FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

We’ve had so many great questions about the Rooted Carrot Co-op. Many of them have been compiled here. However, if you cannot find your question, or you have follow-up questions, please feel free to reach out to info@rootedcarrot.coop.

You’ve reached 1000 member-owners, now what? Isn’t that the number you need to open the store?

When a start-up co-op gets to 1000 member-owners, it is a huge accomplishment, and we were thrilled to celebrate this milestone! We have been following a national model for co-op development. In that model, the first step is to reach 1000 members – which we have now done. This accomplishment proved that we had enough viability to move forward.

The second step involves securing a location. In October of 2020, we announced the location of the Rooted Carrot Co-operative Market at 123 West 7th Street in Cedar Falls, on the corner of 7th Street and Main.

The third step involves raising capital and membership, yet again, in order to open the doors. We are currently in this phase. It is estimated that we will need close to 2000 members in order to open the doors.

So, while reaching the milestone of 1000 members was significant, it is only part of what still remains to be done. No co-op opens magically when it hits a specific number of members, but the more members there are, the easier it is to get the support needed to have a successful community-grown cooperative business.

It seems that it is taking longer than usual to open the co-op grocery store? Is that typical?

It does not take longer to open a co-op than other stores. However, the difference with a co-op is that members are a part of the process and are informed about every step.  When a large corporation (like a Target or a Wal-Mart) decides to open a store, it can take many years. Several sites are considered and studied; market projections are done and done again.

Negotiations with the city or county take place regarding the logistical, economic, and infrastructure support that may be provided. For the most part, the public doesn’t see any of this preliminary work. Instead, they hear the store being announced just shortly before it opens or when they break ground, not realizing that it took several years of work to get to that point.

Our Co-op is no different than other stores in this respect. It has taken us some time to find the perfect location. It will take time to raise the capital to fund the building of the store. And it will take time to build our membership base to the level we need for opening the store. If all of this goes well, we will open the store in the summer of 2022.

What will the Co-op store be like? What kinds of things will I be able to buy?

If you haven’t been to a cooperative grocery store, you have missed out. They are bright welcoming spaces celebrating the community by focusing on selling products from local producers and farmers. Cooperative markets support small producers from all over, cultivating products that are sustainable, often organic or natural, and affordable.

However, each co-op is different. While all are focused primarily on supporting their local producers, they follow a viable business model and serve their membership in the capacity that is best needed in the area. Our co-op will provide a variety of products from toiletries to canned food to fresh produce, allowing a one-stop-shop experience for customers that is familiar to our membership and our area. In other words, it will look like a grocery store – with a produce section, canned goods, fresh meats, a deli, and a dairy section. The difference is that members make the decisions about the products that are carried instead of corporate bosses.

The Rooted Carrot Co-op will be open to all, not just member-owners. We encourage you to look up food co-ops on your travels so you can see this business model in action. Or take a short trip to one of our Iowa co-ops in Cedar Rapids, Decorah, Iowa City, Coralville, or Ames.

Why should I purchase a membership before the store opens?

Because the Co-op is member-driven, commitment from people in the local community is crucial to opening the doors. In order to apply for grants, loans, and recruit investors to this project, we need sizable member numbers to prove there is interest and need in the community. If we don’t have the members before the store opens, the store won’t open. It’s important for the community to step up and acknowledge that they want this store and will support it.

How many member-owners do you need to open the Co-op?

Member-owner shares are one piece of the pie in the overall capital it will take to open the store. At this time, we are estimating we will need close to 2000 members before the doors open to the Co-op.

Will the Co-op build, buy, or rent the space for the store?

The space will be leased in a new building. The builder is also a member-owner and has been working closely with our site team on creating a space that is specifically suited for the store.

Why not just a buying club and start out small so you don’t need as many owners to open?

While we admire the established food co-ops in the region that started as buying clubs back in the 1960s and 70s, that particular start-up method does not align with the needs of today’s consumers. Many smaller buying clubs around the country do not grow and many have ended up dissolving. By studying the markets and other co-op start-ups (both those that are doing well and those that have failed), we have concluded that working towards a full-service grocery store will be the most successful approach.

How will this project be funded? It’s obviously going to take more than membership fees to build and open the store!

We absolutely will need more than membership fees to open the store! In 2021, we will embark on a building campaign. The goal will be to raise approximately $1.6-$1.7 million in order to build the store and open the store. That money will be raised through a combination of donations to the Co-op, member loans, and grants. For more information, see the Capital Campaign page.

However, we cannot stress enough the importance of membership. The campaign funds will be used for the building, but we have many costs before we break ground, including advertising for a general manager, legal fees, consulting fees, licensing fees, and other expenses that keep the process moving BEFORE we break ground. These expenses are entirely funded by membership fees.

I love the idea of a co-op in our community! But Hy-Vee now has a Health Market and we now have a Natural Grocers. Is this new store going to be any different?

These stores have important products and services for our community, and we hope to partner with them in providing healthy, sustainable products to the Cedar Valley. Because of our unique community-owned business model, with specific focus on local products, the Co-op will be different in several ways.

First, the Rooted Carrot Co-op Market is owned by members, who elect a board of directors to represent their interests. Therefore, members have a voice in the operations of the store, the products it carries, and the way the store is run. Second, with only one store serving this local area, money stays within the community. Larger chain stores are obligated to send much of their income to other communities to support large warehouses and corporate offices. Finally, with its focus on community, the Co-op supports educational programs and community events, thereby increasing the overall demand for local, healthy, organic, sustainable foods and other grocery products. This focus also encourages a community atmosphere where people understand their own connection to the land and to each other. This community feel is what often brings people back to Co-ops again and again.

What is membership in the Co-op? What does it get me?

When you become a member-owner of the Rooted Carrot Co-op, you’re joining a community invested in Iowa’s people, our land, and great food. Joining means that you get to vote on key issues such as what products the Co-op carries, how it’s run, and what vendors the Co-op supports. As an owner, you may receive dividend shares when the co-op makes a profit.

We don’t know exactly what the store will look like yet or how it will be run. However, it’s not unusual for co-ops to offer specials or discounts on certain products or services for members. When the store opens, those specials or perks will be defined.

Can I share my membership?

Only one person may be listed as the owner of a share and only that person has the voting privileges. Shopping benefits may be shared with other members of the household.

Business Membership must include an individual representative who has sole voting power for that organization. Business Members have other benefits like free advertising and support.

Will the Co-op take SNAP benefits?

At this time, we are planning to proudly accept SNAP benefits (also known as Food Stamps or EBT).

Is there a work requirement?

Everyone can join the Co-op with no work shift or volunteer expectation. However, before the store opens, we do need more volunteers. Find out how you can participate by visiting our volunteer page.

Will my member share change in value over time?

Your initial member share will not change in value and does not bear dividends.

Where does my membership money go?

Membership monies are used to support the growth and viability of the Co-op.

What is the role of the Board of Directors?

The Rooted Carrot Co-op is owned by over 1000 people in the community. Obviously, having that many owners trying to directly manage a business would be impossible. Instead, the Member-Owners elect a Board of Directors to govern the organization on their behalf.

The Board of Directors is responsible for the overall governance of the Co-op. Directors are elected every fall and serve three-year terms. The Board meets twice a month, and Board meetings are open to all Member-Owners. Those interested in running for the Board are strongly advised to attend at least one Board meeting to learn more about leadership within the Co-op.

An important role of the Board is to hire and oversee the General Manager, who will run the day-to-day operations of the retail store. This will be done several months before the store opens. The Board is also responsible for the long-term vision of the Co-op.

Visit the Board of Directors page to learn about our current board members and find more information on how to run for one of these positions

Have we answered your questions? Please reach out to us at info@rootedcarrot.coop