I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with TS Designs Account Manager Aeriel Miller to discuss her recent election to the Company Shops Market Co-Op Board. At 26, Aeriel is the youngest Board member but brings a wealth of experience to the role. At TS Designs, she promotes a sustainability and conservation platform that aligns perfectly with the views of Company Shops. In addition, she and her husband Ben have deep ties to the farming community through their family farm, Reedy Fork Farm.
1) What made you decide to run for the board?
I have been a big supporter of and believer of all things Company Shops since I was in college, before the store even opened. I have always enjoyed keeping up to date with everything that they are doing and am friends with past and current board members who have in the last couple of years encouraged me to get more involved. I felt like I was finally at a place where I had enough professional experience to be able to contribute in a meaningful way.
2) What do you think have been the greatest co-op accomplishments over the past five years?
I think that they have done an incredible job of supporting a vast variety and number of local, sustainable farms. Their local farm supplier network has grown every year and now is around 140 farms, which makes an incredible impact in our local agricultural community. As the wife of a local organic farmer, I value and appreciate this commitment to local agriculture. And as an Elon alumna, I think they have made huge improvements on building on their partnership with Elon and working to become a staple in the Elon experience.
3) What is your SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats for Company Shops Market?
Strengths: Again, one of their big strengths is supporting the local agricultural community. They’ve done a very good job at bringing lots of variety to their inventory to appeal to a wide array of local consumers. Being a member of the national co-op grocers association allows the co-op to participate in that national community and their benefits and promotions, which is a huge strength.
Weaknesses: Space. As the agricultural community network grows, there is only so much space to highlight their products within the store.
Opportunities: I see the co-op continuing to grow as a leader and trusted community resource across Alamance County. There should be a continued commitment to expand their staff’s opportunity for education and training related to their role at CSM. The exciting downtown growth and community development can further shape their marketing and outreach plans. There is also a need for continued education of their value proposition throughout the local consumer base.
Threats: There are increased opportunities for local consumers to conveniently gain access to “local” food. The ease of online shopping and home delivery services is tempting to many consumers. There is always a need to educate and emphasize the variety of local business available for patronage in downtown Burlington to ensure the long term vitality of downtown Burlington businesses.
4) How do you see the co-op growing and changing over your tenure?
I have a passion for helping the co-op continue to grow as a leader and trusted community resource across Alamance County. I want to continue to be a brand advocate for them and help spread their mission of supporting local farmers and providing healthy food options accessible for all. I also want to work towards establishing the co-op as a central point within the community for all things: food, friends, and education on living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
5) What opportunities for community collaboration do you see?
I think it all goes back to making the co-op a central point within the community for education and resources. I would love to see the co-op partner with the community college or C-Tech to provide healthy local food cooking classes. I also think that the co-op has opportunities with the new North Park Farmers Market to educate a new segment of the community that hasn’t had the opportunity to experience what the co-op has to offer.
6) How does this fit into your personal growth plan?
My husband and I want to leave a legacy: that we spent our lives working to build a thriving, local, sustainable agricultural system within the Piedmont, NC community. This commitment is one piece of that legacy. A huge part of changing our Alamance County food culture can revolve around Company Shops. Because I am from a different demographic than many of the board members, I have an opportunity to learn from them while bringing a different voice and perspective to the table.
I very much appreciate the opportunity entrusted to me by the owner voters of Company Shop Markets and I look forward to making a meaningful impact in the future of the co-op.