Kurt Vickman’s office had a slogan saying “Be a Good Worker” to remind the founder and CEO of Good Grocer of the existence of his company: making sure everyone in the community can afford fresh, quality food .
Unlike traditional supermarkets, Good Grocer relies on volunteers. “As volunteers have drastically reduced our operating costs, we can pass these huge savings over not only to the volunteers, but also to all buyers who come in,” said Fickman.
In exchange for work, volunteers will receive a 20% discount in the store, and this percentage will gradually increase as the store thrives. Before the store opened at its new location in January, more than 400 volunteers had already signed up. More is needed, but Vickman believes that once people see this store, interest in it will increase.
Good Grocer reopened at 27th Street and Nicollet Street in south Minneapolis, along a section called Eating Street, after the first location on Lake Street had to close for two years to make way for the project. The store is 8,500 square feet, more than twice the size of the original, and is more elegant: white walls, modern shelves, neon lights and a café (it opens in the spring). Offering more than 10,000 products at competitive prices, including organic produce, fresh cheeses, cold cuts and seafood. For those who need a little more help, Good Grocer has opened a grocery store that offers second-tier foods, such as hollow jars, broken boxes, seasonal or light bruised items, at a 75% discount.
“The fragmented nature of our society is starting to improve because of the relationship between hundreds of volunteers that has arisen around food affordability,” said Vickman. “The idea that led to the creation of the best society is valid. By understanding that we live in a society dedicated to this issue, we have fundamentally broken down the economic and ethnic barriers in our society.”
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Good Grocer’s business model doesn’t just have financial benefits, Fickman said, for example, that it can offer customers and volunteers lower prices because of the lower cost of running the store, and Fickman said having volunteers boosts the business.
Connie Routledge, CEO of Finnovation Lab, a Minneapolis social business incubator and accelerator, said the company could take an active role in a number of ways, such as donating money or maintaining a sustainable carbon footprint. To achieve a mission that goes beyond profitability, he said, companies must describe how they will operate and how their activities will serve society.
“The volunteer model is a great way to build community and motivation for your mission-based work,” said Routledge, “but you also need to plan the transition.” “As the business grows, there will be a time when that change of reliance on volunteers will have to shift to an era where volunteers and salaried workers can be deployed effectively.”
Good Grocer currently has 10 full-time employees.
“Volunteers are the most used resource in the world,” says Wickman. “Some people are waiting to be asked to participate in meaningful things. We need to create the right structure to invite them to participate and contribute.”