“Every company tells you to act like you own the company ... but they don’t ever give it to you. So, we gave it to them.”
In 2010—burnt out after 20 years in corporate life—Marion Dunbar decided to make a change. Marion and her husband, Jesse, purchased the rights to Happy Earth Cleaning, an environmentally friendly cleaning company, and got to work. From the beginning, Marion and Jesse sought to build a business that would do right by the environment, their employees, and their community. Their mantra was simple: “A People Company That Cleans.”
After eight successful years, the pair decided they wanted to sell the business in Minneapolis and return to their hometown of Seattle. But they weren’t sure how to find a buyer, or what would happen to their business after they were gone.
They worried that a buyer might dismantle the people-first culture they’d built, or keep their client list and lay off employees.
Ultimately, Marion and Jesse realized that transitioning Happy Earth to an employee ownership model was the best thing for their business, their employees, and their own peace of mind. Happy Earth became an EO business in just nine months.
As an employee-owned business, Happy Earth more fully embodies its philosophy of promoting a happy planet, happy community, and happy people. They can retain their client base, while giving employees control over their own growth, wages, and benefits.
And the employee-owners benefit from a renewed sense of proprietorship and purpose. “Now, I want to take on challenges and responsibility,” said founding worker-owner LA Luebbers. “Now, I believe in myself.”
Marion and Jesse then felt confident leaving their family business in the hands of their other family: their employees.