Springing into Spring

Our membership continues to grow with over 450 Mustard Seed founding members supporting Hamilton’s first non-profit co-operative grocery store! Everything is ramping up to our opening this summer. Below is an update of what we have been up to, where we’re going and how you can be involved.membergrowthMar18

DSC_1976Member Packages

All members will be receiving a membership package some info on the Co-op and a window sticker for the outside of your car, house, or business. The membership team will be hand-delivering packages in the next couple weeks to members who haven’t picked up the package at an event. Please put your stickers somewhere very visible and show your support for The Mustard Seed!

Casting Call for Members

We are looking for a diverse selection of Mustard Seed members – from kids to grandparents, farmers to eaters – to represent The Mustard Seed Co-op in our promo video and photo signage. Read more here and please send in your responses by Friday, March 29, 2013.

General Manager Posting

Our GM position was posted on our website in early March as well as in Cooperative Grocer, Sustain Ontario, goodworkcanada.ca, and on various local food, cooperative, and food policy listserves. So far we have had several candidates respond. Please help get the word out so that we can find the right person to run our co-op!

Stay tuned for postings of other store positions in the coming weeks. The Mustard Seed is committed to being a living wage employer and will be a great place to work!

Location Update

We are very close to finalizing a lease for the store’s location in downtown Hamilton; stay tuned for an announcement soon! In the mean time, our Operations team has been busy purchasing various equipment.

Looking for Producers & Suppliers

We have created a supplier form that can be filled out by potential farmers/suppliers or members to ensure we have the best local products on our shelves. Our sourcing team is attending a producer & distributor panel discussion this week and we are beginning to contact producers to build relationships & learn how their farming practices align with our sourcing priorities.

Not yet a Founding Member? – Learn More!

Thinking about becoming a member?  Members are part owners of the business, they represent the collective power of working together to achieve lasting change. The Mustard Seed Co-op needs 800 members in order to open our doors – so join now.  We’re only 350 members away from our goal!

Finance Update & Investing

We have capitalized the Co-op with over $200,000 from our membership already.  But we need another $250,000 to open our doors.  This will go towards equipment (coolers, shelving, commercial kitchen, signage) and inventory – the delicious goodness we’re all waiting to buy! If you have a tax return coming in, a car payment that’s finished, or some savings you want to invest, put that money to work in shaping your community!

You can read more about our direct loan program  at mustardseed.coop/investingfaq. Earn 3.5% interest annually over 4 years while making a positive change in our local economy.

Upcoming Events

We are at a number of upcoming events – check out our Events Calendar for a full listing.

  • Monday, April 1, 10:00am – 3:00pm – booth at Mohawk College’s 2nd Annual Sustainability Fair
  • Sunday, April 7, 10:30am – 12:00pm – Motivations behind The Mustard Seed presentation, Grace Lutheran Church, 1107 Main St. West
  • Friday, April 12, 7:00-9:00pm – booth at James St. North Art Crawl
  • Sunday, April 14, 1:30-4:00pm – booth at the Nourishing Hamilton Fair, Southgate Presbyterian Church, 120 Clarendon Ave.
  • Monday, April 15, 7:00-9:00pm – All Action Team gathering at Mulberry Coffee House – 193 James St N

Come grow with us and help us open our doors!

WestEnd_cannery

Photo credit: West End Food Co-op Community Cannery

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

Market research : what our future members are saying

This word cloud is based on the 613 survey respondents who said they would like to become a member of a community grocery that prioritizes local producers. The responses to the question “How would you want Hamilton’s community grocery to be different than the place where you currently purchase your groceries?” were categorized into 52 themes, weighted according to use, and organized into a word cloud.

The analysis of our market survey is now complete! Thanks to all 1,000 people who took the time to give us input online.  A special thanks to Kaylen Fredrickson, a University of Toronto grad student, and geography professor, food security guru & local Hamiltonian Sarah Wakefield for your invaluable help in deciphering the results. Thanks so much Kaylen and Sarah!

Some interesting trends emerged from the demographics in the group that said they would become a member of the co-op (613 respondents); one that was not surprising is that most of the respondents were female (2.08 female : 1 male) and correlates with how women are often the primary grocery shopper in a household. There was a clear trend in that respondents who are most interested in the co-op were younger (20-39 range), although there was a wide range of ages represented in the survey.

Ottawa St. Farmers Market stall July 2012

Another interesting piece of information relates to current grocery shopping habits for those who would like to become members of The Mustard Seed: 40% of these households indicated that they grow their own food sometimes or frequently. That’s a lot of gardening! Most of their shopping is done at supermarkets (95% sometimes or frequently), farmers markets (79% sometimes or frequently), and specialty grocery (52% sometimes or frequently).

We will continue to use the feedback from the survey to determine what Hamilton’s cooperative grocery will look like – what are the member-owner’s needs and values. Some things that stood out are that it be community-oriented, and that shoppers will feel a personal connection with friendly, knowledgeable staff. They want it to be a place where you can run into friends and make new ones, and where they can learn more about food and the local food system. If you would like to be part of this planning, please email us about how to get involved. We have a meeting planned for September 10th to connect volunteers with teams so we can move this cooperative forward. Join us to learn more!

This word cloud is based on the 613 survey respondents who said they would like to become a member of a community grocery that prioritizes local producers. The responses to the question “Where do you normally get your groceries?” were weighted according to frequency (sometimes or frequently). With your help, soon THE MUSTARD SEED GROCERY CO-OP will be among these options!


How Canadians Shop – ‘conventional’ grocery shopping study by Environics Research Group