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Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

Co-op model mooted for Mullum

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Greg Dutton, president of the Mullumbimby and Ocean Shores Community Gardens, is taking hyper-local food security to the next plateau. He is calling on the community to invest in and run the Dennett’s IGA supermarket as a co-op hybrid model, which he is calling a ‘social enterprise’.

Professional Mullumbimby businesses are already engaged, with John Robinson Accounting and Wall & Co lawyers working with Greg’s team to co-ordinate the purchase. They are presently evaluating the sale contract which also includes due diligence of the business.

Capital already pledged

The kickstart has been made possible, Greg says, by three wealthy local philanthropists (founding stakeholders) who have already pledged the necessary capital to acquire the business.

‘Once our team have secured the supermarket, then we, as community members, will have the opportunity buy in,’ he says.

‘As we buy in, the founding stakeholders will reduce their ownership and have their capital repaid.

‘This is a great opportunity for us to take control of our food security,’ he says. ‘We can keep the profits and jobs here in town and take control of our supermarket experience.’

Other working co-ops

Greg points to other well-functioning and profitable co-ops in Australia. ‘Goondiwindi’s co-op (www.gdicoop.com.au), located six hours west of Mullumbimby, has been trading successfully for 29 years, and the Macleay Regional Co-operative runs Kempsey’s Supa IGA (www.macleayregionalcooperative.com.au). So why not Mullumbimby?’

‘If we combine just 10 per cent of Dennett’s IGA stock purchases with 100 per cent of profits, an estimated $900,000 to $1 million per year would be immediately injected into our Mullumbimby local economy.’ Having been in the region for only three years, Greg’s background is in venture capital and business start-ups. He moved to the area from Sydney to ‘live in a more sustainable and self-sufficient region’. He currently also serves on the committee for the New Brighton and Mullum Farmers Markets.

The proposal

Most importantly, all 36 local staff, systems, processes and operations will remain the same, says Greg. ‘With the assistance of IGA operations, we will hire an experienced supermarket manager with an excellent track record to take over from the current owner. Our new manager would be required to be a community owner as well, so they have a stake in our success too.’

Shares valued between $20 and $40 are proposed, says Greg. ‘That way everyone can participate and make it truly a local ownership. In fact with more owners, local suppliers and supporters it’s reasonable to forecast the sales and profit will actually increase. It’s a great testimony to our community loyalty that since Woolworths opened in June last year, Dennett’s IGA’s turnover has actually increased.’

Depending on the final structure, a board of directors or steering group will be formed, he says. ‘This team will represent the interests of us, the community owners, the founding stakeholders, the staff and, of course, us the customers.

‘They will provide overall direction but not be involved in day-to-day management of the business. This way, the current successful formula remains the same. The existing “customer-driven” culture will be continued and improved.

‘There are obviously a lot of needles to thread but I believe the end result will make a big difference to our region. In fact, I can see this as a model for our community to own more of our local assets and continue to future-proof Mullumbimby.

‘It’s vital that as many people as possible register their interest to make this happen,’ he adds.

To find out more and have your say, visit www.ourmullumbimby.org.

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