November - Shawn Morrill

posted Mar 1, 2012, 12:40 PM by Rob Pollock
Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?

What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?

 

Shawn Morrill says:

 

For this post, I was asked to answer the question “What does abundance mean to you?”. While thinking about how to answer this, I kept coming back to a topic that has recently made quite an impact on my life. Sense of community. I believe that there is a strong connection between abundance and community. In fact, abundance may not exist without it.

 

When I accepted the position as the store manager of the co-op, I knew it would not be an easy job but it was the kind of challenge I had been looking for. Soon after starting, our board set out two priorities. One was to increase sales to a point that can sustain the business. The other was to create a sense of community.

 

For me, building the business seemed like the easy part. These were things I knew how to do: build scalable systems, create relationships with vendors, manage cash flow, and most importantly, listen to our customers. I was confident that if we did these things right and built a store they wanted, more customers would shop, sales would increase, and the business would soon be able to sustain itself.

 

Creating a sense of community on the other hand, was not so obvious for me. I had spent most of my career working alone and doing business with people who I didn't have any real connection to. So I stuck with what I knew and focused on building the business. Sales were increasing, new members were signing up, we were adding new products; we had momentum. As It turned out, the community part just happened. With every new relationship and conversation came connections that felt real and genuine. Our co-op community began to slowly build.

 

In August we found ourselves with four weeks to find a new location and get moved in. Members came forward with financial contributions. Volunteers banded together to prepare the new space. Customers began shopping more. The outpouring of support was amazing. What I had not realized until this point is that at their core, food co-op's are all about community. It's the thing that sets them apart from most grocery stores. Since our move, this sense in the store has continued to grow.

 

Last Friday was perfect example of this. There was never a moment where the store was not filled with conversations and connections. We had nine volunteers working in the store throughout the day. Joyce & Rusty building chalkboards for our walls, Jossalynn & Elise washing our new bulk bins, Stacy & Mike working on the bookkeeping, Kirk, Anni, and I were creating materials for our upcoming fundraising event, and Nancy was welcoming customers. All of these people were giving up so much of their free time to build this store for their community.

 

It was amazing to be a part of it. Maggie, a first time customer bought a membership while her husband Kevin offered to play music at our event. Tom, one of our existing members bought a share for his neighbor. Bill and Chris, owners of two downtown businesses used our store as a space to have a meeting. With all of this activity in one day, the store was alive.

 

All of this energy made me stop and think about what we are doing. It's one thing to read about people doing good and the community that builds around their initiatives but it's an incredible feeling to be a part of it. I went into this venture close to a year ago with the desire to get involved in the food movement. What I didn't expect was how profound an impact this experience would have on me. I did not know any of these people a year ago and now many of them are close friends. It's an awesome feeling to go to work every day truly inspired and to realize that it's only just begun.

 

So what does abundance mean to me? If I would have been asked this question six months ago, I would have gone on about food system issues, how important these are to fix and how creating abundance is a part of the solution. However, with what I’ve recently learned, my focus has changed. Community is where it all begins. For abundance would be lost without it. Simply put, abundance is the successful result of a community working together to provide for the needs of its members.

 

By Shawn Morrill

Vancouver Food Co-op

Store Manager

http://www.vancouverfood.coop/

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