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Owner Loans Key to Co-op Success

“Show me the money!”


Even if you are too young to have seen the film “Jerry Maguire” when it was released in 1996, you’ve likely heard the line above – the movie’s most famous quote.

In the scene, the football-player character Rod Tidwell, played by Cuba Gooding, exhorts his agent, played by Tom Cruise, to get him as big a contract as possible. It’s a classic scene – even if a bit over the top. The backstory, according to director Cameron Crowe, is that the Tidwell character isn’t motivated by greedy impulses, he is simply trying to secure his family’s financial future before his football career ends.

Right about now Chicago Market finds itself in a similar spot, you might say.

As we noted in a previous post about funding, the price tag for building out the Gerber Building and making Chicago Market operational will be in the neighborhood of $5 Million. Given that the conventional wisdom of cooperatives that it is the responsibility of Owners to provide half of the capital required, we are going to be asked to step up and do what we can to contribute to the financial health of our beloved Co-op.

That’s why Chicago Market is launching its Owner Loan Campaign (OLC).

What is an OLC?

Bottom line, it’s an opportunity for Chicago Market Owners to invest their own hard-earned capital in our mission-driven and cooperatively owned and run grocery store. Unlike investing in publicly traded securities or for-profit money market funds, the OLC enables Owners to participate in values-based investing in a super tangible way – one that will benefit the future health of themselves, their families and the planet. It’s also a meaningful way to live out your commitment to the principles that compelled you to become an Owner in the first place!

While the idea of an OLC might be new to some of us, cooperatives actually have a long history of turning to its Owners to raise necessary capital. Because of our unique legal status as a cooperative, we aren’t allowed to raise money through corporate capital or not-for-profit grants. Owners actually “own” the responsibility for making sure our Co-op has the money it needs to operate. For us, that begins with raising the capital needed to design and build our store.

OLC Chair and Board Member Sofia Jouravel explains why she volunteered to take on this time-and-labor intensive task.

“Having recently been appointed to the Board, I was excited to jump right in and commit my volunteer time to one of the most critical projects in Chicago Market’s four-year history – inviting Owners to help fund the store’s construction. Throughout the years I’ve been volunteering for the Co-op, I’ve talked to a number of our Owners who wanted a chance to have their voices heard and make a difference. The Owner Loan Campaign gives them that opportunity – and I get to help them experience our cooperative in action.”

In September, Owners will receive an information packet in the mail including a detailed explanation about what it means to make a loan to our Co-op in a prospectus (much like you’d receive from any other investment opportunity) and other information to help you understand how our OLC works. And Owners can learn more about the OLC in person at one of our OLC Info Sessions in September which will be listed on the Owners Only portion of our website.

Rest assured that our Co-op’s OLC is completely compliant with all Illinois laws concerning investment, and will adhere to our credo of transparency when communicating the risks and rewards of this extremely vital investment opportunity.

Owners – we are a pivotal piece of our Co-op’s funding pie. As idealistic and aspirational as we may have been when we became Owners of our cooperative market, the rubber is about to meet the road. Our architects, contractors, concrete suppliers and employees can’t be paid with our good intentions. And as believers in fair and equitable employment, we wouldn’t want them to.

As Michael Pollan so aptly notes in In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, “Our food dollars can either go to support a food industry devoted to quantity and convenience…or they can nourish a food chain organized around values – values like quality and health.”

Let’s all align our aspirations with our food-chain values – and our responsibility as Owners – and invest in Chicago Market, OUR Community Co-op. 

To get you excited about the prospect, take a look at the movie clip that features what the American Film Institute says is the 25th best movie quote of all time! 


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