Our Story

Rural and Indigenous communities are full of motivated, innovative people who want to live enriching lives in their home community. Of course, some of these communities face challenges – like a lack of businesses and services, government cuts, and people moving away.

But these people don’t need the government or a big company to swoop in and improve local conditions or find solutions. With the right tools and a little guidance, they can do that themselves.

The co-operative model allows those hoping to do it themselves to set up a business or organization, and work with like-minded people towards this common goal. As a corporate legal structure, the model is highly versatile and found in every sector of the economy. 

And, essentially, this means a co-op can be anything – a childcare centre, a store, a consulting business, a healthcare centre. The model can be used to provide housing, local investment opportunities, or even a way to share cars. Each of these co-ops does the job others (like a government or private business) could do. But waiting for others isn’t always an option. Instead, the co-op model offers an opportunity to do it yourself.

That’s why we’re here. Everyone on the Co-operatives First’s team grew up in a rural or Indigenous community. We do this work because we care about these communities, and we know co-ops can help them grow and thrive. And because we have ongoing support from the Co-operative Retailing System and Federated Co-operatives Limited, we offer this support at no cost to you.

So if you’re in western Canada and you’re thinking about starting a co-op, we can help. Whether you need a business plan, feasibility study, or simply a sympathetic ear, we’re here for you.

Our free guidance and resources help reduce the confusion and stress of starting a new business and we aim to support you every step of the way. We will help you map out a plan, incorporate your business, and, perhaps most importantly, figure out who should do what and how.

Start today.

“Heather and the team at Co-operatives First are top-notch. Not only their knowledge but their understanding of the project. They have truly helped us along every step of the way. Their timely response and knowledge of the steps are extraordinary. They are forthcoming with information. This is one of the most knowledgeable and friendliest teams I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Weyburn Theatre

“Co-operatives First made the process of establishing our Artisan Co-operative a very clear and easy process. The expanse of available tools and resources provided by Co-operatives First answers many questions and lightens the workload. Greatly appreciate having the connections made with Trista and Kyle, they keep the co-operative moving forward.”

Nehiyawaskiy Indigenous Peoples Art Co-op

“Our experience working with the Co-operatives First team was absolutely fabulous. The staff was accommodating, knowledgeable and patient. It was truly a breath of fresh air to have such a wealth of skill and resources available to a non-profit. They were invaluable to our successful launch!”

Heart Linked Community Services Cooperative

“Working with Co-operatives First was fantastic! We are still new to the cooperative world, and we relied heavily on their advice and expertise when drafting our rules/bylaws, and our memorandum of association. The team has experience with many different cooperative models, so they provided advice on what has and hasn’t worked for other cooperatives. We wouldn’t have been able to incorporate without their help!”

Ananda Cooperative

“We have had a very positive experience with everyone at Co-operatives First. They have helped us in multiple ways. Right from the first step in knowing how to incorporate, how to set our business and offering ideas for us to help steer us in the right direction plus allowing us to really make our own decisions. If our decisions go off track, they have gently guided us back to where we needed to be. The Co-operatives first guys are always eager to answer questions, and give ideas to us that got us off the ground.”

South East Butcher Block