The Organization

The Mustard Seed Co-operative Grocery launched in January 2014 as Hamilton Ontario’s only community-owned nonprofit grocery store. The Mustard Seed’s mission is to offer members and the broader community with a grocery store that prioritizes local producers for a wide selection of wholesome foods at affordable prices, while creating an educational environment that nurtures the relationship between people and the food they eat. The Co-op currently has 1,600 members and continues to grow, having a positive impact on the local economy, community health and the environment.

The Challenge

First presented to the Community Forward Fund in 2012 by the Hamilton Community Foundation, the Mustard Seed Co-op worked closely with CFF and other partners to pull together the necessary capital to launch the start-up grocery store. The majority of startup costs were covered by membership fees, grants and direct member loans. Still, Mustard Seed felt it needed access to additional working capital beyond these sources while still in its start-up phase.

The Solution

Early in 2014, CFF approved a working capital loan to the Mustard Seed Co-operative. Matching “sister” loans were also funded by the Greater Vancouver Community Assistance Foundation and the Hamilton Community Foundation. Both organizations strongly believe in the mission of Mustard Seed and worked closely with CFF to complete the loan process.

“The process of working with the Community Forward Fund and its partners forced us to refine our business plan and project our needs as thoroughly as possible.  Their involvement gives our members confidence that we will not run into working capital challenges in the years ahead – a significant factor for a community-owned business where individual members cannot address cash-flow issues in the same way that a privately-held business might,” said Graham Cubitt, President of The Mustard Seed.

The Mustard Seed Co-operative is an important example of how one organization has been able to use multiple forms of financing, both traditional and methods of social finance, to achieve their capital requirements.

To learn more about the Mustard Seed Co-operative, watch the Hamilton Community Foundation’s “Vital Signs” video here.