Like many small towns in the Western world, Rapla suffers from an annual exodus of talented youth who head to the cities to continue their studies or find a job. Such communities can strive as they might to be an excellent incubator, but are often resigned to the fact that our young may never be able to return to their nest. Even so, young people have expressed a desire to return to Rapla if only they could find work, affordable housing and a good start for a family. Can a small place like Rapla create the possibilities and the atmosphere to welcome young people back to our town to participate in a vibrant community driven economy?
The vision of the Rapla Youth Cooperative is to create an entrepreneurial and community oriented youth culture which is supported and sustained by a growing network of social enterprises serving the extended Rapla community.
Accumulated volunteer service hours form the basis (in increasing order) of Cooperative membership (discounted services), ownership (voting rights), and eligibility for entrepreneurial incubator loans.
All profits from cooperative owned companies will be reinvested into the improvement of cooperative facilities or into funding future startups under the guise of the Cooperative Incubator.
In this way, we hope to create both a engine for job-skills training and business sense in youth employees and also encouraging future entrepreneurs to bring their innovations back to Rapla.
Phase One: Cooperative and Early Startups
The heart of the Cooperative are youth members who share a vision and a passion for making the Cooperative a long-term success. As such, our first goal is to spread the word about the Youth Cooperative and build up a core of early adopters. This will take place through a combination of
- Partnership with existing services and schools
- Early experiments in youth oriented social enterprise
- Opportunities for volunteer service hours
Phase one will also be focussed on establishing the cooperative as a legal entity in Estonia and setting it up for future growth and success. For more on the vision and structure of the Rapla Youth Cooperative, you can read our draft proposal. Comments and feedback are welcome!Draft Proposal v.01
Social enterprises currently contributing to the Rapla Youth Cooperative vision:
- Sõbralt Sõbrale Pood (“Friend to Friend Second-Hand Shop”)
- Koi Kohvik (“The Moth Coffee Shop”)
- Laternid Koostööruum (“The Lanterns Co-Working Space”)
- Upcycling experiments
Phase Two: Develop Revenue Streams
Early Cooperative owned business ventures will be focussed on providing much needed youth entertainment services which will also provide a solid revenue stream on which to build future developments. These businesses will be designed not only to serve local youth but also to be run by them. In this way, we can build up job skills in area youth, provide them with meaningful work and a rewarding wage and give them an opportunity to invest their time and energy in the future of Rapla.
We have a number of good business ideas that would all require significant investment up-front but thereafter would provide reliable profit streams. Once these revenue streams are able to sustain themselves and provide a reliable profit, we will move toward extending ourselves into services and eventually developing our incubator program.
Phase Three: Capital Investment
We aspire to develop a multi-use compound in which a wide variety of Cooperative owned businesses can flourish under the same roof and provide services and support for young entrepreneurs who come under the care of the business incubator. Because the Cooperative is both rooted in historical Rapla and also looks to the future, we hope to give new life to one of the existing historical buildings in Rapla. In this way we can both preserve Rapla’s unique story and also demonstrate the way in which youth vision is necessary for Rapla’s sustained revitalization.
One such property is the old Rapla Grain Mill. The Mill has historical value, is large enough to accommodate a wide variety of small business, and is located near the railroad station, a nexus for youth and business people commuting within the Rapla region and back and forth to Tallinn. Renovations of the Mill would take place on a regular basis based on a combination of Cooperative profits, grants and private investment.
Phase Four: Youth Business Incubator