CDS was created to ensure that cooperatives and groups that wanted to start cooperatives had access to sound business development guidance. Over the past 25 years, CDS has provided a wide range of services to cooperatives, producer-owned businesses, nonprofits, universities, and governmental clients.
In keeping with our mission to promote cooperative and sustainable development, we focus our work on projects that are intended to benefit clients that are:
- Members of cooperatives or credit unions
- Groups that want to form a cooperative
- LLCs or group-owned businesses that operate under cooperative principles or that leverage cooperation as a business advantage
- Not cooperatives, but are sponsored by a cooperative
In each case, our intention is to provide high quality business and organizational developmental assistance that will help our clients advance their businesses.
- Would you like to become a CDS client? Contact us!
In 2011, they hired Cooperative Development Services (CDS) to conduct a Feasibility Study determining the technical, marketing, and financial feasibility of processing conventional and organic soybeans into meal and oil. “We were told by other companies that our idea wasn’t feasible and didn’t make sense because we were competing against larger companies,” Nelson explained. “The CDS feasibility study showed it wasn’t true. Our approach was found to be feasible and it’s working just fine.” CDS then developed a Business Plan for the extrusion operation identifying markets, competitors, sales strategies, and financial projections.
Pastures A Plenty in Kerkhoven, Minnesota has been a family-owned farm since 1952 when the VanDerPol family started growing soybeans and other grains. As part of the family farm’s second-generation, Jim VanDerPol began raising pastured hogs in 1977. By the 1990s Pastures A Plenty was primarily a livestock operation, and in addition to hogs they had added chickens and cattle.
In 1998, the conventional hog market took an economic nosedive and VanDerPol knew that in order for Pastures A Plenty to thrive into the future, they had to look at new ways of doing business. At the same time, Minnesota food cooperatives were seeking producers of local, naturally-raised meats. VanDerPol believed that going direct-to-consumer could be a way to deliver their value-added pork products to customers and retailers in ways that could sustain the family farm, but he needed to do more research.
He had heard about the USDA’s Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG), and approached CDS to help him with the process of securing one. “The first thing we did was ask for a smaller grant to help with business planning,” said VanDerPol. In 2009, with the assistance of CDS, they were awarded $17,500 that supported a market study and business plan creation. “It was very important to organize our thoughts and figure out what we needed to do to grow the business. We worked on that for a year,” he said.
“CDS was very good at helping us with analysis and focusing on what we needed to be thinking about. They also have strong knowledge and deep relationships with the food business community in the Twin Cities,” VanDerPol said.
The preparation and business development work was absolutely necessary in order to secure $300,000 in VAPG funds in 2011 to implement their plans and grow the business. “Part of the impetus for the small grant was to make sense of the direction we wanted to go and make decisions about what to do for the future,” VanDerPol said. With their stated business plans, Pastures A Plenty was poised to maximize the opportunities the larger grant presented, including expanding their wholesale production and partnering with other area farmers to take advantage of a fast-growing market.
“I’d definitely recommend other people look into these grants, especially for business planning. It was a very good thing for our business,” VanDerPol said.
FUMPA BioFuels, Minnesota’s first commercial biodiesel refinery, began operations in December 2004. CDS provided grant writing, feasibility study and business planning assistance for this Redwood Falls, MN operation.
HarvestLand Cooperative, Inc.’s wind generation facilities provide a new revenue stream contributing to accelerated equity returns to its member-owners. CDS provided grant writing, feasibility study and business planning assistance for this southwestern Minnesota operation.
Chatham Marketplace opened in spring 2006 to offer rural Pittsboro, North Carolina residents, an alternative place to shop for locally grown natural and organic food products. CDS’s Food Co-op Consultants assisted with project management support, financial projections, market analysis, fundraising, board training in policy governance, location selection, and securing management staff. CDS continues to provide ongoing support to Chatham Marketplace.