Peaceful Pantry – Alberta, Canada – Consumer Buying Club Video

Annette, who runs the Peaceful Pantry buying club, has been with us from almost the beginning.  She is the single person running the club and continues her success using BuyingClubSoftware.com.  We invite you to check out their story and wonderful video about their buying club story.

What makes The Peaceful Pantry a success? [Read more…]

Nature’s Touch Farm – LaGrange, NC – Farmers & BuyingClubSoftware.com

The Sutton FamilyNature’s Touch Farm
La Grange, North Carolina

Chelsea and Daniel Sutton are your typically awesome small family farm offering organically raised meats.  Serving the Eastern North Carolina area, they offer meats grown on their own farm pasture. To round out their product offering, they offer dozens of other products from other local farmers.

Why do we love these guys?  They aren’t just our clients, but from our view they are doing great work.  They have a video series about using fresh and healthy ingredients on a budget, they write in their blog about GMOs. Simply put, they get it.  If these words are foreign to you, I might suggest checking out their website and diving in to learn!   [Read more…]

v0.6.1 Release

We are happy to announce this upgrade after a long hiatus on official updates.  More and more, we move closer to a final v1.0 version providing the software we have imagined from the beginning.  Along the way we’ve had tons of suggestions and feedback, and we thank everyone who participated in those types of discussions.  We have all pitched in to this effort, and behind the scenes we are extremely grateful for those in the buying club communities.

Lots to cover so here we go…

[Read more…]

Trends: Food Co-op Storefronts Add Buying Clubs to Business

In 2013, some of our buying clubs began final preparations for becoming full retail stores in the next couple of years. With this, they are achieving their long term goals for a community market with a social and environmental consciousness that keeps money flowing to local farmers. [Read more…]

Buying Club Success!

Buying clubs are sometimes just buying clubs.  Groups of friends or neighbors who order food in bulk to save some money.  But some, and more and more, are growing and using the buying club to eventually open a community store.  I’m happy to present two of our clients that have made it to that point.

BuyingClubSoftware.com was created from our own experience with the Portland Food Co-op.  In the early days we used spreadsheets and both Matt and I were doing splits with just a few other folks.  That was about 7 years ago.  And as of this past year they found a great retail space, with parking (which is huge in this town!), and began their final push to raise funds to open the store in the fall of 2014.  We’ve literally seen our membership grow from about 500 to 900 in the last few months, so they’ve done an amazing job growing the community support needed to open the store and truly be owned by the community.  We are proud to have been a part of that success.

Another club is the Kennebeck Local Food Initiative (KFLI) in Gardiner, ME, and they will change the name to The Gardiner Food Co-op.  The plan to open a grocery and cafe in an area that doesn’t have anything like it.  Here’s their words from the latest email we received…

For two years, the Kennebec Local Food Initiative (KLFI) has been providing you with access to hundreds of products grown and produced right here in Maine through the Online Marketplace (OM).  Your twice-monthly purchases have helped support the livelihoods of nearly twenty local farmers and producers and close to two hundred more across the state. The OM has topped $80,000 in sales which means you have helped keep $240,000 circulating in the Maine economy.   

As many of you know, a permanent storefront has been the stated goal of KLFI since day one.  In addition to growing the local edible economy, we’ve also wanted to make a social impact in the greater Gardiner area.  Less than a year ago, the current board of KLFI voted to adopt the cooperative model for the future storefront and committed to take the necessary steps in order to open the doors.

Congratulations to these Maine buying clubs!  For persevering through hard times of beginning a buying club.  For the work to bring fresh local food to more people.  For creating economic success.  And for letting us help to make it happen.

Know of a buying club that has become a store?  Share your story!

Boondocks Buying Club in Bethel, Maine Gathers with Local Farmers for a DIY Market

In terms of my day to day work I don’t always get to see the people I work with.  It’s usually by phone or Skype.  Today was a special treat to spend it with the Boondocks Buying Club in Bethel, ME.

One face in the room was a familiar partner, but the rest were those taking on the seriousness of growing a buying club meant to reduce prices, create relationships with farmers, and make food more accessible to folks who don’t make it to the local farmer’s market.  Folks like senior citizens and those for whom the timing of the market doesn’t work out consistently. [Read more…]

Article – Northwest Herald – Buying Club Offers Holiday Meal Packages

What a great idea, and a nice show of creativity within a buying club. They’re saving money, being involved in the community and giving.  What more can we ask for?

Read full article…

Lakes Region (Maine) Food Security Sub Committee Meetings

Last week I was invited to sit in on a discussion around cooperative purchasing among the food pantries in the Lakes Region of Cumberland County, Maine.  The invitation came from a gentlemen I work with here in Portland on the Mayor’s Initiative for Healthy Sustainable Food Systems (a.k.a. Portland Food Council).  He is a United Way employee at this time, and he shared his interest about BuyingClubSoftware.com’s potential to help the Good Shepherd Food Bank purchase as a group.

So what does it mean for the Buying Club concept to become important for a food rescue and pantry operation?

To start, the food bank itself is a support mechanism for getting food to these pantries and in to people’s homes.  Picking it up where it is donated and ultimately delivering it to the food pantry where people come for whatever they have to offer.

To cut costs and make life easier for people who are often volunteers running food pantries, the idea was that BuyingClubSoftware.com would make it easy enough for average people to make purchases on behalf of their pantries and that someone at the central location of Good Shepard could easily organize and place the order, receive the deliveries, split everything up according to location, and then put it on trucks and deliver the orders to the pantries.

Funny… this sounds a lot like what happens in a huge warehouse on the corporate level.  I like to think we are part of the folks who “level the playing field”, and this is a great example of what we mean. :)

Each pantry can go in to the system and separately make purchases for the pantry on their own schedule.  When it’s time to place the order, the coordinator goes in, exports the order and sends it in to whoever they are buying from.  It saves time and energy, and ultimately saves them money on food by purchasing in bulk and using the facilities they have for distribution. Brilliant!

A big part of this is the ability to program BCS.com with whatever products you want.  So they can plug in larger items like rice or other things from outside of Maine, as well as items from local farmers.  Ultimately, they are working towards supporting a more local and healthy food system. Awesome!

Earlier in the day they spoke about education which ended in the pantry volunteers considering starting buying clubs within their own pantries.  We got really excited by the idea that each pantry could place a group order, and then that order can piggy-back on top of the larger order being made by the food bank.  If you draw it on a piece of paper, it is a pyramid that has 3 levels, and at the top is the main purchase of the food bank.

Collecting this kind of buying power in this way is nothing short of amazing.  When we started working with Buying Clubs, this is a piece of the food system we never even thought of, and it could be helping the most by providing a better economic model to people who need it most.

This is one of many awesome food system stories we can tell.  If you have a good story about collective purchasing or think BuyingClubSoftware.com could apply in other areas, please let us know.

Thanks for reading!

v0.3 Release & Software Version Philosophy

 

A little about what’s behind how we are approaching software versions of BuyingClubSoftware.com…

Big picture, we are working towards a version 1.0 of the software, and this release is one of a few as we travel the path to that final destination.  For us, that means getting every idea we’ve experienced in to the software for the simplest experience in running a buying club.  With this release we offer a few final and unseen new features and a major bug fix, move forward towards v0.6 that we hope to launch later this winter, and it is our hope that by Winter of 2013 we launch a final 1.0 version.  Because life is never predictable, these timelines may become longer or shorter.  We hope the later, but as of today this is realistic for us, and gives us plenty of time to figure out what comes next in v2.0.

With that, we are proud to release Version 0.3 (aka v0.3) of buying club software…

In this release:

  • Bug Fix – clubs reporting meat and cheese(random weight) items sold as cases were not showing in the checkout.  This is now fixed
  • The ‘save & continue’ and ‘save & done’ buttons in checkout
  • The ‘custom checkout line item’ tool
  • The ‘create new order’ tool in checkout
  • Split admin screen that visually separates the two major sections of the software
  • Single Order Processing – Removal of Drop-down Menu in Admin tools
  • “Currently Open Order” is shown on upper right of page when an order is open
  • “Help” button on the shopping side(for shopping members) can now be customized to a specific member of your team.
  • “Manage Settings” is a new area for the more permanent settings of the software
  • Inventory is now working!

Here’s a bit more about these new features…

‘Save & Continue’ and ‘Save & Done’ buttons in checkout.  These buttons made it easier for those running checkout(often called cashiers) to quickly make the right changes and moves through checkout.  Clicking the ‘save & continue’ button reloads the page and recalculates any financial adjustments you make.  ‘Save & done’ saves whatever you have done and returns you to the list of members to checkout.

The ‘custom checkout line item’ tool was created for letting clubs add any extra line items they need during checkout in order to easily manipulate the final totals your club needs.  These line items are also added up and displayed in the exported spreadsheet of the order.

Image: Custom Checkout Line Item Tool

The ‘create new order’ tool in checkout was so cashiers could easily add someone that did not place an order previously.  We find the case for this is mostly for clubs selling surplus, or extra, items.  Choose a member and one product from the drop-down menus, click the ‘Create’ button, and they are added to the order.

Image: Create New Order at Checkout

Split admin screen that visually separates the two major sections of the software.  This was done to help clarify the two major elements of the software.  The left is setup and managing open/closed orders, and the right is for processing orders AFTER commit when the order is closed and being processed from Editing Splits and Compiling to Checkout.

“Currently Open Order” is shown on upper right of page when an order is open.  When an order is closed, nothing is shown in this area.  You can tell members that if they don’t see that, the order isn’t open.  We hope this helps in your communication with your group.

Single Order Processing – Removal of Drop-down Menu in Admin tools.  Clients will recognize the image below as the drop-down menu we are referring to.  This function was for an original vision of the software that we chose not to follow that added a step to accessing all of the tools in the software.  From client feedback and not needing it functionally, we say goodbye to the annoying drop-down that lost it’s purpose.  Clicking on any of the tools now goes direct to the order results you are editing that is stated at the top of the page.  Removing this step makes processing an order much smoother.

“Help” button on the shopping side(for shopping members) can now be customized to be directed to a specific member of your team.  If you do not designate someone to receive support, a warning is displayed in the admin

“Manage Settings” is a new area for the more permanent settings of the software.  In one place, you change the tax rate, the customized text, and the email address that will receive help emails.  This is where any future settings will live.

 

Inventory.  A feature not needed not needed in many buying club cases, but a very useful one to a handful of folks that work with small farms that have limited production.  Here’s how it works and a photo of where Inventory is when you edit a product…

  • Enter the number you want to make available and when it goes down to “0” the product will be removed from the product catalog.
  • “-1″ means you do not know the inventory or are not keeping track
  • “0” means the product will not show because you have no inventory

 

So what’s next you ask?  That would be v0.6, and here’s what’s on the agenda to be released as we develop things and to be completed in Winter 2012…

* Email & Print Receipts.  Add a button at checkout to print and email an individual receipt
* Add button for admin to email unfilled splits to all members
* Allow members to view a read-only version of their basket after the order has been closed through to checkout
* Add search box to ‘add to products’ tool in checkout for a faster lookup and addition to an order
* Remove the Short Name from the name of the order cycles
* Improved Splits tool printout for better readability
* Add product/sku# to product listing
* Add “more” box on the product page for people to say “I would order 5 more if it was needed to fill a case”
* Add checkbox to product page to purchase of multiple cases of an item
* Add discussion board for members to communicate during an order
* Improved text editing tools for the custom text areas of the website
* Allow for multiple levels of member discounts
* Allow product uploads to state Categories by names instead of numbers
* Timed closing of orders to further automate the opening and closing of orders
* Combine cases on the Compiled export
* New Skin (a bit of an upgrade to the look of the site and how we manage it on our end)

Got any thoughts about our development?  Ideas about features we haven’t mentioned? Please leave a comment below or email us at help [at] buyingclubsoftware.org.

Jeremy Speaks about BuyingClubSoftware.com at Slow Money Maine

On November 19, 2010 Slow Money Maine hosted a day-long event where several investors and agricultural participants gathered to share what they are doing and talk openly about investing in local agriculture. The morning program was several presentations to a room of about 100 people, and I was lucky enough to be one of those presenters.

Thank you to Slow Money Maine and Bonnie Rukin for doing all the work that they do to create process for investing locally, and for having me.

Click play to listen to my presentation on BuyingClubSoftware.com and how through ordering food together we find community.