Reposted from February 5, 2014
Try to avoid the “raise your hand” technique. Starting a food co-op is essentially starting a business and you want to be intentional about this very important time in your co-op’s development.
Identify and recruit your “dream team”. Your “dream team” will build, protect, and carry out the vision for your cooperative market. Think about honest, intelligent, well-connected people in your community who would be great to work with. It’s likely that you’ll have a hard time finding people with co-op experience. Don’t worry about that at this point. It’s common for steering committees to be passionate yet inexperienced with co-ops or groceries.
Know thyself. Be sure to take stock of what you’re good at, and what you could use some assistance with. You might be a great “champion” of the project, pulling people in, but maybe not so great at keeping a group organized and on task (or vice versa). Look for people that will compliment you well and create a team with varied strengths.
Look for cooperators. Be careful about who you recruit to the first steering committee. It will be very difficult later to remove those who may try to make the co-op fit their vision as opposed to the group’s vision of a cooperative market.
Now is the time to seek out and recruit the kind of diversity you want your co-op to have. Try to come up with a mix of people (nonprofit, business, retired, etc.). Be leery of developers or those who might have a serious conflict of interest (this does not necessarily include farmers).
Educate early and often. Cooperatives are not top of mind for a lot of folks and even the best of us need regular education. We have a wealth of webinars and resources available to walk you through organizing your co-op, cooperative vision, timelines, etc. Here’s a good one on Creating Your Vision from our very own Stuart Reid and national expert on startups Bill Gessner.