Grow Mustard Seed, Grow!

So much has been happening with the development of The Mustard Seed lately! Since our exciting meeting at Radius Café in August we have started to activate our 60 volunteers in one or more of the development Action Teams. Here is a synopsis of what each team has been identifying as key tasks/research areas. Would you like to help with one of these teams? Send us an email to let us know which team.

Membership Action Team – The big news is that we set a date for our Membership Launch Event on Thursday, November 29th! The location is still TBD but please mark this date on your calendar. Membership shares will be $100 and mean that you are a part-owner in the co-op, with a role in reshaping our local food system. Our goal is to have 800 members by the time we open in May 2013. The membership team will be focusing on making the launch event into an awesome happening, with a media blitz beforehand to extend our reach and lots of outreach events after to get The Mustard Seed message into the community. So far this energetic team has been at three festivals promoting The Mustard Seed, and to date we have over 400 supporters on our monthly email list. Thanks to a generous grant from Carrot Cache, we are also working with Factor[e] on a logo and branding for the co-op – so stay tuned!

Location Action Team– Interestingly, this is our smallest team with the big job of finding the right home for the co-op. We have narrowed down our focus to around 10 possible spaces – although new ideas keep sprouting! We’ve created a matrix for reviewing potential locations based on qualities such as Size, Loading space, Historical/Design Opportunity, Proximity to Members, Lease rate, and opportunity to be a Catalyst for Change in a neighbourhood. We will keep you updated as the list gets shorter!

Map showing some of the potential store locations (question marks), supporters, and existing supermarkets (yellow) and grocery stores (blue).

Financial Action Team – The finance team has been busy reviewing our Business Plan and looking at different financing scenarios for start-up capital. Much of what we know is based on the recent experience of other co-ops, such as West End Food Co-op & Citizen’s Co-op as well as tools from CDS Consulting Co-op. Our wonderful team is looking into community loans for part of our startup vs. full financing by members. Thanks to a generous donation from On Co-op, we were able to hire a food lawyer to help us with our Articles of Incorporation, requirements for loan development, and all the other legal bits we need to open the store.

Sourcing Action Team – Our largest team of 18 is responsible for the huge task of deciding what will stock our shelves. They will be looking at responses to our online survey (with its over 1,000 respondents) and also looking into our cupboards for an analysis of what food our members actually buy – and would like to be able to buy. The sourcing team will start by deciding on the qualities we are looking for in our food choices – such as locally-produced, organic or sustainably-grown, reduced packaging, non-GMO, ethically-sourced, etc.  The team has started looking at how other innovative grocery stores have undergone the sourcing process – like In.gredients in Austin who has a 100% in season/local and zero packaging policy, Karma Co-op in Toronto with a non-GMO policy, and The People’s Supermarket in the UK with a zero waste policy, among many others.

Our Sourcing Action team is deciding the criteria and food values of The Mustard Seed

Operations Action Team – This team will be looking into the nuts and bolts of the store – how will we deal with packaging, point of sale systems, refrigeration, shelving & bulk systems, etc. A few of the priorities that have been set out by the team include being able to chart food miles for our products, a sustainability ethos through all decision making, and reduced/zero waste. We hope that our location will be able to support a kitchen to help value-add products from farmers and reduce food waste. We’ll also look into composting, connecting with local gardens/farms and various food delivery options.

Human Resources Action Team – The HR group is starting by defining the values of the cooperative that would influence hiring for staff and a general manager. We are looking at starting with 4-6 staff + a general manager, and doubling that number by the end of the first year. Besides writing job descriptions and helping with the hiring process, the HR team will be looking at what role volunteers can have in the co-op and other social enterprise partnerships and youth job training.

Lastly, the STARTOFF Competition – As you can see, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes for The Mustard Seed. We look forward to the Membership Launch Event on November 29th. In the meantime, we are in the STARTOFF competition by Hamilton’s Innovation Factory. Please vote for us online 5x per day through the end of October to help us get into the top 10.  We’ll win one of the 10 prizes valued at $16,000 in services.  We have been holding at 13th for the past week, so please tell your friends and vote for us every day through the end of the month!

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