Image of NCEO/Beyster Institute Conference (Hilde Stephan Photography)
Image of NCEO/Beyster Institute Conference (Hilde Stephan Photography)
NCEO/Beyster Institute Conference (Hilde Stephan Photography)
Image of Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing
Image of Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing
Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing
Image of Founders of Namasté Solar
Image of Founders of Namasté Solar
Founders of Namasté Solar
Image of Michael Miller of New Belgium
Image of Michael Miller of New Belgium
Michael Miller of New Belgium
Image of Doug Woods of DPR Construction
Image of Doug Woods of DPR Construction
Doug Woods of DPR Construction
Image of Louis Kelso
Image of Louis Kelso
Louis Kelso
Image of Carlos Crabtree of DPR Construction
Image of Carlos Crabtree of DPR Construction
Carlos Crabtree of DPR Construction
Image of DPR Construction
Image of DPR Construction
DPR Construction

“Visually beautiful and emotionally compelling.” 

~ Patricia Kelso, The Kelso Institute


What does it mean to be an owner? In We the Owners: Employees Expanding the American Dream, employee owners from New Belgium Brewing, Namasté Solar and DPR Construction answer this important question.

Successfully thriving in the global economy of the 21st century and beyond will require new business models and strategies to enable the American Dream of opportunity and economic prosperity. One model that is an alternative is the employee-ownership model (e.g. ESOP, stock/stock options, cooperatives). We the Owners captures stories from the founders and employees from New Belgium Brewing, Namasté Solar, and DPR Construction, sharing the worker's perspectives on shared ownership structures, highly empowering corporate cultures, linked reward and risk incentives, and human-capital innovation models. The film follows as decisions are made on founding the company, expansion, succession, recruitment, and layoffs. 

“If everybody feels that sense of pride and responsibility, we can change the world and do great things.”

~ Doug Woods, co-founder of DPR Construction

As the stories in the film show, employee ownership comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. But the core message from all of these companies rings out loud and clear: the power of the voice, vote and shared ownership of employees cannot, and should not, be taken for granted.

Running Time: 52 minutes
Release: January 2013


Joseph Blasi, Rutgers SMLR

Almost half of American private-sector employees participate in shared capitalism which, according to my research and the research of others, is linked to increased productivity, stronger profits, better pay and job security.  We the Owners does an excellent job of using this type of research and expert insights as a springboard for a deeper exploration into the inner-workings of employee-owned companies.  By leading us on a rare, inside journey into these companies, students are able to learn from those well-positioned to share what it means to be a part of an employee-owned company: from those who live and breathe it every day.

Click Here to Learn More.

Peter Economy, Leader to Leader Magazine

We the Owners presents a simple yet powerful solution for a nation that has yet to regain its footing after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The solution? Employee ownership. As this film so clearly shows, companies in any industry, large and small, can invite their employees to become owners and reap the many benefits, such as higher levels of worker engagement and involvement, and increased company profitability. This is a film whose time has come, and leaders will do well to set aside the time to watch it -- and to learn the lessons that it so movingly presents.

Click Here to Learn More.

Michael Keeling, ESOP Association

Participation is the key to deriving the maximum value of ESOPs, which is the most prevalent form of employee ownership in the U.S. Sharing real stories of employee-owners, as We the Owners does so well, is an important way to educate viewers about the practice and benefits of allowing employees to become owners of stock in the company for which they work.

Patricia Kelso, The Kelso Institute

Working people have long dreamed of owning the enterprises in which they work. But not until Louis Kelso invented the ESOP in 1956, did this dream become attainable on a large scale. Some eleven million workers are currently becoming shareholders in their employer firms or buying them outright. This new breed of economic citizen is creating at the grassroots level the proprietary society which political thinkers throughout the ages have declared the essential counterpart to political democracy. If you believe in democracy, said Aldous Huxley in Brave New World Revisited, make arrangements to distribute property as widely as possible.Employee ownership has had many articulate advocates over the years, but one voice has been conspicuously missing-that of the employee owners themselves. We the Owners fills this vacuum. Employee shareholders tell us in their own words about surmounting the challenges of working in a company whose success is now up to them. Here are inspiring stories about how lives are transformed along with workplaces. People discover abilities they didn't know they had, shoulder new responsibilities they never thought they could handle, and work towards a future previously unimaginable. Employee ownership may be the ultimate way to develop human potential along with economic potential. It is an idea whose time has come. We the Owners is an incomparable gift to the employee shareholder community, present and future. Visually beautiful and emotionally compelling, it shows what employee ownership means to real companies and to real people. It reminds us that property and the hope of acquiring property through work built America and is still the American dream. If you believe in democracy, make arrangements to distribute We the Owners as widely as possible.

Thomas A. Kochan, MIT Sloan School of Management

Now more than ever, America needs to put to work every tool available for building and growing more businesses that achieve high financial performance, provide good jobs and rewarding careers, and are great places to work.  We the Owners brings to life how Employee Ownership, one of the key tools in our arsenal, can contribute to this goal.  By drawing on the voices and life experiences of owners from the front line to top executives, the film demonstrates how employee ownership adds value by combining an innovative financial structure and governance system with real involvement and engagement of all the owners.  So let's bring the voices of these owners to classrooms, boardrooms, community centers, and union halls across the country!

Click Here to Learn More.

Christopher Mackin, Ownership Associates

On the screen or on the page, discussions of capitalism can be contentious affairs. Using stories from some of the more impressive examples of enterprise level employee ownership, the Foundation for Enterprise Development's new film, We the Owners, helps to start a timely conversation about how we might build a more democratic and inclusive capitalism that transcends previously rigid ideological divides.

Click Here to Learn More.

Anthony Mathews, Beyster Institute

Recently, challenging economic times have helped put a spotlight on the need to more broadly deploy productive capital in order to create a sustainable economic outcome for our country.   We the Owners shows students that while broad ownership takes many forms, its core values of earned ownership, open book management, collaboration and shared responsibility are the cornerstones of its success across the spectrum. These qualities are a solid foundation upon which to build entrepreneurial companies and also provide a proven solution to long-term security for millions of employee owners. I applaud the FED and Passage Films for this remarkable contribution to the conversation about employee ownership at this critical time in our society.

Bill McIntyre, Ohio Employee Ownership Center

We, at the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, believe very strongly in how companies are able to play a vital role in the revitalization of our communities through employee ownership. In We the Owners, the stories as told by the founders and employee-owners of the featured companies bring this message to life.  While traditional educational tools such as books, case studies, and videos, share a great deal of information with students, using a documentary film in the classroom will enable professors to take their teaching to the next level by giving students a true under-the-hood look at employee ownership at work.

Milan Medich, Institute for Economic Democracy

Your documentary is one of the best recent products that promotes values of democratic firms and employees ownership. It is an important product, particularly for us who promote employees ownership in ex-communist countries, because it promotes the subject from original liberal and strict non-Marxists point of view. Thanx for your support!

Dr. Michael Morris, Oklahoma State

Executives consider entrepreneurial behavior a key to sustaining their companies' competitive advantage, and We the Owners does a remarkable job of bringing this discussion to life. The documentary gives viewers an authentic, realistic look at how sharing in a company's ownership unleashes employees' productivity, innovation and entrepreneurial drive.  I have long believed that creating an experiential classroom is the most effective way to teach about entrepreneurship, and look forward to using the company stories as told in We the Owners to integrate the well-needed discussion of employee ownership into the entrepreneurship curriculum.

Click Here to Learn More.

Loren Rodgers, National Center for Employee Ownership

The research on the impacts of employee ownership is clear and compelling, but we finally have a film that shows its human side by showing the faces and telling the stories of employee-owners. We the Owners starts a well-needed dialogue with the next generation of leaders about participative work practices. This film shows honest and thought-provoking stories told by the people making employee ownership happen. It looks at the challenges as well as the strengths of shared ownership. For companies that choose employee ownership with their eyes open, the results are well-documented and powerful.

Click Here to Learn More.

Robert W. Smiley, Benefit Capital Companies

Thank you for providing us with We the Owners: Employees Expanding the American Dream. It is a very important documentary on the human side of one of the most effective business ownership models. Employee-owned companies and shared capitalism have been proven to be directly related to increased productivity, better benefits and job satisfaction for employee-owners. Employee-owned companies have demonstrated their viability as an ownership structure for firms in this country. We the Owners takes you on an authentic and well-documented journey through three distinctly different employee-owned (including ESOP) companies evolution to becoming an American dream.  This film demonstrates not only to students, but to all who would watch and listen, that sharing broad ownership in a company makes a difference in a first-hand, personal way. This is a unique and compelling film.

Click Here to Learn More.

Peter Stocks, Baxendale

Having worked with some of the best performing employee owned organisations in the UK, I can say that We the Owners does an excellent job of capturing the essence of what it means to be part of an employee-owned organisation.  While every business needs to determine if employee ownership is right for them, watching We the Owners is a great way to get the discussion started and to understand more fully the benefits of creating an entrepreneurial culture through employee ownership.

Virginia Vanderslice, Praxis Consulting Group

During the last 20 years, increasing attention has been paid to the undeniable impact of an organization's culture on firm performance.  Culture can either support or be an obstacle to the implementation of business strategies.  Each organization's culture, and the meaning that employees give it, is represented by the stories employees tell about their experiences in the company. This film gives us the opportunity to see and hear the stories of workers in employee owned firms, and through their stories, to understand why and how having an ownership stake in their companies positively changes their attitudes, behaviors and experiences at work. These employees, through the engagement and commitment that results from sharing ownership, play a central role in their companies' success. This film delivers a powerful and important message: employee ownership is both a desirable and viable ownership structure for firms in this country.  This film not only gives viewers the context for employee ownership in this country's economic landscape, but it also provides viewers with the ability to hear about real experiences of sharing ownership from employee owners themselves.  Their voices as workers and as owners are meaningful and compelling.  Seeing and hearing from people in three very different companies confirms that employee ownership can take different forms and be successful in diverse situations.  This film is an essential resource for educating people about employee ownership at a time when this country is in serious need of better options for creating great workplaces that can deliver high quality goods and services.

Click Here to Learn More.


Executive Producer and President of The Foundation for Enterprise Development

Image of Foundation for Enterprise Development

Producer: The Foundation for Enterprise Development
Executive Producer: Mary Ann Beyster
Associate Producer: Bianca Helm


Image of Passage ProductionsProduction Company: Passage Productions
Director: David Romero
Director of Photography: Michael Romero
Producer: Gulliver Parascandolo
Editor: Vanessa Robbins


This film would not have been possible without the help of many individuals and organizations, to whom we are very grateful! We would like to thank the FED collaborators, as well as point you to the Employee Ownership service providers.

photo of Namaste


Namasté Solar

"The community, the economy, the environment - everything is interconnected. That’s the approach we bring to our business."

Blake Jones, Co-founder, Namasté Solar

Learn More About Namasté Solar

The story of Namasté Solar can be summed up in two words: workplace democracy. The driving force of Namasté Solar’s success is its dedicated community of individuals who are passionate about what they do and how they do it, and have flourished in the company’s democratic, high-involvement culture.

Founded in Boulder, CO in 2005, Namasté Solar - a designer and installer of solar electric systems for residential, commercial, non-profit and government customers - is an employee-owned cooperative where even the CEO is just another guy with a vote. Each of its 100 employee-owners strives to create strong, harmonious teams while promoting individual autonomy and responsibility. Namasté Solar promotes leadership at every level throughout the organization, from the way they make decisions to how they contribute to their communities. This means that an installer on the roof and their CEO share in both leadership and accountability.

As co-owners, they believe in personal accountability, sharing in the risk, responsibilities, and rewards of business ownership. As they see it, co-ownership is a willingness to continuously hold a bigger picture vision amidst the everyday details of our individual job roles as part of our continuous improvement process.

photo of DPR Construction



DPR Construction

"If everybody feels that sense of pride and responsibility, we can change the world and do great things."

~ Doug Woods, Co-founder

Learn More About DPR Construction

To understand the story of DPR Construction is to know the people behind the name who had a passion for better serving customers and building complex projects with a strong sense of purpose and value.

In July of 1990, three construction veterans - Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski - set out to do something different in an industry traditionally resistant to change. From the outset, the founders strived to create a customer-focused company modeled after Silicon Valley’s high-tech innovators, where dedicated employees worked long hours motivated by their sense of belonging and a financial stake in the company’s success. To do that, they felt strongly that an informal, egalitarian environment would encourage creativity and enthusiasm that would translate into more efficient planning and procedures as well as a happier, more motivated, and productive work force. As a result, DPR has no titles, no private offices, no hierarchy, and plenty of camaraderie. 

From a team of 11 professionals at launch, DPR has grown at breakneck speed. They now have 2,729 employees in 10 regional offices established in every major technology center in the U.S. DPR also reached the $1 billion mark in less than 10 years and continues to rank in the top 50 general contractors in the country over the last decade. DPR's form of shared capitalism is two fold: they have phantom stock for the non-union workers and profit sharing for the union employees.

DPR has achieved this success because of its dedication to building great things with integrity, enjoyment, uniqueness, ever forward - and the right people have been, and always will be, the foundation of DPR. The company has also integrated the union into profit sharing and decision-making. As co-founder Peter Nosler explains, "There are many spectacular stories of individuals, who after coming to work here found out their true capabilities. Several people have gone from pounding nails on a jobsite to becoming integral members of the management team. This represents success, as one underlying concept from the very beginning was to build an entrepreneurial organization, where people can continuously grow."

photo of New Belgium Brewing



  New Belgium Brewing

"I don’t think there’s a reason to feel like you’re giving up control so much as you’re collaborating with your co-workers to build something that’s even more.”

~ Kim Jordan - Co-founder, First Bottler, Sales Rep, Distributor,
Marketer & Financial planner, CEO

Learn More About New Belgium Brewing

As the story goes…. In 1989, an would-be young homebrewer, Jeff Lebesch, rides his mountain bike with "fat tires" through European villages famous for beer, He returned to Fort Collins, CO with a handful of ingredients and an imagination full of recipes. From a homebrewing kit in his basement, Jeff and his wife, Kim Jordan, developed a brown dubbel with earthy undertones named Abbey and a remarkably well-balanced amber named Fat Tire. In 1991, Jeff and Kim took their basement brewery commercial.

As Fat Tire grew in popularity, they knew they’d need help. Enter Brian Callahan, an aspiring brewer and New Belgium Brewing Company’s first employee-owner. By giving Brian a vested interest in the company, Jeff and Kim did, “what seemed like the right thing to do.” Ownership is now awarded at one year of employment, and all the employee owners today thank Jeff and Kim for doing what came naturally. New Belgium's employee ownership is structured as a leveraged Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

New Belgium is regularly approached by other businesses, students, and curious beer drinkers wanting to learn about the company’s heart-felt approach to being an environmentally, socially and economically conscious business. While solar panels and recycling programs are exciting, the company realizes that its High Involvement Culture (HIC) is one of the most important and transferrable tools they have used to drive sustainability. The importance of consciously creating culture was recognized early on at New Belgium and has perhaps become its most distinguishing trait.

While HIC is a foundation for the company’s sustainability efforts, its purpose is much larger in scope. New Belgium is a living example of research that shows high performing companies push decision-making and accountability throughout the organization. Likewise, they have witnessed first-hand that when you share the risks and rewards of ownership, people have a passion for what they do and love to come to work. A high involvement culture is conducive to a triple bottom line approach to business. Coworkers are actively participating in the reduction of natural resources (Planet), as well as the increase in efficiency (Profit) all while having fun and feeling empowered (People).

Fueled by the undisputed results of its high-involvement culture, New Belgium has earned it reputation as one of the most honored craft breweries in the country, brewing well over a quarter million barrels a year. The company has grown at annual double and even triple digit rates and now has 435 employee-owners. It sells its beer in about a third of the Western U.S. – but gets lots of requests to expand outward. It is the 11th largest U.S. brewery and 5th largest craft brewer.