When we started CPA in 2013, it was an experiment. Could we save members time and money AND create an entity that funds itself AND have meaningful social and environmental impacts?
Most of us sitting around the table at that October 2013 meeting were hopeful, but knew it was a long shot -- maybe even unlikely.
"You know, 90% of start-ups fail in the first few years." I was often told.
The Steering Committee also recognized that a funding model that was primarily based on lowering costs while taking a small portion of savings as compensation is an inherently challenging model.
But there was a small but committed group of leaders that chose to invest meaningful amounts of their time and money to give this experiment a chance. That has made all the difference.
In 2014, we incorporated as a cooperative association and started piloting new offerings in landscaping and snow removal. Then in 2015, we built a janitorial program and started working more consistently with charter schools.
In 2016, we built a copier program, a security program, hired 2 additional full-time staff, brought on a retirement community, and expanded our work to more than 30 schools.
Through the community of relationships built at our monthly charter school meetings, we've piloted a benchmarking tool, we've tripled the amount of activity over our discussion groups, and we've invited in prospective members that collectively serve more than 20,000 students in DC.
The results have been stunning:
- The number of organizations involved has increased to more than 170, up from 45 in 2014.
- Our collective savings have grown from a couple hundred thousand secured in 2014 to more than $1 million saved in 2016.
- In 3 short years, CPA has matured from less than $8,000 in revenue in 2014 to paying out more than $8,000 to members in dividends today.
- All the while, we are sustaining the organization and fostering continued growth.
You can find more impressive numbers and see what else we’ve been up to this past year in our 2016 Annual Report.
From being an organization that many doubted in 2013, we’ve persevered. We confronted challenges and through relationships and common social and environmental values, we have thrived. This experiment has paid off, and to all who have been involved -- from the first believers to our newest prospective members -- I am incredibly grateful.
But we’re not done yet. We have more savings to do, more institutions, schools, and houses of worship to include in this common work. So please, share our story, share your experience of working with us with others, and help us do even more in the months and years to come.