TRACK 1: Strengthening the Threads of Democracy
Communicating When Times are Tough
Maggie Sullivan, Board President, Bloomingfoods
Ahzjah Simons, General Manager, Sevananda Natural Foods Market
Moderator: Erin Hancock, Program Manager, Co-operative Management Education, Saint Mary’s University
In this session, leaders from Blooomingfoods and Sevananda Natural Foods Markets will share how they communicated with owner-members, staff members, and the larger community during tough times. We will talk about multiple methods of communication: e-newsletters, forums, articles in local newspapers, social media, tabling, and through informal conversations. Learn how to embrace the idea of staff members as the eyes, ears, and mouthpiece of the organization; they interact with co-op members on a daily basis and they need to be empowered to answer questions and combat rumors. This means making sure staff members know what is happening before it is announced to the general public and making a safe space for staff members to voice their concerns and questions. There will always be hiccups and incidents and things we wish hadn’t been said but with clear communication and a commitment to transparency, a co-op community can move mountains.
Target Audience: Board members, general managers, communications and outreach staff
The Art & the Science of the Board’s Oversight Role
Leslie Watson, Cooperative Board Leadership Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Martha Whitman, Cooperative Board Leadership Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Every food co-op board must grapple with the question of how a rotating cast of 7 or 9 non-grocers can provide effective oversight in a multi-million-dollar organization. The answer typically lies in fully occupying the board’s crucial role as employer of its lone direct report, the General Manager—in other words, figuring out how to be a boss like a boss! The board’s governance role can be a true asset to the co-op when the board nails its supervisory function. Organizing yourself well here promotes an effective culture and sets the tone for the whole organization.
In this workshop, we will explore fresh and familiar ways to think about how a board can delegate authority confidentially, set expectations clearly, and hold the GM fully accountable for the power granted. Through lively discussion, we will also surface the importance of “soft skills,” and what it takes to build a board-GM relationship centered upon communication, collaboration, respect, and appreciation. Join us for tons of helpful tips as well as group exercises to integrate governance theory into successful practice.
Target audience: Board members and general managers
How Do We Know If We Have the Right GM?
Carolee Colter, Consultant and Member, CDS Consulting Co-op
Todd Wallace, Consultant and Member, CDS Consulting Co-op
Our food co-ops, and therefore our boards and managers, are facing new and intense market pressures–increasing competition, disruptive innovation, shifting consumer desires, renewed calls for social and economic justice–that put stress and strain on our beloved organizations and their people. Often the issues are not just financial. Boards may be hearing a steady drumbeat of complaints from stakeholders–staff, owners, customers, neighbors or the larger community. Perhaps key folks are leaving the organization, and distrust begins to grow between the GM and certain directors. In this environment, board members may start to ask: Do we have confidence in our leader? How do we know if we have the right GM? In this session, participants will learn to recognize the indicators for whether the GM is the right person for the situation, the board’s role in management accountability and support, and how to handle typical scenarios that could lead the board to question whether they have the right GM.
Target audience: Boards of Directors, General Managers and prospective GMs
Co-op Café: Everyone can Shop at the Co-op
Many co-ops post a message above their door that says, “Everybody can shop at the co-op!” Yet it takes real work and commitment to go beyond words and extend an authentic sense of welcome. Building on the past several years of national conversations at the Co-op Cafe, we focus on understanding how co-ops can actively create a sense of hospitality and welcome to all who would join or shop. In this session, we will deepen our understanding of the different motivations and needs of the people we seek to serve. We will consider barriers that co-ops may unintentionally create, and explore how our organizational culture, product line, and customer experience can contribute to genuine welcome for everybody.
Target audience: Boards of Directors, General Managers, staff
Creating a New Tapestry for Change
Competition arrived in Davis, California and the co-op struggled to respond. Although these outside forces created pressure, multiple organizational weaknesses caused internal strife and crisis. This case study will share Davis Food Co-op’s story of rebuilding our staff, store and community through the courageous leadership of our board and general manager. This session explores some of the steps that Davis Food Co-op took on its road to recovery and how it laid the groundwork for change: improving board management communication, updating/re-writing ends, policies and by-laws, strategic planning, and active engagement with our rapidly diversifying owner community. Attendees will learn about the importance of board self-evaluation, alignment with owners, and how to strengthen the board as a whole.
Target Audience: Board members and managers
Track 2: Cooperative Innovation and Growth
Developing a Culture of Innovation to Tackle Major Societal Issues
Mark Goehring, Manager, CDS Consulting Co-op
Jon McDonald, Worker Owner, Bread Baker, Board Chair, Weaver Street Market
Ruffin Slater, General Manager, Weaver Street Market
Weaver Street Market aims to create A vibrant, sustainable food marketplace i n which global warming is reversed, everyone has enough healthy food to eat, and food service workers make it economically. Weaver Street uses a culture of innovation to develop co-op solutions to major societal issues. Learn how it has leveraged co-op to co-op trade, eliminated single use bags, developed its own healthy products, and prioritized worker wellbeing. Weaver Street’s culture of innovation is enabled by a governance system that drives progress without getting sidetracked and losing momentum. Learn about its unique approach which is grounded in worker and consumer ownership and invites owners to be champions. Attendees will leave inspired to tackle major societal issues by building a culture of innovation and tapping the power of worker and consumer ownership.
Target Audience: Board members, managers, co-op staff
Out of the Box Financing Strategies: Creative Thinking About Debt and Cash Flow
Michael Gorman, Past Board President, Green Top Grocery
Nathan Hixson, Director of Lending & Operations, Local Enterprise Assistance Fund
Don Moffitt, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Brenda Pfahnl, Director of Programs, Shared Capital Cooperative
David Schallich, Senior Vice President, National Cooperative Bank
What can a co-op do when it is perpetually tight on cash, under-capitalized, bound to an uncooperative or inflexible lender, or having trouble managing the administration of all their member loans? How does a co-op come up with “out of the box” thinking to find creative solutions to these types of financial problems, and who should be designing the solution for your co-op? This session will explore how co-op GM’s, Boards of Directors, technical assistance providers, and cooperative lenders can work together in building strategies for a long-term financial stability.
All food co-ops, and especially newer ones, can face complex financial choices because of weak sales, turnover, competition etc. In this session we will explore the concepts food cooperative managers and board members need to consider while working with other stakeholders to reset or improve the financial performance and capitalization of the co-op. We will examine a few mini case studies and leave plenty of time for Q&A.
Target Audience: board members, GM’s, development professionals and lenders
Thinking Strategically About Expansion Opportunities
David Blackburn, Director of Store Development, NCG Development Co+operative
Jenn Hileman, Co-op Development Team Program Manager, National Co+op Grocers
Dave Olson, Senior Director of Co-op Development, National Co+op Grocers
In this interactive workshop, participants will learn how to better assess the feasibility and benefits of different growth and expansion opportunities. Using key filters like market analysis, financial return on investment, alignment with brand, internal capacity, and opportunity cost, participants will get tools for ensuring that opportunities are appropriately vetted and that co-ops proceed fully aware of risk and reward. We will consider several common approaches that have not been working well for co-ops and discuss key factors have contributed to failure. We will also review recent successful ventures outside of multi-store expansions to see why they worked and what was necessary to ensure success. Finally, we will present reasons why traditional expansion may still be the best alternative for co-ops, while acknowledging key factors essential to success in today’s market.
Target Audience: board members and co-op staff
Pets, Wine, and Co-ops: Capitalizing on your Co-op’s Strengths for Unconventional Growth Opportunities
This case study explores what it takes to stay relevant in a competitive landscape. Depending on the local market, cost, and economy, opening a second grocery store may not be the best way to grow. Over the years, Boise Co-op has taken some unconventional paths on its journey to growth including opening a wine shop, a natural pet food market, and finally a wine bar! Topics covered include: Financial Analysis, SWOT analysis, Community Engagement, Board and Staff messaging, Operational Execution, Relationship to Ends Policies. Presenters will share their step-by-step analysis of the decision-making process and the outside-the-box techniques taken towards making a big organizational move. Participants will also walk away with the framework to look at their operation critically and identify opportunities for growth.
Target Audience: Co-op Strategic Thinkers; Board members, co-op staff, managers
The Joy and Value of Project Management: Organizing and Communicating With Owners and Employees During Co-op Growth
Lindsey Hardy, Store Director – West, Willy Street Co-op
Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director, Willy Street Co-op
Is your co-op growing? Are you planning an expansion? If so, do you have a project manager and communication strategy for successful growth? Strong project management and communication strategies allows for all stakeholder voices to be heard and realized while meeting your project goals, schedules, and budgets. In order to truly grow your cooperative, your owners, employees, and the community need to be invited to grow along with the cooperative: they are the reason for your Co-op’s success. Since 2010, Willy Street Co-op has gone from one store to three with two remodels along the way. Join us to learn from our mistakes and successes, and find out what project management tips and tricks we’ve picked up on the ride: what it takes to get from research to planning to implementation, what project management templates we’ve developed and now use for almost all co-op projects, and how we have improved our communication with owners and employees throughout this decade of growth. Growth is exciting, and with careful planning and some simple forward thinking at the beginning and throughout, you can make your projects exciting and accessible to everyone.
Target Audience: Managers
TRACK 3: Inspired To Lead
Communication: “Nobody Tells Me Anything”
Since Boise Co-op’s first company-wide staff survey in 2011, and the three surveys since, one piece of criticism is consistent: staff were unhappy with the lack of communication in the organization. The management team felt like they were communicating well, but the survey results told a different story. Realizing there was no silver-bullet solution, the Boise Co-op leadership team took a multi-pronged approach to communication, continuing to evaluate their effectiveness and look for ways to improve it.
Over the last several years, they’ve reevaluated existing (and implemented new) communication systems, including but not limited to: store huddles, log books, departments huddles, check-ins, annual all staff meetings, employee newsletter, weekly department manager meetings, posting timely minutes, and more. Google Drive and the Boise Co-op Intranet are the latest moves toward improved organization-wide communication. These systems incorporate technology as much as possible, while still valuing face to face interactions and good-old fashioned paper when appropriate.
Workshop participants will learn ways to quickly improve to their own communication systems, whether or not they have the capacity to invest in something like an organization-wide intranet. This workshop will cover what worked, what didn’t, and areas where they still need improvement.
Target Audience: Co-op staff and managers
Mentoring Makes Co-ops Great
Brittany Baird, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Dan Gillotte, General Manager, Wheatsville Food Co-op and Consultant at CDS Consulting Co-op
Pam Mehnert, General Manager, Outpost Natural Foods and Consultant at CDS Consulting Co-op
Join us as we explore the power of formal and informal mentorship to weave resilient support systems in developing cooperative leadership. Current General Managers and CDS coaches, Dan Gillotte of Wheatsville Co-op, Pam Mehnert of Outpost Natural Foods Co-op, join GM Coach Brittany Baird of CDS Consulting to discuss the impact that mentorship can have in strengthening the leadership of general managers in our sector.
Through our unique shared value of cooperation, the legacy of our co-op heroes, and our ability to organize cooperatively, we have created a web of support that enables us to access the expertise of our peers and uplift our co-ops. Attendees will walk away with a deeper understanding of how to participate in the interconnectedness of our communities both as a mentee and a mentor. We all have something of value to offer our peers and the opportunity to learn from those who have come before us.
Target Audience: Primarily boards and GMs in need of mentoring support or just general peer support.
Nicole Klimek, Director of Design, seven roots
Heather Lazickas, Marketing + Brand Development Manager, seven roots
Co-op staff are the heart and soul of the co-op shopping experience. Great hiring is a first step, but through training, empowerment and education you can help your staff to create the most critical piece of our co-ops’ branding – unique and powerful experiences for every shopper.
What should they know? The core values of the co-op. How to show up at work. Best practices for handling sticky customer interactions. To watch for opportunities to make someone’s day. Brand standards in the store. How to talk about the competition, and when it’s time to hand off a conversation to a manager.
Armed with the right tools, your staff will feel like they can take on the co-op’s world with confidence and joy, and spread that positivity to everyone walking through your doors. Learn techniques and get tools to cultivate brand ambassadors within your store to help staff live their co-op brand, even at the post office.
Target Audience: general managers, front end staff, co-op staff interacting with members.
Stay Interviews: a fresh idea and practical tool for retaining your best people
In a tight labor market, many co-ops are struggling to retain staff long enough to pay back the investment made in training them. Not all turnover is negative but losing high-potential staff really hurts productivity and morale. We’ve all heard of exit interviews. While you can learn important information from systematically querying departing staff, there’s even more value to be had from talking to people before they decide to leave. The stay interview signals to the employee that they’re important and that you care, informs you of the factors they consider when deciding to whether to leave, and creates an opportunity to set developmental goals that encourage them to stay and thrive. We’ll also present the weekly work plan, a tool for carrying out the goals that come out of the stay interview.
Target Audience: Anyone with supervisory responsibilities
Renew, Review, Repeat: Creating a Culture of Continual Improvement at Belfast Co-op
In 2015, sales growth and member participation at Belfast co-op had nearly crawled to a standstill when they abruptly lost their tenured General Management Team. Over the next 3 years, Belfast turned the status quo upside down and transformed its organization from a culture of institutional apathy to a culture of continual improvement. This workshop will explore Belfast’s story and what it takes to inspire and engage our workers to lead positive organizational change. We will discuss strategies food co-ops can use to create a long-term commitment to creative innovation and adaptive problem solving. This workshop will demonstrate the positive effects that investing resources in your staff, your facility, and your leadership can bring when grounded in a dedication to shared values. This workshop will be particularly useful for seasoned co-ops with legacy cultures that are holding them back from realizing their full potential. Attendees will leave the workshop with strategies to foster a high-performance cooperative culture that will help set up their organization long term success and accomplishment of their ends.
Target Audience: General Managers, Management staff, Board Members
Track 4: Weaving the Future Co-op Community
Everyone Welcome: Personal Narratives about Race and Foods Co-ops
Jade Barker, co-op consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Patricia Cumbie, co-op consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
The authors of Everyone Welcome? Personal Narratives about Race and Food Co-ops believe that bridging the racial divide starts with sharing personal stories as a path to understanding and problem-solving the race-related inequities that plague our organizations today. They know conversations about race are not always easy. That’s why coaching people to become more skilled at having authentic dialogue will create opportunities for growth and empathy. It’s the first step toward generating ideas and solutions at the heart of social change.
In this participatory workshop, people will join in activities designed to encourage productive conversations about race that build on active listening skills and respect each person’s contribution. We will discuss what it means to be “welcome” and participants will also learn about the paths of racial discovery sparked by this narrative project. You’ll leave with tools for facilitating your own conversations supporting greater equity in co-ops and stronger community relationships.
Target Audience: Everyone
Addressing Implicit Bias: Training Alone Doesn’t Work
Darnell Adams, Trainer, Consultant, Firebrand Cooperative
Bonnie Hudspeth, Member Programs Manager, Neighboring Food Co-op Association
The relevance of our Co-op movement, now and into the future, requires us to learn from our past and embrace changes that make us more inclusive and representative of our communities. Training is a tool to reach this end, but training is not the destination. Learn strategies for naming and addressing bias to help your Co-op run a better business and improve how you serve and represent your whole community. Learn how understanding the aspects of power, which maintains the status quo, gives you the key to creating a culture, designing systems, and implementing policies to align your Co-op more closely with Co-operative Values and Principles.
This workshop will feature activities to create an awareness of implicit bias to address the challenges of white privilege and dominant culture to help your Co-op be a more relevant and competitive business. Learn from case studies and each other so you can assess and plan how to make your Co-op truly more inclusive.
Target Audience: Board Members, General Managers
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion: Success Through Transformative Collaborations Between Operations & The Board
Melissa Morin, Board Chair, Bellingham Food Coop
Ana Cecilia Lopez, Board Director, Board Development Committee Chair, Strategic Planning Committee Chair, Bellingham Food Coop
Ryan Peters, Board Director, Bellingham Food Co-op
While diversity was an ongoing objective embedded within the Strategic Plan, Bellingham Community Food Co-op continued to fall short through the years. And ultimately, it took an accusation of mistreatment to focus our full attention on this goal. From the Board perspective, the Community Food Co-op’s response took two main paths to achieve change: 1) how to best support operations and 2) how best to address our governance work. Panelists will share their reflections on how courage to confront social and institutionalized white privilege and supremacy fosters the creation of spaces where diversity can truly flourish. The panelists will address some of the decisions and events that invited the community to share data that informed changes to our Strategic Plan Goals and board policies. We will share the follow up work, new initiatives, and restructuring of old initiatives to reinforce the newly articulated EDI goals and values. The panel will also address some of the challenges and difficulties faced in a primarily white board to have difficult conversations related to race, equity & inclusion, even with the most progressive members.
Target Audience: Board Members, General Managers
What Just Happened? Micro-Aggressions and Implicit Bias
Jade Barker, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Jamila Medley, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
LaDonna Sanders Redmond, Diversity and Community Engagement Manager, Seward Co-op
Ray Williams, Operations Manager, Seward Co-op
The term “micro-aggression” refers to brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults towards women, people of color and other marginalized identity groups. Those who inflict micro-aggressions are often unaware that they have done anything to harm another person. While they may be delivered without conscious choice of the user, they have the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination.
Increased attention to diversity, equity and inclusion at co-ops has led to an increase in staff of color, women, Trans persons and gender fluid people. In some instances, our newest staff are the targets of micro aggressive speech or actions. Yet, micro-aggressions at co-ops are not new for staff or customers of color that have longer relationships with co-ops. This panel will examine how and why we engage in micro-aggressions and the impact this behavior has on its people with marginalized identities and co-op environments. We will also discuss the role that micro aggression plays in retention of people carrying multiple identities. Participants will also learn a variety of methods of interrupting and intervening in micro-aggressive behavior and the importance of doing so.
Target Audience: Everyone
Tools & Tales: Building More Inclusive Food Co-ops
Alexis Alexander, Membership Manager, GreenStar Cooperative Market
Bonnie Hudspeth, Member Programs Manager, Neighboring Food Co-op Association
Emily Rogers, Member Education Manager, Hanover Co-op
How can we work to ensure our food co-ops’ doors are open to all people, “without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination,” keeping with the Principles of the International Co-operative Alliance? This starts by identifying who we’re excluding, then taking action to be more welcoming, recognizing that we are better—and more successful and relevant—when we are more inclusive, when we lift one another up. Join us to explore the Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s work with our member co-ops to address how we can better serve our communities in these times of political, social, and economic division. We’ll share tools for self-assessment, steps to expand access programs, models for peer auditing, and the resulting community impact and Co-op success. We’ll dig into case studies from two food co-ops with innovations to programs designed to better serve and reflect their communities:
- GreenStar Co-op’s evolution in building a more welcoming co-op by deepening relationships with key community partners, increasing Staff and Board diversity, and broadening the scope of their healthy food access program.
- Hanover Co-op’s impact from their innovative SNAP Incentives “Double Up Food Bucks” Program, and what it added to their existing healthy food access programs.
Target Audience: Food Co-op Board Members, General Managers, and Staff (Marketing/Outreach/Membership).
TRACK 5: Be the Best Retailer
The Year of Self Care: A Co-op Competitive Advantage
Emily Kaster, Health and Body Care Manager, Linden Hills Co-op
Rebecca Lee, Director of Purchasing and Merchandising, Twin Cities Co-op Partners
Jessica Pierce, Director of Marketing and Sales, Twin Cities Co-op Partners
The wellness market is now valued at $4.2 trillion and has seen 12.8% growth in the last two years. Co-ops have been pioneers in wellness and with these trends, it’s an opportunity to highlight our vast product selection, quality, and staff expertise to drive traffic into our stores. Like many co-ops, the Wedge and Linden Hills Co-op have been executing wellness days – 10% off all wellness products once a month. It’s a turnkey program that encourages loyalty and retention with current customers but doesn’t typically drive new acquisition. Through collaborative quarterly planning sessions, comprised of marketing, purchasing, and wellness managers, the Wedge and Linden Hills built an annual plan that took the top wellness trends – CBD, mushrooms, collagen proteins, essential oils, and skin care and built programs that not only drove new acquisition, but broke store sales records in ways we could have never imagined. Through our Wellness Weekend sale, we had record sales at both of our stores – our largest sales in four decades – bigger than Thanksgiving, bigger than Christmas! In this interactive presentation, you will receive a road map and several cases studies to guide your co-op in building profitable wellness programs.
Target audience: Marketing, Purchasing, Merchandising, General Managers
Next Steps to Greatness in Produce & Prepared Foods: Planning for Your Renovation or New Store Project
Mark Mulcahy, Owner, Organic Options
Allen Seidner, Principal, Thought for Food Consulting
Dreaming your new project into reality won’t cut the mustard or sell the kale. It takes a solid plan and a lot preparation to have your project turn out as well as you imagine. In an age with endless and powerful competition the success of your store’s fresh produce and prepared foods operations is vital. Knowing the process, timeline and steps to optimally size and design them is essential – and, even more so when you consider their labor and equipment costs. Overbuild and you’ll be paying for unnecessary fixtures, and labor to staff them. Under build and you’ll underserve your member shoppers, spend excessively on labor to manage inventory, and leave sales on the table for competitors. Allen Seidner and Mark Mulcahy will share tips, tools and case studies from their decades of helping co-ops develop and implement project planning processes that turn dream remodel and new store plans into successful realities. Join us for an interactive and empowering 90-minute session that’s guaranteed to dispel your fears and leave you confident of mastering plans for moving your important projects forward.
Target audience: General Managers, store and operations managers, produce and prepared foods leaders
Surviving the Food or Product Recall
Michael Droke, Partner Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Rebecca Bernhard, Partner, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Your GM sees it on TV – someone claims there was an issue with a product, and the calls have already begun. Nothing keeps processors and store managers up at night more than the specter of a recall. Consequences can be devastating. What should you do to protect your cooperative from this event? How do you handle a crisis when it arrives? This panel will evaluate the risks of food recall, how to prevent the need for it, when and how it must be initiated, and managing the brand challenge. The encounters faced during a recall can be stressful and fast moving. Having a plan in place and a team of co-op management, media consultant and an experienced attorney ready helps alleviate some of this stress.
Target Audience: Board members, cooperative management
Sizing up the Competition: A Strategic Approach to Competing in Your Market
Selling groceries has changed – really changed. Whether you’re a new co-op or one that’s been around the block for a few decades, determining how to compete and stand out among other grocers in your market can be really challenging. This workshop will examine the competitive landscape many co-ops face and offer some strategies, ideas, and approaches to carve out your co-op’s market niche. Outpost Natural Foods general manager will set the stage by demonstrating how to analyze your competitors’ strengths and discuss how a cross-functional team approach can spark some new ways of thinking. Participants will also learn about the impacts of regular “loyalty programming and campaigns” and the value it can create. Outpost’s director of brand and store development will discuss strategic partnerships, how to make friends with the media, and designing a blueprint to help you build sales, loyalty and community awareness of your co-op.
Target audience: co-op general managers, marketing managers/marketing staff, co-op and community relations staff
When the Tapestry Begins to Fray: Case Studies of Two Recent Food Co-op Closures
Maggie Cohn, Southeast New England Loan Outreach Officer, Cooperative Fund of New England
Wynston Estis, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Rose Marie Klee, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Dave Olson, Senior Director of Co-op Development, National Co+op Grocers
Ed Whitfield, Co-Managing Director, Fund for Democratic Communities
In recent months, both Harvest Cooperative Markets in Boston/Cambridge and Renaissance Food Cooperative in Greensboro, NC, have closed. One was a mature co-op and one a start-up: Harvest was formed by the merging of the Cambridge Food Co-op and the Boston Food Co-op in 1992. Both the Boston Co-op and the Cambridge Co-op were established in the 1970s. Renaissance Community Cooperative opened in October 2016.
While the development and trajectories of these two cooperatives were different, we see similarities in some of the issues that led each co-op to close. There are also differences in the timings of the closures, and in the way each closure was handled. Initial analysis indicates that, despite their differences, both stores failed to maintain adequate sales or to sustain large and loyal memberships; both have identified problems tied to their management and both had boards composed of good, committed people but not necessarily people with the skills to oversee a GM or a struggling food co-op.
Panelists will share their initial analyses and ask audience participants to share their insights, with the goal of leaving the session with an understanding of warning signs and a short roster of recommendations for the future.
Target audience: Board, staff and managers, as we try to unpack what went wrong, what might have been avoided, and what co-ops should notice as “red flags” to keep their stores and membership healthy and profitable.
TRACK 6: Everyone Welcome
Delighting Customers and Building Community
Keely Aubert, Store Director, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op
Liz McMann, Marketing Services Manager, National Co+op Grocers
Prasanna Regmi, General Manager, Davis Food Co-op
We know that at their most basic level, co-ops exist to provide goods or services that individuals can’t access easily through other means. Throughout history co-ops have given customers affordable access natural foods, often accommodating a variety of dietary preferences and needs. Today co-ops continue to try to meet all these needs– and create an experience that connects us. We create and provide shoppers access to experiences that connect them to local farmers, vendors, and to the community.
Creating connections and playing a vital role within the community is a critical mission for nearly all co-ops, and this looks different from one market to the next. We can’t have meaning connections to the communities around our co-ops if we can’t meet the shopping needs of individuals within these communities. Before we can create a deeper connection that resonates with shoppers, they need to be able to say conclusively: I am welcome here. The co-op has what I am looking for. The co-op staff make it easy for me. I enjoy shopping here.
In this session, attendees will learn about NCG’s recent new consumer research as well as the early results of the new customer experience program. Panelists will share their experiences in better serving customers and making their co-ops more welcoming to all members of their community.
Target audience: GMs, HR, Communications, Owner Services, Purchasing, the Front End.
Annual Meetings: The Good, Better, Best of Celebration and Business
What role do annual meetings play in a co-op’s overall strategy of owner/member engagement and participation? What are the ingredients of a memorable annual meeting? How can co-op leaders craft a balanced mix of an inviting, celebratory atmosphere and informative business reporting?
In this workshop we’ll focus our attention on the Hendersonville Community Co-op’s experience and efforts over many years to answer these questions for themselves. HCC has experimented with several innovative ideas, from serious to silly, some that turned out to be duds and many that were dynamite. One or more of these ideas could very well be the catalyst that sparks other co-ops’ next innovations.
Along with the one case study, we’ll broaden our attention to incorporate the experiences and ideas of all participants in the workshop – demonstrating along the way a handful of diverse tools and techniques for creating large-group meetings in which everyone can fully participate.
Target audience: Board members, staff and managers
Living the Commitment of “Everyone Welcome”
Davis Hodge, Operations Manager, Durham Co-op Market
Raafe Purnsley, Community Outreach Coordinator, Durham Co-op Market
Cris Rivera, HR Manager, Durham Co-op Market
This session explores Durham Co-op Market’s initiative to create an equitable and supportive store culture for staff and customers alike. In this presentation, we will discuss a local food co-op predecessor, what we learned from their mistakes and how we’ve intentionally chosen to move forward in a climate where food co-ops must evolve to survive. In a city with a rich history of both innovation and community tension, we openly acknowledge shortcomings and welcome dialogue. Using our stories, participants will receive ideas for what they can do to pursue a similar authentic initiative at their co-op and in their community. We acknowledge that “Everyone Welcome” has inherent limitations, but we choose to use it as a jumping off point. Our key to having a dynamic workplace and welcoming gathering space is the intentional diversity of our staff and leadership, not limited by race, class, language, gender, or gender identity. And we recognized that diversity and even inclusion are not the end points if we do not invest in the staff development needed for this diversity to be sustainable and not just window-dressing.
Target Audience: Co-op staff and managers
So You Think You Know Engagement Strategy? Think Again. A Case Study and Hands-On Workshop for Food Co-ops Looking to Grow
Amanda Charland, Member Services and Outreach Director, Hanover Co-op
Cindy Johnson, Consultant, Beth Saunders Associates
Beth Saunders, Founder & Principal, Beth Saunders Associates
What is engagement strategy? It’s the way you increase the depth of the relationship your members and customers (and other stakeholders, too!) have with your cooperative. Many organizations equate ad campaigns, blogs, discount programs, promotions, events and similar outreach and marketing activities with an engagement strategy. Yet there are important differences between the tactical programs and outreach you implement – and your engagement strategy. One important difference is: engagement strategy considers your members’ motivations and expectations and invites them to act in ways they prefer. Two years ago, Hanover Co-op recognized this. They we were often operating on auto-pilot: running programs yet feeling bogged down in the day-to-day and growing less rapidly than they wanted. Though they’ve been in business for over 80 years with 24,000 members and over $70 million in sales annually, they realized they were losing sight of the co-op’s longer-term vision, and of the varied customers who could help them get there.
Join us to hear the Hanover’s story and to learn about the positive impact of having an engagement strategy. We will reinforce these ideas through hands-on exercises working on three key components of an effective engagement strategy. You’ll leave with a clear understanding of the differences between outreach and engagement strategy, why having one is important, and what it includes.
Target Audience: Co-op leadership, Co-op member services and outreach management, and board members
Authentic Community: Leveraging relationships to grow your store
Nicole Klimek, Director of Design, seven roots
Heather Lazickas, Marketing + Brand Development Manager, seven roots
Break down barriers and co-op stigma by working with your neighbors. Partnering with local businesses and community organizations puts the co-op front and center with new audiences and widens your net more effectively than any advertisement. Partnerships take time, labor, energy, creativity, systems-building, and frustration. But it’s worth every bit. Partnerships are like compounding interest. Invest a little up front, earn huge dividends. By partnering with other organizations with different audiences, the co-op gains access to people in your community who: will never come to the co-op on their own, don’t know if the co-op is for them, and don’t know – or care – that the co-op exists. Co-ops have few avenues to reach those people. BUT all those people are involved with or patronizing something else. Authentic connections work. Learn why, how, and who’s doing it, and leave with ideas to make it work for you. In this session, attendees will learn how to identify organizations you can partner with and how to establish those relationships. Each attendee will leave with fresh inspiration for strategically building community through their co-op, with a jump start on ideas specific to their store and their community, as well as a plan for getting other staff and managers on board.
Target Audience: Marketing and outreach staff, managers