The day-to-day of a cooperative
The operational management of a cooperative is different than other forms of companies on several aspects. Rebecca Maroko, co-founder of Ouni, shares the details:
- involvement of members
- breakdown between volunteers and employees
Rebecca Maroko is the co-founder of Ouni, the first zero-waste local shop in Luxembourg. Discover more about their values and their products on http://ouni.lu.
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Involvement of members
The co-op is made up of members. Every member having purchased a 100 euro share is represented at the General Assembly of Members and has the right to vote at the General Assembly once a year. Among members, you have active members who actively contribute to running the store either by working 2 hours per month or by taking part in work groups for communications, finances, waste management or lots of other interesting topics. Of course, there’s the manager and the staff of both stores. Members participate as much as they can, but they’re not sector professionals so it’s always interesting. It’s a rich experience!
Breakdown between volunteers and employees
Starting out, we wanted a minimum of employees and a max of volunteers coming in to work two hours per month in the store. We saw as the store was taking shape financially that we had the means to hire staff. And we professionalized the roles of the volunteers more and more. That doesn’t mean the volunteers have less work or reason to be there, they’re still key players and are very active in the work groups, in the store, for events, spreading the word and spending time together. But professionalizing the jobs is essential. You can’t avoid it. So you could say the essential jobs are done by professionals so they are always guaranteed.
Both of our grocery stores are lovely stores. It was important to us for them to be pleasant, for people to enjoy being there, to want to come, either for groceries, a coffee, for snack-time… because that counts too. We don’t want organic, eco-friendly, etc. to be associated with something ugly, there’s no compromising. Currently, we have over 1000 referenced products and the goal is to be a one-stop-shop, meaning customers can get all their groceries here and not need to run all over town for other products.
We were profitable for a year and we didn’t donate the income, we didn’t distribute it to members, we used it to reinvest in the co-op and for other projects, notably opening a second store in Dudelange to make bulk available to more people. But we don’t have the choice, We have to make it an activity that is self-sufficient, that’s able to sustain itself. Yes, by selling our shares we do receive capital in a way, but it’s capital, it’s not donations. So we have to handle it differently.