In partnership with the Ontario Co-operative Association (OnCo-op), St. Paul’s GreenHouse hosted Canadian co-operatives to speak on their experiences with their businesses. A co-operative is a business model that focuses on the needs of people who use their services.

Facilitated by GreenHouse alumna Indi Malar, panelists were Colin Hanaway of Together We’re Bitter (a brewery co-op), environment professor and president of LIFE (a renewable energy co-op) Olaf Weber, Albert O’Connor of Avocado Co-op (a retail co-op), and Operations Manager Heather Bigelow of Community CarShare.

OnCo-op Member Relations Manager Jennifer Ross also attended the forum to comment on co-operatives and answer  questions from the audience.

Each panelist answered questions about how they started their co-op and the struggles they went through. Unsurprisingly, their journeys were not without hardship.

“Co-operatives aren’t the standard way to run a business [and] there aren’t many resources out there, so it’s somewhat challenging but there are resources out there like OnCo-op,” said O’Connor on the challenges faced from being a co-operative.

When asked what advice they would give to students interested in founding a business, Hanaway said, “Don’t start a co-operative if in your understanding that it is the best way to model the future.”

After the forum, there was a networking session with the co-operatives, as well as booths to learn more about each.

For more information on starting a social venture, visit uwaterloo.ca/stpauls/greenhouse.

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