Presenting: The Mustard Seed Kitchen!

It’s here! It’s finally here! We’ve got our in-store kitchen up and running, with the all proper gadgets and gizmos needed to bake pies, pickle beets, ferment cabbage, and pursue whatever other kitchen adventures might be up the collective Mustard Seed sleeve. KitchenSo we’ve got two questions for you:

1) WHAT DO YOU WANT TO LEARN?

Maybe there is something you’ve always wanted to do: can your own tomatoes, make your own cheese, or ferment some amazing kombucha! There are an unlimited number of skills present in our community, but we want to focus on the ones that capture your interest! Comment on this post, or on Facebook, with some of the things you’re excited to learn about. You can also email your ideas to info@mustardseed.coop. We’ll gather that info, look for themes, and develop workshops based on your interests!

2) WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE?

This kitchen is a collective effort, where we hope learning, sharing, and growing will take place. As a grocery store that values community, we recognize that there are many voices, talents, gifts, and passions within our member and customer base, and we want to expand and highlight those as best we can. If you have a skill you’d like to share in a workshop setting, or know someone who does, please fill out this form, so it can be submitted to the Mustard Seed Kitchen Action Team. Here’s the link to the form: http://tinyurl.com/o29cy2o Lastly, we’re looking for a handful of people to join the Mustard Seed Kitchen Action Team. If all this talk of workshops and skill-sharing gives you excitement deep in your bones, and you have 2-3 hours a week to lend a hand, please let us know! We’re looking for some help with organizing, scheduling, feedback, followup, and other administrative tasks like that. You can email info@mustardseed.coop, or comment on Facebook, to let us know of your interest. Please spread the word about all this, and as we gather more information, workshops will be announced on our website and Facebook page – stay tuned!

What a Party! Members Flock to Co-op Launch

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Wow.

The Mustard Seed Co-op launched our membership drive last week at Hamilton’s Central Library. A diverse crowd of over 300 eager Hamilton-area residents gathered, united by their common passion for local food. After one week, 175 households have joined the Co-op by buying a $100 membership. An additional $25,000 has been loaned to the Co-op so far by members. The time is right, Hamilton is definitely ready for The Mustard Seed.

The spirit of cooperation was evident throughout the evening, with dozens of volunteers from various Action Teams working together to make every aspect of the event connect.  There was plenty of local cheese, hundreds of cupcakes, and hip “Beet the System” t-shirts for sale.  New members took home striking “Founding Member” cards and tiny mustard seedlings!

Join + Share

Our ambitious goal is to have 400 members by the end of 2012 so join today!  You can win a beautiful local food gift basket: simply refer the most members by December 31st and you will win this excellent selection valued at $100.

Looking for a unique and meaningful Christmas present that will create lasting change? Give a  Co-op membership to someone you love (please  indicate that it is a gift on the membership form and we will send a special message to the recipient).

Are you a blogger? Highlight The Mustard Seed in your blog, let us know, and each month we will draw from recent bloggers for a free t-shirt.

Do you like hosting parties? Host a membership info night; we will come to share about the Co-op with your friends and sign up new members. There are so many ways to get the word out, so be creative!

Invest in Your Co-op

The overwhelming response to The Mustard Seed crystallizes our commitment to making local, organic, and wholesome food readily available. However, in order to move forward we need approximately $450,000 in capitalization funds. The Co-op offers competitive returns on loans of $1,000 or more. Investing in the Co-op allows you to align your values with your finances, strengthening our local economy and our local food system while building a business committed to community development.

Together, we can change our food system, improve our health, and establish a viable non-profit business benefiting our local economy.  Tell everyone you can. Share your passion for local food, and we’ll realize this dream even sooner than we thought possible. And once again, thank you to everyone for making the Launch Party such an amazing experience!

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Growing a Co-op takes All of Us!

Lots of wonderful people signed up for Action Teams on Monday to help The Mustard Seed become a reality – and you can too!

We had a fantastic turnout for The Mustard Seed event on Monday night at the new Radius Cafe on James South. Over 40 Mustard Seed supporters came to hear about our progress and join Volunteer Action Teams. An amazing energy filled the cafe that night! For those of you who couldn’t make it, below is a summary of our discussion.

We introduced the concept of co-ops. Almost everyone had belonged to a consumer co-op like Mountain Equipment Co-op (10% of Canadians are MEC members) or a credit union,  but most had never been to a retail food co-op. This is not surprising, since the closest store to Hamilton is 60km away and there are only 7 retail storefront co-ops in Ontario; however, with 14 food co-ops emerging in Ontario we are definitely on to something! We also watched this great little 2-minute animation about food co-ops (Why Do I Shop at the Co-op?):

Click on the image to enlarge the timeline!

We talked about the co-op principles and the motivations behind starting The Mustard Seed. Graham also shared some of our recent progress (see the  time line), including the promotions we have done at the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic (60 new people signed up for our email list), Locke Street Festival (25 new people signed up), Gage Park Community Garden event, and this weekend’s Supercrawl. We’re super-excited to give away Mustard Seed buttons this weekend so come and find us Saturday afternoon amongst the crowds on James North.

In between community engagement, we have developed a comprehensive business plan and visited more co-ops in Michigan and Illinois; we’ve now visited or interviewed about 30 food co-ops. We’ve also applied for 2 grants towards upcoming membership campaign expenses.

The Mustard Seed booth at the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic

Click on the QR code to sign up to help on one of our Action Teams

We introduced the strategy for raising start-up capital through member-owner shares & preferred member loans, along with a draft outline of capital sources and uses. Our goal is to incorporate and start selling member shares shortly. We concluded by introducing the opportunities for people to get involved by joining an Action Team. Please send us an email or sign up here if you would like to be involved with an Action Team (listed below). Right now we have the most need on the Finance and Human Resources teams. This is a learning experience for all of us, and we each bring our own experiences and expertise to the teams, so please volunteer – even if you only have a few hours to spare. Right now our goal is for the Teams to meet every 2 weeks, with independent research in between. The amount of work you put in depends on your schedule.

  • Membership Development Action Team – Organize & launch membership drive; Represent the co-op at local events; Media relations; Community engagement; & Event organizing
  • Sourcing Action Team – Research local producers (farmers, processors & manufacturers); Connect with local producers & distributors; Develop procurement guidelines; & Negotiate terms & conditions with producers
  • Location Search Action Team – Initiate conversations to develop leads for location; Research & tour possible store locations with a realtor; Compare pros and cons of various sites; Estimate renovation costs; Lease negotiation
  • Operations Action Team – Research point of sale systems, coolers & other equipment; Research insurance & required permits; Research phone, internet & other systems
  • Financial Action Team – Select credit union to open an account with; Membership share development; Preferred member loan development; Assist with Business Plan financial section; Financial administration
  • Human Resources Action Team – Bylaw development; Initial board of director interviews; Create job descriptions; Hiring policies/benefits/insurance

Handing out buttons at the Locke Street festival

Let us know if you would like to participate in one of the Action Teams. We can help you pick the right team based on your experience and interests if you are not sure which one to join. Also, later in October we will be participating in a competition through the Innovation Factory called StartOff with other Hamilton entrepreneurs. We will be vying for 10 prizes valued at over $10k for business development assistance, accounting services, online marketing training, phone services, etc. Let us know if you can help us by voting for The Mustard Seed regularly during the voting period (Oct 9-31).

The Mustard Seed info and co-op movie night at the Gage Park Community Garden