Public Board Minutes for March 22, 2017

At Beermiscuous
Present: Mike, Linn, Grant, Greg, Heather, Anthony, Emily, Jen, Karen, Bill
Guests: Tomas, Lee, Dana, Lisa

Notes: Heather and Greg
Bill: The monthly finance report has been posted on Basecamp. Our biggest recent expense has been insurance.

Jen, Linn and Anthony gave a presentation on their experiences at the recent Up and Coming, Up and Running conference for start-up co-ops in Milwaukee. Chicago Market representatives attended 24 sessions at the conference. Here are some of their takeaways from the event:

Jen: Chicago Market has a great reputation. People kept coming up to us to tell us how impressed they are with our website, marketing materials and pop-ups. But we've learned that we need to do more outreach. The community is more than one group. Referrals can be a challenge for Owners; people don't like to sell to friends. But we need to get them to.

Jen: We need to explore creative funding sources. And we need to educate the Board about their funding responsibilities. It's everyone's responsibility to go after funds to cakpitalize the co-oop.

Jen: We need to create a welcoming atmosphere. Once the store is open, we should have greeters who are community members. The Board must reflect the community. We need to have concrete diversity goals. Some co-ops have hired a diversity consultant to accomplish this. We need to have intercultural competency to connect with communities. This must also be reflected in the products we carry. We need to figure out how to do this -- the conference didn't provide a lot of concrete information how to accomplish this. 

Anthony: We need to start reaching out to other co-ops to help us solve specific issues -- not just with general questions. At this conference, we made connections that will help us do that. 

Linn: We need to focus on our volunteers, with recruiting them, following up, recognition, retention and holding them accountable. We shouldn't micromanage. We need to let people do work without intervention and assume responsibility for it. We need to set clear deadlines and hold them accountable.

Jen: We need to message the mission. We need to articulate a clear, compelling mission again and again. We need to communicate this with Owners. Silence is deadly. Our co-op is already here; our store is coming. Right now, social media is our storefront. We need to practice our elevator pitch, maybe start every meeting by reading the mission?

Jen: We should be communicating our timeline based on Owner numbers -- not on dates. We need to leverage all events for Ownership growth.

Anthony: I attended a workshop on why co-ops fail. Once the doors are actually open, data says your chances of success are over 75%. Major cause of failure is the co-op is too small -- less than 1,500 square feet. Or the pro forma has been ignored or falsified. The average timeline to opening is 4-7 years.

Jen: We need to do a better job of closing the ask when recruiting new Owners. We should have Owner awards at the annual meeting. 

Bill led a discussion on whether the co-op should refund ownership fees for Owners who request it. 

Bill: We should keep it the way it currently is. It has worked fine so far. If someone asks for money back, we should refund it. 

Karen: As soon as we announce our site, it's possible that people who don't live near the site will start asking for money back. We should be prepared for that question. Also, what do we do if the co-op doesn't come to fruition?

Anthony: With any startup, there is risk.

Emily: What would everyone's fair share be if we gave refunds if the co-op didn't materialize? Right now, someone could get their full investment back. That might not be the case later one. 

Mike: I don' think we need to refund any money. You invested in a startup. We cannot give money back. It will imperil the co-op. We have the obligation to say, "We can't give you your money back."

Lee: We'd need to modify our FAQs.

Grant: Other co-ops do refund to Owners.

Greg: But startups don't.

Grant: The Board has to declare it's fiscally viable.

Anthony: I agree in principle but that's not what we've told people.
(Greg took over note-taking for Heather.)

  • Board Refund Discussion
    • Conversation about our board refund policy
    • Bylaws are restrictive, depend on board determination
    • Anthony will write a plain English policy based on the bylaws
      • We are not engaging in refunds until the store is open and profitable.
  • Board Discussion Recouping Processing Fees
    • Fees different depending on number of transactions
    • Jen proposal
      • $10 on payment plan, split evenly among payments (Not $10 -- exact cost)
      • Folks paying up front, either offer to absorb, or add on option to cover processing fees -- the actual cost
      • You can dodge all fees by paying cash or check
      • Approved by voice vote
  • CDFI
    • Greg discussed CDFI budget issue
    • Board agreed not a political issue
    • Greg said he would like to work with marketing
    • CM could be a proponent in sending this out to other co-ops
    • Greg will reach out to CDFIs
    • Approved by voice vote
  • Retreat
    • Because the results of the survey were inconsistent with what people said they were hoping to discuss at the retreat, LT apologizes but we are going to postpone the retreat, reorganize and consider bringing in a facilitator
  • Bill additional Finance reports
    • Working on procedure for money handling at popups
    • Working on procedure for cost controls, working with Meg
  • Lee
    • Changed our payment processor
    • Paypal recurring payments will continue on Paypal until finished
    • We’re moving away from Paypal and Democracy Engine
    • Lee put it on website

Grant adjourned the meeting.

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