FAQs

What is CDS Consulting Co-op?

CDS Consulting Co-op is a cooperative established in 2008 to house the consultants who had been providing services to food cooperatives through Cooperative Development Services. The members of CDS Consulting Co-op are the consultants who provide services to our clients. By pooling resources in the co-op, member consultants provide themselves with more efficient administrative and communication services.

What is a cooperative?

A cooperative is a business that is owned and controlled by its members. In consumer food cooperatives, the members consist of people who use the goods and services provided by the co-op. Membership is open and voluntary to those who wish to join. There are many types of cooperatives all over the world including consumer co-ops, worker co-ops, housing co-ops, producer co-ops and credit unions. No matter what their function, all cooperatives exist to serve their member-owners.

Each member makes an investment in their co-op and has a voice in controlling their co-op’s activities. Anyone may become a member by making an investment to get the benefits all members receive, including one vote in member decisions. This is different from privately owned businesses, in which there is unequal ownership and control based on the size of one’s investment.

Co-ops operate according to a set of specific business practices designed to benefit their memberships. Although cooperatives serve a wide variety of purposes and use differing organizational structures, they generally direct their activities toward the common good and foster active democratic participation and education. Worldwide, cooperatives adhere to the International Cooperative Alliance Statement of Cooperative Identity and Cooperative Principles.

How can I find a food co-op?

To find a food co-op near you see the Food Co-op Directory.

What services can CDS Consulting Co-op consultants provide?

CDS Consulting Co-op includes a network of experienced independent consulting professionals who specialize in developing cooperatives. Our consultants specialize in helping cooperatives achieve growth, increase profitability, improve board leadership, strengthen management, and better serve their members and community. We tailor our services to deliver results for co-ops in these comprehensive areas of cooperative development:

Whom do I contact?

For more information about services, contact any CDS CC consultant.  For help on getting started, click here

If you are not sure which consultant is best able to meet your needs, contact Marilyn Scholl, the manager of our co-op.

How does a co-op begin to plan an Expansion or Growth project?

CDS CC consultants can provide you with a variety of cost-effective services throughout the planning and implementation of your expansion/relocation project. Our consultants have assisted more than 100 cooperatives with expansion projects ranging from $100,000 to $5 million. We recommend starting with an Orientation to Planning an Expansion/Relocation Planning.

What is CoCoFiSt? What is CoMetrics?

Common Cooperative Financial Statements (CoCoFiSt) is a program for improving performance that compiles, compares and analyzes financial and operating data from co-ops around the country. The purpose of CoCoFiSt is to enable cooperatives to improve operations as fast as possible and faster than the competition. CoCoFiSt is a program managed by CoMetrics.

How can we develop our board’s leadership?

CDS Consulting Co-op offers comprehensive program Cooperative Board Leadership Development to provide ongoing support, retreat planning, courses and training for your board’s development.

What is Cooperative Governance?

Cooperative governance is the act of steering cooperatively-owned enterprises toward economic, social and cultural success. It consists of answering key questions, defining roles and responsibilities, and establishing processes for setting expectations and ensuring accountability. 

CDS Consulting Co-op has created a model of cooperative governance recognizing the unique needs of the co-op world. Based on the results of the CDS Consulting Co-op’s board leadership team’s research and deep experience with food co-op boards, the Four Pillars of Cooperative Governance model (4PCG) offers directors and managers a framework for approaching their work grounded in cooperative values. 

What is Policy Governance?

Policy Governance® (sometimes abbreviated herein as “PG”) is a comprehensive model whereby governing boards establish their values and expectations in policy, delegate implementation to the board’s sole employee (typically the GM), and monitor the outcome of operational activities against the stated policies. Policy Governance gives boards the capacity and role clarity to truly be trustees for the member-owners.

How do we assess the size of our co-op’s market?

Our consulting services include market and site analysis studies, trade area determination and market penetration analysis, market expansion strategy, cannibalization and sales impact studies, problem store analysis, and sales forecasting. These consulting services, provided by Debbie Suassuna are useful when considering new or additional stores, remodels, expansions, or relocations. They can also result in a better understanding of existing store trade areas, in terms of their size, configuration and market penetration.

How can our co-op improve our profitability?

Mel Braverman of CDS Consulting Co-op offers a two-day Margin Management Workshop that analyzes your current margin strategy and provides suggestions on how to improve that strategy.

How can we use member loans to finance an expansion project?

Member Loans are the most effective way to determine member support of an expansion project and to leverage necessary bank financing. Many co-ops dramatically underestimate the potential for member loans that can be raised from their membership.

What are the best practices for membership programs?

We worked with co-ops to bring marketing and membership services coordinators together for a Let’s SOAR gathering. Let’s SOAR (Let’s Share Our Abundant Resources) has resulted in a set of Best Practices for marketing and membership in cooperatives.

How do cooperatives get started?

Every co-op starts with an idea. One or two people see a need and envision a way to meet that need. Whether that need is for members to receive better prices, to gain access to new products, or to obtain specific services, the need must be clear.

Starting a co-op is just as complex and time consuming as starting any business. To be done properly, it can’t be rushed. Most experts estimate that starting a co-op typically takes at least two years. As with any new business, starting a co-op will involve thorough and careful business planning.

CDS CC created Four Cornerstones in Three Stages, a development model which comprises a process for developing a cooperative retail food business. The model identifies the attributes necessary for a successful food co-op.

Click here for general information on starting a co-op.

What funding resources are available to help groups starting a food cooperative?

As with other forms of business, owners provide much of the capital needed to get a business started. Member-owned capital can be leveraged to obtain other sources of capital if the feasibility and business planning look promising.

Local fundraising is usually the beginning point for most groups. If the community shows support, this is a positive signal to other funding organizations. Some efforts have been funded in part by charitable organizations and/or local, state, regional and federal programs. The resources available are often linked to the remediation of specific needs such as increasing economic development and job opportunities. The internet and networking, beginning with local leaders and business people, are often the best ways to start searching for a funding source that fits the situation.

Capitalizing an emerging food cooperative is challenging. Historically, there has been no systematic approach and continued support from the cooperative community. CDS CC and others are working to change this! The vision of the Food Co-op Initiative is to support faster and more efficient startups by providing assistance and resources all the way through the development process.

What is Food Co-op Initiative?

In August 2005, the Food Co-op 500 Program launched its pilot phase as a collaborative effort of CDS Consulting Co-op, Cooperative Development Services, NCB, NCB Capital Impact, and National Co+op Grocers (NCG), with substantial support from the Blooming Prairie Foundation. In 2010, Food Co-op 500 evolved into the Food Co-op Initiative. The food co-op development model is based upon the four cornerstones of vision, talent, capital and systems that are each within three stages of food co-op development: organizing, feasibility and planning, and implementation.