A Message from Wild Root Board President, Alida Harper Trocke
While the journey began well beforehand, we thought we'd take a moment to celebrate the fact that September 7th was Wild Root Market's two-year anniversary of incorporation! Just over two short years ago, the state accepted our Articles of Incorporation and recognized us as a legal business entity. That was the moment when we officially became more than just a great idea!
We would like to thank each and every one of you who have joined, supported and continually cheered on the small group of volunteer Board members who are working hard to bring this vision to life. In turn, the Board would like to thank the plethora of volunteers who have given their personal time and energy to represent the market at events, spread the excitement about its impending arrival and otherwise educated the public about the value of supporting this community-based project.
As we move ever closer to taking the next giant leap, securing a site for your future coop, we're energized by the many demonstrations of support we receive (including a generous $8,000 grant from our friends at The Outpost Natural Foods in Milwaukee!). Your enthusiasm, kind words when we meet you out and about and willingness to play an active role in increasing the public's awareness means a lot. It truly does.
So happy anniversary to you, too! We wouldn't be as far along as we are today without you! By inviting your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues to become Member-Owners, you bring us that much closer to realizing the vision. Keep up the good work. And thank you.
Progress Update -- 600+ Member-Owners and Counting!
In September, we officially crossed another major threshold -- 600 Member-Owners!
Our 600th Member-Owner was the lucky winner of this basket, sponsored by Butterbuds Food Ingredients at the Racine Dominican Eco-Justice Center Festival in September.
In order to move ahead on a site, we've communicated the need to reach two important milestones: attaining 675 Member-Owners and demonstrating a solid financial pro forma for the site we choose.
As we close in on the Member-Owner milestone, we'd like to share the Board's work with respect to the financial projections. It's actually this second milestone that is the most complex yet has the greatest impact on our ability to move forward.
We have been working with specialized consultants to develop the financial targets of our business plan (i.e., the pro forma). This projection looks ten years into the future and is vitally important because, in order to lock in a site, we have to know we can secure financing. And once we lock a site in, we will immediately begin working to raise funds to complete the transaction and subsequent renovations.
Because more than 50% of our financing will come in the form of voluntary member loans, that first milestone of 675 is an important one. (We will discuss this investment opportunity in greater detail another time.) However, another fairly substantial portion of the financing will come from traditional lenders, such as banks.
In order to secure financing from a lender, we have to be able to prove that our business model is financially feasible--that is, we have a realistic ability to repay our debts with a comfortable margin. We're using a sophisticated financial model which allows us to plug in different facts and figures as they evolve:
1) Expected ratios and typical cost assumptions for opening a grocery store
2) Sales data for each location supplied by our market study
3) Site renovation cost estimates provided by building contractors
These are the main moving parts. As a co-op, we're financed in a unique way, and as a start-up business, it's not unusual for the financial pro forma to be a sticking point. Our experience to date is not much different than most other start-up co-ops; we have a vision and the drive to achieve it, but also very real limitations in terms of financial resources and dependence on the generosity of others for their skills and time -- all of which causes the process to take longer than a typical commercial venture. Undaunted, we continue to diligently work the various pieces of this puzzle in our quest for a successful co-op that is financially feasible in the long run.
Market Study Update
As we have previously announced, Outpost Natural Foods in Milwaukee recently provided a generous grant that allowed us to update our market study with the "freshest" possible numbers. While that update was being prepared, we were busy finalizing our evaluations of the sites under consideration. Outpost's General Manager, Pam Mehnert, and Lisa Malmarowski, director of brand and store development, came to Racine to visit sites we have been considering. Their experience and input has been invaluable as we evaluate the pros and cons of each site.
In addition, we have spent many hours considering proposals from a number of consultants whose assistance we will need as we take this next step. Among the services we envision needing are store design, construction project management, a general contractor, finance support and staffing. Fortunately, there are many experienced food co-op consultants available to support our efforts but it takes a significant amount of due diligence to determine which specific services we need and to identify the consultant(s) who are the best fit. Often this work involves coordinating meetings with these individuals to see how we "click" and to discuss how we would work together.
Now that our revised market study has been completed, we have been able to update our financial projections with the most current and accurate numbers. With this data we are moving closer to finalizing our decisions about a site and the consultants we will engage as we enter Stage Four -- Implementation.
Filling Board Vacancies
Another big focus over the past few months has been identifying and interviewing prospective new Board members. As we gear up for all the work that will need to happen so quickly after we secure a site, we need to have a full Board with the right mix of skills and experience. (See below for our first Board member Spotlight -- a new feature we will include in each newsletter to better acquaint our owners with your Board.) At the same time, we have also been working to add volunteers to our committees and we are still in need of people for important roles so please get in touch
if you can volunteer.
Now, getting back to our target of 675 Member-Owners, we know many of you have been focused on that number and wanted to present the larger picture. The number of Member-Owners does not by itself make a site financially feasible. What it does is provide a demonstrable measure of the community support for opening a co-op, the initial financial resources to pursue such a venture, and a solid base for raising the additional funding we will need to make it a reality.
As our Member-Owner number continues to rise, we are moving forward with all of the work mentioned above and we fully expect to be in a position to secure our site around the time we reach our target of 675 Member-Owners.
Will we wait? Not if we are close and ready to commit to a site. Will it take longer than we anticipate? We hope not, but we want you to know we absolutely understand that we hold your trust (and some of your money) in our hands. We take very seriously our fiduciary responsibility to you to proceed with due diligence and caution. And we will not move forward until ALL the pieces of this complicated puzzle are solidly in place. We hope you expect nothing less of us and we are always available through Facebook and here if you have specific questions about our progress.
Board Member Spotlight - Alida Harper Trocke
The Wild Root Market Board of directors comprises a diverse group of individuals representing a broad spectrum of business, financial, and organizational experience. Every member of the board is working mindfully and diligently to establish a food co-op which reflects the spirit of Racine. In this section, we will briefly introduce you to each member of your Board.
Currently at the helm as Board President is Alida Harper Trocke, a human resources professional who is passionate about healthy eating and sustainable food. Alida is an adept manager, ensuring the board is always moving forward on the path of co-op development, providing skillful guidance through all the twists and turns along the way. We think she must have been a circus juggler or a symphony conductor in a former life but either way, her ability to manage so many moving parts is a talent we gratefully rely on.
Alida can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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