Embrace the tortoise. That is my mantra. The tortoise is determined, focused, and perseveres through adversity.
Terre Foods is the tortoise. Our mission to open a store is still the same; we are determined to succeed, focused on the success of opening a physical location for our cooperative, and prepared to persevere.
I do not mean for that to seem distraught or despondent; in fact, by embracing a conservative and focused approach to our ultimate goal, we are better positioned than ever before for a successful transition to a physical home. In the meantime, we are over 700 households strong and growing; with a presence in our community that brings tangible value through community outreach, cooperative values, and member benefits that extend beyond the Wabash Valley to cooperative markets operating across the country.
For our member/owners to better understand the approach we are taking to opening the physical store, I thought I would share some of the process we are following toward that goal. The realities of opening a business of this sort are very different than other business models. In fact, they are foundationally different than other small businesses. As your Board of Directors, we represent you, and the other 700 plus households that are also members; this is substantively different than a business with a single owner, a few partners, or a small set of shareholders. In our model, you are each an equal stakeholder in the business, with the same rights and responsibilities as any other member. You are entitled to the same benefits, and are also able to exercise your voting power to influence the leadership of your Board of Directors. You, the Board of Directors, and all other members are equal owners of the corporation.
A frequent question revolves around the pace of finding a location for the store. And while I share the same concern about the status, I am not concerned about the pace. We are following a very conservative model that offers us the best chance for success. The model is the Four Cornerstones in Three Stages Model. This has been a successful process for many food cooperatives in their mission to locate in a physical space, and has served us well to this point. The most basic understanding of the model is that each of the three stages of Organization, Feasibility and Planning, and Implementation are grounded in the four cornerstones of Vision, Talent, Capital, and Systems. This is a model developed by our consultants at CDS, a cooperative composed of professionals dedicated to helping cooperatives be more successful, whether at the start-up phase or later in their development. I have included a graphic of the model so that all of the member/owners can understand where we are at in the process. Currently we are between Stages II & III and have been moving towards Implementation throughout the past year. However, this is not an easy process and we are constantly revising the Feasibility and Planning components. Each time we move towards Stage III and Implementation we are stronger and better prepared.
In addition to this model, we have another aspect of the process that will help determine our success. That is the Capital Cornerstone, which is integral to the next phase of our process. Basically, this is the financial resource that we will need to build the store, and in our model that resource comes primarily from the membership. While we will need to pursue a number of avenues to complete the financial package, the likelihood of our success will be dependent upon the amount of capital raised from member/owners. That capital will come in two forms: Member Loans and Preferred Shares, each of which work in different ways to achieve our goal of a robust financial package as we implement the store build out. As we progress into the capital campaign, there will be more information available on the differences.
Finally, when the location is locked in, we will be hiring a person to manage the store that is accountable to the Board, and ultimately the membership through that elected Board of Directors. As we progress towards the goal of opening the store, this will be an invaluable asset in order to hold all parties accountable and prepare the store to meet the expectations of both membership and the community at large.
Terre Foods is the tortoise: Dedicated, Focused, and Patient.
I wish you all the best in the year ahead, and look forward to how we will impact our community for many more.