Food co-op success

Founding members of the Port Orford CommUnity Co-op pose in front of the building.

PORT ORFORD — The Port Orford Co-op has been named the July 2014 Southwestern Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center success story.

The co-op opened in November with SBDC’s help. Since then, board members have attended SBDC QuickBooks training and received one-on-one assistance with using QuickBooks software.

According to Kean Fleming, President of Port Orford Co-op, “The SBDC was always available to help when we needed it, something not always available in a small town like Port Orford. We could not have accomplished this startup without them. When we were unsure of a business decision, Arlene Soto helped us gain the confidence we needed to move forward. This is an awesome service.”

The Port Orford Co-op was just a dream three years ago when a group of dedicated citizens decided to build a business that would be an asset to the community.

The Port Orford CommUnity Co-op was first envisioned in 2011 by a steering committee of local producers and Port Orford townies. The group wanted to create a friendly, country store that provides nutritious food and serves as a conduit to support the growth of small-scale food production on Oregon’s South Coast.

Between 2011-13, the POCC formed a board of directors and began framing the business. With the help of grants from the USDA and Cycle Oregon, the co-op was able to draft a business plan, conduct market research, develop bylaws and file the paperwork to incorporate as a for-profit cooperative in the state of Oregon.

In 2013, the co-op began focusing on getting their doors open for business. The co-op undertook a membership and fundraising drive, sought business guidance from the Small Business Development Center that included strategic planning and recordkeeping systems. Thanks to the generosity of dozens of hard-working volunteers, Port Orford Co-op was able to get their new storefront in ship-shape for business, according to organizers.

In June 2013, the co-op held a soft-opening in conjunction with Port Orford’s farmers market. Over the summer, the co-op was open for business every Saturday to gather advice from customers, build co-op membership and generate community excitement for the new business.

In October 2013, The co-op had a party/fundraiser on their property as a final push to build capital for a November grand opening. On Nov. 1, the co-op began having regular business hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday, operating purely with volunteer power. The co-op continues to hold the same business hours and is still run on volunteerism, with more than 30 people regularly contributing their time and energy to the store.

Today co-op membership is greater than 180 and more than 25 local and regional producers have their products on its shelves, offering house-labeled bread, granola and deli items. The co-op also partnered with local organizations to promote nutrition and community sustainability.

The co-op already feels like the business as it was first envisioned — a laid back country store that showcases local goods.

About SBDC

The Southwestern Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center provides low cost business training and free one-on-one business advising to small business ventures in Coos, Curry and Western Douglas counties. Funding for this vital resource is provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. The SBDC can provide mentoring on business questions ranging from getting started to exiting a business and everything in between. Resources are available, such as free market research, free financial analysis or an online business plan template called LivePlan, available free for six months from Palo Alto Software.

For more information on how the SBDC can help your small business, contact them at 541-756-6445 or asoto@socc.edu.

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