This Thanksgiving season, I have been meditating on gratitude and the idea of living a grateful life. Grateful living -- or choosing to be mindful of the abundance around us -- has a way of positively impacting our personal lives, our community, and the world. Grateful living is the act of looking around at all we have and everything we are and thinking, “This is enough. I am enough.” When we realize that we have enough and we are enough, we can turn our attention outside of ourselves and connect with others. Through these connections, powerful things can happen.
Over the past three years of working to develop a cooperative grocery store in our small Wisconsin town, I have had many moments of deep gratitude for connections with others. People I only knew by face or name have become close colleagues and trusted partners. Strangers have become friends. Bonds have been forged between businesses, people, schools, and organizations. Without connecting, cooperation would be nonexistent. And it’s only through cooperation that we can experience the power of being greater than the sum of our parts.
In the cooperative community, there is an idea of cooperation amongst cooperatives (Cooperative Principle 6 or P6). With P6 in mind, co-ops help co-ops with anything and everything. When Whitewater Grocery Co. faces a new question, the first place we turn to is other co-ops. If we have a challenge, we can turn to established organizations, other start-ups, and entire groups that exist just to help co-ops. It’s amazing.
This wealth of information and the freedom to share it comes from an abundance mindset. An abundance mindset is one where there is more than enough to go around. When we share information and resources, we create more information and resources. It’s renewable energy!
The same mindset was necessary when starting the Whitewater Grocery Co. A small group of visionaries got together and talked about the problem of there not being a grocery store in Whitewater. We discussed possible solutions and landed on the idea of a cooperatively-owned store; a market built by the people for the people. We set out on this journey not knowing how it would go. We had goals and case studies and a vision, but we had very little evidence to suggest it would work in Whitewater. In fact, we heard a lot of advice telling us otherwise. But, with abundance in mind, we started anyway.
The motivational author Franklin Covey would say to “begin with the end in mind” and in many ways, that’s what we did. We had an end goal and began taking steps to get there. But we had no idea what the process would look like and that can be scary. We had to have an abundance mindset and take a leap of faith despite our doubts--will there be enough interest in Whitewater to even get 100 Owners? As it turns out, yes, we now have over 600. Is there enough people power… will we get the volunteers we need to get this project off the ground? Yes! We have a team of smart and hardworking folks that are pitching in at every turn to make this project a reality. Will our market support a store that cares about local foods and community? In fact, our market studies and the talks we have with our neighbors tell us yes! Our community is craving a place to gather, learn, connect, and shop for nourishing foods.
Entering the next phase of our development, there are new questions that could raise doubts and fears: Will we find a suitable location, an experienced general manager, the capital we need to build our store? Will we get out of the (predicted and all-too-common) membership slump that all start-ups face? Will we have the leadership to take us to the next level?
The only way to face these doubts is with an abundance mindset. Of course we also look at things realistically. We do our homework, research potential outcomes, and ask for help when we need it. But we do all of that with the mindset that if there is more than enough to go around (there is), then we will find what we need when we need it. The best location will not fall into our laps, but through careful analysis and networking, it does exist and we will find it. The right general manager is out there, and we will find them through a well-thought-out hiring strategy. The capital to build our store exists, and we will tap into it through great planning and outreach.
It’s with a great sense of gratitude that I look back on this past year and the things we have achieved together. And it’s with an abundance mindset that I look to the future and see a path to our beautiful neighborhood grocery store. I can’t wait to connect with you all there in the near future.