Starting a Cooperative in Finland

From plan to action

A good business idea and common enthusiasm and know-how are the starting points for incorporating a cooperative.

1. A common target

The precondition for the founding of a company is its ability to function profitably.

The business idea and the decision to incorporate a cooperative are not enough. Before the incorporation, you must know what is going to be done and when. During the first steps of planning, it is important to reflect how the business idea transforms into business, i.e., where the paying customers are and how they will be persuaded to become customers of your cooperative.

The success is all the more likely if all cooperative members take part in this planning. If the amount of incorporators is considerable, it is practical to form small working groups, each preparing certain parts of the plan. The results of the group work will be assembled into an integrated program.

Because a cooperative is not only a business but also a community of persons, mere business planning is not enough. You have reason to sit down together to consider how your work together as a community. Your planning should include cooperation, decision-making, and management, plus a discussion and decisions concerning practical work, like bookkeeping and accounting arrangements.

2. The Mission

Start your planning with the formulation of the mission. The mission summarizes what the cooperative is for and what it aims to achieve (in response to which need, for whom, what). When considering the mission, the cooperative members get an idea of the basic purpose of the enterprise, which will later govern their activities. It is worth remembering that the cooperative’s purpose is always of a cooperative nature: the cooperative pursues an economic activity to support the household or the profession of its members, who will take benefit of the cooperative services. The mission can describe underlying values for the cooperative’s functioning and define its line of activities. The mission is stated briefly and unequivocally.

For example:

” The mission of the Cooperative Down is to provide support to the industry of its members by the refining of down and producing marketing services for the down products of its members.”

3. The Business Idea

Compared to the Mission, the Business Idea is a more detailed description of the company’s practices. The business idea will summarize how the company is going to thrive in its line of activities, how the company is going to function, what kind of products and customers it aims to have and what kind of organization it will have.

The business idea helps you distinguish from other companies in the same sector operatively and qualitatively. The business idea combines the way of acting of the company, the benefits of the products/services of the company to the customer, and the target group’s perception of the products and services. The formulation of the business idea is a part of the marketing planning for the company.

The business idea plays a role in the company’s image, i.e., how the outsiders and customers see the company and its products. For a small company, its image and its actual functioning cannot be inconsistent too long.

The business idea is robust when it is based on cooperation, and its components (what, for whom, how, why) form a coherent combination.A good business idea enriched by collective enthusiasm and know-how are the building blocks of the cooperative to be incorporated.

4. Additional sources of information for the incorporation

Pellervo Coop Center provides advice for the founding steps of a cooperative. You can contact Pellervo by phone, by e-mail and by arranging a personal meeting. Contact details on Pellervo website.

Osuustoiminnan Kehittäjät – Coop Finland ry is the national association of experts in cooperative businesses and cooperative enterprises, founded to maintain and develop its members’ professional skills necessary in advisory and development work.

Finnish Enterprise Agencies offer free and confidential advice for the entrepreneurs planning and starting businesses at more than 80 service locations throughout Finland. The Agencies are part of the network of regional business services and function in collaboration with other actors helping newly starting enterprises.

ProAgria ja Maa- ja kotitalousnaiset Advisory Organization provides extensive advice for rural companies at different stages of their life cycle. The service offering comprises amongst others, advice related to the founding of a company, evaluation of your business idea, mentoring for the business plan, investment and financial planning as well as expertise for the development of products and services. The organization specializes in rural sectors, like tourism, catering, well-being and welfare services, manufacturing of food products and natural products, equine sector, construction contracting, metal and food sector as well as bioenergy business and other natural resources.

Käsi- ja taideteollisuusliitto Taito ry:n offers advice through its regional crafts and design associations, related to entrepreneurship, and integrated service packages (like Taito Start and Taito Product Value) for those who are planning to create a craft company.

MyEnterpriseFinland telephone advisory service functions at the number 0295 020 and its website provide advice and information for people interested in general matters related to the creation of a company and public business and employer services, like those of ELY centers (Center for Economic Development, Transport, and the Environment), TE agencies (Public employment and business services), Finnish Patent And Registration Office, Tax Administration, Business Finland and Finnvera, and their respective electronic services.

5. Business plan

The possibilities of the undertaking to success can be assessed on the basis of a business plan. . It is almost indispensable as a tool for practical operations. It is also a good means of familiarization for new members and workers. The cooperative members can use it as a compass when assessing whether they are doing the things they initially planned to. The business plan can and must be modified if the circumstances change.

Startup centers ( offer free help for drafting a business plan. Other advisory services are also available.