When the now founder and director of the program, Greg Brodsky, reached out to me a year ago to get a temperature check on whether a co-op accelerator would be valuable, I said absolutely…but I was on the fence if I would participate.
You see, I’ve done other programming. I’ve been exposed to the basic business development exercises: I’ve done business model canvases, built (and rebuilt) my P&L, journey mapped the heck out of it all. I had already gone through the 101 level of what it takes to build a business, but what I lacked was the nuance of how being a co-op impacts the whole shebang.
With this in mind, I decided to apply, in hopes I could finally get support marrying our co-op model with a scrappy scalable startup.
Six co-ops were accepted in the first cohort of Start.coop out of an impressive 82 applicants. Savvy was lucky to have been selected.
Last week was Week 1 of the 10 week program. We did the same content I expected, business model canvassing, product-market fit, P&L’s, journey maps…but with a co-op twist. From a practical standpoint, it checked the boxes for why I opted to participate. But I got soooo much more out of it.
I have been working on Savvy Cooperative for three years. As an academic turned tech entrepreneur, I did what the internet and other smart people told me to do: I read Lean Startup, I listened to How I Built This, participated in accelerator programs, and attended just about every startup event in NYC.
While I learned the ropes and heard inspiring stories, something was still missing. After last week, I realized what it was.
I realized just how much I needed the fellowship of other people who can’t deny their social purpose. It’s not to say entrepreneurs aren’t passionate people, but you’re hard pressed to find people who are building scalable companies with the intention of giving their profits away to help others (and I don’t mean becoming a billionaire and then turning to philanthropy, I mean fairly distributing profits from the start).
In the co-op community I finally found my people. And if I’m being honest, I stumbled into forming a co-op. I wasn’t part of this world before, but the model made so much sense to me. If we want to create a sustainable business that gives patients a voice and makes sure they are fairly valued, we have to do so as a company, which is exactly what a co-op does: gives them a vote and shares our profits back with them (they helped generate them after all!).
But let’s be real, most people don’t understand co-ops. They’re a special breed of social enterprise. And in the business world, I am constantly faced with people questioning or trying to talk me out of the model, because it’s different. While I maintain it’s the right model for us, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was hard to feel so misunderstood.
Perhaps that’s the reason I found myself crying after John Rosenthal, co-founder of Equal Exchange, came to speak with us. Equal Exchange is worker-owned coffee (and other commodities) distributor founded in 1984 and now brings in upwards of $100 million in revenue. Hearing John’s founding story and the core values that guided him and his co-owners really struck a cord. I was so grateful to meet him, I felt heard and seen in a way I hadn’t felt before. This stuff is hard, restoring inequities isn’t the easy road.
So after just Week 1, I am feeling so grateful at the opportunity to be around such incredible people who are living their purpose to create a more equitable and just future. Read more about the rest of the cohort here.
Savvy Cooperative accelerates the development of patient-centered products and solutions by providing a gig economy marketplace for patient insights. Companies and innovators can connect directly with diverse patients and consumers to participate in market research, user-testing, discussion boards and co-design opportunities. Using a unique co-op model, Savvy Cooperative is the first patient-owned platform that empowers patients to use their health experiences to advance research, resources and product development. For more information about Savvy Cooperative, please visit www.savvy.coop and follow Savvy Coop on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.