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Opening a Food Co-op

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted overnight. The process of opening a food co-op takes time. Sometimes a lot more time than you may think. Trust us. We’re just as eager to get the ball rolling here in Nashville as you are!

Today we’re diving deeper into the growth process of a food co-op and shedding light on all the steps we’re taking to get Nashville’s first food co-op off the ground.

According to the Food Co-op Initiative, the average time it takes to open a food co-op is  4 – 7 years.  Some co-ops take only 2 years to open, while others may need upwards of 10 years to grow the membership and assets needed to start building.

The Process

Unlike a traditional business with investors, co-ops are owned by the community. Individuals purchase a share and become member-owners, and are able to vote on how the store operates.

The path from just a birthed idea to actually opening a food co-op follows a detailed and strategic plan consisting of five major parts.

Stage 1: Start

A core group of people first need to come together with a co-op vision and mission. One of our original founders hails from Vermont, where there are over 100 different types of co-ops across the state.  Why not Nashville?

So in 2015, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Market Study, and the Nashville community raised over $15,000 in 30 days. After receiving positive results from this study, we developed our leadership board and claimed our mission.

  • Define our mission.
  • Begin recruiting members.
  • Begin generating funds.

We’re currently working on growing our membership so that we can raise the capital needed to fund our business needs.
This is where you come in! Become a Member-Owner of the Nashville Food Co-op and help us reach our goal of 1,200 members. That number will officially allow us to open!

Stage 2: Organize

In the second stage we will make a business plan with a budget, plan for a loan to open the store, and continue to grow our membership.

  • Develop a business plan and set-up a loan committee to fund the construction of a store.
  • Set-up a finance committee to create a budget./li>
  • Reach out to the community and create marketing for the co-op.

Stage 3: Plan

The third stage is when our vision will really come to life — site selection, store design, and connecting with local farmers. We. Can’t. Wait.

  • Conduct a final market analysis to decide where to construct a store and what to stock for our customers.
  • Choose a site and begin designing a store.
  • Reach out to farmers and other suppliers to stock the co-op.
  • Finalize the business plan and the loan to open the store.

Stage 4: Pre-Construction

In the fourth stage, we will secure loan funds and hire a store manager.

  • Secure the loan funds to begin building the store.
  • Complete the store design and define the equipment the store will need.
  • Hire a general manager.

Stage 5: Open

The final stage is what we’ve all been working towards — we will advertise the store, hire staff, and open the Nashville Food Co-op!

  • Finalize the budget and marketing plan.
  • Hire and train the staff.
  • Open the store!

The work doesn’t end on opening day. We’ll need our member support to ensure the co-op sustains its first year and beyond.  With the outpouring of support for our initial Market Study, we’ve no doubt the Nashville Food Co-op will flourish.

Co-ops around the nation

We love hearing success stories from our co-op friends across the nation, and the River Valley Co-op in Northampton, MA shares a great example of the opening process.

Their food co-op took around 11 years to open. Community members met in 1997 to discuss the idea of a co-op, and they were open for business in 2008. After seeing so much success after opening, they’ve since been able to remodel with higher capacity shelving, new bulk bins, improved store layout, and energy efficient upgrades.

Help us reach the next phase

We need YOUR help to keep growing. Without more member-owners, the Nashville Food Co-op will remain simply an idea.  Your one-time investment of $250 will help secure the funds needed for all the business expenses ahead- legal fees, acquiring a space, and all the moving parts of a physical store.

When the Nashville Food Co-op opens, member-owners will receive exclusive discounts and other benefits. We’ve made it ultra-easy with our payment plan options now available.


Want to learn more about the Nashville Food Co-op and meet some of our owners? We’ll be at VegFest and the Nashville Earth Day Festival in April and we’d love to see you there!  Stop and say hi!

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