Your Candles

Founder Fridays


Founder Friday: What Is Steward Ownership?

Each month the owners of Keap reflect on the theme of our Ignite Story, and consider what the topics mean for us as individuals, and as business owners.


When Steve and I started Keap in 2015, I hadn't quite seized on the civic importance of company ownership, yet as I have learned more, I now believe it's a key driver—and potential solution—to many problems we're collectively working to tackle.

The current standard model for company ownership is: a few people privately own the company, as a tradable commodity. The goal nowadays isn’t to make a company prosper and provide benefit to society; rather it’s to get to the point where we can sell it for as much as possible, with the spoils all going to that small group of people.


Facebook founders and investors celebrating their IPO, propelling them into the wealth stratosphere; ; Source: QZ

In this paradigm, there is no long term. There is no community. There is no planet. And for employees, it’s only the most privileged who get to take a share of the loot. It’s a world of zero-sum games, and quite frankly of selfishness—and it’s now crumbling under the weight of its own contradictions.

A year or so ago we came across an idea that flips this model on its head. It’s called Steward Ownership.

The main idea is that a company has a Purpose that is something else than “maximize shareholder value”. The company still makes profits, but instead of going to remote shareholders, they are either re-invested in the company or donated to charities working towards the same purpose.

An employee of Organically Grown Company, a Steward Owned company in Oregon helping organic farmers to distribute their produce; ; Source: Organic Grown


Wow, right?


For this post, I had initially planned to write about how Steward Ownership ties into racial equity… As I started writing I realized this was too dense to fit in one blog post, so there will be a part 2 (and probably a part 3!).

In the meantime, send us an email if you have any questions about Steward Ownership, we'd be happy to share what we have learned.

Here’s to a future where companies are designed to be in service of life 🐣

— Harry from Keap


Continue Reading