Eco-Entrepreneurship Opportunity: Natural Foods Co-op

There was an interesting startup in Austin, TX, using IndieGogo last month to get a natural foods store off the ground as the first zero waste grocery store. It’s a brilliant style of business that an aspiring eco-entrepreneur, or perhaps more fittingly, a team of aspiring eco-entrepreneurs, might consider.

A natural foods co-operative is a grocery store specializing in whole, healthy foods, and is organized business-wise as a co-operative. Many times these co-operatives are worker owned, but many times community members are owners of their local food co-op as well. Natural foods co-ops tend to specialize in organic, local, seasonal, and high quality produce, sustainably farmed meats and dairy products, free-range chicken and eggs, and locally crafted wholesale products like hummus, salsa, and syrups.

Forming a co-operative business requires several people to organize around a central principle of shared resources and ownership.  There are good resources available to help you start a co-operative, such as this one from the USDA…though there are many others online.

A knowledge of the food industry, retailing, wholesale management, and inventory of perishable goods will be good for anyone interested in starting a worker owned co-op.  Aside from management, the work itself is strenuous and requires that workers be able to be on their feet for extended periods of time, and be able to lift up to 25 pounds.

So if you have several people, preferably some who come with more money and some who come with more time (makes a nice balance and team atmosphere), who are interested in being partners on a business that can really change the local food landscape, then what are you waiting for?

Not quite right for you? That’s ok, check out the rest of our “Start a Green Business” Series on!

Photo courtesy Glenn Gould on Flickr Creative Commons




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Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.