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123 N. Hill St
South Bend, IN 46617

574-287-6724

Board Minutes

Board Meeting Minutes, January 21, 2016

Greg Koehler

Attending: Chris, Eli, Danielle, Tama, Mike, Nick, Fred, Earl, Aubrea, Greg
Absent: Heather, Molly, Russ, Heather


1.  Approve minutes from December 16th meeting

  • We have a full board again.  As noted in the special post election meeting notes of January 7, Tama was re-elected, and this was the first meeting where newly elected board members Nick and Fred joined us.
  • minutes approved

2.  Member-owner input opportunity

  • no member-owners brought topics for discussion

3.  General Manager Update

  • Greg described a membership brochure that is being developed as a handout at the cash registers.  Two questions had come up during this activity which he brought to the board for consideration:
    • Two local businesses paid for member-ownership.  What benefits and voting privileges do they have?
    • The bylaws limit a membership to a household.  What exactly is a household, in this sense?
  • After some discussion, the consensus was that these questions are worth thinking about, but that the impact at the current time was not material in either case.  No specific follow up is planned.
  • Financial statements
    • Danielle and Greg reported that the statements are nearly closed through December, but not quite.  Danielle hopes that by the next board meeting the accounts and procedures will be finalized with Maureen’s, Greg’s and Anita’s participation.  At that point she wants to perform some analysis on the statements and report important findings to the board.  
    • Shrinkage: it was noted that the amount seems very large (about $40,000 by the calendar year end).  Danielle and Greg agreed that the amount is not due to theft, but an indication that we need to better categorize discrepancies.  Store inventory is taken annually.  Quarterly would be better, but it an expensive process, requiring the store to be closed the entire time.
    • Proposed budgets were shared.  Greg based these on last year’s budget and performance, and tried to make the new year’s budget more realistic.
      • wholesale sales are projected to be much lower than last year’s budget.  This is due more to the lack of attention put into growing that part of the business rather than any failures.  There may be opportunities to pursue this direction more in the future.
      • Member-owner equity was scaled back to reflect the growth in the year just ended.
      • the coop has 23 employees now, so worker’s compensation costs have risen.
      • general liability insurance was more expensive than expected.  Greg is willing to evaluate other providers.  Earl put him in touch with someone he knows.
  • Manager wish list
    • Greg would like to know more about possibly providing some health insurance for employees.  Nobody on the board is expert in small business employee health insurance or HIP 2.0, but Mike volunteered to see if either of 2 more knowledgeable contacts are willing to help us understand options.
    • Greg wants to talk to the Maple City coop about possible collaboration on purchasing strategies.  He feels both stores can learn from the other.
    • Wednesday Market reboot
      • Greg is developing two strategies for revitalizing the market night
        • cold months: limit the number of producers to 3 each week, Hebron Farms plus 2 a rotation from the others.  The goal would be that the other producers participate at least twice a month.
        • warm months: Greg wants to form a working group of 2 producers, 2 board members and 2 customers (an old and a new member-owner).  He wants to brainstorm the entire set up, reviewing every aspect, to aim for a bigger and better weekly event.

4.  Loan status updates

  • Danielle pointed out that the Balance Sheet divides the loans into different long-term liabilities.
    • NDCU: $46000, paying $400/month; a balloon payment is due Spring 2019;
    • Mappes: $36700, paying $200/month;
    • Ancon $9100, paying $200/month, formerly paid $400/month
    • member-owner loans: $158,000
      • 4 short term loans matured in 2015 ($7000), Danielle wanted to contact the members to discuss repayment options but did not have the chance
      • PPC doesn’t have the $7000 to repay immediately
      • $4000 more due in April 2016
      • Danielle and Greg to confer on what’s affordable for PPC
      • about $20000 more due in around 18 months
  •       Nick suggested that we ask NDCU to reappraise the building.  Originally it had low value, both due to its condition and the state of the neighborhood.  The building has undergone significant improvements, and there has been an increase in current and planned construction in the neighborhood.  The value of the building has probably increased considerably.  His thought is that we could borrow enough on the increased equity to pay down some of these loans, and at a very good interest rate.
  • Danielle wants to wait until the books are finalized before approaching NDCU.  That was one of the Credit Union’s concerns previously.  But in general the suggestion was well received by everyone, and we will review it when the financial statements are fully corrected.

5.  New income ideas

  • get serious about writing a new grant.  We need to have a consensus about what goals we want to propose for funding, and how to identify acceptable sources of funding.  Possible proposals include subsidies for member-ownerships and for store credit on behalf of low income customers;
  • custom window box and planter gardens.  We could partner with the member who built our ballot box to build window boxes to customer specifications.  We could provide dirt and a variety of herb and small vegetable seeds to choose from, with instructions on caring for the garden.
  • approach Bare Hands Brewery to see if they have interest in stocking grab & go type food items.  They have experimented with a variety of ways to provide food at the brewery since last summer, and currently offer panini sandwiches, but they have a very small kitchen and reportedly do not like making the sandwiches.  
  • offer nutrition related training to local businesses.  Businesses will pay $200/hour for diversity training;
  • use social media to solicit recurring monthly donations; or put a button on the PPC website to click to give a donation - should publish a target goal.
  • sell tickets for a dinner:
    • opportunities to meet producers, a festival or dinner at a  farm
    •  fund raising events with plated dinners at a rented hall
    • arrange for a known guest speaker 
    • a potato bar, baked potatoes with many choices of fillings
    • wine and cheese tasting
    • see if producers or local business would donate food or wine or beer
  • regularly suggest to customers at the cash register the opportunity to round up their payment up to the next whole dollar.
  • the Bonnie Doon trailer is available for $3000.  It could be relabeled as the Purple Porch truck, and used to provide a presence at all kinds of local events.
  • cooking classes
  • trivia night
  • boost membership; 
    • train cashiers
    • offer cashiers commissions on sold memberships
    • visit local organizations, churches, clubs, etc to speak on the benefits of membership
  • vending station or kiosk selling coffee and food in the lobbies of hospitals or large companies
  • cookbook of Cafe Max recipes
  • PortaPit but with locally and sustainably produced chickens
  • cookie sales at the cash register
    • different item each month
    • identify as a fund raising item
    • set a goal and track the number of cookies sold for this purpose
    • instead of cookie, some non-food item to avoid competing with store goods

Some concern about overloading the kitchen staff with some of these ideas.  Aubrea said that the staff might be very excited to participate with the right kind of event.

Chris asks board members to pick a suggestion and form a working group to develop the idea as a proposal in time for the next board meeting.

6.  Policy governance: 

  • suggestion that we would benefit from a task force to review and improve policy definitions
  • the organization needs commonly understood policies
  • the board could observe store manager meetings, and invite the store managers to observe board meetings
  • ask Maple City for suggestions

Consensus is that there is room for improvement.  No specific follow up determined.

7.  Open Book training - Greg presented a whiteboard to use for graphically display metrics on store performance by week.

  • columns: time by week
  • rows: metrics
  • sales; sales per labor hour; margin minus labor
  • up or down arrows showing change from prior week
  • working to develop useful metrics to track
  • will be publicly displayed for employees to review

8.  Board officers for new year:
President - Chris
Vice President - Nick
Treasurer - Danielle
Secretary - Mike

9.  meeting ends