Y’all, happy new year. In the wake of multiple pandemics, from racism to COVID-19, wild fires, women of color flipping Georgia Blue, a Christmas Day bomber, and so much more, it’s definitely time for a breath, some tea (or wine) and reflection. If you’d indulge me, I’d like to reflect some on my perspective on the status of cooperative happenings in Georgia from 2020. I’d also love to hear your reflections, so drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
So here goes:
- GCDC assisted over 18 different co-op startup groups or individuals in industries ranging from vehicle repair to mesh fiber internet to catering, grocery, martial arts, graphic art, hemp farming, housing and much more. In total we spent over 100 hours in 2020 on the phone or on Zoom calls directly or indirectly assisting our startup community.
- We applied for and did not receive funding from the Rural Co-op Development Grant (RCDG) of the USDA. We were to request over $100,000 in grant dollars, which would of course transform GCDC from a primarily volunteer run organization into a paid staff organization. This was a challenging defeat, given how many hours I and our partners put in, as well as dollars, toward ensuring we had a strong application as well as cash match for the grant. Still, this was an enormous learning opportunity once again to put together a coalition of partners, and plan out our activities for 2021. Stay tuned for a published version of our strategic plan for 2021.
- We continue to be so grateful and proud to have raised over $4,000 from over 35 donors – and on short notice!
- It was a hard year for (most) Georgia co-ops. When we reached out to our co-op client-partners in April we learned that due to COVID-19:
- There was an average 45% drop in sales year over year, but 1 co-op is doing better than same time last year, with lows for the drop in sales of 20% and highs of 75%.
- There was an average decline of 31% in hours for workers in GA co-ops, indicating some protective buffer for workers
- 86% of Georgia co-ops have been significantly impacted in their business processes
- 21% are not current on their rent or mortgage payments
- 79% have had their supply chains disrupted
- 57% of co-ops are either not at all or not well equipped to offer telecommuting to workers
- 71% would like a payroll related grant from the government, 64% would like a working capital grant
- 64% would be interested in a loan between $1,000 and $25,000 (35% between 1 and 10K, 28% between 11 and 25K) from the government
- 71% would like an online class on how to sell products online offered by Georgia Cooperative Development Center
- In response to #3, we hosted a cash flow management webinar with board member Tom Strong, who is a certified Open Book Management coach with the Great Game of Business, as well as founder of the Georgia Employee Ownership Center. (If you missed this webinar, reach out to me and I’ll get you plugged in!)
- We are still planning to offer an online sales related webinar, focused on digital resiliency. Stay tuned for more details on that, coming soon. Plus of course, holiday sales reflections.
- I got the opportunity to meet a credit union legend and now Co-op Hall of Famer, Mike Mercer (congratulations, Mike!). Mike has some interesting plans cooking up with some co-op partners that will have some positive ripple effects here in Georgia, bringing together the “P6 sauce” of cooperation among cooperatives. I can’t wait to see what becomes of all of this.
- I was able to attend multiple co-op sector events, conferences and webinars such as the Up & Coming Food Co-op Conference, National Cooperative Business Association’s IMPACT conference, and the African-American Credit Union Coalition’s Commitment to Change Credit Unions Unite to End Racism. These events let me share in what our co-ops are learning, and continue to pass on that knowledge to our startups and conversions in Georgia.
- I’ve recently learned about the Justice for Black Farmers Act proposed by Senators Booker, Warren and Gillibrand and I look forward to working with groups like Stacey Abrams’s Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP) in supporting this crucial bill to redress the discrimination and trauma related to the past and present practices of the USDA. If such a bill were to pass, it would go beyond the promised 40 acres and a mule. I highly encourage anyone interested in this crucial issue for American society to watch this webinar.
- We continue to make a great team as Founder/Executive Director and Board of Directors here at GCDC, and I am so grateful to our board for all the ways they’ve stepped up to assist me in doing this work of supporting startup Georgia co-ops. These days, new inquiries are vetted by a board member, and I am thrilled to be given a little more breathing room to focus on following up and diving deeper with our existing client-partner co-ops. This year we’ve been able to build long term relationships with two co-ops made up of Black farmers and fishermen and I am proud of the work we’ve managed to accomplish.
- It’s been a great year also for partnerships. GCDC signed on to the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative’s Business is Black campaign to help ensure Atlanta’s economic recovery is equitable and beneficial to Black owned businesses. GCDC continues to work closely with both Regenerate Atlanta and the Georgia Employee Ownership Center on ways to help promote more startup and conversion worker cooperatives in the greater metro Atlanta area. It’s our hope for 2021 to be able to conduct a more active outreach campaign to “legacy business owners” on the possibility of more worker co-op conversions.
- Speaking of partnerships, we’ve developed a growing partnership with Jillian Hishaw and her team at 30,000 acres/F.A.R.M.S. They do incredible work – check it out!
And I am sure there is more to it than that, but as with any mighty challenge, it’s important to know when to stop and take a breather. Please be sure to sign up for newsletter which I am re-committing to sending out quarterly (at least) in 2021. If you want to support our work you can (1) Donate money, (2) spread the word on your social feeds, tell a friend or family member, or your elected representative, something exciting about co-ops that you bet they don’t know, or (3) talk to an entrepreneur friend who might be a good fit for a co-op about GCDC, or (4) get creative!
Here’s to 2021, y’all. Still, stronger together.
P.S. Shoutout to my co-op home forever, Daily Groceries Co-op, on truly surviving in 2020, including becoming full fledged members of National Co+op Grocer’s! This was in the works for SO LONG, years and years, and I am so proud of that team for utilizing everything in their toolkit to make it through 2020. Love.Daily
P.P.S. I am proud of Georgia for having nearly 40 co-ops on the .coop directory! Nice job showing off the cooperative difference with your website, y’all.