Many consumer cooperatives struggle with communicating how they are different than their investor-owned competitors. Willy Street Co-op is fortunate to have a talented communications team who effectively tell the public and our members about the cooperative difference. So, what does it mean to “own” the Willy Street Co-op?
As Willy Street Co-op members, you:
- Receive special discounts on goods/services (including a huge selection of unique organic/locally produced foods).
- Elect the governing Board (thanks, by the way) and vote on the annual budgets.
- Vote on critical issues like bylaws and store expansion.
- Get invited to member appreciation events with delicious food and riveting entertainment.
- Voice your opinion on the all important annual t-shirt design competition.
These benefits are all relatively tangible, but what about those intangible benefits that truly differentiate our Co-op from other businesses? Perhaps you haven’t thought about this difference so let me elaborate. It may cause you to pause next time you shop the Co-op.
Most firms in the United States are in the business of creating returns (or income) for a group of individuals known as stockholders (or owners). Since these stockholders put their money at risk they expect certain levels (usually really high) of income in return. This is not an inherently bad idea as the American economy was built on the shoulders of capitalism. However, recent trends in the commercial sector (obscene CEO salaries, a growing disparity between the rich and the poor, etc.) present an ugly manifestation of this system, and are causing many consumers to question whether they should support commercial organizations that engage in questionable practices.
Cooperatives, on the other hand, are much more egalitarian. For example, each individual member at the Willy Street Co-op has an equal say in the governance of the organization, they contribute to capital of the organization in small increments and the income of the organization is largely used to reinvest in new facilities, systems and reward/retain/attract valuable staff members. Additionally, the Co-op engages in a host of sustainable business practices which proactively support a clean environment, promote economic justice and worse with other like-minded businesses.
Keeping it in the community
Think about this wholesale difference next time you swipe your debit card or hand over a $20 bill to your friendly Willy Street Co-op cashier. Your money is indeed leaving your pocket, but it is staying in the community by supporting local food producers/service providers, contributing to the future growth of the cooperative and sustaining a fair and equitable way of conducting business.
You probably know all this, so let’s spread the word to our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members. Shop the Co-op and make the world a better place!