What is your product or service?

Often someone has a “eureka!” moment, seeing a novel way to address a need, provide a service or supply a product, spawning the idea for a co-operative. At other times, an opportunity arises when a local business is put up for sale, or when someone hears of an inspirational cooperative somewhere else.

It is useful to discuss the idea with friends or colleagues who might identify flaws or suggest ways in which the idea might be improved. You might then decide to abandon, adopt or further develop the idea.

In developing the idea, you should consider what your motivation is, what exactly you are going to do, whether anyone else is doing it, whether it could work, and whether anyone else should be involved at this stage.

It is essential that the member-owners have a clear need for a product or service, and that a cooperative structure is a suitable vehicle to meet that need.

It is also crucial that the co-operative can efficiently produce the product or deliver the service at a competitive price to sufficient people.

The co-operative must be able provide better prices, better quality or better services than the potential members could get elsewhere.

If potential members have not been involved in the type of business or service the co-operative is intended to provide, it is essential to research and learn all facets of the product, business or service and other businesses in the sector. It would also be helpful to contact members of co-operatives which provide a similar service to see how they are run. Look for workshops and seminars which offer training on how to run that type of business.