Financial Update

Photo from our Investor Info Night at Hotel Hamilton earlier this year

Opening a grocery store takes money!

As we ramp up towards securing a location and opening The Mustard Seed Co-op, raising the money we need is a big part of our focus.  The Mustard Seed is Hamilton’s only co-operative grocery store.  We are part of a growing type of businesses sometimes called “social enterprises” – using sound commercial strategies to maximize benefits other than shareholder profits.  In our case, those benefits include affordable prices on wholesome, local, and organic foods, living wages for staff, and a strong emphasis on social and environmental responsibility.

Contemporary grocery store options are dominated by large national and multinational brands. These companies deliver goods and services many customers want, but much of their profits leave our local economy.  The Mustard Seed is quite different; we are intentionally seeking ways to strengthen our local economy through the relationships forged with farmers, producers, and suppliers.  In doing so, we have a multiplier effect on local economic activity.  Food co-ops typically generate 1.6 times their own revenue in local economic impact according to recent research.

Members Investing

All Mustard Seed Co-op members are investing in our business and local economy through their $100 membership fee.  However, many members are looking for more ways to invest financially in local businesses that align with their values–rather than solely for economic gain.  The Mustard Seed has already enabled members to invest over $210,000 towards opening our grocery store.  In the months ahead, we hope to raise another $300,000 through local impact investors.  Can you see yourself investing for impact?

The Hamilton Future Fund

Impact investing in the Mustard Seed isn’t limited to individuals or Co-op members.  We have applied for a grant or repayable loan from the Hamilton Future Fund and will present to their Board on September 6th. The Future Fund was established,

To preserve and manage a permanent, self-sustaining fund as a lasting legacy for current and future generations of Hamiltonians to enjoy economic prosperity, enhanced social fabric, and enhanced community life.

The Mustard Seed Co-op is an example of a viable business model that enables the social and economic thriving our community needs. We will keep you updated on our pitch to the Future Fund in the weeks ahead.

The National Co-op Challenge

Our business model does not rely heavily on grants, but we sure do appreciate them when we get them.  On September 18th, The Co-operators launches the National Co-op Challenge 2013, and we are among the 16 national finalists.  We have a 1:2 chance of winning $25,000 towards our equipment costs, so get ready to vote for The Mustard Seed in a few weeks!

Hamilton may have its economic challenges, but for centuries the co-operative model has proven effective in empowering prosperity.  So if you are looking to create local impact with your investment choices, consider The Mustard Seed Co-op – because even something small can have an incredible effect.

A big day in Toronto for the Mustard Seedlings

A full day of research started at the Big Carrot where we met with Heather Barclay, office manager who has been a worker-member for over 20 years. She shared about their history as a coop (started in 1983 with eight co-op member-owners, with 65 members from the current 185 staff.) She shared their governance bylaw report, lots of ideas about how to structure shares for raising capital, their point-of-sales system, and practical things such as lawyers and accountants that we can get in touch with.

ImageNext we headed to the 519 Church Street Community Centre to meet with the director of development + community engagement, Matthew Cutler, to hear about how they’re operating Fabarnak, a social enterprise eatery. We got a tour of the back kitchens, took photos of the wood tables made from old beams in the Distillery District and chairs made from recycled pop bottle, and finished with an amazing lunch–highly recommended! The gourmet café/restaurant is a social enterprise initiative of the Centre that provides a structured training environment for local young people facing employment barriers.Image

After lunch, we popped in at the Karma Food Co-op.  It was their bi-annual inventory review, so we found ourselves counting everything from ginger beer to kambucha, vitamin C to body care products. It was an awesome time chatting with the consumer-members and learning the workings of the store. One big surprise was discovering that Karma Co-op is located off an alley in a back-building. Hamilton has lots of those!Image

We also checked out Karma’s local competition, Fiesta Farms, Toronto’s largest independently owned grocery store (but not a co-op). It was bigger than we expected. The organics were spread out all around the store and there was a bunch of signage about local food, but it had a very different feel from the grocery co-ops we had visited earlier in the day.Image

On our way out of town we passed by the West End Food Co-op on King St. West in Parkdale and were excited to see that things were happening inside. We had a nice chat with Lynn Bishop, co-op coordinator, and Susanna Redekop, marketing coordinator. Their contractors were busy at work, with electrical, drywall, and making shelving from reclaimed lumber. We were excited that they were willing to share their experience and learnings with us as we move forward.  Gotta love that cooperation among cooperatives!Image