The cooperative business model
A cooperative is a business that is owned and controlled by its members. The cooperative is operated to benefit its members, not to maximize profits for outside investors.
People who use the cooperative own their cooperative because they finance it in a variety of ways. They share in both the business risks and the business profits. Each cooperative determines what level of financial participation is required to establish membership status in the cooperative.
Members democratically control their cooperative by exercising the voting rights that come with membership. In Wisconsin, each member is entitled to one vote.
Members benefit from the cooperative because they have access to the products and services they need. Net earnings are distributed on the basis of proportional use, or patronage, rather than on investment.
Source: University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives