Board Votes to Move to Stage 2B in Developing Store

Starting a co-op from scratch is hard work. A lot of hard work. Thousands of tiny decisions and actions must be made before we even think about having our grand opening. Who is our audience? How do we attract members? Where will we put our store? Where will we get the money to open? Is this even possible?

Luckily, we have resources to help navigate all these stepping stones on our path to open up our own grocery store. Among these treasure troves of knowledge are the CDS Consulting Co-op, a co-operative of consultants that helps other co-operatives, and the Food Co-op Initiative, which helps co-ops through training, workbooks and webinars, and other assistance as needed.

The CDS Consulting Co-op created a development model for start-up co-ops, like ours. The model is known as the Four Cornerstones in Three Stages Development Model, or 4 in 3 for short. This model focuses on four essential aspects of development that must be addressed in the three stages of opening a co-op. It is essentially a step-by-step guide to opening a food co-op, and is based on information gleaned from working with and talking with food co-ops for over two and a half decades.

The four cornerstones are vision, talent, capital, and systems, while the three stages are organizing, feasibility & planning, and finally, implementation. The model stresses the importance of thinking about the co-op from every possible angle from the day an idea sparks until the first customer buys an item.

The BFC has been using this model to help us reach our ultimate goal. Stage 1, Organizing, passed a while ago as we went from finding that strong core of people invested in the mission to developing our mission and board, and concluded in 2013 when the co-op was incorporated. Stage 2A, Feasibility, occurred over the past few years, as the co-op grew its membership, worked with local governmental institutions and the Downtown Bethlehem Association, and obtained assistance from organizations such as CDS and FCI. The BFC board commissioned a market study to ensure a viable market exists, to find where potential pitfalls may occur, and to update the store’s financial projections.

The concluding step in Stage 2A is an internal feasibility assessment, where the board takes stock of the co-op’s progress, identifies any areas of concern, and ultimately votes on whether the project is viable.  This vote happens at the end of Stage 2A because the first steps in 2B include major time and financial commitments such as site negotiation, a two million dollar capital campaign, and finalizing a formal business plan.  

With the assessment stage concluding, the BFC board voted on December 17, 2018 that the Bethlehem Food Co-Op grocery store is viable, and to officially move from Stage 2A to Stage 2B.

Although many steps remain, we can be sure that 2019 will be a major turning point in the Bethlehem Food Co-op. Long-term members of the co-op, never fear - while Stage 1 and Stage 2A take years to pass, stages 2B and 3 move much more quickly. Moving to Stage 2B shows that the Bethlehem Food Co-op is in a strong position to open up its own store in a timely fashion.

For more information on the 4 in 3 model, check out this link. To learn how you can help as we enter 2B, go here or email

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