Peg Nolan radiates warmth, energy and intensity. Whether as long-time manager of People’s Food Co-op in La Crosse, WI; as president of the Cooperative Development Services board of directors; or as a brand new addition to CDS’ team of food co-op consultants, she lights up a room with her energy, creative questions and perceptive insights.
Nolan is also a pragmatic business person. People’s thrived during her seven years as general manager. From “curious” visitor as a college student in 1978, she became a volunteer, a board member for three years, joined the staff in 1985, became part of a co-management team from 1988-94 and was general manager until joining the CDS consulting team this year. She also served as president of the CDS board from 1998 to January 2001.
In January 2001, Nolan made the transition from People’s manager and CDS board president to become a member of the CDSfood co-op consulting team. She has chosen as her first major project to build customer survey work. Nolan’s goal is to create a national database of co-op customer survey results that parallels CoCoFiSt—the financial performance database developed by CDSconsultant Walden Swanson and used as a planning and management tool by over 70 food co-ops. In Nolan’s words, “Co-ops exist to serve people. We need to know what members want and don’t want if we are going to serve them well.”
Nolan sums up the motivation for her career path: “Co-ops are the place in our society where economics and democracy intersect. As co-op owners, people have the opportunity to learn how to become good business partners—not just in the narrow sense of making a profit, but in the broader sense of making decisions that benefit the community and the environment as well.”