Willy Street Co-op: Marketing Project
Systems Thinking in Sustainable Business
Table of Contents
Member Perks………………………….…………………………Page 1
Additional Perks: Local Chefs.…………….…………………….Page 2
Food Carts………………………………………………………...Page 3
Beer and Wine…………………………………………………….Page 4
Improvements for Present Location…………………………….Page 4/5
Appendix A………………………………………………………..Page I
Appendix B………………………………………………………..Page I
Appendix C………………………………………………………..Page II
Appendix D………………………………………………………..Page II
Appendix E………………………………………………………..Page III
The Willy Street Co-op is an exceptional example of a successful community-
oriented business. While at presently the Co-op thrives, boasting a sizeable customer base,
several improvements could be made to bolster affinity for it, as well as attract new
membership to the coming second location. Below are five categories in which we feel
improvements would be most beneficial to the Co-op. These include both long and short
term improvements/ new ventures.
In order to encourage the continued support and involvement of members, this
portion of the project functions to suggest various perks, especially family activities,
giveaways, and classes, that we feel will foster a strengthened bond between current
members and the Co-op.
Member holiday parties are a great opportunity for both customer interaction and
the building of brand loyalty. Entertainment is a great escape for members and allows the
Co-op to showcase its unique foods and gain recognition for its catering services.
Furthermore, holidays are wonderful occasions to bring together the Co-op community
during work vacations and in doing so increase shopping traffic.
One way to cultivate member enthusiasm is to demonstrate the Co-op’s
appreciation through member giveaways. In addition to current Co-op giveaways, like
Madison Mallards tickets, additional added value offers should be enlisted to reach other
market segments. Potential offers could include; tickets to Overture Center events, trips
to the Wisconsin Dells, UW football tickets, and local brewery tours.
While the Co-op already sponsors a host of farm tours, the selection of tours
could be expanded to include poultry, dairy, and beef farms. For example, Fountain
Prairie farm raises grass-fed Scottish Highland beef, and a field trip to the farm could
consist of observing and interacting with the cattle (members could try their hands at
milking the cows, observing the separation process, etc.) and having a barbeque on
location. An event of this sort would acquaint members with humane animal husbandry
and provide an opportunity to sample the farms’ products. The Co-op should review their
dairy, poultry and meat products and build bridges with the local farms. Trips like this
might require a small fee for food provided (deleted), and additional transportation needs.
The Co-op already offers workshops, lectures and cooking classes, but we have
several further suggestions that we believe would appeal to a wider range of members.
The Co-op should consider offering workshops (especially at the potential new location)
on growing microgreens, brewing beer, growing herb gardens, and making yogurt.
Additionally, lecture series could be held which parallel the themes of the workshops, as
well as touch on topics from composting and alternative medicine (asking a homeopathic
pharmacist from Community Pharmacy to speak), to weight control, general nutrition,
pregnancy nutrition, and athlete nutrition. The Co-op currently offers cooking classes, a
great concept which the next section will address, as additional elements could be added
to great benefit.
Additional Perks: Local Chefs
There are several chefs in the downtown Madison area who share the Willy Street
Co-op’s vision of sustainability and eating locally-sourced foods which coincide with the
seasons. It would be quite advantageous for the Co-op to approach local chefs to donate
weekly recipes, give lectures, or perform some cooking demonstrations. Forging
partnerships with renowned restaurants and local chefs would not only please members
(as the culinary arts are very en vogue these days), but also generate positive publicity for
the Co-op, as well as function to educate. Two executive chefs were interviewed for this
project, Tori Miller from L’Etoile, and Xander Cameron from Blue Marlin1, both of
whom buy locally at every opportunity and have strong relationships with farmers in the
Tori Miller is committed to local agriculture and during the interview he stated
that “For a long time I have been wanting to find a way to use the L’Etoile name in a
community based educational initiative.” When the idea of working with the Co-op was
proposed, he was very enthusiastic and said that he would love to open up a dialogue in
this regard. As well as being willing to donate recipes and host cooking expositions, he
also suggested the possibility of giving lectures which would instruct people on how to
cook various things which may seem unappetizing or challenging, and talk to people
about how to cook right. Currently, Miller is involved in a program with local Madison
schools in which he goes into classrooms and educates children on buying locally and
abating myths about icky vegetables. One exercise in particular, which might be a fun
demonstration for the Co-op, was his making of parsnip butter, which tastes just like
peanut butter, but has hardly any sugar and no additives. Chef Miller said that he would
be very interested in participating in those kinds of educational contributions, as well as
working on other sorts of collaboration.
Xander Cameron is also very interested in working with the Co-op. He has strong
bonds with several farmers in the area, and regularly gets the fresh produce from them.
The Blue Marlin seafood restaurant maintains extremely high standards. The fish on their
menu is carefully selected and steers clear of farm raised fish (that are fed primarily
protein pellets) as well as the now depleted populations of Atlantic Halibut, Atlantic Cod,
and Chilean Sea Bass, for Chef Cameron is quite concerned with overfishing2. The Co-
op’s seafood section, while wonderful on the weekends, can be unreliable during the
work week. Chef Cameron’s contacts in the seafood market are exemplary, and he is
eager to work with the Co-op in attaining regularity in shipments, and work on the
strategic purchasing of certain seasonal fish. He is also interested in donating recipes, as
well as partnering in an effort to better inform people about seafood and cooking in
While the cooking classes that the Co-op already offers are wonderfully dynamic,
bringing in a more high profile chef would allow the Co-op’s to charge more for the class
or lecture. The recipes that are donated would be guaranteed to only include ingredients
that are carried at the Co-op and could be grouped together and made available by the
Co-op’s entrance. With a new location, the Co-op has the option of creating more
Please reference Appendix A.
Please reference Appendix B.
demonstration spaces, attracting larger audiences. This is an opportunity for the Co-op to
gain a competitive advantage with rivals like Whole Foods. Whole Foods holds similar
lectures and demonstrations, but as a result of their corporate status they do not have as
much emphasis on local standards. Chefs in the area would be less likely to want to
collaborate with them.
Opportunities abound for the Willy Street Co-op to position itself as a source of
lunchtime food for both the business and student community in the form of mobile food
carts. Such carts would provide not only revenue in the form of concession sales, but (and
perhaps even more importantly) brand recognition among the ever-growing student
population here in the Madison area as well as among the downtown working
Our suggestions for the carts themselves are as follows. They should carry a small
variety of prepared foods, which at present are relegated only to the Co-op’s catering and
deli counter arms. Items should include packaged sandwiches, salads, and simple dessert
dishes. Additionally, these carts would provide fresh smoothies, wheatgrass shots, and
other beverages that are in line with the Co-op’s message. Beyond the selling of the
above stated goods, carts of the proposed type would function in two key ways to benefit
First, pamphlets about the Co-op itself, its goals, message, and benefits would be
placed on each cart’s counter, so as to increase interest in shopping at the Co-op (this
would be primarily targeted at the student demographic who is generally unaware of such
an option). Also, a second set of pamphlets would be placed on the cart’s counter as well;
these pamphlets would, in contrast, provide information about the catering services
offered by the Co-op.
Second, the carts would provide a healthy, organic, community-oriented
alternative to the barrage of unhealthy (and typically franchised) lunchtime options that
students, and business employees alike, are usually met with. This in turn would allow
for the Co-op to market itself as such an alternative- not only at lunchtime, but when
shopping for groceries or catering an event.
As to the logistics of such a venture, that is the start-up cost of the operation,
several options are available. New carts may be purchased as a package (which would
include everything from a power source to a fire extinguisher) for approximately
$30,0003, or used carts may be found for a range of prices on eBay and other online
retailers (though this option, if exercised would entail the separate purchasing of power
generators and other necessary tools for operating such a vendor cart). Additionally, a
license4 for each cart would have to be applied for and purchased from, the City of
Madison for a nominal start-up fee of $450 and an annual renewal fee of $155.
While simultaneous deployment of several carts is not necessarily feasible at
present, our suggestion is that in the short term, a single cart is set up in Library Mall- a
location frequented by thousands of UW- Madison students each day- a prime way to go
Please reference Appendix C.
Please reference Appendix D.
about recruiting more business for the Co-op among the student population. Furthermore,
positioning the cart among the other existent carts would provide the aforementioned
alternative to the rather lackluster options which currently operate carts on Library Mall.
In the long term though, we foresee three Willy Street Co-op carts. One dedicated
to the student population on Library Mall, and one dedicated to operating by the Capitol,
serving the business lunch crowd. The third cart would play several roles; it would make
an appearance at the weekly farmer’s market on Capitol Square, it would appear at
community events such as the annual Taste of Madison as well as various street fairs and
All in all, the food carts proposed would not only generate revenue for the Co-op,
but play an educational role. While this latter role will surely increase the customer base
of the Co-op as a store, it will also spread the message of the Co-op- the message of
healthy, organic and locally sourced food, thus functioning to help the Madison-area
community, as well as fill some empty bellies.
Beer and Wine
Beer and wine would be welcome and potentially profitable additions to the Willy
Street Co-op inventory. A small alcohol section that carries local and organic beer and
wine in the current Co-op location would be extremely beneficial to business. The Co-op
could still maintain its aim of selling local products by limiting its beer sales only to
locally produced products. The potential wine selection should be from several regions,
both domestic and international. The Co-op could secure competitive advantage by
carefully selecting a product line that would rival nearby Star Liquors. Selling alcohol
will bring the Co-op more revenue from members as well as entice nonmembers to
frequent the store. The only difficulty in undertaking this venture is obtaining and
renewing a liquor license.
In order to be able to sell beer and wine, the Co-op would have to get a Class A
Retailer’s Fermented Malt Beverage License5. Liquor license expenses would be $100
annually. Though this would be contingent upon the approval of the Co-op’s license- a
process that can be somewhat arduous. Licenses expire each year on June 30, and in
order to renew it, the store must put in an application at least one month prior to this date.
The Williamson Street location lacks the necessary space for a larger, more
diverse beer and wine section, but a limited one would be more than sufficient and meet
market demand for one-stop shopping. However with the expenditure approval and a
potential expansion on the horizon, a larger, more refined section in the new store should
certainly be planned for.
The sale of alcohol would serve to broaden the Co-op’s customer base, especially
among the nonmember market. Stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer
similar products to the Co-op, but they also have a sizeable beer and wine sections.
Customers looking to purchase alcohol in addition to their typical grocery list will be
more inclined to take their business to these other stores. Thus, the Co-op can keep this
specific segment of the market enticed by selling alcohol.
Please reference Appendix E.
Improvements for Present Location
There are several aspects of the current store that the Coop could improve now
that would enhance member loyalty and create more brand recognition as a competitive
shopping destination. Areas that could be altered within the Willy street location are
things like revamping the kids play area, sponsoring artisans to create art in front of the
store, founding an employee training program, change the deli, reassigning the eligibility
for discounts, and organizing the catering business.
The kid’s play area at the Coop is a wonderful concept, and this project seeks to
make it a greater asset. Simple modifications such as perhaps expanding the existing
space or making it more engaging would be a large step. Creating an outdoor playground
space for children, either in the front area by the picnic benches or in the back area by the
wall, would encourage families to buy food from the deli and enjoy it while their kids
play. In the new location a full-scale playground should be considered in construction.
The playground would draw families to the Coop as a destination. This would tie in with
the enhanced deli and prepared food section and expand the Coop’s capabilities.
The suggestion for an employee training program was inspired by the Coop’s lists
of strength’s and weaknesses. Employee attitude was listed as both a strength and a
weakness. The employees should not give up their uniqueness or wear a uniform,
however if it is the Coop’s desire to retain more members on a regular basis and perhaps
have a niche market of non-members, a training program should be considered. Good
customer service is never a bad thing and could potentially reduce member defection.
There are some suggestions that are commonly used at the advent of such an undertaking
and the first one, especially with a new location on the way, is to look at training as an
investment, not an expense. The Coop should address their needs for now and looking
into the future, to promote a culture of learning and make the connections between what
the training is and why it’s important. Training should be ongoing in every business,
because there are always areas that could be improved.
The deli at the Coop is already an asset. However, as a model, the Whole Foods
Deli is a good reference. The Coop should have an olive bar, with various pickled items,
such as hot peppers and Cornichons, as well as a variety of olives. The prepared food
section could be enhanced to serve a wider range of appetizing entrees and sides, leaning
more towards a gourmet preparation. Advertising various produce, dairy, poultry and
beef that comes from local farms that is used in the preparation of the prepared foods
would be not only great marketing, but also support the Co-op’s mission of sustainability.
The deli should offer more cured meats by the pound, obtaining specialty items like
Proscuitto and Soprasetta. Some reorganization would help jump-start the process.
Moving the deli sandwich preparation over to the smoothie and bakery area, would free
up more space for prepared food section and an expanded selection of products.
Noticeable improvements in the fish cooler have been made, however without top of the
line and superb freshness, patrons are going to buy their fish elsewhere. Furthermore it
would be appealing to consumers if the Co-op started rolling their own sushi daily,
another item that is very popular with Whole Foods shoppers.
The present catering menu is concise and unique, however it could offer a wider
variety of items such as cheese plates, box lunches, sandwich platters, seafood platters,
sushi, specialty salads, and breakfast platters (baked goods). Adding these items would
make the catering menu appealing for use in a wider variety of catered occasions. Similar
to the prepared food section, it would be advantageous to advertise any local products
used in the catering menu. For example using Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese on cheese
platters or, rather than using Bell and Evans Chicken in the quartered grilled chicken
platter, the Co-op could use local chicken, like that of JenEhr Farms. One concern we
were asked to adjudicate was the lack of catering staff in the current catering operation.
The Co-op should generate a list of several qualified servers who would be interested in
picking up occasional catering shifts. The Co-op could then create a spreadsheet with
each server’s availability and hire as many as they needed according to the magnitude of
Our client expressed a concern about the increasing size of the aging member
population and the ten percent discount to which they are currently entitled. This discount
should be eliminated. Generally people who are retiring are coming into a decent amount
of money, and do not necessarily need the ten percent discount. The Co-op should offer a
discount to lower income families, individuals, and seniors, which would help draw more
members who tend to shop at Woodman’s because of their lower prices. Applicants for a
discount at the Co-op would need to bring in a tax return and the amount of the discount
would be left to the discretion of the Co-op board.
According to the 2006 Co-op survey, forty-five percent of customers were not
aware that the Co-op had a website. An astounding forty-five point two percent of
customers were surveyed as having only visited the site once or twice. The website is a
potential catalyst for marketing the Co-op’s new endeavors as well as providing links to
various farms and pictures of food on the catering menu. Forty-seven percent of
customers are concerned about prices when it comes to where they shop, and seventy-
seven percent of customers do not think all of the products that the Co-op carries should
be healthy. All of these statistics point to various areas of potential resources that could
strengthen the Co-op and reinforce the suggestions that we have made. The Co-op is
already a jewel within the community, but with the advent of a potential new location,
and the current growth of Madison as a metropolis, the Co-op needs to act now to ensure
their market share and force.
Appendix A: Contact information for local Chefs
Appendix B: Shedd Aquarium endangered fish list
Appendix C: Link to food cart pricing
Appendix D: Madison street vendor license application
Appendix E: Liquor license application