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?):
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.
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
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).