New Cooperative Aims To Help Independents Across The Country

Several years ago, Kris Magnusson ran into Ed, a family friend, who had started a flooring company more than 30 years earlier called Ed’s Flooring. Magnusson noticed it was now named Ed’s Flooring America.
New Propane Cooperative named IDEAL helps indpendent lpg marketers with supply security andpricing reports BPN the leading industry trade pub since 1939 june 2020

Ed explained that he had become a member-owner of Flooring America, a purchasing cooperative. He added that he now had access to more products and marketing, his purchases were aggregated with other independently owned flooring companies, and they had better buying power collectively.

Magnusson, having grown up as the fourth generation of her family’s energy business in southern New Hampshire, had witnessed consolidation within the industry firsthand. Two years after this chance meeting, she co-founded a member-owned cooperative of local energy distributors. Launched in October 2019, it is named IDEAL Energy Cooperative, with “IDEAL” standing for Independents Delivering Energy Aligned Locally.

Today, IDEAL has a member footprint throughout New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. All of the cooperative’s members are privately held, and independently owned and operated. IDEAL is now inviting new members, suppliers, and vendors from across the country.

AGGREGATE, COMMUNICATE
IDEAL Energy Cooperative is 100% owned by its members. Each member has a vote and a voice in the direction of their cooperative. “As time goes on, it’s up to the membership to decide how to define this cooperative,” said Magnusson. “It’s up to IDEAL’s member-owners.”
New Propane Cooperative named IDEAL helps indpendent lpg retailers with supply security and pricing reports bpn 06-20

Last year alone, IDEAL’s members purchased more than 179 million gallons in total of distillate and propane, purchased $79 million in business services, and had a business revenue of more than $506 million. Now, as members of IDEAL, they can aggregate their purchasing volume, thereby negotiating better buying power with their supplier and vendor partners. They also aggregate marketing resources and share best practices.

Because of benefits like these, purchasing cooperatives have flourished in many industries. Examples include Flooring America, ACE Hardware, True Value Hardware, Land O’Lakes, Agri-Mart (Cabot Cheese), Carpet 1, and Furniture First.

Membership in IDEAL is open to privately held, independently owned and operated energy distributors. An energy distributor includes any retail establishment that provides retail fuel delivery and/or services. Propane, fueloil, diesel fuel, and gasoline are the fuels currently represented by IDEAL’s membership. Membership is open across the nation for energy retailers and supplier and vendor partners.

“Our members put competition aside when it comes to best practices and the bigger issues,” said Chris Brennan, general manager and co-founder of IDEAL. “For example, we recently led a discussion about applying for the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program as well as what members are doing in response to COVID-19.”

As for suppliers and vendors, any that have customers in the propane and energy space are welcome to become partners.

PRIMARY BENEFITS
In the seven months since the founding of the purchasing cooperative, the members of IDEAL have worked together to create three primary benefits.

“It’s important that IDEAL is member-owned,” said Ryan Jackson, chief operating officer of D.F. Richard, a family-owned energy distributor in Dover, N.H. He serves as board chair of IDEAL. “It provides more value than just purchasing; it increases communication and cooperation in all areas of business by leveraging benchmarking.”

One primary benefit is the better buying power with supplier and vendor partners. IDEAL partners already include suppliers and vendors of fuel, business services, propane equipment, health insurance, 401Ks, business insurance, credit card processing, tanks, accounting, and bookkeeping. Members are not required to purchase from only designated suppliers and vendors; they can still choose their own vendors.
New Propane cooperative named IDEAL helps indpendpent lpg retailers with supply reports bpn 06-20

Another primary benefit is to aggregate marketing resources to promote a national brand called Fuel-Local. By using this in co-branding, members can provide a common voice while continuing their existing local marketing efforts. Similar to what “Eat Local” and “Farm Local” have done for other industries, Fuel-Local is intended to help members communicate to their customers the benefits of using local, independent providers. Jackson said D.F. Richard plans to use Fuel-Local alongside its own brand, adding, “It’s important to get that message out.”

The third primary benefit is a member community in which they share best practices and training. Here, activities include weekly webinars hosted by partner vendors and virtual roundtables that bring together member-owners. In a recent virtual forum, members discussed how to get back to work in the “new normal.” They have also scheduled an annual meeting at the end of September where they hope to come together in person.

“Like all small businesses in every industry, it is getting harder and harder to compete with the highly capitalized multinational corporations,” Magnusson said. “Now, with even more burdens and costs created by the pandemic, pooling resources is critical.”

“Ironically,” she added, “I think one of the positives of the COVID-19 pandemic is that consumers are being forced to re-prioritize what is important for their families and households. IDEAL members are essential service providers. What a perfect time to have a strong, common IDEAL voice to reinforce to customers that their energy providers have always had their best interests at heart, including safety, value, care for their families, and environment.” — Steve Relyea

For more information about IDEAL, visit IDEALenergycooperative.com, or email Kris Magnusson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Ryan Jackson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..