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SPEAKERS

amaha sellassie headshot
Speaker

amaha sellassie

Angela Sayles headshot
Speaker

Angela Sayles

Ben Sandel headshot
Speaker

Ben Sandel

Bonnie Hudspeth
Speaker

Bonnie Hudspeth

Chris Dilley headshot
Speaker

Chris Dilley

Darnell Adams headshot
Speaker

Darnell Adams

Don Moffitt headshot
Speaker

Don Moffitt

Erica Zenzele Hardison headshot
Speaker

Erica “Zenzele” Hardison 

Erin Dale McClellan headshot
Speaker

Erin Dale McClellan

Gabby Davis headshot
Speaker

Gabrielle (Gabby) Davis

Speaker

Gail Patrice Lockert Anthony

Grant Kessler headshot
Speaker

Grant Kessler

Hether Jonna Frayer headshot
Speaker

Hether Jonna Frayer

Jade Barker headshot
Speaker

Jade Barker

Jamila Medley headshot
Speaker

Jamila Medley

Joel Kopischke headshot
Speaker

Joel Kopischke

John Guerra headshot
Speaker

John Guerra, NCG

JQ Hannah headshot
Speaker

JQ Hannah

Katie Novak headshot
Speaker

Katie Novak

Leslie Watson headshot
Speaker

Leslie Watson

Matthew Ruffi headshot
Speaker

Matthew Ruffi

Peter Nolan headshot
Speaker

Peter Nolan

Roderick McCulloch headshot
Speaker

Roderick McCulloch

Sam McCormick headshot
Speaker

Sam McCormick

Sarah Lebherz headshot
Speaker

Sarah Lebherz

seven roots Team headshot
Speakers

seven roots

Siobain Mitchell headshot
Speaker

Siobain Mitchell

Tamah Yisrael headshot
Speaker

Tamah Yisrael

Speaker

amaha sellassie

amaha sellassie is a afrofuturist, peace builder, social healer, freedom fighter, network weaver, student of cooperation and lover of humanity. He’s an Associate Professor of Sociology at Sinclair Community College in Dayton Ohio. amaha is a practitioner scholar and participatory action researcher dedicated towards building bridges of trust, healing historical wounds, and harnessing the unique gifts and talents of every human being as we press towards a just and equitable society. As the former chair of the Dayton Human Relations Council Board, his areas of interest include health and education equity, praxis, cooperative economic development, dismantling structural violence and getting the voice of marginalized communities into the center of public policy in order to emerge structures of belonging that acknowledge the dignity and worth of every human being. He is co-founder and board chair of the Gem City Market, a community driven effort to address food apartheid through a food coop dedicated to increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables within west Dayton. He is also a co-founder and co-ed of CO-OP Dayton a coop incubator that is guided by the Mondragon model towards building a Just Economy Ecosystem. Currently he is working towards his Ph. D. in Sociology at the University of Cincinnati with an emphasis on utilizing community based participatory action research (CBPAR) towards emerging health equity, co-creating opportunity and community transformation.

Speaker

Angela Sayles

Angela currently serves on Collective Courage Fund governance committee which supports Black-Led food cooperatives and organizations through grant making for civic engagement and power building. She most recently held the position of CEO for the Little Africa Food Cooperative. She served as a mentor to the Food Systems Change Fellowship | Nourishing Power program facilitated by Case Western Reserve University. She advocates for local food systems and cooperatives lobbying and has worked with the Ag Noire Coalition and the National Cooperative Business Association. Angela’s work with National Black Food & Justice Alliance Market Study Group as Research Facilitator has produced a 40-page summary report on the topic of Rethinking Market Studies: Impacts for Black led Cooperatives. She is currently facilitating a series of workshops for the Coop Peer group for Q2 2024 and leading the important discussion on effective development models for food coops in Black communities. Angela was invited and participated in the Racism in the Food System convening hosted by Cornell University in March 2024. Angela hosted the United Nations parallel event focused on Innovation and Technology in Land and Food Rights for Global African Women at the 67th Commission on the Status of Women. She and her team participated in the upcoming African Food Systems Forum in September 2023 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania presenting primary research findings from the Financial Unity East Africa team on the Tanzania sunflower cooking oil sector. Angela is also the owner of the Unity Beverages brand.

Speaker

Ben Sandel

Ben Sandel is the founder of Ben Sandel Consulting, LLC and is also an owner of Columinate, Catalysts for Common Good. He provides leadership support to mission-driven organizations, designs and delivers in-person and online trainings, and guides and supports co-ops nationwide in raising millions of dollars for new stores, expansions, and startups. He is a consultant in Columinate’s Cooperative Board Leadership Development (CBLD) program. Before establishing his consulting practice, Ben was the board president and leader of the founding team of the Friendly City Food Co-op in Harrisonburg VA and served on the board of the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op in Takoma Park MD.

Speaker

Bonnie Hudspeth

Bonnie Hudspeth is an Independent Consultant with Firebrand Cooperative. As an experienced community organizer, facilitator, and project manager, she brings over two decades of experience in the cooperative and non-profit sectors. She specializes in leadership, organizational, and systems development. She serves as Vice President for the Cooperative Fund of the Northeast, advancing community-based, cooperative, and democratically owned or managed enterprises across the Northeastern United States. For more than a decade, she led Co-operative Development for the Neighboring Food Co-operative Association, supporting the shared learning, innovation, and success of more than 45 food co-ops and startup initiatives across the Northeast. Prior to that, she was the project manager leading all pre-operational and membership development and fundraising to open Monadnock Food Co-op (2013) in Keene, New Hampshire. She’s all about cooperatives, mutual aid, and community ownership of all the essential things we need to thrive.

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Chris Dilley

Chris Dilley has been a cooperative grocery retail manager for over 20 years, nearly all of that at People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo, with a recent year-long stint at the store opening manager with Detroit People’s Food Co-op. He is passionate about the cooperative model, operational excellence, local food systems development, and equitable access for all. He now shares his experience with co-ops throughout the country, supporting start-ups and transitions of all types through Columinate. His goal is to make Michigan’s cooperative economy the strongest in the nation. He lives in Kalamazoo, MI, with his wife and son, and their pup, Cayanne. He enjoys reading science fiction, cooking new things, and long walks in the woods.

Speaker

Darnell Adams

Darnell Adams is a dynamic leadership coach, facilitator, and business strategist, who has over two decades of experience working with nonprofit, for-profit, and cooperative businesses. She has been personally recognized in “Bold Thinkers Who Are Shaping Our City” by Boston Magazine’s Power of Ideas and as a Social Innovator by the Social Innovation Forum accelerator program. She develops and facilitates strategic plans, special projects, and workshops, providing expertise and training on an array of topics including transformational leadership, understanding implicit bias and power. She has presented to large and small groups within industry, city and state governments, universities, and media outlets. Darnell has a Master of Education from Harvard University and is an International Coaching Federation Credentialed Coach.

Speaker

Don Moffitt

Don works through Columinate providing support for co-ops planning large capital investments. Until recently he provided numerous start-ups with proformas. His services include project management, financial literacy training, expansion and business planning, assistance with lease negotiations and general development assistance. He’s worked in natural foods retail since 1981, including Store Team Leader, Regional President and Vice President of Store Development for Whole Foods Market. He served as Project Manager for the Durham Co-op Market in Durham, NC. He holds a B.Architecture (University of Texas, Austin) and an MBA (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

Speaker

Erica “Zenzele” Hardison 

Erica “Zenzele” Hardison serves as the board president for One Community Grocery Co-op, a start-up group working to build a cooperatively-owned grocery store on the Southside of St. Petersburg, FL. For over twenty years she has worked in St. Petersburg to help develop sustainable change in many areas including education, healthcare, housing, and food/agriculture. Zenzele brings her foundational goal — making the lives of all people better through sustainable, cooperative and collaborative development — to every project. With a B.S. in Mathematical Sciences, and her experience as an educator, a small business owner, and a community organizer, she has honed her natural ability to solve problems and think logically, creatively, and globally, while acting locally.

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Erin Dale McClellan

Erin Dale McClellan is the executive director of The Partnership and Partnership Action Fund, a c3/c4 funder collaborative that has defined the practice of grantmaking to advance community and independent political power in 11 states. She is the former Executive Director of Blueprint NC—a collaborative of 58 progressive organizations working for a fairer, more just North Carolina. She is a founding member and the President of the Fertile Ground Food Cooperative in Southeast Raleigh and a community driven effort to start a community owned cooperative grocery store and gathering space. She has been awarded the SiStars Award from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations, Local Hero Citizen of the Year in 2015 from Indy Week magazine, the Community Leader of the Year award from the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and most recently the Cooperative Champion Award from Up and Coming and the Indiana Cooperative Development Center.

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Gabrielle (Gabby) Davis

Gabrielle (Gabby) Davis is the Racial Equity & Food Justice Manager for the National Co+op Grocers and the Board Treasurer for the Detroit People’s Food Co-op. Gabby has earned a graduate degree in public health and another in counseling and is the owner of Equitable Counseling & Consulting which provides mental health therapy that prioritizes the needs of Black, Brown and Queer folks. In her free time, Gabby enjoys reminding people that addiction is a disease, not a choice, dispelling myths about allyship and encouraging folks to say, ‘I don’t know’ instead of pretending to know. Gabby lives in the metro Detroit area with her wife and her wife’s dog and enjoys ruffling feathers when the opportunity arises. Community is Gabby’s love language.

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Gail Patrice Lockert Anthony

Gail Patrice Lockert Anthony, owner and founder of Black Label Consulting and Coaching and Black Soil Media, has been working for, and toward, the beloved community for most of her life. She is a consultant, coach, facilitator, transformative mediator, and writer who uses workshops,  retreats, and online courses to build allies, partnerships, and collaborations. There is always more to share, higher ground to reach, and those she’d like to inspire to do more to create a nation that speaks to and for all of us. Her work in Anti Racist education for co-ops and communities is meant to help all co-op leaders, management, staff, members, and communities know and understand that our communities, and so our democracy,  only ends when we fail to nourish it, and is only a lie when we fail to incorporate the values and principles that sustain them. Love, Belonging, Community…Justice. This is our arc of achievement. Join me…

Speaker

Grant Kessler

Grant Kessler brings over 15 years of experience in building and managing data systems to this interactive session. As one of the founding leaders of Chicago Market – A Community Co-op (Steering Committee lead and Board President for the first seven years), and as a consultant for amazing organizations such as Chefs Collaborative, FamilyFarmed (now Naturally Chicago), and the Good Food EXPO, he has played a pivotal role in establishing organizations’ data infrastructure from the ground up. He remains actively involved as a Board member and marketing team lead at Chicago Market, utilizing these systems daily to drive strategic initiatives. Grant’s expertise in data strategy and implementation will equip co-op board members with the tools needed to transform their data into a powerful asset.

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Hether Jonna Frayer

Hether Jonna Frayer is a co-op enthusiast who believes in the power of people aligned around the cooperative principles and values to inspire meaningful and positive change in our communities. She served on the board of People’s Food Co-op in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for 21 years. She also serves on the board of Can-Do Kalamazoo, a business incubator. Hether is a member of Columinate, a shared services cooperative, and supports mission-driven organizations such as nonprofits and cooperatives with governance training, leadership development, board orientation, retreat and meeting facilitation, and equity work. Hether is energized by the opportunity to talk with, learn from, and be inspired by cooperators from all over the country, and so excited to welcome start-up cooperators to Kalamazoo!

Speaker

Jade Barker

A life-long social justice activist, Jade joined her local food co-op startup effort in 2002 as an outreach volunteer, never imagining how tumultuous the startup journey would be. She joined Columinate in 2014, partly to honor the gifts of wisdom she received from Columinate consultants in her own co-op journey. She joined River Valley Co-op’s board in 2005, winning a national award for cooperative board service in 2014, the same year her home co-op, River Valley Co-op, was recognized as retailer of the year. She’s especially passionate about the cooperative business model, which elevates equity and empowers communities, and the power of cooperation to transform the human spirit. Jade is also a trained mediator, coach, and a former co-director of the Mediation & Training Collaborative in Greenfield, MA. Her master’s degree in Transformational Leadership and Coaching has convinced her that we are all leaders and that we can all create change.

Speaker

Jamila Medley

Jamila Medley leverages experience working within the economic and racial justice movements to support organizations committed to transformational change. With a background in organizational development, she brings facilitation expertise and thought partnership to highly participatory processes related to governance, strategic planning, and leadership development. Inspired by trust-based philanthropic principles, Jamila stewards The Partnership Fund’s Collective Courage Fund, is board chair of the Independence Public Media Foundation, and a co-lead within Securing Roots. Her solidarity economy building efforts include being a collaborator in projects like Solidarity Resource, the Solidarity Economy Principles Project, Columinate’s Co-op Cafe and she serves on the board of directors of the Food Co-op Initiative. From 2012-2021, Jamila served in governance roles and then as executive director of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA).

Speaker

Joel Kopischke

Joel Kopischke has worked with co-ops for over 20 years, focusing on board development, cooperative governance, facilitation, strategic leadership, and executive coaching. (Governance nerd alert! Joel was even trained in Policy Governance at the Policy Governance® Academy by the Carvers – aka inventors of PG.) He is seven roots’ operations manager, working with the team to support co-ops in store development: design, site feasibility, branding, prepared foods, and project support. seven roots is a worker-owned co-op. He served as Board President with Outpost Natural Foods then spent 9 years with CDS Consulting Co-op (now Columinate) working with dozens of co-ops of various types and industries in the US, Canada, and even New Zealand, before joining seven roots. Out in the wild, Joel is also a professional actor and singer; a favorite summer pastime is singing the national anthem for Milwaukee Brewers baseball games. He is a certified facilitator for experiential trainings focused on personal development, including JEDI work addressing power, privilege, and difference through the Mankind Project.

Speaker

John Guerra, NCG

John joined NCG in 2015 and advises co-ops on the planning and implementation of store reinvestment, relocations, and new store projects. John has over 17 years of experience in retail real estate development and asset management with expertise in market & financial analysis, lease negotiation, project development, and portfolio management. 

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JQ Hannah

JQ Hannah is the Assistant Director of the Food Co-op Initiative and specializes in the development of trainings and content to empower startup food co-op organizers to lead in their communities. A deep believer in the power of peer idea sharing and the best innovations coming from those leading in the trenches of the movement, JQ has headed up the expansion of FCI’s peer learning opportunities, from the FCI peer remote learning groups, to the FCI regional DeepDive trainings, to the FCI Live video series. JQ served as the General Manager of Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana, IL from 2006-2015, leading them through two store expansions and five years of being the fastest growing food co-op in the nation. 

Speaker

Katie Novak

From the moment Katie learned about food co-ops she was all in. She jumped in first as a volunteer, later as an employee, and now as a coach (aka consultant). She has made it her mission to support, coach, and empower co-ops. 

Katie has helped co-ops raise over $9,500,000 since she began providing coaching to start-up grocery co-ops in 2017. She began her consulting career after record-breaking success chairing Green Top Grocery Co-op’s (Bloomington, IL) Capital Campaign in 2016. 

In addition to capital campaign services, Katie assists co-ops with owner growth and engagement which includes communication with current and future co-op owners. She also prides herself on being Green Top Grocery’s first employee. As the first employee of an organization, she has a unique perspective about what a new employee needs to be successful and has assisted numerous co-ops in hiring and onboarding their first employee. 

Her work has recently expanded to include grassroots marketing consultation to mission driven organizations. In addition, she has co-founded a sister company called CoApp with Jess Buttimer of Prairie Food Co-op (Lombard, IL). CoApp is a cloud-based owner tracking and fundraising system designed especially for co-ops. CoApp supports cooperation among cooperatives, resulting in data-driven insights including trends, tips & best practices.

Speaker

Leslie Watson

Based in Minneapolis, Leslie Watson has been a member of Columinate’s CBLD (Cooperative Board Leadership Development) team since 2013. In that role, she supports boards of directors in all aspects of governance, from bread-and-butter to spicy and everything in between. She came to this work following a decade of service on the board of the Eastside Food Co-op, which included the thrill of opening the co-op, the anxiety of a financial crisis in the early days of operations, and the eventual joy of achieving stability and growth. Leslie is also a founding organizer and current board president of the Northeast Investment Cooperative, formed to make transformative investments in distressed real estate along her neighborhood’s commercial corridor. She embraces the co-op model and co-op startups as a great way of reshaping our relationships with our communities, and reorienting commerce and industry to serve people and planet ahead of other interests. But she thinks cooperative Scrabble is just wrong.

Speaker

Matthew Ruffi

Matthew bridges the gap between experience and advocacy, channeling his background in corporate leadership towards community-driven initiatives. As the Sr. Project Manager of Link Up Illinois, Ruffi champions efforts to improve food accessibility for Illinoisans throughout the state. Through the Link Match program (which can double the spending power of those receiving SNAP benefits), he helps to not only put additional spending power in the hands of community members most in need, but also to increase spending locally – at farmers markets, farm stands, stores and more. In addition, he serves as the Board President of Chicago Market – A Community Co-op, where he fosters a culture of collaboration and inclusion (instilled in the organization from the previous President, Owners, and Community) as they move toward an open in 2025. Ruffi’s transition from a successful corporate career, including his tenure as the Global COO at Adstream (now XR), to a focus on community development reflects his commitment to impactful change. A self-professed “recovering corporate guy,” he believes in equipping organizations (small and large) with the tools and processes they need to thrive, especially during their formative stages, fostering sustainable success and deep community engagement.

Speaker

Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is the Board President of the Sugar Beet Co-op in Oak Park, IL. He has served in that role since the opening of the co-op in 2015. Peter has been in the food business for over 30 years, holding marketing leadership positions at several innovative companies. He began his career as a Scoop Truck Driver for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and grew to lead all the consumer promotions at the values-driven company. Peter moved on to lead the marketing efforts of Potbelly Sandwich Works and Roti Mediterranean Grill. In 2016, he founded 5th P Marketing, a consultancy focused on small, entrepreneurial restaurants and other companies. A Chicago native, Peter studied Mass Communications at UC Berkeley. He and his wife Karen Steward-Nolan have two daughters.

Speaker

Roderick McCulloch

Roderick McCulloch became a member of the Shared Capital team in 2022. As a part of the lending team his responsibilities include underwriting loan applications, providing ongoing support to borrowers, and collaborating on ways to improve operations. Prior to his time at Shared Capital Cooperative, he spent almost a decade in the food co-op sector filling numerous roles with a focus on improving production, providing supportive leadership, and implementing merchandising strategies. In addition to his tenure at Seward Community Co-op, he spent another decade working in the hospitality industry with small independent food businesses, which developed in him a passion for providing excellent service to others. Roderick earned a BA in Community Recreation and a Masters in Co-operative and Credit Union Management from St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Speaker

Sam McCormick

Sam McCormick is the General Manager at Assabet Co-op Market in Maynard, MA. They were born and raised in Philadelphia and have worn many different hats over the years. In addition to the years managing Mariposa Food Co-op in West Philly, they have spent time in co-op education, green construction, and business management and consulting in a variety of sectors. They are passionate about food sovereignty, anti-racism, and social equity work, and have tried to center these values in all of their pursuits. Sam is thrilled to be back working in the co-op sector and relocated to Massachusetts with their partner three years ago for this work. Sam brought their wealth of experience in co-op management and green construction to the challenge of securing a site and opening Assabet’s store. Now the work of guiding and supporting a thriving open store is here! Sam believes that community support is vital for a successful consumer-owned co-op and strives to continue embedding this in the operations of the open store.

Speaker

Sarah Lebherz

Sarah Lebherz works with Columinate developing pro forma financials for start-up cooperatives. She’s worked at Common Market Co-op in Frederick, MD for over 25 years as Merchandising Manager, General Manager, Project Manager and most recently, Chief Financial Officer. She has been Project Manager for two expansion projects for Common Market during her tenure, including the expansion of the original store and the development of a second store. She has previously served as a member of the Risk Management Committee for the Eastern Corridor of National Cooperative Grocers (NCG).

Speakers

seven roots

seven roots provides store development and design support to food co-ops and independent grocers, with a passion for helping young cooperatives make a difference in their communities. The team delivers store development support and services, including site selection and feasibility, project coordination, store design and programming, prepared foods work, as well as branding, and governance/GM coaching. What’s cool about 7r? The group works collaboratively, bringing their varied backgrounds in cooperatives and store operations into each project. They’ve filled roles on co-op retail floors, admin support, board seats, and on startup teams. Those experiences inform their work with co-ops nationwide. seven roots is proudly worker owned and committed to cooperation! What else? These folks are people people. Please introduce yourselves and your co-op – 7r loves to tackle challenges and connect folks to resources.

Speaker

Siobain Mitchell

Siobain Mitchell is the Finance Manager at Assabet Co-op Market in Maynard, MA. She is also a peer group facilitator & technical assistance provider through FCI and an independent consultant. Siobain loves working with start-ups, and provides financial literacy training for boards, full Stage 2 feasibility assessments, and pro forma financials. Siobain has a certificate in Financial Planning from B.U. and worked as a mortgage loan underwriter prior to taking time off to raise her family and work to organize and open a food co-op in her community.

Speaker

Tamah Yisrael

Tamah Yisrael serves as the Director of Training & Development at Columinate, where she engages directly with communities to bolster organization and empowerment, alongside offering financial management services. A passionate advocate for cultural awareness, social justice, and equitable access to nourishing foods, Tamah is deeply involved in the cooperative movement in New Orleans. In her role as the Education & Outreach Coordinator at Cooperation New Orleans, she focuses on highlighting cooperation as both a cultural expression and a strategic pathway toward Black liberation. She is currently working with cooperative organizers across the country to form the National Association of Black Cooperators. Through active participation in numerous committees and working groups, she contributes to the ongoing efforts to forge a fairer society. She is currently serving on the board of CooperationWorks and previously served as the president of the board of the New Orleans Food Co-op. Drawing on her extensive experience as a business owner, Tamah brings valuable insights and management strategies that enhance organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Particularly noteworthy is her role in facilitating the merger of three community groups into a Worker Self Directed Nonprofit, Builders of the Highway Foundation Inc, paving the way for the establishment of community centers in New Orleans, Miami, and Orlando, FL. Additionally, Tamah and her family have made significant contributions to the cultural and spiritual landscape through their establishment of the Neo Jazz School of Music, Yisrael Edutainment, and their collective efforts in cultural and spiritual organizing.

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

Speakers – 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, and Gilbert Williams

Dismantling a Culture of Individualism.

Speakers – Piper Carter and Paul Wills

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.