Cooperative Business Consultant
Rosemary Mahoney’s 30-year career as a co-op developer began with a post-college job at USDA’s Agriculture Cooperative Service. Although she grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Monmouth Illinois, where her family belonged to electric, insurance and supply co-ops, Mahoney says it wasn’t until she began her work at USDA that she “completely bought into the value of the co-op model for farmers and others.”
One of her most successful projects at USDA was CROPP, which later became Organic Valley, a 2,000 member co-op in LeFarge, Wisconsin.
Mahoney has been developing co-ops ever since. She has worked with more than 25 start-up cooperative enterprises around the world, including fifteen successful cooperative consulting projects in Africa. She led a technology company, CoMetrics that introduced the idea of using data as a strategic tool to improve performance and impact for cooperatives and helped create a new rural cooperative development center at USDA.
In 1991 Mahoney began working with the Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA) bringing the cooperative model to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. She obtained $1.3 million for a two-year rural community development project in Slovakia that focused on rural women, secured funding for a grain warehouse receipt system in Hungary and explored the feasibility of VOCA programs in Belarus and Bosnia.
In 1998 Mahoney returned to the states to help better position co-ops in an increasingly competitive market. As head of Cooperative Development Services (CDS) she managed research and development projects, and introduced the idea of using financial benchmarking tools to strengthen operations and finances of cooperatives. Her interest in using data to improve and measure co-op business performance later led to a collaboration with Walden Swanson to build CoMetrics.
To be able to provide assistance to urban as well as rural cooperatives, Mahoney helped establish CDS Consulting Cooperative, which has become the premier source for professional and technical assistance to food co-ops. During Mahoney’s tenure at CDS, gross revenue grew from $750,000 in 1997 to nearly $2 million by 2000.
In the early 2000s, Mahoney helped reorganize the National Cooperative Grocers Association, with a plan supported by 98% of NCGA’s members. Today National Co+op Grocers is a business services cooperative with 148 food co-ops operating more than 200 stores in 37 states.
Additionally, Mahoney has long advocated the community development potential of ‘hybrid’ cooperatives and was the founding board chair of CooperationWorks!. She also helped launch Blue Hawk Distributor Cooperative, which serves independent heating and air conditioning businesses, and for several years coordinated the Purchasing Cooperative Conference with the support of the National Cooperative Bank and the National Cooperative Business Association.
In 2005, Mahoney helped secure the .coop domain name for use by any business organized as a cooperative. Now more than 750,000 cooperatives, with over 85 million members in 100 countries use the .coop domain name.
Mahoney returned to the international co-op sector later in her career, helping the International Finance Corporation include cooperative development support in its agricultural advisory services. She also assisted in developing the Agribusiness Leadership Program, a cooperative leadership training program for small-holder farmer organizations.
Mahoney continues to serve as a senior advisor at CoMetrics and has served on or is serving on more than 13 boards, including The Cooperative Foundation, NCBA, Capital Impact Partners, National Cooperative Bank, dotCoop and CooperationWorks!.