It took a lot of clever manoeuvring and leveraging to get this co-op off the ground in 2016. The mission to support local food producers is faced with structural obstacles which often seem insurmountable. Two key innovations were used in forming this outfit that has enabled us to exist:
The first was securing a stream of wholesale products at a price point that enables us to gain a decent markup, earning core dollars to staff while minimizing the margin on products from producer members. Not unlike in the grocery industry, where loss leaders that bring customers through the doors are located on the outer walls of the grocery store, and all the products in the aisles bring profits for the retailer.
The second was a bargain that was struck among the founding producer members in which they agreed to cashflow the co-op by deferring payment for longer than the usual 30 days. This period has been more like 4 – 6 months for most of the life of the co-op. It continues today, and we are having difficulty gaining ground, which is not ideal. Producers are essentially lending their paycheques to the co-op, (interest-free, of course) to fund operations. It comes up at every board meeting, though is not common knowledge to most of you, our eater members. We feel that a first step in growing the culture of a community of well-informed eaters is to provide you with real info about the financial health of our project. Our mission is to provide access for all to healthy food and to support the livelihoods of farmers. This co-op was built by farmers and eaters in partnership, but a financially healthy version of ELGB would certainly be one where farmers were no longer underwriting our operations.