Thanks for applying to the Big Idea Cooperative!
Before you begin, you should know a few things about us.
The Big Idea Cooperative Bookstore and Café is a bookstore and café as well as a place for
meetings, workshops, and the distribution of information to a progressive community. We sell
books and other literature, some local music, locally made goods such as T-shirts, bags,
patches, DVDs, and posters. We also serve café drinks and food, and we strive for these
products to come from ethical and sustainable sources.
Since 2001, the Big Idea has been the only radical book source in Pittsburgh——the only place to
find a concentrated collection of progressive and radical materials. During this time, the Big
Idea has been run strictly by volunteers.
As a bookstore, we are dedicated to the active promotion of radical and alternative cultures
through community networking and the distribution of literature. We hope to create a safe and
accessible space for people to experience a collective, open, and empowering community. We
refuse to sell or advocate material that we deem sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, or
oppressive. We actively support politics and lifestyles that we deem as alternative,
multicultural, queer-positive, class-conscious, and all things that promote sustainable
As a café, we strive to serve food and drinks from local, organic, seasonal, ethical, and
sustainable sources whenever possible. We hope to provide a healthy and socially conscious
café alternative in Pittsburgh while remaining affordable.
Like the sound of it? Read on!
We are a worker-owned cooperative, which means that everyone who works at the Big Idea is
also an owner. We all own an equal share in the business, which we each “bought” through a
number of hours of “sweat equity” (volunteer labor put into the business). Applicants must be
willing to attach their name to the business title and must commit to working with the Big Idea for
at least a year. Remember, this is not a regular job; this is a chance to own and operate a radical
business with a group of like-minded individuals who do this because this is what we love to do.
The cooperative will be composed of four coordinating committees (Financial, Book Inventory,
Café Inventory, and PR Outreach) that each contain three to four coordinators to fulfill certain
duties that maintain the business. Workers must serve on at least one committee, but
oftentimes will serve on two.
The duties of the Financial Committee include Taxes, Payroll, and Accounts Payable and
Receivable. The duties of the Book Inventory Committee include New Books, Used Books,
Consignment Management, and Online Sales. The duties of the Café Inventory Committee
include Foods, Coffee, and Dry Goods. The duties of the PR/Outreach Committee include Web,
Events, and Marketing and Outreach.
If you are passionate one of these specific areas, then please, read on!
New co-op members should expect to commit about 10 hours a week to the Big Idea at first
(working at least one shift per week and attending one general meeting). After one month, if the
new member is comfortable with the workload, they may take on a coordinator position. New
members then undergo a six-month probationary period with semi-frequent check-ins and
evaluations on the path to becoming a co-owner. If, along the way, either party decides it’s not a
good fit, then we can part ways with no hard feelings. After six months, however, if everyone is
happy with the match, then congratulations——you are officially and legally a co-owner of the
During these first six months, new members must complete 200 hours of sweat equity as a way
of buying into the co-op. This breaks down to working roughly two four-hour volunteer shifts per
week, though workers can decide for themselves which shifts they wish to count toward sweat
equity. The first four shifts (within two weeks) are considered training shifts and are unpaid but
contribute toward the 200 hours of required sweat equity (no tips will be received during training
shifts). New members are entitled to their share of tips when working sweat equity shifts after
After four training shifts, new workers may shadow staff one event, which counts toward their
sweat equity. They must shadow this one event before staffing other events.
Sweat equity may only be worked off in shifts. Coordinator work is always compensated with a
stipend (funds permitting). When taking over a new coordinator position, the old coordinator
trains the new one and the new one starts receiving the stipend as soon as they officially take
over in the new role (that is, when training is complete). The old coordinator will be available to
answer questions during the transition period.
Because we are all owners, the Big Idea does not have to comply with minimum-wage
standards. That said, if we do well one week, we will get paid more; if we don’t do well, we will
get paid less. During the probationary period, co-op members will work as independent
Cooperative members are expected to work one to two six-hour shifts per week, attend
meetings (weekly general meetings on Tuesdays at 4 p.m. and committee meetings if called
for), and commit to coordinator work.
Still listening? Well, then by all means, continue on! Simply fill out the below application so we
can get to know a bit about you. If we like what we see, we will contact you with further
The Big Application
1. Where do you see yourself in one year? Two years? What are your long-term
2. Do you have any food service or barista experience? Tell us about it.
3. Do you have any bookstore experience? Tell us about it.
4. Do you have any experience in customer service? Tell us about it.
5. Do you have any business experience? Tell us about it.
6. Do you have any other relevant experience?
7. Have you participated in collectives or co-ops before (business, volunteer group,
housing)? Tell us about your experience. What did you like and not like? What
worked well and what didn’t work well?
8. Have you participated in the consensus process before? Tell us about your
experience. What did you like and not like? What worked well and what didn’t work
9. How many hours a week are you available to staff shifts? How many hours can
you commit to other Big Idea work?
10. Do you foresee any changes to your schedule in the next year?
11. What else can you bring to the Big Idea? Where do you see yourself fitting in?
12. As a new recruit, you are must fulfill a “sweat equity” requirement as part of the
process for reaching co-ownership. Is this something that you would be able to do?
13. We are an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist organization committed to anti-
racism, anti-sexism, and anti-homophobia, and we operate using the anarchist-
based Consensus model. Do these values resonate with you? How?
14. Do you have any questions for us?
To submit this form, either print it out and return it to 4812 Liberty Ave.
or copy-paste the questions into an e-mail and send your response to