What Is a Co-op?

Ever wonder how Weavers Way got its name? Our founders were paying homage to a collective of 28 weavers and other artisans in Rochdale, England, who, in 1844, got together to purchase food. The Rochdale Pioneers weren’t the first group to form a buying co-op, but they were the first to make their co-op succeed and endure. To avoid the mistakes made by earlier cooperative societies and to help others, they developed a list of operating principles governing their organization. This list formed the basis for what are now known as the International Co-op Principles.

The Local Story

Philadelphia is a hotbed of cooperative activity!

PACA, the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, founded in 2012, is dedicated to supporting democratically organized businesses and growing the cooperative economy in multiple areas. Learn more about PACA at www.philadelphia.coop.

In addition to Weavers Way, other food co-ops operating in the Delaware Valley include:

There are several groups who are starting up with the goal of eventually opening full brick-and-mortar locations. Weavers Way is committed to helping them (Cooperative Principle 6: Cooperation among cooperatives).

Interested in forming a co-op?
Here are some great resources: 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 Grocer Network's extremely comprehensive online guide for start-ups there.

Here are some Co-op FAQs from the National Cooperative Grocers:

How can I distinguish a co-op from other organizations?
A co-op is a business, usually incorporated, that sells goods and services. It is not a charitable organization or a social service agency.

Who benefits from the co-op’s existence?
A co-op exists primarily for the benefit of its members. Many co-ops also support other parts of the community through various programs and philanthropic activities as part of their commitment to cooperative values and principles.

Who controls a co-op?
In a cooperative, members democratically control the direction of the business. In most co-ops each member gets one vote. Members elect a board of directors to monitor the business, set goals and hire management to operate their business. Ultimately, the board is accountable to the members for its decisions.

What motivates people to form a co-op?
In private or stockholder-owned businesses, individuals invest to earn a financial return. In a co-op, individuals are motivated by a shared need for certain products or services. By joining together, members gain access to products, services or markets not otherwise available to them. In other words, when forming a co-op members are motivated to become co-owners of the business primarily so that their mutual needs can be met. And co-ops return financial gains to their members, whether through discounts, lower costs or patronage refunds. People join existing co-ops for a variety of reasons. Whether it is the commitment to community, the democratic approach to business, the desire to be part of a business that is locally owned or something else “uniquely co-op” that appeals, anyone can join a cooperative!