It takes a village to help small local businesses succeed. In Tucson, the Food Conspiracy Co-op has stepped up to support Local First Arizona and Tucson’s local business community with a grant from the Cooperative Community Fund. Through the Cooperative Community Fund and other community-focused initiatives, the Food Conspiracy Co-op––a member-owned organic grocery store––will help fund the Fuerza Local business accelerator program, from which the first-ever South Tucson cohort will graduate at the end of June.
According to the Food Conspiracy Co-op, the Cooperative Community Fund “is the work of a collaborative effort initiated in the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation and forty food co-ops around the country.” Throughout the year, members, shoppers, and the co-op itself donates money to the Cooperative Community Fund to raise money for nonprofits in Tucson. In February, Food Conspiracy Co-op members voted to divide the funds between three local nonprofits – including Local First Arizona.
The Cooperative Community Fund is a testament to one of the Food Conspiracy Co-op’s main principles––Concern for Community––which states that, “We [Food Conspiracy Co-op] have a special responsibility to ensure the sustainable development of our community economically, socially, and culturally.” The money that Local First Arizona receives from this grant will help fund Fuerza Local, a Local First Arizona Foundation program now serving entrepreneurs in South Tucson that provides a structured business curriculum taught by experienced, bilingual professionals. “Graduates gain access to credit at fair market rates, which enables them to strengthen their businesses, sustain their families, and rebuild their neighborhoods,” says Southern Arizona Director Mike Peel.
The Fuerza Local Business Accelerator is a six-month training program offered at no cost to underserved Hispanic business owners. During the program, entrepreneurs learn some of the fundamentals to launch or develop their business, creating a firm foundation for their goals. Lessons on accounting, social media, marketing, and many others are taught completely in Spanish by industry professionals and experts. Fuerza Local now aims to create successful business owners in South Tucson, thus adding value to our local community and economy. “Fuerza Local” is a Spanish phrase that translates to “local strength,” referencing the idea that this program is meant to build community wealth and prosperity from the ground up. The program is graduating students in five communities across the state, now including Tucson. More than 260 business owners have already completed the program, and combined have generated more than $8.1 million in gross sales and borrowed more than $1.1 million.
Thanks to continued efforts made by the Food Conspiracy Co-op, Local First Arizona has more means to build a strong and vibrant local economy.
originally posted on the Local First Arizona blog, June 25th: