About Us:  Founded in 2007, The Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE) is a Detroit-based non-profit organization working to create living-wage jobs through worker-ownership in all its forms. We provide legal help, technical assistance, education and collaboration to individuals interested developing work-owned cooperatives and other community-based enterprises. C2BE provides these services with the ultimate goal of building a network of mutually supportive cooperatives or worker-owned companies in Detroit, especially among members of historically underserved communities and those seeking conversion to employee ownership.

C2BE defines community-based enterprises, or "CBEs," as sustainable, locally rooted businesses that provide community benefit (particularly equity ownership for workers and producers), pay living wages and share resources to help each other grow. Our definition of a CBE purposefully includes but is not limited to cooperatives.

We work to strengthen CBEs by connecting them to business know-how and legal services, including feasibility studies, business planning, marketing, succession planning, incorporation documents (i.e., articles and bylaws) and necessary contracts. In addition, C2BE provides training for members and/or employees who are new to their roles as owners to understand their companies’ finances, products, services and markets. C2BE also plans to launch a co-op shared equity loan fund, in order to provide “patient seed capital” to finance start-up cooperatives and CBEs; watch for this in late 2016.

Our Funders:  We are currently funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Lowenstein Fellowship at Columbia Law School, the MLG Foundation and fee income. Past funders include: the Skillman Foundation, Fund for Democratic Communities, Innovation Network for Communities, Local Initiative Support Corporation, Maryland Labor Education Center, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, Brown-Saperstein Fund and individual contributors.


Meet Our Staff

Deborah Groban Olson, Executive Director

Since 1981 Deb has specialized in creating and advising employee-owned companies and many types of cooperatives. A former chair of the National Center for Employee Ownership, Olson serves as board chair of employee-owned Once Again Nut Butter Collective and on the board of Circle Pines Center, a co-op education and recreation center. She was also founder of the Capital Ownership Group at Kent State University, where she ran its global online think-tank and conference center on using ownership to counter the negative impacts of globalization. Olson has also published and spoken extensively in both the US and Europe, and done extensive teaching and consulting. As a 1976 Order of the Coif graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, she has an AV peer rating from Martindale Hubbell as a preeminent attorney in her field. Read full biography.

Lanita Carter, Office Administrator

Detroit-based youth advocate, Lanita Carter is passionate about mentoring and bringing out the passion in the inner city youth. She has worked as a coordinator at Ceasefire Detroit, which provides young men who have been incarcerated with services such as job placement, ID registration, trauma support, etc. In 2013, she founded a real estate investment company, Diamond In The Rough Real Estate, whose mission is to revamp the inner city of Detroit housing market. Lanita is also a licensed Michigan Real Estate Agent and a law student at Western Michigan Cooley Law School. 

Halima Cassells, Outreach and Connectivity

Detroit-based artist/community advocate Halima Cassells crosses innumerable disciplines and group boundaries, always defying expectation. A consummate diplomat and avid experimentalist, she traverses many diverse circles, and occupies a myriad of roles that are unified by a deep and unwavering devotion to fostering community inter-connectivity. In practice she designs spaces for authentic engagement, and artistic expression, as well as engenders ideas of new economy. In addition to serving as the community and connectivity coordinator for Community Based Enterprise, she works as an independent artist and assumes leadership roles at O.N.E. Mile project, Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition, Incite Focus Fab Lab, North End Soup, and the Free Market of Detroit.

Charlie Cavell, Business Owner Support

Since 2010, Charlie has worked at the intersection of non-profit, philanthropy, politics, government and business. He started a non-profit called The Pay it Forward Initiative which scaled to become a model for the Community Ventures jobs program, leading to the employment of over 3,000 chronically unemployed Michiganders. Charlie has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Social Work from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. In addition to non-profit work, Charlie has been active in local politics working with progressive candidates and causes to further his personal mission of improving the lot of those without a voice at a systemic level. This mission is what brought him to C2BE. 

Paul Chander, Law Fellow

Paul Chander is passionate about advancing economic, social, and environmental justice by building worker cooperatives, economic democracy, and the solidarity economy. At C2BE, Paul provides popular education and transactional legal services to help community-based entrepreneurs build a network of democratic enterprises in a cooperative ecosystem. Paul graduated with a B.A. in political science and a minor in public policy from UCLA, where he founded the General Relief Advocacy Project. After working as a political organizer, Paul graduated from Columbia Law School, where he co-founded the Student Public Interest Network. Paul has completed the Worker Cooperative Developer Fellowship with the Democracy at Work Institute, and he currently serves as a board member of Soulardarity, an energy democracy project in Highland Park.

Bryce Detroit, Cultural Programming

For the past 5 years, Bryce has led an intergenerational charge to “bridge the gap” between Detroit’s legendary musical pioneers and the city’s young emergent innovators. In 2012, Bryce teamed with legendary Motown arranger Paul Riser to co-direct and host the Red Bull Music Academy presents Motown to New York City: Paul Riser & Friends w/Young Guru. In 2014, he produced the ONE MILE Mothership Launch: Legacy of Funk concert with funk legend Carl ‘Butch’ Jones, bringing together four generations of Parliament-Funkadelic alumni. As co-founder of Detroit Afrikan Music Institution, and founder of Detroit Recordings Company, he uses entertainment arts and community cultural legacies to promote new Afrikan and Indigenous narratives, cultural literacies, and new cooperative music economies—Entertainment Justice. He grows intersectional communities as C2BE’s Director of Cultural Programming, as Director of Commons Relations for East Michigan Environmental Action Council, and as a founding member of Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition and Detroit Future Youth Network.

Michael Friedman, Operations and Project Oversight

Michael retired at the end of 2013 from the law firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, LLP where he was a partner in the employee benefits, executive compensation and insurance groups, advising employers, insurers, health plans and third party administrators on a wide range of issues and litigation matters under ERISA, HIPAA, FMLA, the Tax Code and the Affordable Care Act. He is a certified mediator, and handles pro bono court ordered mediations through the Wayne County Mediation Center. He has been Board Chair of C2BE since its founding in 2007, and has done volunteer staff work for C2BE since his retirement. He is also currently Board Secretary of the Coalition On Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Detroit, and a Board member and past Board President of the Friends of the Detroit Public Library Foundation. Prior to becoming an attorney, Michael drove a truck in Cleveland, Ohio for 14 years, and was a union activist, being a founding member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). TDU is still active and is the longest running rank and file caucus in U.S. labor history. Michael received his law degree, magna cum laude from Wayne State University Law School, his A.B degree, summa cum laude from Columbia College, and B.A. and M.A. degrees from Trinity College, Cambridge England.

James Lesko, Enterprise Growth and Marketing

James is a marketing professional with 25+ years experience producing award-winning local, regional and national advertising campaigns for some of the country’s most recognized brands. Prior to his return to Detroit in 2014, James worked in the creative departments at leading San Francisco ad agencies—including Saatchi & Saatchi and DMBB/Highway One— as well as client-side at the 4.3-million-member American Automobile Association (AAA) of Northern California, Nevada & Utah, where he managed ad agency relationships and was responsible for media planning and buying, placing more than $50 million in advertising across radio, TV, print and web. Committed to ensuring that Detroit's revitalization is rooted in economic democracy, James is helping C2BE expand its build business partnerships while providing marketing support to C2BE's partner-clients.

Todd Leverette, Business Owner Support

Todd Leverette is a small business/non-profit development consultant with experience in early stage enterprises.  Todd also has a background in corporate finance and residential real estate. A 2013 graduate of Columbia Law School and Columbia Business School, Todd is also co-founder of Your Financial Lane, a start-up focused on personal financial management for everyday people.

Terry Lewis, Business and Financial Strategy

Terry is the Principal of LIA Advisors, LLC, a private consulting firm providing advisory services in housing and community economic development. She was formerly Vice President for Cooperative Development with the National Consumer Cooperative Bank (dba NCB), where she advised internal NCB teams and NCB customers in multiple lines of business on the structuring and development of cooperative and other community ownership entities. She also served as President and CEO of NCB Community Works, LLC, an affiliated for-profit affordable multifamily housing development organization. In 2011, President Obama appointed Terry to the board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. government’s development finance institution, where she serves as a member of the organization’s Audit Committee. From 1991 to 2014 she was a director of the Cooperative Development Foundation, serving for 8 years as Chair and managing governance, strategy, and the oversight functions of multiple grant and loan funds. She was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2008. Her early career was spent as a private attorney in Michigan, specializing in multifamily housing, structuring business entities, and negotiating business transactions. Terry did her undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her law degree cum laude from the University of Michigan School of Law.

Our Board of Directors:

Betsy Aretz: Treasurer, CPA, Trinity Health
Halima Cassells: Fellow, Incite Focus
Steve Dubb: Research Director, Democracy Collaborative
Michael Friedman: Chair, Retired partner Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn, LLP
Ocie Irons: Principal, Ironbridge Development LLC
Bob King: Retired, President, International UAW
Terry Lewis: Board Member, Co-op Hall of Fame inductee; Overseas Private Investment Corp.
Deborah Groban Olson: Executive Director, Ex Officio, Attorney, Law Office of Deborah Groban Olson
Erica Raleigh: Executive Director, Data Driven Detroit L3C
Reverend Barry Randolph: Pastor, Church of the Messiah
Karen-Tyler-Ruiz: Ex Officio, Sr. Director, Community Impact—Economic Opportunity & Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, United Way of SE Michigan,
Harriet B. Saperstein: Urban Consultant & Retired Executive Director, HP Devco, Inc

Board Advisers

Ed Egnatios  Program Officer, Kellogg Foundation, Detroit
Juan Escareno  Community Growth Partners
Ian Chan Hodges  Principal, Responsible Markets
Alan Kaniarz  Principal, AK Services
Adam Konner  IT and Co-op Consultant, Collective Seeds
Paul Saginaw  Co-Owner & Founding Partner, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses
Errol Service Principal  ECP Partnership, McDonald’s
Jackie Victor  Social Entrepreneuer