Strengthening Our Core: Learning Best Practices at 2022 Food Co-op Conference

This year’s Up & Coming Conference for start-up food co-ops was arranged by the Indiana Cooperative Development Center and Food Co-op Initiative, and hosted by Willy Street Co-op in Madison, WI on May 19-21. The Rooted Carrot Co-op Market received a $500 scholarship to assist in attendance costs. These grants were made possible through the generosity of the Ralph K. Morris Foundation, the Cooperative Development Foundation, and Food Co-op Initiative. Board members Gina Maria Brown, Christine Sexton, Lisa Nelson, and Tom Wickersham took this opportunity to witness solidarity among cooperatives with over 50 workshops presented by consultants and peers. Each day the four board members broke into different workshop tracks based around the four cornerstones for startup food co-ops (Vision, Talent, Systems/Operations, & Capital).  Below are some reflections from Gina, Lisa, and Tom.

Gina: One of the workshops on the capital track was Accounting & Taxation for Start-ups presented by Bruce Mayer, a partner with Wegner CPAs in Madison. He and his firm work with over 200 cooperatives providing tax, accounting and financial statement services. He has worked with dozens of co-op start-ups and conversions. Some helpful takeaways from that workshop are a chart of accounts designed specifically for cooperatives and learning about the tax benefits of patronage dividends. 

Lisa: New to the board and a first-time attendee of the Up & Coming Co-op Conference, I learned many things about how to be successful as a start-up co-op. I attended a session highlighting effective communication, one about advocating for co-op friendly policies at the federal level, and one presenting research on the pitfalls that result in co-ops being unsuccessful. I left inspired by the stories of successful co-ops, energized by the level of dedication I saw around me, and focused on the tasks that lie ahead for us at The Rooted Carrot Co-op Market. The support that was evident at the conference gives me great confidence that we will succeed in our efforts!

Tom: The mood and spirit of this year’s conference was energetic and upbeat. People were so inspired and inspiring! I reconnected with peers from across the country who have been incredibly helpful for the Rooted Carrot, plus I connected with representatives from new start-ups in Grand Rapids, San Diego, Butte, and Brookings, SD. I had the opportunity to meet again with Jon Steinman, who gave a talk on his book Grocery Story at the Hearst Center in 2019. Plus, I learned some great new ideas that I can take back to our Capital Campaign team. The bottom line? We CAN do this!

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