Up & Coming Co-op Conference

Six representatives from the Cedar Falls Food Co-op began March with an exciting start by attending the Up & Coming Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And just like the burst of spring we are experiencing in the Cedar Valley, the conference left us feeling energized and excited for the future!

The conference sessions are designed to guide and educate start-up food co-ops in all three stages of development, helping them begin with a solid foundation and ultimately open their doors with a clear path to success. Some memorable sessions for our attendees included:

  • Transforming a Site into Owners
  • Teaching Your Team to Co-op
  • The Co-Op Deli Revolution

Melanie Drake, outreach coordinator for the Co-op attended a pre-conference workshop on capital campaign planning along with more than a dozen other co-ops. “We learn so much from one another; we readily share ideas and our own co-op’s processes because one of the cooperative principles is cooperation among cooperatives,” she marveled. “This workshop and the other sessions I attended gave me an array of new ideas to explore with our volunteers and the work we have ahead.”






Up & Coming provides a perfect way to network with other food co-ops around the country, and attendees participated in a scavenger hunt designed to help us meet professionals from consultants to store designers in addition to members of other co-ops. Through this networking we were entered into a drawing and won $1000 in consultation services from CDS Consulting Co-op! We also got to relax and have some fun Friday evening at a social reception complete with a s’mores station and a photo booth.


















The conference culminated with an awards ceremony bringing one of our most exciting moments when it was announced that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op was of three finalists for 2019’s “Best of the Best” award! The award, which ultimately went to Fredericksburg Food Co-op, is awarded to co-ops whose use of best practices illuminates the way forward for peer co-ops to use best practices to reach new levels of success. “It was an honor to be recognized by our peers and industry consultants from among the many amazing start-up efforts across the country,” said Tom Wickersham, board president. “The nomination confirms that we’re doing the right things to open a great store here in the Cedar Valley.”


A favorite conference tradition is to visit the Willy Street Co-op in Madison on the way home. This co-op has one of the largest memberships in the country, and it is not hard to see why. They are packed to the gills with an amazing selection of local products and a wide variety of natural and organic favorites. Concluding our trip to an amazing conference with a visit to a highly successful co-op always inspires us to make sure we are dreaming big and working as hard as we can to bring a successful and sustainable grocery store to the Cedar Valley!





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