Product Offering at our Co-op

*Originally emailed to membership 3/9/2017

One of the key items of discussion at our recent member listen session was the types and consistency of the products our members are seeing on the shelves.  Some items might be stocked one week, and out of stock at another time.  There have also been changes in the products stocked on a permanent basis.  We are aware of the concerns over the policy guiding the coop's purchasing.  Our interim co-managers have been working overtime trying to develop a consistent purchasing system and responding to member concerns.  That said, one of the things that the Board has recently become aware of-and something that we all need to be aware of-is that with almost 3,000 members, our membership will not always agree on what the coop should be carrying. This is a challenge that every coop faces. For example, some of our members believe that buying local should be the top priority, while others believe methods of production are the most significant concern. All the while, maintaining access to healthy food with prices that are affordable is important as well. While you can rest assured that you will never find a McDonald's setting up next to the deli, please keep in mind that there is diversity of opinion amongst our members in terms of priorities.

Based on this initial feedback, we have formed a committee tasked with developing a food purchasing policy that will help guide our management in their purchasing decisions to best serve our memberships' needs. One of our active members generously volunteered to help the board develop a survey for members, which you will see in the near future.  This is one of the great strengths of our store-it allows us to be democratic in a way that is simply not possible with a different type of grocery store through active member engagement. As we work toward development of a food policy, we welcome all feedback.

In cooperative solidarity,

Your Bisman Community Food Coop Board of Directors

If you're interested in the Food Policy Committee, please email kayla.pulvermacher@gmail.com

An Update on Our Search for a New General Manager

*Originally emailed to membership 3/6/2017

One of our primary focuses in recent months has been our search for a new general manager, which in many ways goes hand in hand with addressing the financial challenges we previously communicated to you.  We are forced with a bit of a chicken or egg situation where we would like to improve the financial strength of the coop so that we can entice a strong general manager to join, but simultaneously recognize that we truly need a strong general manager in order to fully address the financial issues.  We have been actively interviewing candidates, and while we had identified a very strong candidate and have been engaged in significant negotiations, it is difficult for us commit to a significant salary requirement given the financial condition of the coop.  That said, our top priority right now is identifying and hiring a new general manager, and we will continue to focus our energy on this goal until we have someone on board to lead us forward. If any members have leads on a strong candidate who might be interested, please have that person contact one of the board members.

In cooperative solidarity,

Your Bisman Community Food Coop Board of Directors

Financial Status of Our Co-op and Call to Action

*Originally emailed to membership on 3/5/17

As a part of our commitment to keeping you better informed, we would like to give you a status report on the financial health of our coop. It is perhaps the greatest challenge facing us right now.  The coop is doing very well with respect to increasing sales and revenue, however we are trying to get over one major hurdle:  In October, the board discovered that it had not been informed of significant cost overruns for the build-out of the coop, in excess of $300,000.  In addition, the board also discovered that numerous invoices had not been properly input into the coop's accounting software, and therefore were not appearing on the profit and loss and balance sheets. Of course, financial hurdles are common to startups, but this was a significant revelation that came at a time when the coop, like most start-up coops, was very vulnerable.  Board members and management have been working diligently trying to overcome this unexpected difficulty.  There is no doubt that this was serious blow to our financial health and one that is going to take all of us to fix.  

We have been working with our lenders to obtain extensions and new amortization schedules for coop debt to give us extra breathing room, and have also worked with vendors to obtain payment plans for some of our significant accounts payable that were discovered several months ago, and which the coop has not yet been able to pay down.  The current account payable amount is approximately $175,000.  While these numbers sound significant, and they are, our sales are equally significant.  Recent weekly sales were at $68,000, and are projected to increase to $70,000.  Although we are not yet making significant profits with these sales, they are on track with projections for a start-up cooperative such as ours.  We are also planning a campaign to bring in new members in the very new future. More details will be coming soon.

Presently, the most helpful thing our members can do is to help us increase these sales, and thereby increase our revenue.  Small things, such as meeting someone for lunch at the coop, planning meals for a month and buying all your groceries at the coop, and encouraging your friends and family to become members or just shop at the coop can help significantly if we all put in that effort. We are aware that there are still a number of people in the community who haven't had a chance to visit the store yet, so encouraging friends and family to check out all that the store has to offer could particularly make a big difference.

We continue to dedicate ourselves to the future of your coop, and we are doing our best to make it a place you are all proud to call your own.

In cooperative solidarity,

Your Bisman Community Food Coop Board of Directors

Communication to Our Member Owners

*Originally emailed to membership 3/4/2017

One of the most frequently voiced concerns we have heard regards our communication with the membership.  Our listening session was a step toward greater communication, and we hope this letter will be another step forward.  We are striving to be transparent and maintain an open line of communication, and if we have not met that goal, please understand that it is the result of our focusing as much energy and time as possible in other areas. Our email addresses are listed on the website, and we truly welcome any and all feedback.  If you prefer to discuss questions or concerns by phone, please feel free to email any of us and we will call you back as promptly as we can.

If you tried to reach out to the co-op earlier and didn't receive a response, we recommend you try again. Some email addresses did not function properly, so please send us an email directly, or ask to speak to someone in the store. While we can't address everything immediately, we are trying our best to make sure that everyone's concerns are heard. We are a community-owned store, and we are all learning together.

In addition, we are also aware that our website is in need of updating.  Hannah Moser, one of your board members, volunteered to work on the website, and others of us have volunteered to work on updating content.  The website needs significant work so that it can be fully utilized as a vehicle for communicating with members, and advertising our coop. Our intent is to provide more regular updates on the site, in addition to email. If you have ideas for content, please let us know. We'd love to hear from you!

Others requests we have heard include better signage in the coop, specifically in the produce department and meat department, and better signage for the menu at the deli.  Long term, these are also items that may need to be addressed by a new general manager, but our current management has also been made aware of these requests and will continue working to improve not only the signage, but the quality and quantity of information communicated to our members about the food for sale in the coop.  We are working on creating better communication with our team in the store so that they have more information about what is for sale at the coop, and about other changes and happenings important for the coop.

In cooperative solidarity,

Your Bisman Community Food Coop Board of Directors

A Letter to Our Members

*Originally emailed to membership 3/3/2017

To our members, our team, and our friends:

We recently held a listening session at which our members shared their thoughts and concerns regarding our food coop.  We want you to know that we hear you, and are working very hard to respond to inquiries and implement changes. We are a purely volunteer board, and most of us have only been at this for a few months. If you don't feel you've heard enough from us lately, please know that it is only because we have been working hard on some immediate and pressing issues facing our coop.

Over the next few days, you will be receiving a series of emails from us covering a number of topics we are currently trying to address:

  • Financial status of our coop and call to action
  • An update on our search for a new General Manager
  • Development of a food policy
  • Increased communication, including website updates

These are just a few of the more pressing issues currently being discussed. As an engaged member of your coop, we hope you will take the time to read about where we are, our plan moving forward and how you can get involved.  

As an example of the power of your shared voice, you may have noticed the increased hours for the deli.  The decision to scale back these hours was a difficult one, based on numbers and traffic in the deli, and the cost of labor to staff it. For a time, management simply couldn't justify keeping it open during off-peak hours.  Several members chose to speak up and voice their opinion, that the deli is often an integral part of their shopping experience, and management has recently announced that it is once again increasing the hours.

The Bisman Community Food Coop is more than just a grocery store.  It is a vision shared by those who believe in the power of community; the power of food to change not only our health, but our economy, our environment, and our very perspective of our place on this planet.  Please remember that whatever difficulties we face, your board members share your vision, and we are working tirelessly on your behalf to project our shared vision across the Northern Plains.

In cooperative solidarity,

Your Bisman Community Food Coop Board of Directors

We met our Capital Campaign goal!!

BOOM. We're there. $23k in one day AND we've welcomed almost 40 new member-owners in the past few days. You. guys. rock.
Join us in celebrating tonight at Laughing Sun Brewing from 5-7pm to "Toast Your Co-op" and order some wood-fired pizza from our friends atFIREFLOUR PIZZA!! We will have a larger, all-ages celebration at our site later in October. Thank you to everyone who has carried us over the last few months. We love our members and we love you, Bismarck-Mandan!


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 
-Margaret Mead

Bismarck Cancer Center offering employee program to support the food co-op

Awesome news alert: The Bismarck Cancer Center is joining the ranks with Basin Electric Power Cooperative and is participating in our employee wellness program. They are contributing $50 towards every employee who wants to become a member-owner of the food co-op!! Interested in offering a cool perk to your employees while helping us grow our membership? It's a great co-opportunity! Call Heidi at (701) 202-3167 Cooperation for the win.

An incredible response from the community

Dear friends,

We are so completely blown away by what's happened over the last 2 days. We put out a call to action on Sept. 3rd letting our members and the public know that we needed to reach our capital campaign and membership goals this month or we would have a difficult decision facing us at the end of the month. The outpouring of support has been nothing short of phenomenal. As of 10am this morning we have welcomed 68 new member-owners in the past 48 hrs. 

As an added bonus, we received a call from our friends at Nourished by Nature. They are willing to gift 2 lbs. of their incredible grass-fed beef to anyone who becomes a member in September. We told them our goal is 200 and they didn't bat an eye. It's people like the folks at Nourished by Nature that are so committed to helping us make this a reality. We are grateful for their support and for everyone who is making calls, sending emails, nudging their friends, etc. We are amazed by your commitment to healthy food and a healthy community.

For any member that has or will sign up in September: We will include a coupon in the mail with your membership card that is good for 2 lbs of grass-fed beef that can be redeemed with Nourished by Nature. For any vegetarians or vegans that sign up, please indicate somewhere on your membership form or in the comments section of your preference and you will get a free co-op t-shirt! Already a member and wondering where your incentive is? Recruit a friend and be sure they include your name somewhere on the membership form or comment section and YOU will get something, too!! 

As always, if you have questions please get in touch with us (701) 203-3167

A critical month ahead

Dear members and friends of the food co-op,

We've always been pretty optimistic here at the co-op. We believe in our vision and mission, and our cooperative has 950 member-owners affirming the value we see in this project. 

But this week we received some disheartening news. Our lead lender has backed out because of three primary concerns: 1) The project's limited collateral 2) No guarantor for the loan 3) our capital campaign coming up $150,000 short of the equity goal. 

So what now? 

Commercial loan: We are working with another lender that is familiar with food co-op start-up's.Cooperatives are difficult to finance because there is no one person or small group of primary shareholders to guarantee the loan. The commercial loan would be much easier to secure if we had a supportive member willing to guarantee the loan on the Co-op's behalf. 

Site: We were granted one final 30-day extension on our site but each extension has cost us money so if we don't reach our goal this month, we will lose our site and our co-op will likely be dissolved.

Why  does it cost $2.5 million to start a Food Co-op? 

Our vision is to have a full line grocery cooperative and we are committed to that vision. We're talking a full-scale deli, salad bar, meat dept., produce, dairy, bulk items, health and beauty, and so much more. Three reasons food co-op's fail: too small space, wrong management, under-capitalized. Our project has enough retail space for a full line grocery store and our $2.5 million start up budget ensures that store is properly capitalized.

Setbacks are typical and we are not the first food co-op to face challenges with financing. Having said that, if this Food Co-op is going to happen, we need to make one more equity push over the next 30 days. 

This is it, Bismarck-Mandan. If we want a world class food cooperative in our community we have 30 days to make it happen.  Anyone on the fence about becoming a member or investing, waiting to see if this is a "Go" or "No Go" -NOW IS THE TIME TO GET OFF THE FENCE AND INVEST. We know those people are out there and we cannot stress the importance of you stepping forward to make an investment in good food and community. Thank you to those who have already invested. 

All member-owners will be receiving a letter in the mail about 2 upcoming events in September and a call to action. The first event is to make a final push to raise the remaining funds, the final event will be a member celebration when reach our goal! We have worked so hard over the past 3 1/2 years. Please help spread the word. 

Questions? Contact Heidi at (701) 203-3167

In Cooperation, 

Your GM and Board of Directors

A note from your General Manager

I am very excited to be your GM for the BisMan Community Food Co-op! Recently I attended the Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) in June in Boise, ID. This is the biggest co-op conference in the nation and I had the opportunity to meet with several other GM's from all over the U.S. The total scope was made clear to me as to how big and fast this Co-op movement is… there were 75 Co-ops represented from all over the U.S. In meeting with a lot of the fellow representatives and attending the breakout sessions, I learned about the “do's” and “don’ts” of co-op operations.

Food Co-op's are fairly new to ND, which means we as member/owners have a lot of work to do in regard to educating people on the impact a Food Co-op will have on the local economy. The 6 key points are:

1.   Member Owned

2. Access to Locally Produced, Natural, Organic, Specialty

3.   Educational

4.   Concern for the Community

5.   Great Place to Shop

6.   Great place to work

The founding team has been working hard since 2012 to bring The BisMan Community Food Co-op a long way. They have established a mission statement that brings it all together:

The BisMan Community Food Cooperative is committed to providing a grocery shopping experience reflective of our community’s commitment to health and wellness. 

Our 3 guiding principles are:

1.    Real Food: we are what we eat

2.    Empowered community members

3.    Strong local economy

As we look at the fore mentioned mission statement and the 3 guiding principles we are reminded of the vision that these founding members had and know that it will soon be realized!

As your GM, my driving principle is to start with the end in mind. Well, the end is in sight now that we have a location which we will start to remodel in August! We have an exciting floor plan which will soon be finalized. In mid July we will start to meet with local farmers, producers, and ranchers and to establish and asses our base of local products. Then we'll begin to lock in our regional and national suppliers.

In September, the Board will meet to set up some buying standards/product policies and Governing practices.

So as you can see we are getting close and it is getting exciting!! Here's what we need from you as member owners:

1.   Tell your friends, neighbors, and relatives about the Co-op

2.   Our goal is to open with 1200 member/owners, we are getting there!

3.   Consider a member loan or purchasing preferred shares in the co-op

4.  Provide input on items you would like to see your Co-op carry

In conclusion, I have been to both Wholefoods and Trader Joes, and although they carry a lot of natural, organic, and specialty items, they are not locally supplied and they don’t put money back into the community. This is where we, as your locally owned food co-op, will excel. The market is ready for the Co-op so lets get more members and get the Community ready to support the Co-op!

Randy Joersz

GM, BisMan Community Food Co-op

    

Press Announcement! Co-op has a home!

   Yesterday marked a milestone for the Food Co-op! We held a press conference announcing our new home of 711 Sweet Avenue in Bismarck, the current location of Snooper's Tons of Fun. General Manager Randy Joersz spoke about his excitement for being apart of the Co-op. "I look forward to helping the food co-op move forward through the final stage of development as we put the physical elements of the store together," Joersz said. 

   The BisMan Community Food Co-op will begin renovations this summer. Paul Breiner with Matrix Design in Mandan and Gorske & Associates in Minneapolis are developing the design and store layout for the renovations. This will be the last season of Snooper's Tons of Fun and even when it's closed owners Jerry and Renae Doan will continue to be our leasers. The Doans opened Snooper's over 20 years ago. "It's bittersweet to close the doors on Snooper's after more than 20 years of operation. Literally thousands of children have come through our doors," said Renae. "At the same time, we are pleased to support the Food Co-op and the focus it has to serve our community and help bring consumers closer to the source of their food." 

    The goal is to open the Food Co-op with 1,200 founding member-owners in the spring of 2016. 

http://bismarcktribune.com/business/local/food-co-op-finds-a-home/article_dfacef8e-df5d-5da3-829f-800580cda899.html

For more information about the BisMan Food Co-op, visit www.bismanfoodcoop.com

BISMAN COMMUNITY FOOD CO-OP HIRES GENERAL MANAGER

After a national search, we are excited to announce we have hired the food co-op's first General Manager, Randy Joersz.

Randy will help the food co-op move forward through the final stage of development by putting the physical elements of the store together; hiring a management team; developing a merchandising plan; and working with local producers.  Randy grew up in the Bismarck-Mandan area and is a third-generation grocer. After starting out as a bag boy in the early 70’s, Randy moved up to a management position in 1981 for his Grandpa Bill’s Super Value store in New Salem. In 1999 after 18 years of management, Randy ventured into a five-store grocery operation in Iowa until the sale of the business in 2014. He has been an active member of his local Lions Club, Rotary Club, and has served as a Cub Scout Leader, member of his church’s parish council, and more recently as a board member of the Iowa Grocers Association. 

"Randy is uniquely qualified for this position with his wealth of knowledge of the industry. He is ready and willing to learn about the cooperative model and understands the positive impacts the food co-op will have on the health of the community and local economy." said board chair, Angie Oberg. 

Randy had made plans to move back to the Bismarck-Mandan area to be closer to family before learning of the position. His daughter, who is a food co-op member, told him about the exciting development of a food co-op in the Bismarck-Mandan area. He was intrigued and reached out to us. The rest is history!

"I feel it is important, now more than ever, to feed our families the freshest, most naturally grown food available.  After having worked 33 years in farm communities in both North Dakota and Iowa, I feel I have a good understanding of how food is grown, brought to market and then sold, and I will use that knowledge to grow the Bis-Man Food Co-op." said Joersz.

A special thank you to our hiring committee: Carmen Hoffner, Heidi Demars, Glen Philbrick, Bill Patrie, Angie Oberg, Tyler Demars, and Brenda Stone!

 

 

Hiring a General Manager

We've been working to open a food co-op for the past 3 years. In regards to the 4 in 3 plan we've been following, we are moving into our 3rd and final stage of development before we open our doors. We are at a critical point in our development and we are excited to be in the process of interviewing General Manager candidates. 

We received applications from across the country and we know it will take a unique person with the special qualifications required to help us open a thriving community-owned natural foods grocery store. 

By hiring a qualified GM we are one step closer to opening our doors!

 

Local Co-op furthers plans for new grocery store

October 01, 2014 4:49 pm  •  By Karee Magee

BisMan Community Food Co-op launched its Member Loan Campaign Wednesday as part of its plan to start a member-owned grocery store.

The campaign consists of current members pledging a loan to the co-op, so additional financing can be secured from a bank or credit union.

The co-op was launched in the summer in 2013 and now includes about 650 members.

The BisMan Community Food Co-op is designed to support local food, fair wages and educating the community on making healthy choices.

The grocery store is scheduled to open in 2015, depending on whether the co-op has to renovate a building or build one.

The co-op’s goal is to raise $500,000 by Nov. 15, and they hope to secure about $500,000 from a bank after the campaign.

“We've exceeded our goal to have 10 percent of our overall goal committed before launching the capital campaign and have $75,000 committed by members that have been core supporters since the beginning,” Heidi Demars, outreach coordinator of the BisMan Community Food Co-op, said.

The co-op also plans to approach local businesses about buying preferred equity, a type of stock.

Reach reporter Karee Magee at 701-250-8251 or karee.magee@bismarcktribune.com.

http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/local-co-op-furthers-plans-for-new-grocery-store/article_c22216d0-49b4-11e4-9bbe-affb076d56b1.html

Inching towards 700 members and raising capital

The past couple of months have been focused on our member loan campaign. Very few start-up co-op's like us launch a member loan campaign without a site. Having said that, our board felt is was important to move forward and try to raise the capital needed without a delay in our development. We reached about half of our goal and have shifted our focus to selecting a site. 

Anyone who lives in the area knows that the market in Bismarck-Mandan has been impacted by fast-paced growth due to the influx of oil development in western ND. This has driven up the cost of retail spaces and has forced us to work quickly when we find a site that we think might fit our needs. Membership has slowed a bit but our focus is to continue to build the number of member-owners while educating our existing members on the importance of principle #3, member economic participation. This means our current members have an opportunity to invest further in their co-op by providing a member loan or purchasing preferred equity. Having our member-owners contribute to the capital of their co-op is a cornerstone in food co-op financing.

We have managed to meet half of our goal but know that once we can announce a site we will have more members interested in investing. We are grateful to all our members who have supported us and we are looking forward to 2015! Our next steps are to locate a site, sign a lease, advertise for our General Manager, and begin working on renovation of our store. Good things ahead!

Q&A Tuesday!

Q&A Tuesday.png

We are starting something new here at the co-op. It's Q&A Tuesday! We get all sorts of questions via email and we'd like to start sharing them. Please feel free to send us a message or post on our wall. We love hearing from our members and future members!

Brianna asks "I visited Amazing Grains in Grand Forks this weekened. Will the BisMan Community Food Coop be similar in size, prices and variety of offerings?" 

Great question, Brianna. Here is our A to your Q:

Amazing Grains is quite a bit smaller. Our co-op will be between 6,000-8,000 square feet so about 5 times that size. We will have bigger sections and because we will have more retail space, we will carry more products. We also have plans for a deli with a juice/coffee bar with more grab-and-go items. As far as price goes, we will be competitive to current prices in Bismarck. For example, Almond milk in Grand Forks is around $3.49, in Bismarck it's closer to $4.89. This is because we are in service gap in terms of proximity to a major distribution point (Minneapolis, Billings) These are all issues that we have been addressing over the past 2 years and will continue to work on collaboratively with our GM when that individual is hired in early 2015. Amazing Grains is a great little co-op but they are growing and talking about expanding to serve their 1300+ members better.
Fyi: all co-op meetings are open to members so if you're interested, go to our website and click on our calendar of events to find our next meeting date.