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Food Co-op


Professional Certificate

Launching Your New Food Co-op

Food Co-op Initiative and the University of Vermont have joined forces to create a comprehensive, online training program covering the entire development process for starting a successful new retail food co-op. This course is designed to broaden participants’ understanding of the unique economic and social benefits of the cooperative business model and to provide a comprehensive overview of the vision, talent, systems and capital that are required to successfully launch a new consumer-owned food co-op.

The nine-week certificate program is led by Stuart Reid, Executive Director of the Food Co-op Initiative, with support from Clem Nilan, a life-long educator and successful food co-op manager. The program is organized into weekly lessons with lectures, readings, engaging media, discussions, and relevant assignments.  You will learn key skills for launching a co-op, and develop a network of professionals essential to your future success through group discussions in an online forum with fellow students, instructors, and guest experts. Students are encouraged to attend the Up & Coming Conference for startup food co-ops in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for an optional extra session and the chance to immerse themselves in the knowledge and support of the startup community.

Whether you are a co-op developer, project manager or board member in a food co-op organizing effort, this course will give you the knowledge and confidence to lead your community in this major undertaking.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how to develop the cornerstones of vision, systems, talent, and capital that will support your co-op organizing efforts
  • Recognize the stages of development that a startup co-op works through as the project moves forward along a structured timeline
  • Learn the different kinds of capital available to a co-op, the impact each has on feasibility, and how to go about raising what you need to open a successful storefront
  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of founding members, the board of directors, volunteers and staff and how they can work together effectively and accountably
  • Acquire key skills from the experts: Learn legal and accounting requirements, feasibility assessment, financial projections, business planning, site considerations– how to build your co-op from the ground up
  • Be introduced to the resources, support, and cooperative organizations needed for startup food co-ops to thrive
  • Complete a valuable final project to apply the skills learned during the course and to help you on your way to starting your own co-op