I don't know anything about co-ops, but surely as a business venture there would be a contract specifying under what conditions your money would be lent, and how it would be expected to be paid back. Is the investment not independent of your employment position? After all, if an external investor was involved, they would expect to recoup the investment even though they were not employed.
Katy, it's just an idea, but you might want to investigate start-up grants and loans for small businesses and/or women starting up their own businesses, or have you already done this? If you haven't, try your local Business Link and the DTI website - it's hideous to get around, but does contain useful information somewhere. Some is dependent on where you live, for example, if you're in a 'deprived' area that is eligible for the European Social Fund, like Wales or parts of the West Country, there could be something. Sorry, I don't know about Norfolk (I just checked your profile).
Secondly, and I have no idea about co-ops, so please correct me, but is there not a safeguard in place so that if you get voted off, at least some of your invested money is protected? Or am I being naive?
Good luck with it though, it sounds like you've thought this through, and are not the kind of person people will hate.
Business Link have a good idea all by themselves?! And were helpful too? Well, there's a turn up. I know what you mean about the 'wrong' sector, but if I have any other bright ideas, I'll let you know. But it sounds like you've pretty much exhausted everything. Again, I assume you've tried looking on Grantnet, which I think can be found via the Business Link website?
In terms of safeguarding your business, all I can do is agree with Senorapostrophe and suggest you ram the board with 'friendlies' so you always have at least 50.1% of any vote.
I think I have a lot more research to do with the idea
However I do like the idea that the staff have a direct input into the nursery - I think ownership leads to respect and self esteem for the staff and they will consider how they treat the property/equipment if they know that if it needs replacing it will come out of their profit
It sounds like a great plan, with recruiting the right calibre of staff being the main thing to be careful of. But if you prepare the business plan well, and really have a good handle on what you're trying to achieve and how you're going to get there, you can at least create as many safeguards as you can. Nothing is ever 100% guaranteed, but you can be as well prepared as possible, and it sounds like that's exactly what you're doing.