This Cooperative Life Blog Series
Interview #2: Rani Croager
Rani's Cooperative Life Story
Rani Croager is a quiet, powerful, rockstar. She has cooperative-ized education. She has put her heart, soul, and smarts into building a pathway for small business owners and people with business ideas to transform into a business with cooperative principles through her work at Uptima Business Bootcamp. She’s been wildly successful and a constant advocate for small businesses. But you may not know it when you first meet Rani because she is one of the most humble people I have met. I deeply value that attribute and it’s what makes me extra excited to share the cooperative life of Rani Croager.
Interview Caveat: CoFED was part of Uptima Business Bootcamp’s first class. Rachel Vernon and I participated in the Business Accelerator Program. We wanted to explore CoFED’s potential to generate income, earn income, and grow the potential to switch from majority grant-funding to majority people funded (as we dreamt what it could look like for us to evolve into a co-op). Rani was our partner. She taught, support, and pushed us to challenge our assumptions and inspired CoFED’s Summer Institute. I had to share how pivotal Rani has been to our growth as an organization, so that you know her work is not only inspirational, but foundational to CoFED’s own success.
Interview “Aha’s.” Rani joined us at our offices at Impact Hub Oakland, where she also has her Uptima Business Bootcamp office. It was her first recorded interview, ever, and she told me “I have never done this, but it’s for you, so I had to do it.” She cares about those in her life and her students that much--she pushes herself in service to others. I’m grateful our paths crossed and honored that she is now also a friend. She is a delightful person who has led one of the most interesting cooperative lives I’ve heard and I’m grateful we can share her story.
Here are some gems from our interview that demonstrate Rani’s cooperative life:
Rani and Raj. The story of Rani’s family history is one you want to be sure to hear. It was fate and she sweetly shares her multi-cultural families origin and what it was like to grow up in the South.
Following that Helpful Inner Voice. Rani chose her college based on it’s basketball team, she was that much of a fan! Even though it was expensive, she took on a loan and to repay it chose a career in Investment Banking, but as she describes in her story there was always a voice saying, “Why am i doing this, I’m just doing this for the money, and how much money do you really need?”
A Cooperative Education System. Uptima Business Bootcamp is now a legal cooperative in California. Rani has cooperatized education--the students are the owners and part investors in their education.
An overview of Rani’s answers to our two signature questions:
1) What was Rani’s first experience with co-ops?
RANI: My mom wasn’t in the position to take on a full time job raising an extra child, one of the things she did was band together with the lady across the across and they banded together to clean people’s house in some of the more affluent neighborhoods and in that, I must have been 3 years old or so and I would play while the two ladies were cleaning and they’d get paid in cash and they’d split that money between—and that is in essence cooperative economics and that’s what we’ve being doing our entire lives. It wasn’t just sharing the money, but sharing food. Food is a big thing in these cultures and my Mom was always a part of Asian communities and we’d come together and have all this food and dinner together and just sharing the space, that was just a big part of what i was growing up with
2) Which co-op principle was Rani most feeling on the day we interviewed her?
RANI:Really hard because i love all of them but the one that is probably my favorite is concern for community, all of those, fall into that, in my mind. Everything that we is because the community we are in we want it too tay diverse and vibrant and uplift everyone in the community.
Hear Rani’s story and the full interview here: Rani’s Cooperative Story
THIS COOPERATIVE LIFE story series is a project of The Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED), which provides tools and training for campus communities to develop strong cooperatively-run food businesses. We engage with a dynamic network to increase access to healthy food while promoting thriving, equitable, and resilient local economies. Special thanks to Smoking Ghosts for providing music, Kai Nagai-Rothe for production support, and our producer Faiza Farah.