Goal

Dear Kim Coontz,

I hope you have read through my blog thus far and became aware of this vital opportunity here in Orange County.  You and your organization has led the creation of numerous successful cooperatives in California, why not add one more?  The OC Food Co-op will complement the other cooperatives in the state greatly and allow OC residents to experience what their fellow state members get to. 

With my in-depth investigation of the demographics and statistics of Orange County and its residents, you should get a feel of why I think the OC Food Co-op will be successful.  For a successful business the mission must fulfill a want and/or a need in the market.  The OC needs a stronger community, better organic produce, cheaper food prices, and a local “spot” rather than home to call…home.  Please take this idea into consideration and present it to your board.  If you need any help with the creation of this, I am an, well-educated and business-savvy entrepreneurship major at Chapman University and I will be more than happy to be a part of the project. 

Sincerely,

Laurin Schreiber

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Marketing

In order to attract more members and cement its status in Orange County, the OC Food Co-op will have to incorporate strong marketing tactics into their plan of implementation.  Advertising and promotions will be key at the very beginning, even before building, to generate funding and support. 

Guerilla Marketing:  The Co-op will create promotional materials, including flyers, signage, business cards, and posters in order to successfully brand themselves.  These materials will be distributed at various community functions, farmer’s markets, businesses and other organizations.  Mail promotions will also be beneficial as the Co-op is trying to get families and neighbors together to support the cause.  The presence of the OC Food Co-op branded material will spread the word fo the cooperative and help raise awareness if it within the OC neighborhood.

Social Networking:  It will maintain a frequently updated website (www.ocfoodcoop.com) and a personal blog, hoping to create a viral web presence.  There will be an active Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account to keep members and people of the community continuously updated on new products and events at the Co-op.

For example, Rainbow Grocery has a successful Facebook Fan page where followers can be updated on new events and promotions at the co-op:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Francisco-CA/Rainbow-Grocery/46550221389?ref=ts

Key marketing tactics, especially at the beginning, will be crucial in getting the Co-op up and running.  The idea of creating a Food Cooperative in the OC can not be executed without community support.

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Financing

According to sustainablebusinesses.com, Orange County ranks 3rd in the country for the most funding presented to small, sustainable businesses.

Orange County not only can provide for the Co-op physically, but can also supplement funding to get the cooperative up and moving.  Currently, cooperatives in general have various sources of funding available to them such as the Food Co-op 500 grant, small business funding and City funding.  Our first round of financing will be from the members investment.  To become a member of the Co-op and benefit from all aspects of the business one must pay a flat fee, around $100.  The OC is known for supporting sustainable businesses and according to sustainablebusinesses.com, Orange County ranks 3rd in the country for the most funding presented to small, sustainable businesses.  Venture Capitalists thrive in this area, always looking for an innovative idea that proves success.

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Local Competition

Fresh & Easy, Ralphs, Trader Joes, Sprouts, and Whole Foods investigated.

Fresh & Easy: A new grocery store to Southern California, this market focuses on providing fresh, no-brand produce at extremely low prices.  They are able to accommodate these low prices by maintaining a simple store with eco-friendly lights and self-checkout counters.  Stores are conveniently located and easy to navigate through.  Shopping here is quick and efficient and the staff are extremely friendly.  http://www.freshandeasy.com

Trader Joes: A hippie grocery market chain throughout the US, it prides itself in selling both the basics (milk, apples, bread…) and gourmet food (handtossed pizza from Italy) at reasonable prices.  The fun and upbeat environment encourages its customers to try something new with a 100% return guarantee.  http://www.traderjoes.com

Ralphs: The largest chain in the OC, Ralphs has everything a customer needs.  Selling basics and all top-brand products, the aisles are always fully stocked.  Customer cards give special savings everyday and allow for discounts on future purchases.  However, the impersonal shopping experience and sterile atmosphere is unattractive for most and typically remains as a back-up for most shoppers.   http://www.ralphs.com/Pages/default.aspx

Sprouts Farmers Market: A fairly new market to the California area, Sprouts proudly sells farm fresh produce (purchased local when possible) and provides most goods in bulk form (to cut prices for customers).  With a huge market of vitamins and supplements, this is great spot for healthy eating.  http://sprouts.com/home.php

Whole Foods: The world’s leader in natural and organic foods, with over 250 stores in the US and UK.  They seek out the finest natural and organic foods available, maintain the strictest quality standards in the industry, and have an unshakeable commitment to sustainable agriculture.  Great for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and cooking up gourmet meals at home.  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/

Out of all the options in Orange County, Sprouts and Whole Foods is the closest to what the OC Food Co-op will offer.  But what makes this cooperative stand out?  Its mission to work with the community and create a network with neightbors and workers.  Its pledge to improve the current society in southern california through the food sold at the co-op and the shopping environment makes it unique against all other grocery stores.

The OC Food Co-op will provide the diversity of the larger grocery stores (such as Ralphs) with the quality that is provided at smaller niche grocery stores (such as Sprouts).  The Co-op will truly be a store of the community.  It will alter its inventory based on member demand, catering to the desires of its member community.  Differentiating itself by focusing on quality products that are ecologically conscious and by making food economically accessible.

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Target Audience

Orange County moms:

These women are in charge of the household and do all the necessary grocery shopping and errand-running.  They make the grocery lists and have the most influence on their family’s eating habits.

Young women (age 18-28)

This key public is active and strives for a healthy lifestyle.  They tend to be interested in ecological and sustainable products and helping the environment.  Fresh produce is common in their daily diets.

Senior Citizens

Retired and settled comfortably in their houses, this target audience is heavily involved in their community and wants the best for their neighborhood.  Buying locally and contributing to community efforts is something they can afford and have time to participate in.

According to Orange County demographic statistics in 2008:

Current population of the OC – 3,010,759 people

Residents over the age of 65 – 11.4% of population = roughly 343,227 senior citizens

Female persons – 49.9% of population = 1,505,345 women

Households - 935,287 = extremely rough estimate of how many families in the OC

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OC Investigated

With pressure to be fit, most residents stick to a healthy eating regime.  With the OC Food Co-op open every day and conveniently located, residents will be able to get their healthy ingredients at anytime.

I believe that the current market for food co-operatives and organic food combined with the OC lifestyle allows the OC Food Co-op to be a future success.

“The number one trend really is no longer a trend… The natural products industry has won the argument that natural and organic is better. You can see that in many places.” said Jay Jacobowitz, president and founder of Retail Insights. A survey of shoppers in conventional supermarkets conducted by the National Grocers Assn. bolstered Jacobowitz’s point. When asked to name the most unsatisfying aspect of their primary supermarket, consumers cited lack of assortment in health foods, health and beauty aids and vitamins assortment as their top three complaints.

Orange County is known to be the center of body image and maintaining a lean figure.  With pressure to be fit, most residents stick to a healthy eating regime.  Farmers markets are extremely popular in the area which proves the popularity of eating fresh and organic produce.  With the OC Food Co-op open every day and conveniently located, residents will be able to get their healthy ingredients at anytime.

The country itself has also experienced an explosive growth in the demand and production of organic food.  The consumption of organic food has therefore surged and the Organic Trade Association estimated that $14.4 billion of orgaqnic food was sold in the US in 2005, up from only $1 billion in 1990.

The wealth of the region is tremendous and residents have extra spending cash to afford local and gourmet food products which tend to more expensive.  Average household income in Orange County is $74,862, which is high in comparison to other regions of the United States.

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Purpose: solve poor neighbor relations in the OC

As a new resident of Orange County, I have found neighborhood relations to be extremely poor and I am embarressed to admit I dont know any of the people who live close to me.

The basis of any cooperative business is to link people and groups together in a strong relationship for a common purpose.  This purpose is focused on addressing a social and/or economic problem in the immediate community.  The OC Food Co-op will aim to create tighter neighborhoods in Orange County, promoting friendly relations with those who live in the vicinity of each member.  As a new resident of Orange County, I have found neighborhood relations to be extremely poor and I am embarressed to admit I dont know any of the people who live close to me.  Good neighbors are beneficial in many different ways: notifiying you of suspicious behavior when you are on vacation, giving you an egg when you are short one to make cookies, or to bring in your newspaper when you have forgotten.  The OC Food Co-op will promote creating tight relationships with each neighbor by providing a friendly shopping environment and community events.

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