Published August 5, 2016 by Food Co-op Initiative

Thomas Bowen loved startup co-ops. True, he loved all co-ops, but the energy and enthusiasm of startup groups brought a big smile to his face. 

Thomas was the director of member relations for National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA, and wanted to see every new retail food co-op succeed as part of the greater cooperative community. Thomas’s role working with membership has been taken over by Bryan Mumson, and you can reach him at bmunson@ncba.coop. Keep an eye on their website as they sometimes offer deals for startups.

In the beginning . . . your co-op should be a .coop because: In Thomas’s words, here are 5 reasons your co-op should be using a .coop domain:

5 reasons1—There are coops. There are also co-ops. Coops are for chickens. Co-ops are for members. Imagine the conversation and educational opportunities you have when giving people your website or email address. Principle 5 of the 7 cooperative principles is about education and information. Inform people who you are and what your store will be with your .coop domain. Tell them how different you are from the other places that may sell similar products.

2.coop domains are unique. They are ONLY available to verified cooperative businesses. Cooperatives are unique businesses–why be lumped into all the coms, nets and orgs of the world. Show your pride and uniqueness! You work hard to show your difference–flaunt it. Plus, the process of verification shows trust and value. You can become a trusted resource for members. You know that group that sells similar products? They can’t have a .coop domain and how many consumers trust them?

3—With your .coop, you get a free gift. They ran out of toasters, so instead you get use of the Cooperative Marque–a unique identifier that is a trust mark for you members and customers. This marque is used exclusively by cooperative business around the world. Yes, your “little co-op” now has international appeal and is in good company. That other place . . . no Marque for you! But wait, there’s more. Act now and you can get your first year of a .coop domain FREE*.free

4—Sure, it is a little bit more expensive than the other domain alternatives–but this is about your brand and what makes you different from XYZ Grocer. It is a marketing expense. Ask yourself how much marketing you will get for the cost of a .coop domain? (I’ll tell you, not much.) Then what kind of marketing do you want for the cost of another domain type? (I’ll tell you, not much.)

5—If you are thinking you will add the .coop when you open the cooperative, we will say sure, you can do that–but why? Why go about changing your marketing material ($)? Why go about retraining the staff and members? Why worry about forwarding and redirecting emails and web pages and hope that it works when you change? Have no fear, already have your “other domain” (no judgment from me–none)? We can help make redirecting your .com, .org. or .net. This could be one of the easiest decisions you have to make in starting a cooperative, well, except having FCI help you with the startup process.

Why FCI likes this: It is easy for startup groups to think of themselves as volunteer or non-profit type organizations that are struggling to start a cooperative grocery store. But, just as with any startup business in any field, you are starting a real business! You are starting a retail grocery store that, in a few years, could easily be handing a sales volume of over a million dollars. You do not want your members and community come to think of you as that little .org group that wants a co-op. You want them to believe in the goal—a new retail food co-op in your community that welcomes everyone to shop. Every effort you make to show that you are serious about your goal can help move you ahead. Thomas makes a great point with number five—it is expensive to change all your marketing and such later. (Also, when you are ready to hire a general manager, NCBA is the best place to post your job listing and reach a great set of talent.)