If you know anything about business, you know there’s a usual structure. There’s someone at the top that's in charge. They hire workers. Then, depending on how big the business gets comes more levels of bosses and employees.

But co-ops, a business model that equalizes those levels, are growing. Among them is Anyone's Cafe and Bakery in Rochester.

"Anyone’s Cafe and Bakery is a vegan cafe bakery. We serve a number of breakfast-focused items like our delicious breakfast sandwich or sausage cheeses," explained worker-owner Drew Langdon. "We are also a workers Co-op as well, so all employees of the business have the opportunity to buy into the ownership and be part of the decision making."

Prioritizing workers, their rights, and their wages was vital to Langdon.

"We actually unionized the shop that we were working at in this space," he recalled.

When that spot closed, he and four others started a co-op to make sure all employees have a voice.

"I don't believe there's any other way of doing business," Langdon explained. "It's the only way to grow the local community in a way that is is stable."

It had its challenges, including getting the business off the ground, having enough money to pay higher wages, and more. Langdon is the only of the original founders still here.

"People are people, regardless of the setting that they're in, and ensuring things run smoothly definitely does take lots of talking," he said.

But he had support.

"We would not be open if it were not for Cooperation Buffalo," Langdon said.

"Co-ops are not a new concept," said Andrew Delmonte, executive director for Cooperation Buffalo. "[They've] been around for several hundred years. Co-ops tend to crop up when there is an economic downturn.”

Delmonte helps train new co-op owners through Cooperation Buffalo. Over the past five years, they’ve seen worker co-ops quintuple in Western New York alone, from 2 to 10.

"It keeps the people who need to have a say in the business able to actively contribute and benefit from the work that they do," Delmonte added.

They offer loans for places like Anyone’s Café and Bakery, and every year they run a course called Cooperative Academy.

"It's for startups, so people who are just coming together for the first time," Delmonte said. "We also have folks in the class who are sometimes converting existing, long-standing businesses to worker ownership."

With co-ops ranging from just a few worker-owners to ones with thousands, Delmonte says half the battle is getting the word out there.

"We don't hear a lot about co-ops in mainstream business schools or around the news and things like that," they said. "A lot of this work is just telling people that this is a valid and actually quite good way to do business."

Langdon knows his business is still growing.

"Despite all of our struggles, I think we have built a foundation," he said.

Now a year and a half in, Anyone's Cafe and Bakery has its niche, and a community of co-ops that have its back.

"Whether it's all positive and all working well, or having a little bumps, there's always somebody to talk to," Langdon explained. "Co-ops are always willing to share their knowledge."

Building that change in that status quo has to start somewhere.

"As activists, we do get in a frame of mind where we're always we always have to be directing our rage at 'the powers' because that is necessary, but that can't be it," Langdon said. "We have to build alternatives so that we're not in that constant fighting mode."

Worker-owned are one type of co-ops. There can also be co-ops run by customers, farmers, groups of businesses, and more.

Cooperation Buffalo says many that have emerged in the last decade or so are in traditionally low-wage work, which includes food service, health care, and ride-share drivers.