EARLY EXIT: Bartertown founder brings radical approach to starting — and exiting — local business | Business
Written by Elijah Brumback and Joe Boomgaard
GRAND RAPIDS — A mere 15 months after launching an offbeat diner in downtown Grand Rapids, owner Ryan Cappelletti has reached the enviable position where he can hand over the keys to his fellow workers.
He’s not just looking for a few weeks’ vacation away from the heat of the kitchen, though. Next month, Cappelletti plans to transfer 100-percent ownership of the vegan and vegetarian Bartertown Diner in Grand Rapids to the 16 employees who work there. The transition will allow him to focus on his next startup venture, Cult Pizza, which he plans to open a couple of doors down from the diner.
Don’t confuse this transaction for an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) or management buyout (MBO) that’s designed to financially reward a successful owner as he steps away from the business. In fact, as Cappelletti transitions from Bartertown, he’s not looking for any money to change hands. Instead, he plans to give the company to the collective of workers he’s worked alongside and helped train in all aspects of the operation. His only condition: to set up the transfer in a way that ensures the diner’s longevity as a worker-run organization.
If the upcoming non-liquidity event sounds nutty and bit unconventional, it just might be. Still, Bartertown’s move from startup to second stage provides an interesting example of how a small-but-growing group of young entrepreneurs are bringing a radical approach to business in West Michigan. They’re using...
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