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Vision – Your WHY in Action

Speakers – JQ Hannah

The word “vision” gets used a whole bunch of different ways in business, in nonprofits, and in the world in general – what exactly does it mean when organizing your food co-op? What role does it play? It’s important to understand what it is, how it can make-or-break your startup’s success at every stage (including after your co-op is open), and the basics of how you keep it alive and centered in your food co-op’s development – all of which we will cover in this session!

The Power and Potential of Food Cooperatives: What it Means to be a Co-op

Speakers – Allanah Hines

Food cooperatives have existed in various forms across cultures for centuries, serving as a testament to community solidarity and mutual aid. Today, food cooperatives are more than just grocery stores; they are hubs of community engagement, providing high-quality products and fostering local economic revitalization. This presentation will explore what it means to have a food cooperative in your community, its historical significance, and its unique benefits. Not only do food cooperatives offer unique benefits such as ownership and Board representation but, for communities seeking better quality groceries, increased accessibility, or both, a food cooperative can be a transformative solution. Join us for an engaging workshop where we will delve into: Understanding Food Cooperatives: What are they and how do they operate? Community Communication: Strategies to effectively communicate the benefits of cooperatives to your community. Education and Growth: How to educate, build, and grow your cooperative to become a central point of positive community commerce and exchange. Food cooperatives are more than just stores; they are vibrant epicenters of community life and economic activity. By understanding and embracing the cooperative model, together we can create sustainable, resilient communities that thrive on shared values and mutual support. Come and learn how you can be part of this transformative movement!

Startup Framework Input Session

Speakers – JQ Hannah and Angela Sayles

Food Co-op Initiative is leading a cooperative process transforming the original “4-in-3 model” of startup food co-op development into an evolving “framework” that can meet all communities in their unique co-op development journey. By employing a framework approach, our goal is to create core guidance that will serve the diverse array of startups organizing today in a way that is broadly culturally relevant – to startups of all different sizes, with different visions – that communities can build their specific co-op building plans from. FCI has spent the first half of 2024 collecting input from multiple experts and partner organizations on the first draft of this new framework and now we’d like to hear from you! We’ll spend this session facilitating a conversation about some of the areas that we suspect need startup community brainstorming most to better serve all startup communities, and your feedback will become a part of the framework’s evolution! This session is specifically for startup food co-ops to have a voice in the framework’s evolution. Those with support organizations are welcome to observe this session, but will be asked to yield the floor to those actively organizing startup food co-ops.

The Framework: An Introduction to the Startup Process

Speaker – JQ Hannah

Begin here! If you are at all new to the role of being a leader in a startup food co-op, no matter how long your actual that can tell you exactly how to fulfill each and every step of organizing and opening your community’s co-op. Luckily, there is a framework that has been built from the experience and knowledge of all the startup food co-op efforts of the last 15+ years that is being used by dozens of your peer startups across the country. The framework can be used to build your startup’s plan to open a thriving, sustainable food co-op and knowing the pieces of the framework will be vitally important to your co-op’s efforts. In this session, we’ll walk through an overview of all the pieces of the framework and what you need to know about them to lead your startup co-op to success. This session will be on the current version of the framework. As the startup community continuously evolves, so does the framework for creating a food co-op. If you’d like to hear more on how the framework is continuing to evolve and give input on it, join us for the Startup Framework Input Session later today!

Interactive Socratic Circle - Tribin' Up: Centering Our Solidarity

Speakers – Jamila Medley, Angela Sayles, & amaha sellassie

Join us for “Tribin’ Up: Centering Our Solidarity,” a dynamic workshop designed to deepen our understanding of solidarity economy principles and their application in our cooperative endeavors. This interactive session will feature a World Cafe engagement, fostering rich, collaborative conversations among cooperators.

Participants will explore the foundational concepts of the solidarity economy, emphasizing how cooperatives can serve as powerful tools for building a more equitable and sustainable economic system. Through guided discussions and collective brainstorming, we will identify practical strategies for leveraging our cooperative work to advance solidarity economy goals.

Whether you are a seasoned cooperator or new to the movement, this workshop offers a unique opportunity to connect, share experiences, and co-create actionable plans for strengthening our cooperative practices. Come prepared to engage, inspire, and be inspired as we work together to center our solidarity and amplify our collective impact.


Key Objectives:

  • Deepen understanding of solidarity economy principles.
  • Discuss the role of cooperatives in building a solidarity economy.
  • Engage in meaningful dialogue through World Cafe discussions.
  • Develop actionable strategies to integrate solidarity principles into cooperative work.


Don’t miss this chance to be part of a transformative conversation and contribute to a growing movement for economic justice and cooperative solidarity.

Sustaining the Spirit & the Movement: Addressing Burnout and Compassion Fatigue in Black Community Leaders and Volunteers

Speaker – Mama Zenzele

This presentation/workshop explores the critical issues of burnout and compassion fatigue among Black leaders and volunteers. Black leaders and volunteers are the cornerstone of community initiatives and cooperative movements, carrying forward a legacy of resilience and shaping future horizons.  We will examine the impact of burnout and compassion fatigue on leadership effectiveness and community outcomes, highlighting how these challenges can hinder decision-making, productivity, and overall project success.  We will then explore ways to combat these issues on individual, organizational, and community levels, including self-care practices, supportive organizational policies, and leveraging cultural strengths to foster open conversations and apply active mental health and wellness strategies.

This presentation will begin by defining burnout and compassion fatigue, distinguishing their symptoms and signs. Then delves into the unique challenges faced by Black leaders and volunteers, including racial trauma, discrimination, community expectations, and limited access to mental health & other resources. These factors add layers of stress and emotional burden, making it imperative to address these issues for the sustainability of our crucial work.  By focusing on the well-being of those leading and volunteering in our work in Black communities, this presentation underscores the importance of mental health in preserving the legacy of Black co-ops and ensuring a thriving future. Attendees will leave with practical tools and a deeper understanding of how to support themselves and their peers in sustaining their invaluable contributions to the work and their communities.

Power Building: Civic Engagement Strategies for Membership Growth & Sustainability

Speakers – Jamila Medley and Erin Dale McClellan

With the November 2024 election months away, it is critical for Black-led and serving cooperatives to galvanize their community towards using the resources at their disposal to protect and advocate for themselves.  We continue to do this by building independent political power while dreaming of and activating our dreams of the future we want through our economic self-determination. This means that we must look for and leverage opportunities to participate in civic engagement activities that will build our base, grow our co-op membership. 

In 2023 and 2024, the Collective Courage Fund partnered with Movement Labs to invite Black-led and serving food cooperatives to participate in a civic engagement strategy involving the development and implementation of text messaging campaigns.  The effort was to support the co-ops in using technology and data instruments traditionally leveraged in political power building strategies to engage and grow their co-op membership.  Four co-ops participated in the pilot effort. 

Panelists will include cooperators who worked on this civic engagement pilot project.  The session will provide an opportunity to hear from cooperators about the  tactics, messaging, and process used as well as examine the results.  Did membership grow?  Did more people come out to events?  Did the co-ops get new volunteers?  What were some of the challenges in organizing our member-owners to use this new strategy?  These and other questions will be answered during the session. 

Lessons and Insights from Opening

Speakers – amaha sellassie, Sis Lanay Gilbert-Williams

Join amaha sellassie from Gem City Market, Dayton and Lanay Gilbert Williams from Detroit People’s Food Co-op in discussing successes, challenges, and insights in opening a Black-led co-op. Come prepared with questions for this panel who have been involved in processes from recruiting member-owners, fundraising, community organizing, and supply chain management. The panel will talk about lessons learned to help provide insights as we develop our collective praxis.

Dismantling a Culture of Individualism.

Speakers – Piper Carter

In this workshop we will define the culture of individualism and its impact on communities, particularly marginalized communities. Explore cooperative business models as an alternative to individualism.

Examine the historical and cultural roots of collective action within African/Black communities. Equip participants with the knowledge and resources to launch and sustain cooperative businesses. Discuss how cooperatives can empower communities and promote social change.

A New Approach to Start-up Co-op launch

Speakers – Mark Goehring, Akil Talley, Chris Dilley, Wynston Estis, and Michelle Schry

Columinate has a Manager on Contract program that can support a food co-op from early in the start-up process all the way through store opening. The phases include a consultative relationship very early, followed by Managers on Contract for Project Management, Pre-store opening, Store opening and Post-store opening stages. This approach to store opening changes when to start your GM search process and goes hand in hand with Columinate’s GM Development and Training program for your new GM. We will also share info on GM Search Support, Columinate Financial Services, and how the Management on Contract process described above goes hand in hand with NCG Store Development and Retail Support services.  NCG offers project planning and construction support, product selection, promotions and merchandising support as well as a comprehensive suite of back-office systems development support from HR and IT to Marketing and Finance. Together these resources change the game for start-up co-ops.

White Saviorism in Co-ops - A Community Conversation

Speakers – Bonnie Hudspeth, Allanah Hines, Gabby Davis, JQ Hannah, Steve Cooke

White supremacy culture is a tricky beast. It lives in all of us to different degrees and manifests everywhere in our culture, including in our food co-op movement and in our individual co-ops. In this panel, we’ll look at how white saviorism manifests in our overall movement, as well speak some truths about how it shows up in our specific stores and tease out examples of how this has in the recent past (and continues) to manifest in the startup food co-op organizing. The last third of our time together we will talk about solutions, possible next steps, and identifying the next level of what hasn’t even begun to be addressed. This isn’t a topic where experts have all the answers, it is very much work our entire movement is responsible for and must work through together, so come ready to contribute your questions and wisdom to the conversation!

Indigenenous Co-op Dev

Speaker – Bijiabe Begaye

Indigenous Cooperative Food Development offers a powerful framework for empowering Indigenous communities and nurturing sustainable food systems. Storytelling serves as a powerful medium for transmitting traditional knowledge, preserving cultural heritage, inspiring collective action, and promoting cross-cultural understanding. By recognizing and honoring the role of storytelling, the richness of Indigenous cultures and the importance of Indigenous knowledge can be shared and celebrated, leading to more inclusive and sustainable food systems. By honoring traditional knowledge, cultural practices, and cooperative principles, we can address food security, economic empowerment, and social well-being while preserving cultural heritage. Through the sharing of successful case studies, recognition of challenges, and proposed strategies for the future, this presentation aims to inspire collective action and foster a brighter future where Indigenous communities thrive through their own sustainable food systems.

True Stories of Choosing Our Site (the good and the ugly!)

Speakers – Hether Jonna Frayer and Chris Dilley

Choosing a site is among the biggest decisions a co-op has to make. It took People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo 30 months to select a site to build our expanded co-op on. Join us as we talk about our process of choosing the site, and for an honest look at the benefits of the site, and hard lessons we learned once the choice was made.

Recalculating Route: When Proforma Changes Take Us Off Course

Speakers – NCG

Planning and Implementing a GREAT Capital Campaign!

Speaker – Ben Sandel

Successful capital campaigns require a great team, clear roles, preparation and strong implementation. In this session we’ll discuss all those and more so you’ll have a better idea of how to make your campaign fun and productive. If you’ve already done a campaign, bring your successes and failures to share, and be ready to be motivated and inspired. Cooperative money is the best money around, and there is (usually) more of it than you think!

Are You Capital Campaign Ready?

Speaker – Katie Novak

Are you wondering if your co-op is ready to raise the funds needed to open your store? If so, this session is for you. With over a decade of experience helping co-ops raise money Katie will share the key indicators that your co-op will be successful before you even start planning your fundraising campaign.

The Financials that Boards Need to Understand after Opening

Speaker – Siobain Mitchell

It’s the moment you’ve been working towards all these long years. Your food co-op opens. You’re about to have a whole lot of financial information coming at you. In this session Siobain will cover what the full board is responsible for knowing & understanding, what your Board Officers and/or Board Finance Committee is responsible for, and when to seek outside support.

Ends-driven Partnerships and Programs - Discerning when to Extend Ends Work beyond the Store through Partnerships

Speakers – Hether Jonna Frayer and Chris Dilley

Spending the co-op’s finite resources on community work other than running a grocery store should be taken Come back in time with the past board chair and past GM of People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo to explore how we decided yes to farmers markets, Can Do Kitchen, and anti-racism work, and no to selling tires and cannabis. We’ll explain the role that community partnerships played in our decisions, and introduce attendees to our partners as we talk about the process that made the projects work.seriously. When is it a good idea? When should we stay focused on the store instead? And how would having a strong community partnership impact that decision?

The Challenges Our New GMs Face

Speaker – Sam McCormick

The Anti-Racist Path: White-led Startups Reimaging Democracy

Speaker – Patrice Lockert Anthony

Racism in America is at the top of the list for Urgencies to Resolve (UTR). A food co-op isn’t about building a “happy place” to shop for food. That’s a by-product of co-ops that support belonging in the community. Food co-ops should uplift democracy, equity, and justice for all who participate, and bring these qualities into our communities. Co-ops are paths to, and models for, democracy and justice. Let’s do a deep dive into what it means to be white in America and how it has impacted the cooperative movement. White-led start-up co-ops can shift the impact of privilege and supremacy and bring equity and justice to what has become a “just another grocery store” dynamic. Now, we’re going to do this workshop with love and truth. We need, though, to check fragilities of privilege and supremacy (conscious or unconscious) at the door. This isn’t the workshop where there will be space for fragility…only love, truth, and justice. We’ll spend 5 minutes between the intro and outro. We’ll listen for 15 minutes. We’ll have break out sessions for 30 minutes, and a whole group discussion session for 15 minutes and end with a Q and A for 10 minutes. The Speaker will provide a *Pre-conference (small) reading packet for those who’d like to dig in a little early.

Power of 1:1 Conversations

Speaker – Darnell Adams

There is so much to do and so many people to talk to as you organize your food-coop. Reach out to the community! Find volunteers! Speak to funders! You can, and should use social media and speaking at events as tools to tell the story of your co-op. But you will also find that one of the best ways to gain momentum with your organizing is to have effective one-on-one conversations with people. One-on-one conversations take time so let’s make your efforts pay off. Let’s talk about how to harness the power of one-on-one conversation using specific techniques to (1) develop positive and trusting relationships with others (2) listen to identify what is important to them (3) move them to action (4) Bonus: meet really incredible people! 

Volunteer Recruitment & Retention: Find 'em & Keep 'em Coming Back for More

Speaker – Bonnie Hudspeth

This workshop will dig into how to create a successful volunteer program for your start-up co-op. We’ll explore ideas for creating a volunteer plan including how to recruit volunteers, match them to the right task to bring out their superpowers, and then how to successfully train, manage and retain your co-op’s volunteers. We’ll share exchange ideas of where to look for volunteers in your community throughout each development stage, and strategies for keeping volunteers engaged and coming back for more.

The Store Opening Leadership Gap

Speakers – Heather and Sam McCormick

Searching for Financial Feasibility

Speaker – Sarah Lebherz

Stage 2A is all about four areas of feasibility—will the vision you have work? This workshop focuses on increasing your understanding of financial feasibility. We’ll talk about what it means, how to assess it, what impacts it. Your co-op will be financially sustainable if you can identify a path that’s feasible—and then operate the co-op accordingly.

Industry Knowledge = Power

Speaker – Darnell Adams

There is so much for startup food co-op organizers to learn, and it takes so much industry knowledge to open a co-op grocery store. Hiring co-op experts for select pieces of organizing, such as business planning, has absolutely been a key to success, allowing cooperators to focus on community organizing and governance. But in trying to save startups from having to know absolutely everything about the grocery industry, have we as co-op developers unintentionally withheld information that has led to disempowerment of organizers and encouraged some ineffective organizing practices? The startup food co-ops that make up FCI’s CITRINE peer learning group, facilitated by Darnell Adams, started asking this question when they didn’t have all the knowledge they needed to grow their co-ops. They dedicated several of their peer learning sessions to learn more about the broader grocery industry and what food co-ops are up against. The results were electrifying! In this session, the CITRINE learning team will be sharing their journey of learning about the broader grocery industry and how it has affected their organizing so far. They will lead an interactive conversation with attendees to find out what they, as on-the-ground startup organizers, feel are the gaps in their knowledge about the grocery industry. The results of this community conversation will be shared with startup food co-op support organizations and consultants so they can better serve the needs of organizing startups.

Principle 8

Speaker – LaDonna Sanders Redmond

Co-op Principles

Speaker – LaDonna Sanders Redmond

Dissecting the Definition of “Healthy”

Speaker – Gabby Davis

After reaching out to current and former cooperators, as well as strangers, on social media to learn about their personal definitions of ‘eating healthy’ and their perceptions of ‘healthy foods’, I was astounded at the replies. The flood of responses, totaling over a hundred, served as poignant reminders that our singular notions of ‘healthy eating/foods’ may inadvertently exclude or alienate potential members. It’s incumbent upon us to regularly scrutinize the messages we disseminate personally and across various platforms if we aspire to genuinely attract a varied assortment of shoppers, members, board members, and staff. True inclusion begins with introspective self-examination(intrapersonal) before extending outward to interpersonal interactions. By amplifying additional voices and perspectives, we embark on a journey of inclusion that resonates deeply with our cooperative values. This presentation will showcase the myriad viewpoints collected from social media inquiries and discussions with fellow cooperators, shedding light on the multifaceted nature of ‘healthy’ eating. Together, let’s cultivate awareness and redefine what it means to uphold the cooperative motto of ‘everyone is welcome’, ensuring that it rings true in every facet of our cooperative community.

Building the Relationships to Get the Grants

Speakers – Angela Sayles, Three Sisters Market, Northside Food Co-op, and Suncoast Market

Reimagining Co-op Funding: Innovative Ideas and Brainstorming

Speaker – Katie Novak

Co-ops have long been celebrated for their creativity and innovation. In today’s dynamic landscape, these qualities are required for imaging new ways to fund our stores. With over a decade of experience in cooperative fundraising, Katie will showcase a variety of cutting-edge funding sources that co-ops are leveraging successfully. Join us for an engaging brainstorming session where attendees will explore how these inventive funding ideas can be applied to co-ops and communities nationwide.

Nourishing Communities: The Vital Role of co-op Leners in Funding Start-up Food Co-ops

Speakers – Tamah Yisrael, Dami Odetola, and Roderick McCulloch

Discover the pivotal role of cooperative lenders in fueling the growth and sustainability of start-up food cooperatives. These community-driven initiatives are vital for local economies, food sovereignty, and access to fresh, ethical products. Our panel merges expertise from finance, cooperative governance, and sustainable food systems, discussing challenges like limited access to traditional banking. Learn how cooperative lenders act as crucial partners, providing accessible, mission-aligned capital. Explore future opportunities in cooperative finance and innovative financing mechanisms for start-up food co-ops. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a passionate cooperative lender, or simply interested in finance and sustainable food systems, this discussion offers valuable insights. Join us to uncover the transformative potential of cooperative lenders in nurturing communities and fostering a fairer, more resilient food system.

The New Normal in Funding Sources

Speaker – Don Moffitt

If your co-op can borrow the money needed to open a store, why not do it? Much has changed over the past several years–competition is stronger, gross margins are lower, labor costs are higher, and inflation has pushed the cost of opening a store through the stratosphere. All of this combined impacts the amount of funding needed and the co-op’s ability to service debt. Come learn what’s going on with start-ups, financially speaking, what “servicing a debt” really means, and what the new normal is in finding the funding you need.

The Long & Winding Road: Sugar Beet case study

Speaker – Peter Nolan

The true story of a board member’s journey from startup to opening and the lessons learned along the way

Data Boot Camp: Storing and Leveraging Stakeholder Data

Speakers – Grant Kessler and Matthew Ruffi

Feeling like your co-op’s stakeholder data is a disorganized mess? You’re not alone! This interactive session, led by data management experts Grant Kessler and Matthew Ruffi, equips co-op board members with the knowledge and tools to transform your data into a strategic asset. Go beyond the basics: – Understand key data terminology and CRM systems. – Discover how data drives owner recruiting, engagement, fundraising, and informed decision-making. – Navigate legal considerations surrounding data ownership and privacy. – Implement best practices for data collection and storage, avoiding common pitfalls. – Leverage data for targeted marketing, ownership tracking, stakeholder communication, and impactful fundraising campaigns. This interactive session and Q&A with the owners of Two Presidents Consulting will solidify your understanding and encourage peer-to-peer learning. This session benefits both early- and mid-stage startups by providing actionable insights for maximizing data management throughout your co-op’s journey! Don’t miss out! Gain the confidence to transform your co-op’s data into a STRATEGIC ASSET and unlock the full potential of your community.

Board Chair Champions

Speaker – Joel Kopischke

Board leadership — are you herding cats, the lead sled dog, the workhorse, or the zookeeper? In this fun & interactive session, we’ll cover the role of the board chair/president & how all board members contribute to board leadership for startup co-ops. How to define the role(s), the skills needed, and the support a board chair needs from inside and outside the group. Bring your questions, ideas, and conundrums!

Governing for the Long Haul: Early Stage Governance for the Working Board

Speakers – Leslie Watson and Jade Barker

You’ve probably heard that as a co-op moves along its startup journey, its board will eventually transition from a “working” to a “governing” board. This is true, but even an all-hands-on-deck, early-stage board needs to know what it means to effectively govern, to have a clear and shared sense of who decides what, and how. In this lively session, we’ll share some strategies and tools for building a robust governance practice that avoids common pitfalls, minimizes frustrations, and better prepares your startup to successfully navigate the inevitable challenges ahead.

Organizing Your Community Through Storytelling

Speaker – Te’Jal Cartwright

Storytelling is key when it comes to building genuine connections that last. A story can also help you find a tribe that is committed to the same agenda as you. In this session, attendees will find power in themselves and craft their personal story in conjunction with their co-op. Attendees will also learn how to share their story through different platforms to reach different audiences (donors, community members, partners, etc.).

4 Pillars of Effective Startup Outreach

Speaker – Bonnie Hudspeth

In this foundational session on outreach, co-op developer and community builder Bonnie Hudspeth will bring participants on an exploration of the four pillars of effective startup outreach. All stages are welcome – start your outreach from a strong foundation with a full picture of the four pillars, or increase the fruitful connections of your outreach efforts by filling in the pages in your foundational wisdom.

Empowering Communities: Harnessing Cooperative Models for Movement Building

Speaker – Tamah Yisreal

Community organizing is a corner stone for social change that creates great potential for fostering membership growth and rallying support. Today, an increasing number of communities are turning to cooperatives not only as economic hubs but also as platforms for collective action and empowerment. This workshop delves into the role of cooperatives in nurturing vibrant ecosystems that cater to the diverse needs of the communities they serve. Through this interactive session, participants will explore objectives for cooperatives, emphasizing tools, practices, and strategies essential for fostering engagement and ownership. Together, we’ll uncover existing community organizing tools within our cooperative networks while identifying opportunities for expansion. Drawing from collective experiences, we’ll glean insights and best practices, enriching our cooperative endeavors and fortifying the broader cooperative movement in our communities. Moreover, we’ll delve into the art of interfacing with existing movements and organizing efforts, leveraging relational capital to amplify community impact. This session aspires to elevate cooperative ventures beyond mere retail spaces, prompting deeper reflection on the intrinsic value they contribute to the communities they inhabit.

Site Planning: The Foundation of Store Design - Fertile Ground Case Study

Speaker – Jenn Truman

Join Fertile Ground Co-op and seven roots as they share the story, the trials, tribulations and dollar signs of the co-op’s site planning and design process. We’ll talk about the role of the board, the design team, and the risks and opportunities of building a bright and shiny new store from scratch.

Site Feasibility, LIVE

Speaker – seven roots

Play along to walk through site feasibility factors live and in person! We’ll work together to assess a real live site, digging into different aspects of feasibility, game show style. Bring your co-op’s info to compare, contrast, and get insights. Bonus: one luck participants gets a FREE STORE (just kidding, but this session will be a lot of fun!)

Finding Your Co-op’s Future Home: Keys to Choosing and Securing a Site

Speaker – John Guerra

When you are ready to search for a site, how do you get started? How will you know if it’s the right site?  What do you need to know about securing a site with a lease or purchase agreement?  So many questions during this exciting phase!  This session will provide basic knowledge on where to start, how to evaluate, and then how to secure a site.  We will explore criteria that will help you evaluate sites from the customer, operator, and builder perspective and then explore steps and critical terms to consider during a purchase or lease agreement. 

Understanding and Using Your Pro Forma

Speaker – Sarah Lebherz

Your pro forma is intended to be a tool, an interactive file that you can use to explore the financial feasibility of your co-op. I’ll share a sample, talk with you about what it is and how it works, why you need it, how you can you use it. I’ll show you the inputs and the outcomes, along with key indicators of feasibility.