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How to Start a Grocery Co-Op

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In the sharing economy, new and innovative business models are being developed for everyday needs like housing, work and transportation; think car sharing, bike-sharing, co-working, and Airbnb.

But one of oldest and tested sharing business models is the humble grocery co-op. Grocery co-ops have been around since 1864, when the first co-op was established in Rochdale, United Kingdom in response to the vagaries of the Industrial Revolution.   



The first co-ops in the United States were established in colonial times. American co-ops have developed in multiple waves over the centuries, often in response to economic downturns, according to the National Cooperative Grocers Association.

A co-op is a business that is driven by cooperative values as well as profit. The original Rochdale pioneers set forth a set of seven principles, which have been adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and govern co-op operations to this day.

As defined by the ICA, a cooperative is "an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise."   


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