Starting a co-op is about starting a business. As with any new business venture, it requires good ideas, expertise, time, energy and money.
Typically, it takes six months to two years for a new co-op to go from initial concept to beginning operations.

Unlike many traditional businesses, forming a co-op presents unique opportunities. For instance, a community of people often can address a common economic need or opportunity more effectively than an individual. Also, that community can supply a wider range of strengths, skills, financial resources and persistence that are needed to get a new business up and running.

Following are some steps to take:

  1. Identify the problem or opportunity and gauge interest.
  2. If there is interest, form a steering committee to further explore and evaluate the co-op business option.
  3. Conduct a feasibility study to determine whether the co-op is a viable business venture and evaluate the results.
  4. Incorporate the cooperative and adopt bylaws.
  5. Prepare a business plan.
  6. Begin a membership drive to assess prospective member support.
  7. Elect a board of directors and secure start-up capital.
  8. Secure site, vendors and staff so operations can begin.

The Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC) is an excellent resource for those interested in forming a co-op in the Madison area. It offers technical assistance, education, mentoring and mini-grants of up to $10,000.

In addition, CGBC supports new co-ops in their grant and loan application, incorporation formation, books set-up, bookkeeping training and business financials.