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Menomonie Market Food Co-op Wins WEDC’s We’re All Innovating Contest

We’re thrilled to announce that Menomonie Market Food Co-op has been named a winner of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding through the We’re All Innovating Contest hosted by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in partnership with the Wisconsin Technology Council.

The WEDC announced the contest earlier this fall, their goal for which was to reward as many new and established Wisconsin companies with 50 or fewer employees as possible with the over $3 million in prize money. Funding was intended to provide access to capital statewide, including rurally located and ethnically diverse entrepreneurs, and to support companies that have either introduced innovations in response to direct health and economic impacts of COVID-19 or launched new innovations, including business models and best practices for COVID-19 operations that would otherwise have remained dormant.

Menomonie Market Food Co-op was selected as a top winner in one of three major categories—Technology Innovation to Address COVID-19 Impacts on Businesses—by a panel of 182 volunteer judges for the new online store we launched in response to the pandemic, a project that wasn’t originally in our business plan until 2023. We will receive a $17,250 financial award that will help offset the costs incurred to complete the project and will allow us to continue offering curbside pickup for free to the Dunn County community for the foreseeable future.

“Our food co-op exists to create wealth for our owners and our local community,” says Crystal Halvorson, Menomonie Market Food Co-op’s General Manager. “When we were weighing whether or not to invest in building an eCommerce solution earlier this year, it felt risky to use that money for a project outside of our planned budget. Ultimately, we knew we had to make the leap to keep our shoppers safe and to continue supporting our local farmers and producers, so it’s awesome to see the state give money to locally owned businesses like ours to help with that unexpected cost.”

To complete the project, our staff completed the following tasks in about two months:
• Designed the eCommerce website and all accompanying materials
• Cleaned their point of sale system’s product data so it would make sense to customers
• Integrated the eCommerce website with their point of sale system’s cleaned product data
• Sourced product photos from vendors and photographed some themselves when unavailable
• Created systems, trainings, and schedules for staff to become personal shoppers
• Wrote a collection of step-by-step tutorials for their customers to use after launching the site
• Collected feedback from pilot shoppers to improve the system before launch
• Integrated the eCommerce website and all of its new features into their promotions schedule
• Launched and publicized the new eCommerce website
• Helped customers adjust to the new ordering system by fielding phone calls, emails, and social media messages

Since its launch, this innovation, available to everyone at shop.mmfc.coop, has been vital to maintaining sales of locally grown items, such as produce, and has allowed our co-op to keep buying from small producers throughout the pandemic when they have so desperately needed support. It also saved some jobs within our store—especially in the deli whose team members were trained as personal shoppers when deli sales plummeted—and transformed others with training and a tailored approach to customer service.

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