How to Start a Co-op

More and more people around the region, the country and the world are realizing the benefits of starting a food co-op. Weavers Way is committed to helping others start co-ops in their communities. Below are some great resources to help you. The Food Co-op Initiative has a very comprehensive site, with tools to help you step-by-step through the entire process of becoming a co-op. You'll also find the Cooperative Grocers Information Network's extremely comprehensive online guide for start-ups there. PACA, the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, is dedicated to supporting democratically organized businesses and growing the cooperative economy.

Here are some other resources that you will find helpful.

The Food Co-op 500 program, a collaboration of NCB, NCB Capital Impact, the National Cooperative Grocers Association, and Cooperative Development Services, provides intensive technical and financial assistance to groups developing food cooperatives in their community. The program follows the development model of four cornerstones in three stages devised by CDS for the Food Co-op 500.

Financial assistance is available through two funds:

  • Seed Fund: The Seed Fund distributes grants up to $10,000 that are matched dollar for dollar by the newly forming co-ops. Grant funds are used for expenses incurred early on in the organizing process. Applicants for Seed Fund grants may only apply during scheduled funding rounds.
  • Sprout Fund: The Sprout Fund distributes development loans up to $25,000 that are also matched dollar for dollar by the co-op. Loan funds are used for expenses incurred closer to the scheduled opening of the co-op. Applicants for Sprout Fund loans may apply at any time.

Technical assistance is available through the program’s Development Specialist, Stuart Reid. Stuart may be contacted by phone at 507-664-2034 or by e-mail at

Philadelphia is a hotbed of cooperative activity! There are several groups who are starting up food co-ops in the area and are in different stages of becoming full brick and mortar. Join one and be part of the excitement!

The established co-ops in the area are also great resources for co-op start-up information and assistance.