DAWI-Incubated Apis & Heritage Announces First Employee Ownership Transitions


Apis & Heritage Capital, incubated by nonprofit Democracy at Work Institute, acquires Denver and El Paso-based firms, sell to BIPOC, essential workers via ESOP

WASHINGTON, DC (May 24, 2022)Apis & Heritage Capital Partners (A&H) has announced transitions to employee ownership for its first two portfolio companies: Apex Plumbing Co. (Denver, Co.) and Accent Landscape Contractors, Inc. (El Paso, TX). Together, the firms employ more than 150 mostly BIPOC workers. 

A&H was incubated at Democracy at Work Institute and launched with seed funding from Kendeda Fund, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Citi Community Development. The firm announced its initial close around Juneteenth 2021 after raising more than $30M to facilitate employee-led buyouts and establish a replicable model for using risk capital to finance the transition of business ownership to majority BIPOC workforces.

“We’re committed to investing in communities of color and closing the racial wealth gap,” said Cynthia Muller, director of Mission Investment at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Employee ownership does that and more. We’re proud to support A&H, a Black-led fund manager, that is strengthening the worker-owned business ecosystem to create more resilient businesses that advance racial equity.”

A&H finds businesses with large workforces of color where the owner is ready to retire and provides financing and technical support to successfully transition ownership to employees. Over the next five years, A&H plans to acquire 8-10 companies with majority BIPOC workforces in essential industries, transforming the financial future of more than 500 essential workers. Apex Plumbing and Accent Landscape represent the first two companies A&H has transitioned to 100% employee ownership. 

“A&H’s transitions of Apex and Accent show how we can strategically use risk capital to finance business ownership transitions that transform the financial futures of BIPOC workers in essential industries,” said Melissa Hoover, DAWI Executive Director. “These deals establish a replicable model for expanding wealth-building opportunities through employee ownership.”

In addition to incubating A&H, DAWI is providing its portfolio businesses with training and technical assistance to establish workplace participation. As an ongoing partner with A&H, DAWI hopes to support the employee ownership field’s sharpened focus on racial equity by using financial equity in strategic ways to catalyze business transitions among BIPOC, immigrant, and low-wage workforces.

Apex Plumbing Co. is a 34-year-old company specializing in sewer and water pipe repair in the Denver, Colorado area. Its transition to employee ownership is a familiar occurrence in Colorado, which has been called the “most employee ownership-friendly state in the country” thanks to strong support from the governor, state-funded outreach programs, tax benefits, and the work of the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center. The company employs 60 employees, 50% of whom identify as Latinx. Senior financing was provided by UMB Bank.

Accent Landscape Contractors, Inc. has operated for more than 30 years, providing landscaping services to parks, municipalities, and corporations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The company employs more than 120 full-time employees, the majority of whom are lower-income, hourly-wage Latinx workers. Senior financing was provided by Woodforest National Bank.

About Apis & Heritage Capital

Apis & Heritage Capital uses a novel “employee-led buyout” (ELBO©) structure to provide workers of color and workers in essential industries with the most powerful wealth building tool in the nation: equity in a thriving business. A&H finances the acquisition of great companies from retiring owners/founders and converts them into 100% employee-owned enterprises. The ELBO© utilizes the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which has over 50 years of bipartisan political and regulatory support, to secure significant tax benefits for qualifying companies and wealth-building opportunities for employees. To facilitate the ELBO©, A&H coordinates senior financing from some of America’s most forward-thinking lending institutions. A&H and its operating partner, the nonprofit Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), invest in training to build an ownership culture that ensures all employee-owners, from management to the shop floor, are engaged in a common endeavor to create healthy, growing, profitable, and satisfying places to work over the long term. A&H was incubated at DAWI with seed funding provided by the Kendeda Fund, the Kellogg Foundation, and support from Citi Community Development.

About Democracy at Work Institute

Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI) is the national think- and do-tank dedicated to expanding worker ownership to communities locked out of good jobs and business ownership opportunities, particularly BIPOC, recent immigrant, and low-wage workers. Our work focuses on unlocking business ownership capital, business innovation for better livelihoods, and helping our allies succeed through research, education, and policy support. Our capital strategy is anchored by Apis & Heritage Capital (A&H), an investment firm incubated by DAWI to facilitate an increase in employee-led buyouts. A&H focuses on expanding business ownership to build wealth for workers of color, establishing a replicable model for using risk capital to finance the transition of ownership to majority BIPOC workforces.