ANNUAL BOARD RETREAT
Your Co-op’s Board met for their annual retreat on Saturday, September 16th at the Central Office. The group was joined by Rose Marie Klee, a consultant with Cooperative Development Service (CDS) and Board member of Austin-based Wheatsville Co-op. Over the course of the day, Board members dove into a variety of topics including governance, policy monitoring, the Co-op’s financials, and strategic learning. Some great questions came out of this work, including:
•How does the Co-op create a community that is compelling enough to override competition?
•What role does the Board play in cutting through distractions?
•How can the Board emotionally connect with Owners and our community?
•What is the right balance between fiduciary, strategic, and generative Board work?
These questions, among others, will guide the Board’s efforts as the year continues.
Michelle Schry, another CDS consultant, gave the Board an update on the overall state of the natural foods industry, particularly co-ops in that sector. It was a sobering report, that made us all appreciate the intensity of competition facing Willy Street Co-op and other co-ops across the country. Rose Marie put it well when she said, “The success of the Co-op is truly its ability to make an impact on the world.” It’s our job, as the Co-op’s Board, to make sure Willy Street Co-op’s ability to make a positive impact on the world grows over time. Learning more about the challenges in our market is an integral part of that.
Knowing that we’re in a period of great disruption in the grocery industry, I’m grateful to be on the Board with eight other smart, passionate and insightful individuals. This month I had the privilege of interviewing Jeannine Bindl, another of this year’s newly elected Board members!
Stephanie Ricketts (SR): What was your first memory of the Willy Street Co-op?
Jeannine Bindl (JB): I had just moved to Wisconsin, probably in 2009, and I loved to make bread at the time. I went to Willy East and got a bunch of oats, flour and other bulk products. I love bulk food, so the bulk aisle at Willy East is one of my first memories of the Co-op.
SR: How did you first learn about cooperatives, and what was the first co-op you joined?
JB: I think Willy Street was the first co-op that I joined! I first learned about co-ops when I was an undergrad student in Minneapolis—we had some great local co-ops like The Wedge and Seward. I didn’t know much about the cooperative principles or membership, but knew they were great stores that were called “co-ops.”
SR: What do you rely on Willy Street Co-op for?
JB: Groceries, for sure! I rely on the Co-op to have foods that have contents I can trust. I can go into the store and know that products are responsibly purchased and responsibly grown. I don’t have to worry about anything in the store, which is great.
SR: What are your top three favorite Willy Street Co-op foods?
JB: The bulk kombucha, the honeybee bar and coffee—those would be my top three. I have a hard time leaving without buying all three of those!
SR: Do you have any favorite food traditions?
JB: Eating in community is probably my favorite food tradition, regardless of whether it’s just a weekend or a holiday. Eating with others, enjoying a meal, having conversation… all of that is part of the experience that I really value.
SR: Besides being a Board member, what else do you like to do with your time?
JB: I hang out with my two kiddos most of the time! I’m a stay at home parent, and I do a bit of contract dietician work on the side, like menu analysis. For fun, we do lots of walking and spending time outside, lots of hiking. I went surfing in the Pacific Northwest in September, which was amazing. So, lots of outdoor activities. I also like to read when I have the chance, and pretend to be crafty by knitting and dabbling in watercolors. I also really like growing plants!
SR: What are you most excited about in being a new Board member, and what do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges the Co-op will face over the next few years?
JB: I am excited to participate in the big picture of the Co-op. I’m excited to learn from my peers, because there are some very intelligent people with lots of different backgrounds on this Board. I am also excited to meet more people in Madison who are likeminded, and find ways to collaborate to make Madison and Dane County a leader in terms of equitable food and access.
As for challenges for the Co-op, maintaining our market share and continuing to grow in membership are two. Also, meeting our members needs and being well informed as to what those needs really are. Staying competitive with our competition is part of the great big ball of challenges that our Co-op faces.
SR: Is there anything else you’d like our Owners to know?
JB: I’m really excited to have been elected! I hope to meet as many members as possible and represent them well.