On Thursday 30 November we held our 2023 Annual General Meeting at Manly Library and online. A good number of our members attended and enjoyed a buffet of snacks from the Co-op and a glass of wine before settling down to the business of the evening.

Opening

After welcoming everyone and acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we were meeting on, Jane, one of our Board Directors, opened the meeting by approving the previous AGM minutes. With that out of the way, she shared highlights of the last year for the Co-op.

Year in review

Revenues and costs

The Co-op really turned a corner at the end of last year and then again in July when membership fees were increased from $5 to $25. The vast majority of our members were very supportive of the increase and understood the reasons behind it, which were shared with members at the time. As well as increasing our revenue, we’ve also managed to trim costs, including a saving of $3,000 annually by closing our Manly Vale storage facility. 

Supplier changes

There have been a lot of changes with our suppliers this year which has caused us some issues. Country Valley the organic dairy closed suddenly. In fact, changes to supply often seem to happen suddenly, with very little warning so that you can find a new supplier. Like our coconut yoghurt was available one week and then gone the next. This leads to empty shelves, lower revenues and members shopping elsewhere. Other suppliers have moved to using a distributor, which often means higher prices and increased order quantities, which we can’t always meet. One of our suppliers has changed hands and has become very unreliable, and it’s very hard to get new suppliers to talk to us as a small independent. We have to work very hard to keep the shelves stocked.

Volunteering

We’ve had big changes to our volunteering arrangements this year, with massive growth in numbers and the introduction of a new digital scheduling system for shop volunteers. Plus Gonzalo and Jane joined as board members mid-year. Nic, one of our volunteer co-ordinators took us through the new scheduling system, which has saved Libby, our other volunteer co-ordinator, a lot of time chasing people to help via phone calls and text messages.

Our lease

A big event this year was the signing of another five year lease. We managed to negotiate a nice low rent for the next few years which will give us the breathing space we need to carry out our strategy.

Our structure

With the help of one of our members, Edith, who is a management consultant, we took a look at our organisational structure. One of the main reasons behind this was that we found that our lack of structure was putting off potential board members and volunteers. Now we have a clear new structure to work towards where the board is concerned with goals and strategy and are supported by various sub-committees that carry out projects and day-to-day administration of the Co-op. The shop manager will be responsible for leading and coaching staff and shop volunteers, as well as the day-to-day operation of the shop. And most importantly, there are clear lines of communication between the board, sub-committees, manager and staff.

Membership

The number of paid up members has fallen compared to last year because Vivien, our shop manager, noticed that there were a few members that had expired memberships according to the dates we record, but they were still showing as paid up on system. Mary, our new database volunteer, went through the whole database and found 345 members that were not being asked to renew their membership every year.

We introduced the Patron membership this year, where really committed supporters can pay an extra $100 on their membership just to help us out a bit more. We’ve got eight patron members so far.

The number of new members joining is higher than last year but still something that we need to work on next year.

Director nominations

Jane, Eden (Treasurer), Mel and Gonzalo will all be continuing as directors for another year. Two new directors were nominated and accepted onto the board. Sonia ran a deli café and catering business for over ten years and was also involved with the Green Tucker Co-op in Forestville. She’s currently the community events and marketing manager for Dr Sophie Scamps MP. Natalie is on a career break from HR, where her last role involved leading a global team in setting up a new training platform. She has some great skills which we are already making use of in our staff training working group.

Financial statements

Eden, our Treasurer, presented the financial statements for the year ending June 2023 and also gave us an insight into how the current year is progressing so far. In a nutshell, the Co-op is solvent and doing very well. From July to November 2023, the Co-op has retained a small surplus. Some of those funds will be set aside for when we may need to move premises at the end of our lease, and some will be used for projects and equipment replacement at the Co-op shop. Eden shared that our goal is to keep increasing revenues so that we can reduce prices for members and do more in the community. 

2024 Plans

With an overall goal of increasing revenue, the board has developed four key strategies to try to achieve that goal. 

  1. We need to clarify our message, which means improving our window signage, our website, social media presence and how we talk to members about the Co-op in-store. Social media is dying as a means to market goods, so the focus next year is on community building and education.
  2. We also need to make it easier to shop with us, so we are going to look at changing the store layout to be more intuitive. And also continue to improve our online shopping app.
  3. We want to build our community and attract more members, so we’ll be having more events and reaching out to complementary business and organisations, like Manly Village School and also our MPs. Tamilia has just joined the volunteer team as Events Manager so we’re hoping that we can really scale this up next year.
  4. We want the Co-op to operate efficiently, like any for-profit business would. We’re developing training for our staff, not just in operations but in retail and sales training. We’d like management to be in the shop 7 days a week so that they can coach other staff and deal with any issues, which means recruiting a second manager. One big project for next year is to modernise our rules so that they are in line with National Co-op Laws, which the Co-op Federation will be helping us with. We’ll be asking members to vote on those changes in the New Year.

Wrapping up

At the end of the meeting, there was an opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Leanne was the lucky winner of the lucky door prize, a signed copy of The Milkwood Guide Permaculture Living Handbook.

Just before we closed, members were given an opportunity to write down ideas and feedback for the board that they hadn’t already shared in the discussion.

Member Leanne holds up the book she won

Until next year!