Sugar Beet: Startup Co-op of 2018

Sugar Beet Co-op CCMA 2018

Sugar Beet Co-op  in Oak Park, Illinois, was presented the Startup of the Year award from Food Co-op Initiative (FCI) on June 2, 2018, at the CCMA (Consumer Cooperative Management Association) conference held in Portland, Oregon. FCI chose Sugar Beet from among the many startups it works because of its outstanding success. Shortly after its mid-2015 opening, Sugar Beet experienced the entry into its market of a major competitor, and the co-op's sales and working capital were inadequate. In response, as FCI's news release described it:

"General Manager Chris Roland and the co-op’s committed board of directors reacted quickly. The co-op’s management team was restructured and new marketing efforts instituted to bring in more shoppers. A Healthy Staples program was introduced to feature everyday low prices on many popular grocery and household items.

The co-op made personal calls to over 700 owner-members who had not been shopping and encouraged them to support their store or risk losing it. The effort paid off quickly: sales began to grow in 2016 and have not stopped increasing since.

A new co-op that looked like it might fail became a rare example of a startup that showed its first profitable quarter before the end of its first year. Profitability and double-digit sales growth have continued, with Sugar Beet achieving $3.6 million in sales in its second year of operation. The co-op supports the local economy by purchasing over $1.4 million in goods from nearby farmers and producers. In 2018, Sugar Beet Co-op was recognized as the Best Small Business in America in a competition sponsored by Rubicon.

Sugar Beet Food Co-op demonstrates how community ownership and talented leadership make cooperatives stronger, more resilient businesses."

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