Blog post

Tips for Forming Your First Steering Committee


  • Try to avoid the "raise your hand" technique. Starting a food co-op is essentially starting a business and you want to be intentional about this very important time in your co-op's development.
  • Identify and recruit your "dream team". Your "dream team" will build, protect, and carry out the vision for your cooperative market. Think about honest, intelligent, well-connected people in your community who would be great to work with. It's likely that you'll have a hard time finding people with co-op experience. Don't worry about that at this point. It's common for steering committees to be passionate yet inexperienced with co-ops or groceries.
  • Know thyself. Be sure to take stock of what you're good at, and what you could use some assistance with. You might be a great "champion" of the project, pulling people in, but maybe not so great at keeping a group organized and on task (or vice versa). Look for people that will compliment you well and create a team with varied strengths.
  • Look for cooperators. Be careful about who you recruit to the first steering committee. It will be very difficult later to remove those who may try to make the co-op fit their vision as opposed to the group's vision of a cooperative market.
  • Now is the time to seek out and recruit the kind of diversity you want your co-op to have. Try to come up with a mix of people (nonprofit, business, retired, etc.). Be leery of developers or those who might have a serious conflict of interest (this does not necessarily include farmers).
  • Educate early and often. Cooperatives are not top of mind for a lot of folks and even the best of us need regular education. We have a wealth of webinars and resources available to walk you through organizing your co-op, cooperative vision, timelines, etc. Here's a good one on Creating Your Vision from our very own Stuart Reid and national expert on startups Bill Gessner.