A group of community members gathered close to a year ago to address the need for a local food co-op in the Elk River area.
The group quickly formed a board of directors and got to work on a plan to open the first-ever Elk River Food Co-op. But early in the summer of 2014, the group became stuck and sought out assistance from Minnesota School of Business in Elk River.
Brian Stewart, businessand accounting program chair, became involved with the group to help them to put together a plan to move forward, which included a much-needed business plan.
“As an entrepreneur, I know how difficult it is to get a business started, and I’m glad to provide any knowledge and expertise that I have. I’m also glad that MSB can provide needed resources as well,” Stewart said.
In September, Stewart approached accounting student Dan Malenke about getting involved in the co-op project. Malenke had recently joined forces with Jayson Smith, another accounting student, and they are in the process of opening their own accounting office in Otsego (an expansion of Miller Tax and Bookkeeping, a partnership with Kelly Jo Miller, adjunct instructor).
“At this point, we are open by appointment only,” Malenke said, but he is excited about the opportunity.
Malenke learned from Stewart that the co-op was in the process of getting started and had very little funds to pay a professional accounting firm for the work that they needed done. He met with the board of directors in October and he and Smith agreed to help them by providing free accounting work until they get their store open officially. In return, the co-op is going to advertise for their new tax and accounting business.
“It’s a mutually beneficial partnership,” Malenke said.
He and Smith say they are excited to be in the partnerships with Miller and the Food Co-op. He is very appreciative of the relationships that they have been able to build with their instructors saying, “It feels good to be able to go into business with our instructor and that our instructors feel comfortable sending business our way.”