good momentum of home deliveries. With the removal of corona restrictions, this area can already see a decline,” says Kilon Osuus-Auto CEO Ari Savisalo. He admits that it has been really difficult to get staff in general. However, the cooperative has been reasonably successful in recruiting, and so far all assignments have been completed without any problems.

“The slowdown in economic growth usually eases this problem, so we can expect slightly easier times in terms of getting personnel”, Savisalo guesses. According to him, the current year has been marked by a drastic increase in costs. Fortunately, the price of fuel has been passed on to customers quite well. Availability of transport equipment has also been very difficult, and delivery delays have been bad.

Cooperative Meriasennus a good runner-up

Silver was once again taken by Lahti-based Osuuskunta Meriasennus, which increased its turnover to 8.3 million euros from 7.2 million the previous year. The cooperative founded by ship electricians in 1998 employs approximately 85 people and 50 subcontractors.

“After a long time, the operation expanded again to three shipyards in Helsinki, Turku and Rauma. The need for labor increased when more ships were built at the same time,” says the cooperative’s CEO Ville Alasippola. According to him, the removal of corona restrictions has not eased the material availability problems brought by the corona era.

“Especially materials containing electronics have had really long delivery times. The current world situation does not make things easier. Luckily, the situation has not affected recruitment.” Alasippola estimates that the turnover of the cooperative will grow even more in 2022. “Only at the end of the year will we see the real impact of the world situation on project schedules, but challenges can be expected. I still have to keep my thoughts optimistic and focus on what I’m doing,” the CEO reflects.

New contract boosted Sign Language Cooperative Via

Sign Language Cooperative Via ranked third in the Yearbooks analysis, just like last year. The cooperative’s turnover increased to 5 million euros from 4.2 million the previous year. The cooperative employs approximately 88 people.

According to Outi Huusko, CEO of Via, the turnover increased from the previous year mainly due to the fact that at the beginning of April 2021, a new contract period started with the cooperative’s largest customer, Kela. “With the new contract, we were able to adjust the prices to better reflect the current production costs,” explains Huusko.

According to her, the effects of the corona eased during 2021, as customers quickly adapted to using remote interpretation. “The restrictions affected the order book, but not as drastically as during the spring and summer of 2020. In 2021, operations were almost at the pre-covid level.”

The business was significantly more affected by a large tender competition, where Via luckily was able to participate in a framework arrangement and become a service provider in all its business areas.

Labor shortage in the social and health care sector

The labor shortage is still the biggest in the social and health care sector. This also applies to cooperatives in the SME sector, such as Jelppis-Tiimi Cooperative from Vaasa, which offers home care.

Currently, the cooperative employs 23 people, but more would be needed. “We would be able to employ significantly more staff if only we could hire more. Right now, it is really difficult to get professional staff. New customers would come, but we can’t receive them,” says office manager Minna Hemminki from Jelppis-Tiimi.

Data on SME cooperatives

In the analyze carried out for the Yearbook, the cooperatives were ranked according to turnover. Of the nine cooperatives that responded to the survey, the turnover of the smallest was 256 000 euros and the largest was 15 million euros.

The average turnover was 4 million euros. The number of cooperative members varied from three to 460. Mathematically calculated, cooperatives had an average of 84 members.

Analyzing cooperatives in the SME sector has been done for eleven years now.

Riku-Matti Akkanen
The author is a journalist and a member of Cooperative Magazine’s Yearbook analyst team.

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