Three Month Review

Welcome to old and new members!

We are happy to announce that it has been three months since we re-opened and this email is to update all our co-operative members on our status and achievements. The quick summary is that we are in a good position! Keep reading below for more details. 

First of all, we’d like to thank all the members who have stepped up to volunteer. The majority of the work to keep this co-operative running is done by individual members contributing their time in areas of their expertise. We’ve had volunteers help with event planning, community outreach, on-boarding members, financial and accounting, HR and coordination, local order assistance,  delivery, offering space in their garage as pick-up points, and packing in the warehouse. The total contributions from members, if dollar values could be assigned, would be in the tens of thousands, at least. If this relaunch has shown us anything, it is that this is really OUR co-operative, and our collective efforts are the only reason the co-op is able to offer the products and services that we do.

Where We Came From

As many of you remember, Eat Local Grey Bruce announced that it was closing its doors on December 9th, 2022, in what was a surprise to many members and producers. What followed was an outpouring of support in the crowdfunding campaign and in volunteers stepping up to review operations and suggest improvements as part of the aptly named Turn-Around Committee. We were all encouraged that the crowdfunding campaign met its goals and we had commitment from almost 200 members that they would order regularly from ELGB. We then convened an AGM in February of 2023. The AGM appointed a new board with a few experienced members and several new faces and insights. From the fundraiser, we were able to pay off our immediate debts and had sufficient remaining funds to begin fresh with a goal to pay off all producer debt over a 5 to 10 year period. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the crowdfunding campaign. We are still in the process of honoring all the campaign perks. 

After the AGM, the new board had many decisions to make with goals to review and improve ELGBs operating procedures, develop better financial and operating tracking, and fully repay our producer members. We hired a new General Manager, Steve, in April.

Where Are We Now?

The online store opened Friday April 28th in pilot phase with delivery to pick up locations in Grey & Simcoe Counties one week, and Bruce County the alternating week. There was a large amount of volunteer effort, and new things for everyone to learn, such as meeting producer members, reviewing our warehouse process, online store software, and pickup points, while developing efficiencies and rebuilding our wholesale inventory. With a full staff turnover, staff and volunteers were rebuilding processes and procedures as we went, which was a lot of work, but has allowed us insight into operations that have kept us working with optimal efficiently.

After the 8 weeks of pilot operations, we resumed normal weekly operations starting Friday, June 23rd. 

One of the main reasons that ELGB had to shut down was due to relying financially on our producers. When ELGB first launched, producer members had agreed to receive delayed payments, and some had additional loans to ELGB. As part of the restart, we made a commitment to pay our producers within 30 days and we are happy to announce that we have fully completed three MONTHLY payments to our producers on time. This feels like a major accomplishment and milestone.

Our financial status is good and we have approximately the same cash balance as we started with when we relaunched in April. In addition to fully paying our producers, we’ve had some additional big ticket expenses including van repairs, and have also rebuilt our non-perishable wholesale inventory in the order of several thousand dollars. We are confident our margin on products is sufficient to cover our operating costs at the volume of orders we are currently seeing.

We are continuing to increase the product offerings in the store, especially with more bulk dry goods, and are looking to bring on more bakery, dairy, and prepared foods. If you are interested in anything specific, please reach out to let us know. We have four new producers lined up, and will be introducing them in the coming weeks.

Warehouse and delivery operations are running smoothly with our team of volunteer packers and drivers as well as our General Manager Steve, Delivery Driver Blaine, and Warehouse Manager Sara.

Where Are We Headed?

Our weekly order numbers are between 80 and 100 orders each week, with an average order size of $80 to $100 each week. We are confident that our current operations could handle a higher volume and hope that we can increase weekly order numbers in the coming months. Our margins are good, our operating costs are being covered by our revenue, our staff and volunteers are working efficiently, and we are fully paying our producer members for all items sold by the end of the month moving forward. 

Now our larger objective begins: 

  1. to expand our operations and 
  2. work towards fully repaying our producer members. 

Now that all systems are up and running, we invite you to tell your neighbours and friends about Eat Local and invite them to join us!

What About Home Delivery?

Last year, and during the lockdowns, ELGB offered home delivery. When we re-opened, we decided, at least temporarily, to only offer pick-up point delivery, with home delivery organized for members that need it. After some tough discussions, we have decided that home delivery, while a nice service, requires extra delivery time, additional kilometers, and added challenge in the winter season, which means we will not be moving back to home delivery as a regular option.

That being said, community is one of our five core principles and we are happy to accommodate any and all members who need home delivery, for example due to disability, mobility, or transportation limitations. Volunteer members have stepped up to fulfill this need by completing home deliveries for those that have requested it.

While we are not closed to the possibility of providing home delivery in the future, we feel that efficient delivery is required to keep costs down right now, and, more importantly, increasing sustainability, providing equal services to everyone and building local, co-operative, community are important principles of our organization.

Moving forward, we’d like to transition fully to a community-focused effort. We envision a future where local members can build a volunteer network to assist those in need or simply coordinate with neighbors to pick up orders. For those who may not need but would like to have home delivery, please consider volunteering to host a pickup point as part of our network. 

Finally, we continue to work towards increasing the number of local pick-up points. We are always open to suggestions or offers of new pick-up locations, although we do try to ensure there are a sufficient number of members using each point. If you do not have a pick up point close to you, feel free to reach out! We would appreciate your local knowledge and assistance to build our network.

What Can You Do to Help?

We are always open to volunteers! We are currently looking for help in the warehouse packing orders, local home deliveries, pick-up point hosts, and with community event planning. If you have a unique skill-set and would like to offer other assistance, let us know and we’ll get you connected with the right folks.

Regular, weekly or even bi-weekly ordering is essential to our operations. As part of our re-opening campaign, 35 people committed to weekly ordering, and 150 committed to bi-weekly or monthly ordering. We would love to see our orders approach or exceed those numbers!

If there are certain products that you would like to see in our store that you would buy frequently, we’d love to hear about it. We do our best to expand our store offerings in directions our members find beneficial.

Spread the word! Let neighbours, friends, and family know about Eat Local Grey Bruce and encourage them to become members.

Thank you to all our members for your support and patience through this time of change. We look forward to working together to continue building on our success to help create a sustainable, equitable, local, community food co-operative across Grey and Bruce counties. Feel free to reach out with any additional questions or comments.

– ELGB Staff and Board

Three Month Review

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