What Does it Mean to Become a Founding Member?
The Cedar Falls Food Co-op is a member owned, member controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of all its members according to a set of established principles. It’s a unique business model — not a typical for-profit business, nor a nonprofit, but a collective of member-owners who have a say in how the business is run.
Households and individuals who purchase a $200 membership buy equity in the Cedar Falls Food Co-op. In return, they have input regarding which items will be found on the shelves, and they’ll get discounts in the store as well as educational and cooking classes. In addition, member-owners will be offered member dividends — a share of the profits.
The Cedar Falls Food Co-op uses the terms “member,” “owner” and “member-owner” interchangeably. “Member-owners are just that: owners,” says Tom Wickersham, president of the board of directors. “Their investment is not a donation or a membership fee. It’s an equity stake that gives everyone equal shares in the store.”
Because some of the benefits of becoming a member-owner won’t be fully available until the store is opened, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is recognizing the early supporters with the designation of founding member. Everyone who joins before the co-op open its doors is considered a founding member. “Founding members are doing more than buying equity, they’re making a statement,” Wickersham says. “They’re investing in an idea.”
For Kim Folkers, the cost of becoming a member-owner is a small price to pay for the value a co-op can bring to the community. “I just really see a co-op as an important symbol of the quality of life in the Cedar Valley,” she says. Folkers, a professor at Wartburg and a resident of Waverly, has, along with her husband, visited a number of co-ops over the years. When she found out about the efforts to establish a co-op in the area, it was a no-brainer. “It Seemed to us like a good idea to be a part of the group to push this to the next step,” Folkers says.
Founding members like Folkers receive all the benefits of regular membership. In addition, all founding members will be recognized for their commitment to the efforts to launch the co-op by having their names displayed in a permanent display in the store once it’s opened.
Folkers was matter of fact about joining before the store existed. “Sometimes you have to make the decision to support it early on.”