The Local Butcher in North Berkeley sells locally sourced and sustainably raised meat. Credit: Kevin Meynell

This story is brought to you by Project Equity.

When Monica and Aaron Rocchino had a baby, they knew a lot was about to change.  But they didn’t realize just how much was going to change and how.

The Rocchinos founded The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley in 2011. The shop provides the community with high quality, sustainable meat that is good for the body and the planet. The Local Butcher uses the entire animal, wasting nothing and producing everything from cuts of meat and stews to dog food and soap. Their employees are very proud of the relationships they’ve built with local farmers, restaurants and walk-in customers — and have been successfully doing so for more than a decade. 

“The community of Berkeley has supported us beyond our wildest dreams,” said Monica. “At first, the foodies came, and then those whose doctors suggested healthy foods as a healing prescription of sorts. It is amazing to see the local response to a small business butcher shop striving to do the right thing for our loyal customers.”

The Rocchinos needed to make a change because they wanted to spend more time with their child and share the load of owning a business. They heard about the idea of transitioning to employee ownership, and realized they had the right team in place to do this. 

Small businesses in Berkeley, and across the U.S., have faced an unprecedented economic disruption due to COVID-19. Many business owners have sought a way out, but with no succession plan.  So they put their business up for sale with no clear buyers or shut them down for good. Regrettably, many of these businesses are viable companies that probably would have recovered post-pandemic. They are simply victims of a global crisis that froze demand and stalled cash flow.   

The Rocchinos turned to employee ownership as part of their roadmap for resiliency.

Aaron and Monica Rocchino founded the Local Butcher. Credit: Kevin Meynell

“With our employees as owners, they are going to be taking home more money, and this helps them to live in the very expensive Bay Area. And, equally important, they are much more in control of the business,” said Monica. “We are so thrilled that our transition to employee ownership is becoming a reality this month.”

The City of Berkeley is taking a proactive approach to assist locally owned businesses by partnering with Project Equity, an East Bay nonprofit focused on helping businesses remain locally owned and preserving the owners’ legacy through employee-ownership succession. 

Project Equity helps business owners see the potential that employee ownership offers as an exit strategy. They provide hands-on consulting to transition to employee ownership and support the new employee-owners to ensure that they and their businesses thrive long after transitioning. 

The Local Butcher is a shining example of this partnership.  Derek Calpito, a butcher at the shop, said,  “All of our employees are talented. Everyone has high standards and is committed to protecting the environment and offering the best product to our customers.”

Transitioning a business to employee ownership can support business continuity, preserve good jobs and rebuild local economies. This helps businesses — and communities — thrive for generations to come. The benefits of employee ownership are many:

Financial well-being:  Owners secure a fair sale price that can support their retirement, or whatever next steps they may have. Transitioning to a broad base of employees can also bring significant tax advantages to the owner, the business and the employees.

Good jobs: Employee-ownership transitions take care of the people who have worked hard to help build the business.

Protected legacy: A strong mission guides many businesses. Whether it is a passion for quality or a triple bottom line, who better to carry it on than the people who helped realize the mission?

Positive community impact: Local businesses play a critical role in their communities. Employee ownership keeps them anchored in place. In addition, it expands the opportunity for people to become business owners and helps employees build equity and further invest in their communities.

“It’s going to give me a lot more responsibilities,” Calpito said. “More responsibilities gives me more purpose.”

This story is written and paid for by Project Equity, an East Bay nonprofit focused on helping business owners stay locally owned and preserve their legacy through employee ownership succession.