Community Food Co-Op
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Board Candidate: Laura Weiss

What skills and qualities do you have that uniquely qualify you for the Board of Directors, and why do you want to run for the Board?

I was elected to the Co-op Board in 2019 and have served on the Finance Committee. Since I retired recently from a 35-year career focused primarily on environmental policy and advocacy, I enjoy volunteering my time serving on Boards whose missions I support, including the Co-op's.

The Co-op has been an indispensable Bellingham resource for over 50 years, and as Bellingham grows, I see that the Co-op will need to be even more responsive to growth opportunities, invest in the future, and fund new initiatives. As the impacts of climate change worsen, it's critical that we plan for how to adapt to a world that will become less food secure in the coming decades, while also preserving the natural environment.

Choose one of the seven goals of the Co-op strategic plan and briefly talk about what interests you and what you could contribute to its development.

The area of Stewardship & Advocacy interests me the most. I think the Co-op should continue to play a leadership role in promoting the growth of sustainable agriculture, local food production, energy efficiency, and resource conservation.

With an MBA in Sustainable Business and having run a small, mission-driven business to reduce waste from single-use take-out containers, I look forward to helping the Co-op consider environmental impacts in all its decision making.

Think about a situation that demonstrates your ability to create a climate that values cultural diversity. How would you encourage sharing different perspectives?

I have facilitated many meetings over the years, usually involving a diverse set of perspectives. I believe in creating a climate of trust and openness by running meetings and discussing issues directly, honestly, and with clarity of purpose. My goal is to ensure that every voice in the room is heard and recognized.

What do you believe are the Co-op’s greatest strengths?

The Co-op plays a critical role as a resource for healthy food and as a way for Whatcom County residents to ensure their food dollars stay in the community. As climate change begins to have greater impacts on our food supply, the Co-op will need to build on its strengths in providing local, healthy food while supporting the local economy as much as possible.

As a cooperative business, our strength continues to be in our ability to reflect and represent our community while eliciting member input on growth and direction.

Describe any experience you have in reading and understanding financial statements.

Ten years ago, I started a business to reduce waste from single-use take-out containers. As a small business owner, I managed my own books, did all the accounting, and was able to gain an in-depth understanding of profit and loss statements and balance sheets through that process.

In addition, I earned an MBA in Sustainable Business from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute in
2006, which gave me a sound basis for reading and understanding financial statements.

Describe the experience, skills, or knowledge you have working with any or all of the following:

Cooperatives; policy governance; consensus process, non-profit or for-profit boards; a group that used active member participation to achieve its goals.

I have over 30 years of professional experience in the field of environmental health and sustainability—working in the non-profit, government, and private sectors. I have worked with many groups, doing multi-stakeholder facilitation and collaboration and have well-developed project management and presentation skills. With an MBA in Sustainable Business and having launched a small business in Portland, I have a good understanding of the fundamentals of business.

Describe your connections with the community, including volunteer work if applicable.

In addition to the Co-op Board, I serve as the Chair of the Board for Animals as Natural Therapy, a local non-profit providing support to at-risk kids and veterans through connections with horses and other animals. I also serve on the Boards of The Whatcom Million Trees Project, Walk & Roll Bellingham, and the Lake Whatcom Watershed Advisory Board.

Describe any business or entrepreneurial experience you have.

In 2011, I created and founded a small, mission-driven business called GO Box—the first reusable take-out container service. I managed all aspects of the business, including marketing, sales, finances, logistics, personnel management, and strategy. I also developed a licensing program to allow for GO Box to expand beyond Portland. Before moving to Bellingham in 2018, I managed the successful sale of the company.

What committee/s are you most interested in serving on and what skills and experience would you bring?

I am interested in continuing to serve on the Finance Committee.

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