Thursday, June 13, 2013

Report from Austin

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in CCMA (the Consumer Cooperative Management Association)'s national conference in Austin, Texas. I would like to offer a great big thank you to CCMA and the Bowers Fund for supporting our startup venture and providing the Richmond Food Co-op with a scholarship to attend!

Taking a tour of our host Wheatsville Food Co-op 

There were roughly 450 people in attendance, representing over 100 co-ops from all over the country. I met representatives from other startups. I met managers of small stores turning million dollar sales out of spaces less than 3000 square feet. I met board members of large co-ops serving tens of thousands of members, with annual profits of over $30 million. I met those who have successfully been through the process of gathering a community together with the shared vision of opening a store. I met others whose communities have a longstanding history of co-ops; whose issues, concerns and successes we are many years away from knowing. There were co-ops for us to aspire to be, and those who can teach us from their lessons learned.

The breadth and scope of this conference speaks to the larger community that we, together, have joined. When you become a member/owner of the Richmond Food Co-op you are making a stand to support our neighborhoods, city and region; you are also becoming a participant in a larger movement. We have been welcomed with open arms into a community dedicated to supporting each other's growth and impact on a larger scale. During Mark Winne's keynote speech he stated, "It's not enough to be good food consumers, you need to be good food citizens." Together this call to action becomes feasible.

A key takeaway for me was that co-ops don't "sell" memberships - they invite people to take action around shared values. There is an authenticity to the cooperative model. Co-ops start - and succeed - because of participation. As member/owners we have an open invitation to participate in a transformative experience. I invite all of you to join the 200+ member/owners of the Richmond Food Co-op in our shared action.

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