Unicorn has succeeded in carving out a genuine alternative to the supermarket for its local community, but shopping options remain sadly limited for much of the UK. We think there’s room for a Unicorn-type store in every city, and perhaps more besides. We have no plans to expand outside the one shop, so we’ve put together a guide intended to help facilitate the emergence of new stores run on similar lines all over the UK. Starting a new business is a daunting process, and starting a new food business in this era of supermarket dominance is perhaps even more so.
We have put together a guide based on the model Unicorn has tried & tested since 1996, designed to assist in the establishment of new wholefood co-operatives. The ‘Grow a Grocery’ guide walks potential grocers through all areas of the business, in the hope that it will make starting a new shop an easier process and help existing shops improve and/or expand. Those using it may choose to follow the model wholesale or just to utilise elements of it, and of course to improve it all the while. Unicorn is by no means the only successful model out there, and like any solution is still far from being perfect, but it is something that can be utilised, built upon, and of course improved by others. In a better food system, there would be more places a bit like Unicorn.
This free guide is divided into ten sections, including People, Planning, Produce and Premises. Note: We updated the guide and resources in 2022, although some elements are historical. We welcome any feedback on what bits are useful, what else we should include, or any aspects that need changing or updating.
Designed to be used alongside the guide, a range of additional resources (listed below) include examples of early business plans, supplier lists, sample rotas & business forecasting tools. Some of these resources (marked *) are available only on request If you click on these you’ll be prompted to fill in a contact form explaining who you are. We tend to reserve these resources for people who are planning to operate as worker or community-owned co-operatives/social enterprises rather than for private profit. They are also most useful with a bit of context, so we may want to have a chat on the phone before providing them.
Please let us know if you’re keen to start a shop run on similar lines to ours, and once you’ve had a look at the toolkit we may be able to arrange for you to visit us. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is lots of other support out there for people looking to looking to set up a new co‑operative (or grow an existing one). Explore the Hive website, it’s got lots of resources for business planning and co-op development, plus you can apply for up to 12 days of bespoke support, training and mentoring.
And finally, here are a couple of other good sources of information on setting up and running co-operatives (there are many more such links within the guide):
- Workers.Coop: Have a free chat with someone and learn more about a potential or new worker co-op
- Co-operatives UK: About co-operatives
- Seeds for Change: Setting up a workers’ co-op
- Radical Routes: How to set up a housing co-op
- The Black Cooperative Development Curriculum: Detroit
- Sociocracy For All: Guidance on sociocratic governance and Unicorn governance case study
* = On application only
- Finance Induction Pack
- Useful contacts
- Loanstock samples*
- Business Plan 1996*
- Business Plan 2002*
- Forecasting tool
- Finance Tasks
- Accounts (historical)*
- Risk Management
- Regs & Finance policies*
Procedures and Pricing
- Task checklist
- Veg Trading
- Veg Europe
- Veg Storage and Presentation
- Veg Aftercare
- Packing Guide
- Packing list sample
Policies and Principle
- Worker Co-op Rules (Unicorn’s governing document)
- Consensus Decision Making Guide
- Governance Tools
- Meeting Guidelines
- Management structure
- Expansion – Challenges + Benefits
- Communication systems
- Staff newsletter
- Agenda & Minutes documents
- Structure Policies*