Everyone wants to know…
Where is the store going to be?
When can I shop?
Great questions! As you can imagine, there’s a lot that needs to happen before we can open Solano County’s first co-op. Because we want this to be a successful venture for our community, we are following the Food Co-op Initiative’s Guide to Starting a Food Co-op.
Cultivate Community Food Co-op is in its feasibility and planning stage – stage two of three stages. So far, we have incorporated, appointed a board of directors, and convened a steering team with five operating committees to address our planning, financial, marketing, outreach and ownership needs. We are now coordinating initial market research, creating a business plan, and launching our ownership campaign in efforts to reach our goal of selling 1500 owner shares before we open our doors.
DOWNLOAD the Food Co-op Initiative’s COMPLETE GUIDE here or get an overview of the three stages below.
Stage One: Organizing
Organizing commences when one or more people start with an idea to organize a retail food co-op. The organizing stage includes convening a core group, assessing common interest and needs, creating a shared vision, incorporation, building leadership and accountability systems, creating community excitement and support, committing time and money, coordinating initial market research and preliminary feasibility work, developing a membership program, launching a membership campaign, and reaching the Stage I target for membership. The co-op is born and functioning as a member-owned organization!
Stage Two: Feasibility & Planning
There are two aspects of Stage II. The 2a Feasibility component comprises in-depth assessments of market potential, financial feasibility, organizational commitment and capacity, and preliminary design feasibility. The 2b Planning component begins once the probability of feasibility has been determined through a thorough assessment. Planning includes many components, including pro forma financial budgets, the formal business plan, capital campaign planning, initial contacts with external lenders, general manager search, and site selection. The feasibility & planning stage ends when a site has been secured through lease or purchase, with contingencies (e.g., contingent upon obtaining full financing) or with an option agreement. This is a major decision point for the co-op.
Stage Three: Implementation
Implementation begins when the site has been secured (with contingencies) and when there is sufficient capacity in all the cornerstones — vision, talent, capital, and systems — to launch the business operation. Implementation is when all the work you have done so far comes to fruition. It has several components (sub-stages): 3a. Pre-Construction involves site and facility design, development bids (for construction and equipment) and financing (both internal and external). The pre-construction phase ends with a “no turning back” decision point before the close of financing and removal of contingencies. This is the final decision point. 3b. Construction and Renovation entails overseeing construction, equipment acquisition, building business Overview of Starting a Food Co-op 13 relationships, developing merchandising plans, and determining opening orders, store and product promotions, and staffing plans. 3c. Preparation for Opening involves building organizational and operational capacity, and implementing staffing, marketing, and membership program plans. 3d. Sustaining Operations beyond the store opening and the grand opening, includes preparing for the first year and beyond.