July 2019 Update

 Join in the Conversation, plus Lend a Helping Hand

Vital Membership Meeting

There will be a membership meeting on Saturday, August 3 at the Church of the Crossroads. We apologize for the various date changes. Part of that was venue availability, but mostly it was because of delays in the mediation and funders meetings. It just didn’t make sense to hold a meeting without the necessary information.

The August meeting will revisit the future of Kokua Country Foods Cooperative, aka Kokua Market. Financial information will be presented as well as critical next step decisions.

 
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Kokua Needs Two Things From Members (Right Now!)

  1. The co-op is in desperate need of energy and effort from our members and community.  We are operating on a shoestring and need your kokua to round out our staffing.   We have immediate need for volunteers daily between 10am to 8pm for a variety of tasks, including heading up cleaning and reorganizing projects, helping update our membership records, malama the produce and more. Members who volunteer 3 hours/week for a month will earn 15% discount off their purchases. Please contact Laurie at gm@kokua.coop if you can help out a few hours per week. 

  2. Get more shoppers into the store.Not only do we need you to spend more of your food dollars at Kokua, we need you to tell your friends and family to give us a try. It may take some time to get more local products and a better selection available so please be patient and keep suggesting products that you want to buy at Kokua.

Board members working hard

Your board has put in hundreds of volunteer hours over the past six months. We have cashiered, served as prep cooks, pursued financing, developed, operational plans, negotiated settlements, and endured sleepless nights. Please know that we have taken our job very seriously and applied our hearts and minds to trying to find the best route forward.

Fruit Chat and Sampling

Kokua Market Co-op will hold a talk on using local fruit, samples included.

Please join us at the Co-op for a talk given by Heidi Bornhorst on local fruits and how to use them. Heidi, a well-known Hawaii horticulturist and certified arborist, is a great source of information on our island grown fruits.

A variety of fruits will be sampled and discussed, depending on what is available in the market that week. We hope to have eggfruit, hearts of palm, ulu (breadfruit), soursop, dragon fruit.

Sunday, July 28 at 10am to noon in the lanai courtyard.

Sign up for free at EventBrite.

 
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Overstock Sale on Cool Items, plus New Stock

 
 

There are presently a number of great specials at Kokua. We have a number of overstocked items—

Wyman’s 3# bags of wild blueberries on sale for $11.99

Guenoc chardonny at $10.00 a bottle

Both items reduced from $15.99.

We are just working through your requests (that were posted on the wall) and trying to get some of those products back in the store -- Take and Bake Sourdough Bread is one example. Keep your eyes open as we bring back some favorites. The transition from our consultant to the new interim GM has been challenging. We’re looking at expanding our offerings to include more local products including venison and beef products, fresh bread, charcuterie, mochi ice cream, organic wines, and soft serve.

Thank you for supporting us with your spending and considering becoming a volunteer.


June 2019 Update #2

Tough rows to hoe

Aloha Kokua Market Members,

First and foremost, the Board of Directors would like to thank you for your patience and generosity during this very difficult phase of our store’s existence. Through your share purchases, donations, loans and volunteerism, Kokua has weathered the storm and remains open today.

Thanks to you, many important tasks have been completed. We hired a professional interim manager who has done a major product reset and increased our selection of both natural foods and local product. We have reduced our accounts payable to vendors by $50,000.

We replaced the failing cash register system. Member volunteers have saved us over $25,000 by repainting the store, inside and out, as well as renewing the lanai courtyard. Lighting has been improved as well as better refrigeration for our chilled dairy selection. We realize that more attention and energy will need to be focused on areas like local products, produce, and grab-‘n-go.

Our customer count is increasing despite the traditionally slow summer season when UH students and staff vacate the island. Sales are continuing to increase but are not sufficient to get us to breakeven in the near term.

Hard Truths

As members, you’re deservingly owed the hard truth of what we stand to lose if we don’t meet our financial goals immediately.  In addition to our current sales, we need an estimated $30,000 per month for the next two months just to keep Kokua afloat. Although we forecast sales to pickup in mid-August and continue to through the fall, we will need substantial improvement in sales revenue and expanded inventory to break even by November.

Ulupono Initiative has pledged $20,000 in grant money if we are able to fundraise another $90,000.

This week, we met with the Feed the Hunger Foundation, which encouraged Kokua to apply for a loan of $70,000. The Foundation will decide to approve or decline our application by July 11th.  If approved and secured, this loan combined with a member loan of $20,000 already in hand, will enable Kokua to receive another $20,000 grant from Ulupono Initiative.

In short, if the Feed the Hunger funds are approved we will reach the $90,000 required by Ulupono to get our next grant of $20,000. That will give us $110,000 to move forward with. If we decide to move forward, this will help us get through the summer and allow us to continue improving the store, enhance member benefits and source novel, exciting local products

Potential Funding Source

We’re in the process of obtaining a Kiva loan, which is a crowdfunding loan that assists in expanding financial access and unlocking capital for underserved yet deserving causes. To demonstrate social capital and get our $8,000 loan approved, we’re required to gather support from our friends and members through a 15-day initial fundraising period. We need at least 25 people to pledge a loan of $25 or more to cover a portion of the request. Kokua is being supported by the Hawaii Food Producers Fund, and it will match any dollar pledged with another dollar. So this will make the entire process faster. Click on this link to help Kokua get this loan.

Ulupono has pledged an additional $40,000 if we make various weekly sales goals in the store. That first hurdle is getting sales up to a constant $35,000/week. Finally, Ulupono is paying for $40,000 in marketing support to address Kokua’s need to reach beyond our membership and the surrounding community in order to create more sales and awareness opportunities. We have already met with their marketing consultant.

Management

Aside from this important partnership, the Board is committed to rolling up our sleeves by working to improve store operations and purchasing. Our Board Chair, who managed Kokua in the early 80’s, is prepared to take over as interim general manager at no cost for the next few months – while searching for a skilled, locally based manager. 

Other Board Members will be helping to expand our prepared food, island produce and other local products, along with better signage.

Hale Mahana (HSH) Mediation

Kokua board members are attending a mediation with HSH on July 11. HSH is the student condominium next door. Last year, during the construction of this building, Kokua’s parking lot was inaccessible, resulting in a decline in sales, which pushed Kokua over the brink. If we reach a settlement on July 11, the board will develop a plan for going forward. If a settlement is not reached, the case will proceed to trial which is scheduled for February 2020.

Members Meeting Saturday August (updated)

There is an important Kokua membership meeting scheduled for Saturday August 3, at Church of the Crossroads. The meeting begins at 2pm. Please join us at this time to review where things stand and how we will need to proceed.

All of these efforts will need to come together to provide sufficient funds to right our business and move forward with Vision 2020. Kokua’s existence has been the solution to so many issues and our role in this community makes a real difference. Above all else, Kokua is socially motivated, rather than profit motivated. But our future hangs in the balance of the two.

With gratitude and aloha,
Kokua Board of Directors


June 2019 Update

 

We did our job and now we need you to shop!

You've been amazing in contributing funds to get the store back to looking and feeling good through your share purchases. There are also wonderful vendors and organizations that have funded our efforts to keep Kokua going. Thank you. That was the support we needed to give our Kokua another chance to thrive. 

But Kokua can only thrive if it has strong sales to produce revenue for its recovery. We need every customer to shop with us for $30.00 - $50.00 minimum every week to meet our sales goals and cover expenses. Please get your friends, family and neighbors to support Kokua’s recovery by spending more of their food budget there. If you have networks or social media you can use to spread the word—churches, alumni groups, environmental organizations, neighborhood groups please reach out to them.

We realize that we are only part of the way towards our goal to make Kokua Market Co-op the best, small grocery store in Hawaii. Our efforts to date are for Phase 1 of the recovery plan. Phase Two includes procuring additional funding in order to buy equipment like a cold salad bar, a liquid bulk dispenser system, expansion of our local food products. There is much more to accomplish but we will not be able to move forward without strong community sales support.

Although we have stretched every last dollar and penny you have invested, we still have not made our first sales goal of hitting $35,000 a week. Kokua is in desperate need of your support. IF YOU DON'T USE YOUR CO-OP IT WILL FAIL.

Many former shoppers think Kokua is closed. Please let folks know that we are open for business and have restocked the shelves, cleaned up the store, installed inside seating and more.

With deep gratitude, hope and aloha, we offer you this chance to insure that Kokua Market Co-op continues to serve its purpose which is serving you. 

Kokua Board of Directors

 
 

Newsletter May 2019

Our hard work is paying off!

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A note from Laurie Carlson, Chair, Board of Directors

I wanted to share with you all what’s been happening at Kokua Co-op, as it’s been a while since we successfully completed our share drive and got our interim manager on board.

The very first thing that’s been done is to bring in more goods that support your shopping needs. Our new Interim General Manager, Wynston Estis, has been working with our staff to organize our products to create a better shopping experience. Breakfast items are now with breakfast items, lunch options and snack options are all placed together.

Changes

Local Vendors

Slowly but surely, more product is gracing our shelves. Grocery has been reduced to make room for expanded café seating, as well as prepared deli and bulk food offerings. We are focusing on local market niches where we can compete. When possible, we will replace or supplement traditional grocery items with bulk options that are more environmentally friendly. Part of being a neighborhood grocery store is offering convenience, not necessarily the cheapest prices or the most complete selection, but items that are vital and that move quickly—think 7-11 of natural foods.

We are adding new local vendors and prioritizing Hawaii produced foods. We will be getting goat cheese from Sweetland Farms in Waialua, venison from Makana Market, various breadfruit products from the Ulu Co-operative, freshly baked goods from Cakeworks, and freshly roasted Hawaiian coffee, for starters.

We will be setting up regular brewed, Hawaiian coffee service. Shawn Steiman, board member, and otherwise known as Dr. Coffee (PHD from UH’s CTAHR) is an experienced provider of coffee and coffee services. He will be aiding us in this new venture, insuring that our brew is fresh and flavorful.

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Facelift

Right now we are working on a facelift for Kokua. Over the next few weeks we’ll be painting the exterior and interior, cleaning & polishing the floors and adding LED lights to our existing fixtures to brighten things up. We’ve already begun rejuvenating the courtyard area with pruning, trash removal, new trees and plantings. We also plan to add indoor café seating, significantly update our grocery dry goods layout, restock organic fruit and vegetable options to the produce department and rebuild our dairy/refrigerated grocery options.


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Celebration

May will bring two days of celebration – we are thankful for Kokua's relaunch and for all of you who have made it possible. Friday, May 10, from 4-8pm will feature music, beer, BBQ, fish and jackfruit tacos, and other treats. Saturday, May 11, 10am-2pm will be an opportunity to meet some of our farmers and producers, sample new products, buy locally grown flowers for Mother’s Day, learn about local banana diversity and the Slow Food movement.

https://www.facebook.com/events/350205265844188/


April 2019 Newsletter

We need you!

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In addition to the above “face-lift” projects, we'll need volunteers for Kokua’s thank you celebration on May 10 & 11. Do let us know if you’d like to help in any area—just email lauriecarlson@me.com and let me know what you are interested in.

We have conferred with a variety of local experts on the store and natural foods ecosystem and are continuing do so. Former locally-based Whole Foods managers, design firms, solar consultants, landscape architects, and branding experts are all on board. They will continue to aid us in making the necessary changes in store operations and marketing. 

Sales have been increasing as more product is available. In January, we were doing $8-9,000 a week. In April, we’ve just about doubled our sales. Our next goal is getting up to $35,000/week, taking us closer to breakeven. We need you to do more of your shopping with us to support our reaching this sales goal by the end of May, 2019. We will have everything you need in offerings to reach this goal. If we don’t, please let us know what you want to purchase with the Co-op ASAP so we can get those goods on Kokua’s shelves.

In order to receive the next increment of our grant, we need to generate sales of $35,000 during a one-week period. We’re asking your help with shopping during the week of May 5 through May 11. Please try to spend as many of your shopping dollars during that week. Please spread the word to your friends, family, community that we really need to up our sales volume to get that grant. This will partially be during our Celebration and there will be a number of special sale items, just for members.

Wynston, our interim manager is well versed in turnarounds, thankfully, because Kokua has been neglected for some time. Her first priorities have been focused on a variety of tasks that are invisible to the casual observer: cutting expenses, like the phone bill (which was $1000/month), dealing with the dying computer/register system, reviewing product data from your system to focus restock decisions, establishing standard operating practices for checking in orders, developing a store reset plan, and working to rebuild the membership list. Wynston[wle1]  has discovered that inventory has been valued incorrectly for some time now, and we will amend our 2018 year-end financial statements to reflect reality. She is working to reestablish relationships with the vendors we need, and expand our local offerings.

We will be holding the annual meeting in July, after the Board has had time to form a nominating committee for new board members.

Thank you for your confidence in Kokua and its future. We will, with your kokua, rebuild our co-operative into a successful, sustainable and important community resource. 

Laurie Carlson
Chair, Board of Directors
Kokua Country Foods Co-operative

GET IN TOUCH



Newsletter 3/4/2019

Owners Vote Yes to Keep Kokua Open

On Saturday March 2 we had an owners meeting to share updates on our fundraising and plans to save Kokua Market. Sixty-one owners filled the room and supported the ongoing efforts to keep Kokua running.

In fundraising we exceeded our shares campaign goal, and have raised $167,000 so far and have secured an additional $120,000 in member & community loans, and $10,000 in donations/grants. There may be another $70,000 grant available this week—we should know soon.

We are excited to announce that given our success and the proposed plans forward (outlined below), the owners voted unanimously to spend the money raised through our proposed plan:

Plan Forward

Phase 1: Use Equity, Get professional Interim General Manager (Wynston Estis arrives on March 11 to be our IGM for a few months) to restart store with new product mix & new operational standards. Includes plans to clean up store, improve signage, locate new suppliers, and invite new vendors to work with us. Our goal is to change our product mix, increase inventory and raise sales to $40-50,000 a week.

Phase 2: If successful with Phase 1, the Board will consider Phase 2, depending on our ability to secure additional investment capital. This phase would include getting new equipment, considering new departments, and hiring a second Interim General Manager.

How Can You Help?

  • Continue to support our fundraising by buying shares or donating to our Go Fund Me page

  • We need volunteers in the store for a face lift, so please e-mail gm@kokua.coop to volunteer

  • And, as usual, come shop 10am-6pm everyday. We are stocking more and more products every week and hope to return to normal and better than ever soon! Thank you!

  • Weʻll see you at the next Owners Meeting.

Explaining the Kokua 2020 plan to Co-op members.

Explaining the Kokua 2020 plan to Co-op members.

The unanimous vote approving the plan.

The unanimous vote approving the plan.

Come on by the store today!

Kokua Market is undergoing a period of transition—BUT we are still open. Spread the word and encourage your family and friends to keep shopping, as that helps us. We are excited for the future.

Spread the word—ask your friends and family to support relaunching Kokua. You can buy your shares online at this link. You can also use our downloadable form for becoming a new member or buying additional shares by check—Kokua Fundraising Letter. Of course, you can buy more share while in the store.

For more information on Board changes and new members, please see our newsletter here. For more information on recent events, deli and chef updates, check out our current newsletter here.  Check out the Kokua 2020 flyer which shows our ideas for our new vision of Kokua.

We have two new chefs, awesome deli food as always, local eggs, local I’a poke, bulk is back, and local produce is stocked daily. We hope that through this period of change, you will continue to support us and invest in the future of your co-op!

Mahalo for your continuing kokua,
The Board of Directors