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Ralph K Morris Foundation

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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

Speaker – Bonnie Hudspeth

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

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.