A better way forward

Explore Opportunity. Create growth.

Co-operatives First is a business development organization. We promote and support development based on the co-operative business model in rural and Indigenous communities. Our goal is to help realize business opportunities by providing entrepreneurs the tools, resources and direct support they need to get up and running.

Throughout western Canada, we support leaders looking to explore opportunities, inspire others and realize their visions.

About Us

Why us?

Starting and running a business takes energy, skill and commitment. And the process can be complicated, confusing and frustrating. We’re here to help navigate the process.

Contact Us

Our Process


Inspiring leadership.

Identify opportunities. Understand the model. Become a leader.



Exploring opportunity.

Explore an opportunity through our Exploring Opportunity workshop and map out the pathway to success.



Creating a new business.

Get up and running in a way that is best for you.



Helping your business thrive.

Get access to a variety of tools and resources to help ensure your business continues to grow and thrive.



Building your business.

Develop and grow your new business or organization.


We mean business.

Thoughts and success stories

Audits: What’s involved and why you might need to do one

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, the holiday season — but it’s also time for co-ops to think about audits. Okay, maybe…

Read More

Federal economic statement: what’s in it for co-ops?

Kyle White, one of our in-house policy experts, weighs in on the federal government’s 2018 economic update and what it means for co-ops. The Canadian…

Read More

6 unexpected places you can find a co-op

Most people know grocery stores can be co-operatives. Some may have heard of daycare or housing co-ops. But the reality is the co-op model can…

Read More

Getting guidance is good practice

“[Incorporating a co-op] was a process that really was not that difficult once we had some guidance.” – Maggie Bluewaters, the Food Forest and Learning…

Read More

6 tips for marketing your co-operative difference

A few weeks ago, Co-operative News talked to marketing leaders from the co-op sector about marketing the co-operative difference. The responses both provide insight and…

Read More

Retail grocery is hard — but not impossible

  The retail grocery business is hard. Large upfront capital costs for space and inventory. Small margins and stiff competition. The need for marketing, procurement,…

Read More

A Story of Many Nations

In the late 90s, Joe Carter, Director of Education for Onion Lake First Nation, recognized First Nations had similar financial services needs to their non-Indigenous…

Read More

The Common Share Podcast

Episode 12: The Backroad Diaries, with Sisan Fregene

Aasa and Kyle are joined in this episode by Sisan Fregene, who spent the summer working on The Backroad Diaries. This Co-operatives First project uses…

Read More

A forward-thinking initiative

Thanks to the generosity, support and forward thinking of the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS) and Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), the organization was launched in 2016.

Our goal is to initiate a new wave of co-operative business development across rural and Indigenous communities across western Canada.

Innovation based on research

Co-operatives First is an evidence-based organization. We formed thanks to research funded by Federated Co-operatives Limited(FCL) and undertaken by a group of researchers from the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan. Many thanks to the rural and Indigenous communities across western Canada who supported this effort.