Does Cooperative Business Really Work?
Yes! Cooperatives can be just as successful, if not more so, as independently- and corporately- owned businesses! Cooperatives can operate in all sectors of business, including grocery (like ours), education, health care, law, production, banking, agriculture, child care. . . Here are some local examples of co-ops that you probably already know!
St. Croix Electric Cooperative – Utility co-op providing electricity to rural locations.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery – Some of the best cheese curds around!
Land-O-Lakes – Yep! It’s a hugely successful producer cooperative, owned by the dairy farmers!
HATCH – Hudson’s very own homeschool cooperative.
River Market – Stillwater’s grocery cooperative.
Whole Earth Market – River Falls’ grocery cooperative.
Definition of a Cooperative
A cooperative is a business owned and operated by its members. Essentially, each customer of a cooperative has an equal voice in how the governance of the business and a share in the distribution of profits. Cooperatives aim to fill the needs of their customers and operate according to the values that the customers find important. Over the next two years, our grocery cooperative will survey its owners to determine what values we hold. Do we want to provide a livable wage for our employees to create stable and worthwhile jobs in Hudson? How much of our inventory should come from local sources? Is organic a priority?
Values of Cooperatives
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
The Seven Cooperative Principles
Voluntary and Open Membership: Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination. In addition, our grocery store will be open for the general public to shop. Members of the cooperative will receive exclusive benefits, such as discounts on select products or increased services.
Democratic Member Control: Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, such as Hudson Community Grocery, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote). Each year, at our Annual Owners Meeting, we will elect volunteers to serve on our Board of Directors. Every owner is eligible to run for election to the Board. Additionally, owners have the right to vote on changes to the bylaws, and may petition for changes to the bylaws.
Member Economic Participation: Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative (this is the patronage dividend offered by HGC in years when the co-op generates a profit); and supporting other activities approved by the membership. In addition, as an owner of HGC, you have the responsibility to purchase some of your groceries from your store, to help keep your store viable.
Autonomy and Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
Education, Training, and Information: Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of cooperation. In addition, HGC will provide educational resources to increase the general wellness of our community. Currently, we are operating an online blog with articles on a range of food and health related topics.
Cooperation Among Cooperatives: Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures. HGC is committed to working with other local businesses to help propagate Hudson’s image as a destination for good food.
Concern for Community: While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.