Saturday, 6 August 2011

Our Co-Operative

Over our first couple of months of being opened we have noticed that there are many different assumptions and misconceptions about co-operatives and what Your Local Market Co-operative is.

A Co-operative is simply a business model – a corporation with special rules. It is an alternative to sole-proprietor, partnerships or regular corporation. Just with any of these types of business, every co-operative is different.

Co-operatives must adhere to special rules and follow the 7 co-operative principles.
  1. Open, voluntary membership.
  2. Democratic governance.
  3. Limited return on equity.
  4. Surplus belongs to members.
  5. Education of members and public in cooperative principles.
  6. Cooperation between cooperatives.
  7. Concern for community

In Stratford we have Mornington Communications Co-op which is a consumer co-operative.

As all co-operatives, Mornington Communications is owned by the members and governed by a Board of Directors. As a consumer co-operative, customers are the members and therefore the owners.
Another popular sector of Co-operatives in our area is Co-operative Housing.

Housing co-operatives provide not-for-profit housing for their members.
The members do not own equity in their housing. If they move, their home is returned to the co-op, to be offered to another individual or family who needs an affordable home.
Food Co-operatives are very popular throughout some areas of the United States, as well as Western Canada. There are many in Ontario, including one in London.

Food Co-operatives are all different: there are some that are consumer co-operatives, some that are producer co-operatives, some (like Your Local Market Co-Op) are workers` co-operatives and a final category that is a combination of these categories, which is called a Multi-Stakeholder co-operative.

Even within these categories there will be many difference from co-op to co-op. Co-ops can be for profit or not for profit, with shares and without shares. Membership fees, discount rates, and product mark-ups all vary. As a business, each co-operative has to decide what will be feasible for their market.

Your Local Market Co-Operative Inc. Is a For-Profit, With Share, Workers Co-operative.

As a workers co-operative, Your Local Market Co-Op, is owned by the workers.

As a for-profit co-operative, we are aloud to make profits, and do not have special rules to adhear to as not-for-profit co-operatives would. This being said, we are not aiming to make a fortune in profits. As a Workers Co-operative, our primary objective is to provide sustainable employment for our members.

Having the share option, we are able to sell shares to the public if we choose to – in order to build up equity. Currently only members own shares, but we plan on opening the option to the public in 2-5 years when we would like to use the money to purchase property or invest in expansion of the business.

Our subscription program is not standard for workers co-operatives, we decided that it was a good option to offer locals a way to save money on their groceries. It is similar to the fabric-land discount card. You do not need to have a card to shop at our co-operative.

We have chosen to set up as a workers co-operative primary because it filled a need. As with many year-round residents of Stratford, the five of us had less than ideal year-round employment situations – unemployed, underemployed and low incomes. Workers co-operatives are also empowering workplaces, giving each of us a voice and ability to make decisions.

Please feel free to post if you have any questions about co-operatives, Your Local Market Co-op, or any clarification on how it works. You can also ask any of the members, next time you’re in!

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