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2023 Chicago Market Board of Directors Candidate Statements

Candidates for the Board of Directors are asked a series of questions to help the Owners of Chicago Market make an informed decision. Here are the responses from our candidates this year:

MALICHA DIDA

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I am enthusiastic about supporting Chicago Market's mission to promote sustainable and ethical food practices. I can assist with decision-making and facilitate the involvement of communities in the market. I am dedicated to upholding ethical business practices, promoting transparency, engaging in fair trade, and sourcing responsibly to aid in market development.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I currently serve as a board member in the Chicago Oromo community. I also possess experience working with OCFCU (Oromia Coffee Farmers Coop Union) board.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I bring a diverse set of expertise and experiences to the table that make me a strong fit for the Chicago Market board. I completed my Bachelor of Science in Pre-Med at the University of North Florida (UNF) and have three years of medical school studies. Additionally, I have experience working in the government in Ethiopia, liaison officer roles at the United Nations office in Kenya, and five years of experience working as a tutor at Truman College. I have demonstrated my international business and trade expertise by representing ASHC (African Share Holding Company) and OCFCU (Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union) in North America.

As the Founder and CEO of GOBEZ COFFEE LLC and Horizon Africa Safari LLC, I have showcased my entrepreneurial acumen, business development skills, and leadership abilities. Currently, I am a board member of the Chicago Oromo Community and have volunteered briefly at Chicago Market. I believe my experiences, skills, and dedication align with the values of ethical business practices and community engagement that Chicago Market holds. I am well-equipped to assist the board in ensuring the market's success and upholding its values.

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
Upon learning about it, I became an owner and convinced three friends to join. I am closely following its development by regularly communicating with management. I also volunteered briefly.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
Coming from a family of coffee growers, I have a strong grasp of the ethical and complex aspects of the food supply chain. My most valuable experience comes from supplying unique coffee flavors to the global market and working with OCFCU.

What food issues are you passionate about?
I am passionate about promoting sustainable, healthy, and organic food practices that prioritize caring for both producers and consumers, as well as ethical and environmentally responsible production and distribution.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
What sets me apart as a candidate for this board is my multicultural background as an Ethiopian American, my roles as a dedicated husband, father of two and two grandchildren, and my deep passion for business development. I've proactively educated myself through SCORE and SBA webinars and mentoring, demonstrating my commitment to continuous learning and growth. My ability to collaborate as a team player is complemented by my diverse experiences, which I believe can contribute positively to the board's endeavors.

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KATE GRIMMKate_Grimm.png

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?

I would like to continue as a board member of Chicago Market to continue the ongoing work for the organization. We are in a critical stage as we move towards opening the store and feel that my experience over the past three years is still in progress. I feel passionately about the Uptown Farmers Market and its contribution to the neighborhood and have greatly enjoyed seeing this through from an idea to a thriving market. I look forward to ensuring that this market will continue long after the store is open.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have three years of experience on the Chicago Market Board.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I have spent my career in customer service and success and understand the importance that this will have once the store is open. My professional experience also includes several start-up environments, including being one of the first management hires at a brand-new department of Comcast—I understand what goes into starting something new. And I love this type of environment and challenge.

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
My current roles within Chicago Market include Board Treasurer, Volunteer Coordinator, Uptown Farmers Market Co-founder and Chair, Owner Onboarding Liaison. I also previously co-chaired the award winning SHOP program.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
Since joining the board of Chicago Market, my food co-op experience has exploded! I’ve visited co-ops from Chicago to Vermont, seeking them out in my travels, continuing to learn about their impacts and importance in their communities. I’m also an Owner at the Sugar Beet in Oak Park.

What food issues are you passionate about?
While living in the UK, I was able to shop and confidently know where almost all of my produce, meat, eggs, cheese, bread (and even gin) was sourced—and sometimes even knew the farmer. These shops were all usually within walking distance of my home, too. Shopping locally is much more difficult and less transparent here, without putting in a lot of effort and miles. I think it’s important for both our health and our environment to focus on locally sourced buying and Chicago Market could be a place to make this possible in our city.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I love Uptown! Through my years of involvement in Chicago Market, I’ve seen the impact that this organization can have within the community and am so excited to see that impact grow with an OPEN store!

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SONIA LEWISSonia_Lewis_keyline.jpg

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I have lived in Chicago for majority of my life and I have not seen a Co-Op of this size in the Chicago area. I have been fortunate to work for Central Coop in Washington State for 3 years and I have seen the wonders on how a Co-op can change communities, health, passion for good food and resources for great job opportunities. I would like to be a part of this passionate opportunity to provide knowledge and experience I have in working in a Co-op to make this a success.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have attended several board meetings at my previous Co-Op (Central Co-op). I have also been a board member of Federal Way Board of Ethics for the police department.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I have over 25 years of experience in Human Resources. I help to recruit difficult positions at a multiple of organizations in including the Co-op. I am familiar with multiple HRIS systems, payroll, leave of absence software's, performance reviews, disciplinary actions, time and attendance, policies and procedures.

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
I have shopped at the Uptown Farmers Market on several occasions when I previously worked down the street. It was great being able to share the news of the Co-op with colleagues who made it a habit to shop during our lunch or after work. After conversations with board members, I was convinced it was worth joining. My owner number is 2028.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
I worked in HR at my previous Co-op for three years handling items such as:
-Ensure organizational practices are compliant and develop and monitor policies and procedures that foster equity. -Update job descriptions to meet organizational needs, jobs analysis, conduct orientation, exit interviews and steer the evaluation process. -Ensure compensation packages are competitive, maintain personnel files, and mandated compliances. -Develop and maintain HR metrics, complete annual reporting EE0-1, 5500 and manage entire employee life cycle, recruitment, and payroll. -Conduct investigations, grievances and other labor relations as needed. -Complete unemployment claims, worker’s compensation claims, terminations/severances and 401k loans with liaison. -Understand and adhere to strategic plans for the Human Resources Department in conjunction with organization plans. -Liaison for benefits, payroll, temporary agencies and union dues: reconciliation and payments approved and paid out monthly. -Approve and track: FMLA, LOA, MLA, SSSL, LTD, STD and ADA requests.

Key Highlights: Developed FMLA Tracking in 2011; Human Resources representative for three union contract negotiations in 2011, 2012 and 2014 years; Upgraded to a self-service model for payroll in 2011; Promote positive cooperative culture and strengthen the organization through progressive integration of the purpose, mission, and issues; Updated Pay Structure/Scale in 2011; Lead the organization’s Human Resources efforts in Executive search to recruit qualified candidates for General Manager in 2012; Upgraded recruiting structure to use ADP for applying and applicant flow log 2013; Implement Payroll upgrades and training as provided via the HR Strategic Plan in 2011-2014; Designed and Developed Performance Review Process in 2014.

What food issues are you passionate about?
Since I am diabetic, it's important for me to learn what is best for my body. I think most people eat when they are hungry, stressed or even because something tastes good, but I have a stricter diet and schedule-making to ensure that I do not skip meals and that the meals I eat are nutritional and not just empty calories. While at the Co-op I learned how to eat better and I have a better understanding for organics, fruits and vegetable which you cannot get out of today's books.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
Just having background of seeing what might not work so well in a Co-op in a large city, previous challenges faced, expectations from the community, workers and unions. I look forward to bringing the knowledge learned over the years.

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DANA MCKINNEYDana_McKinney.png

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
As Owners of Chicago Market – A Community Co-op, we each need to bring our skills and talents to the table and work together if we truly intend to realize our vision of a better food community—local, sustainable, and connected. I joined Chicago Market because I believe a community-owned and democratically-operated, local food co-op *can* change the local food landscape and positively contribute to the local economy.

I've been serving on the Board for the past six years because I know that only with committed Owners will this belief become a reality. I am running for re-election to continue to help us work towards that goal. I'm excited about the funding we've been able to acquire and how close we are to breaking ground and starting construction. I can't wait to see our finished store and would like to help shepherd our project along towards that achievement.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have served on the Chicago Market Board of Directors for 2 terms (6 years - 2017-2023) and I also have previous experience as both the President and the Treasurer of a condo board, and have participated for several years on the Church Council at my congregation (the church equivalent of a board).

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
While it's not in the grocery sector, I do have over 25 years experience in Retail Management and Learning & Organizational Development in specialty retail settings. My skills include areas of expertise specifically in training and development, but also in retail operations, process and procedure documentation, leadership practices, and driving organizational effectiveness. In my time in retail, I have assisted with the opening of over 50 retail store locations.

As we get closer to opening, I believe my skills can assist our GM and other staff members as we look to hire, train, and develop our operations team to successfully open our store. I pride myself on being curious, collaborative, thoughtful, resourceful, dedicated, and detail-oriented. If I don't know it, I'll learn what I need to know about it to make good decisions and move forward confidently. I ask lots of questions!

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
As mentioned previously, I have served on the Chicago Market Board of Directors for two 3-year terms and am seeking re-election. Previous to and during my Board tenure, I have volunteered in a myriad of ways from facilitating Owner Info Sessions to assisting with events such our Open Houses or Pop-Up Markets, as well as representing the Co-op at various festivals and Co-op engagements like the Uptown Farmers Market and the Argyle Night Market. In my previous term, I chaired our General Manager Search Committee which led to the hiring of our current General Manager, Dan Arnett. I currently participate on the Organizational Development team and assist the board with DE&I initiatives. As Board Vice-President, I also currently chair the Personnel committee.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
I had shopped as a customer at food co-ops prior to joining Chicago Market as an Owner, but my volunteering with our Co-op is my primary experience with food co-ops. Since becoming a Director on the Board, I have attended five different national conferences specifically for start-up food co-ops and have met with and learned from food cooperators from across the country. I have also attended regular calls with peer food co-op start-ups to share ideas and best practices and learn from experts in the field. So, while my previous experience with co-ops before Chicago Market was minimal, I have certainly made up for it in my "co-op education" over the last six years!

What food issues are you passionate about?
I am passionate about eating F.L.O.S.S.—food that is fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and sustainable. I appreciate food that's not processed unnecessarily with chemicals that could affect my health and believe food is best when unadulterated and natural. I want to eat food grown and produced locally so I can help keep farmers on the farm, support local small businesses, enhance our local food system, and reinforce our local economy. And I want to ensure that the methods in which these foods are provided to me are sustainable—for the earth, for the farmer, and for our community. I believe access to fresh, local food should be a right for everyone, not a privilege. And in my humble opinion, opening a community-owned food co-op focused on local food and sustainable business practices would achieve all these things!

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I think any Owner who has come into contact with me through the Co-op has seen my passion for this project and what we're trying to do. I have been an engaged, active member of the Board my past two terms, and have stuck with this community through all of the ups and downs we've faced through the years. I don't shy away from a challenge and am passionate about the community we've built. I will do my best to represent our Owners and provide the direction and guidance our project needs to get the doors on our store open for business.

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MATTHEW RUFFI2022_-_Ruffi_Headshot_sq.jpg

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
Bringing my 23+ years of business experience, coupled with my 3 years of being a Chicago Market Board Member (2 as President), my day-job as the director of the Link Up Illinois program (providing Link Match to co-ops, neighborhood grocers, farm stands, CSAs, and farmers markets), as well as my connection to our community through my roles as SSA Commissioner, Board of Directors for Friends of Uplift, etc. put me in an excellent position to continue to represent Chicago Market Owners on our Board.

Do you have previous Board experience?
Yes, I currently am on the Board for Chicago Market. In addition, I am an officer (treasurer) on a not-for-profit board. I have been on both not-for-profit organizations as well as on for-profit businesses both domestically and internationally. From the other side of the table, I have also have run multi-million dollar domestic and international companies (as COO) where I served at the pleasure of a board of directors who I reported to.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
My experience through the past three years here at Chicago Market on the Board (four if you think of when I first started volunteering) has given me many skills directly related to this organization that, I feel, will continue to help us as we move forward. Outside of Chicago Market, I have 23+ years business experience which includes building businesses from scratch, growing existing businesses as well as M&A activities on both sides of the table. I firmly believe that while the values and ideals of the Market are sound, the team needs business savvy to take this from concept to reality—and I believe my past experiences can help to do just that.

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
I have been involved since 2019 when we first started volunteering, and I joined the Board of Directors in 2020. For the past 2 years I've had the pleasure of being our Board President.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
My experiences (prior to joining in with Chicago Market and becoming a volunteer) was only as a patron and an Owner—while that continues to be true, over the past three years I can add that I've worked with many other co-ops from a peer perspective. Separately, when living abroad I gained much more knowledge about the ability to truly shop local and make relationships with our local food providers. While not a co-op, the experience certainly has been a driving factor in my continuing involvement with the Market.

What food issues are you passionate about?
Local & Food Access: Local—strengthening (or building, if not already there) connections between the local providers and the local community is something that I believe benefits all parties involved. Not only does it elevate your knowledge and understanding of the products you are buying and consuming, but it also creates unique relationships which you don't see often in the US (especially in urban settings like Chicago). Food Access—Giving people the tools, knowledge, and ability to access good local food is an amazing gift that we are able to give to our community. This is the driving factor why I head up the Link Up Illinois team where I oversee the Link Match program for all of Illinois. Bringing programs like this, coupled with the amazing thought and care that co-ops have built into them, can have even greater impact for our community and I look forward to making this a reality with Chicago Market.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I am passionate about creating the opportunity for our community to experience the Market and will focus my efforts on doing all I can to get us there. I am a great team player but I do not hesitate to speak my mind and challenge my colleagues in business—and expect to be doing the same here. I look forward to helping represent the owner base and get this project moving forward.

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ANTHONY TODDAnthony_Todd.png

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I have been a part of the Chicago Market Board of Directors since the initial board was elected in 2015. I have a strong passion for the project, and a ton of background knowledge, and I am very excited to see it through to conclusion and opening.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have experience on non-profit junior boards, including the Legal Council for Health Justice and Public Interest Law Illinois.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
In addition to my long experience with Chicago Market, I bring several skill sets to bear that might help the market. Professionally, I am an attorney, and have been handling legal matters for Chicago Market for some time now, including negotiations with the CTA, insurance issues, liability concerns and general legal advice. Further, I am a professional food writer with over a decade of experience, and am connected to the city's culinary scene and have a good sense of food trends and consumer demand.

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
I was a member of the pre-board steering committee, and a member of the board of directors since 2015.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
I have been a member of a food co-op in every place I have lived, starting when I was growing up in Iowa City, Iowa. I was a member of co-ops in college, graduate school, and in a frequent vacation destination, and was a member of the Hyde Park co-op before it closed. Currently, I am also a member of the Dill Pickle Co-Op and a member of the Grand Marais Whole Foods Co-Op.

What food issues are you passionate about?
I am most passionate about access to local foods at affordable prices, thanks to scaled distribution. I am particularly passionate about access to local, humanely raised meat. Further, I am a strong believer in the co-ops mission to improve access, including by matching/improving upon LINK/SNAP and other sorts of food access funding.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
Nothing else!

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Voting is conducted online and begins on Friday, Sept. 22 at 12:00am and will be open until Thursday, Sept. 28 at 11:59pm. Owners will receive an email from Chicago Market explaining the voting process.


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