Small Business Minister, Dwight Sutherland, looking at some of the products on display at the Blue Island Soaps booth at the Co-op Mart on Saturday. (Photo credit: Blue Island Soaps)

An opportunity to come together, cooperate and create a diverse market of products and services is how the inaugural Co-op Mart, launched last Saturday, has been described by Small Business Minister, Dwight Sutherland.

Addressing the ceremony at the Barbados Transport Co-operative Society Ltd., in Durants, Christ Church, Minister Sutherland said: “The concept of cooperatives coming together to showcase their respective businesses is not new; as we are all aware of ‘Cooperatives Day’  – a day which is celebrated annually and worldwide on the first Saturday in July.

“However, this event opens the official site of Co-op Mart. A market place …  where cooperatives can come every Saturday for the next five weeks, beginning today, Saturday, December 8, 2018, until January 12, 2019, between the hours of  8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and showcase their products and services.”

Emphasizing that the initiative represented the principle of cooperation among co-operatives, especially during the festive season, he added it was expected that the Barbados Transport Co-operative Society Ltd., which contributed the space for the next few weeks, would benefit from heightened awareness of the cooperative movement in Durants, Gibbons, Wilcox Hill, Fairy Valley, Charnocks, Coverley and beyond.

“The Society’s blatant and selfless example of cooperation among cooperatives; concern for sustainability of communities; sense of social responsibility and caring for others, in addition to also embracing the theme of Cooperatives Day 2018 – “Sustainable Societies through Cooperation”, embodies and exemplifies the core principles and values of what a cooperative truly is,” Mr. Sutherland said of the entity, while stressing that a cooperative was “a body of people with shared principles and values coming together to help each other prosper”.

Registrar of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies, Brent Gittens, in explaining the origins of the five-week Co-op Mart, said it was conceptualized by the Co-operatives Development Committee, which has as its main objective promoting and developing the cooperative sector here, through education and training.

Pointing out that the Committee had also partnered with the Ministry to further reach out to entrepreneurs and businesses, Mr. Gittens added: “Cooperatives may often look like other businesses, however, what makes them special is that they are run by their own members and not by authorized investors or distant shareholders. In other words, they are run by individuals like you and me, consumers, employees, residents, farmers, artists or taxi drivers.

“As enterprises, owned or run by their members, cooperatives give persons control of business enterprises which they hold close to their heart and therefore they can offer them patronage in a variety of ways.  They can shop at them; they can work at them or they can supply them with goods and services.  A cooperative, therefore, is a business organization that is owned by those who use it services, but the control of which rests equally with all of its members.”

He noted the principles included voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education and training, cooperation among cooperatives and concern for community.

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