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Young and entrepreneurial? Cooperativism offers you a broad support network and competitive advantages.

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Have you ever thought about creating a cooperative as your first startup? According to a study by The Voice of Guanacaste for Infocoop, business ideas from young entrepreneurs have an advantage thanks to the sixth principle of cooperativism: cooperation among cooperatives.

As part of its culture, cooperatives must be guided by seven principles that define their identity. Those principles are open membership, economic participation of its members, democratic control, autonomy, educational vocation, commitment to the community and cooperation among the different groups. Thanks to these principles, a support network has been created in the sector that is now the fuel that feeds business development of small startups.

One of those entrepreneurs is Adrián Olivares, leader of Procoop, a cooperative that brings together 27 young professionals and offers consultancies in administration, design and communication for cooperatives.

“Our main clients are cooperatives for something they need to do, like reserving a percentage of their surplus for (investing in) education and training their members,” said Olivares, 25.

The cooperative association law requires them to reserve five percent of their earnings in education and social programs and respect the principle of hiring other cooperatives like Proocop.

Olivares also said that, by law, cooperatives get first preference in government purchases, which is why he and his business colleagues prefer this model. One thing is clear. The government hires cooperatives as long as conditions are the same compared to other types of organizations.

“Cooperatives, by definition, are support networks,” said Raúl García, founding member of Coopesuna, which has been bringing together about 35 students from the National University for the last two years. It has recently expanded to Guanacaste.

Coopesuna allows students to find jobs to finance their student life, from things like project management to cleaning and waste management at Edgardo Baltodano Stadium in Liberia.

“Cooperatives are strong institutions and have the necessary muscle to move forward. We aren’t alone,” García said.

Currently in Costa Rica there are almost 600 cooperatives.