The ownership of a public company is divided up into shares. The owners of those shares are share owners. If a company authorized the issuance of 1,000 shares, each share owners would own 1/1000 of that company for each share they owned. Those shares have value and can be sold, bought or traded in a public forum like the stock exchange. If profits are made with the company, those profits can be distributed to the share owners by issuing dividends based on their share ownership.