Worker co-operatives are like any other business. However, unlike conventional businesses its Members (workers) contribute equitably to and democratically control, the finances and everyday decisions of their co-operative. Members decide how to use surpluses (profits), ensuring their worker co-operative provides the pay and other benefits that members need and want, managing the business to provide them and protect its future.
Over the past 50 years Infinity Foods Cooperative Ltd has had some outstanding dedicated members, In this series, we will speak to some of our longest-standing members to ask why they have stuck around and about some of their memories.
Liz Cotton: Long-Standing Coop Member
Liz Joined Infinity Foods in the early 90s. At a time when people’s attitudes surrounding food and its production had changed enormously, with a far greater awareness of the implications of all our actions. Infinity Foods core principles of sourcing locally grown, organic & fair-trade foods became matched by the increasing demand for these same foods from our customers. Liz’s equalled passion for the cooperative movement as her passion for good vegetarian and vegan food has helped to shape our fun and progressive culture.
I would love to know why & what year, you started at Infinity?
I Started at Infinity way back in 1993, I came to Brighton for a party and ended up staying!
I was job hunting and saw the advert for a position at Infinity in the local paper, whoever had placed the advert had put it in on the wrong day.
The Job section was on Thursday but they’d put it in on a Tuesday and I just happened to buy the paper that day!! I had a good feeling I’d get it as I’d worked in cooperatives before. And I did!!
What different working roles have you had at Infinity and what did you like most about them?
I started off working in the bakery cooking food for a little deli counter we had in the shop back then. But I didn’t really get on with the 6 am starts. I was young! I had parties to go to!!
So when a position in the shop opened up, I jumped at it. I really felt I’d found my place at Infinity and I got involved in stock control, sourcing new products and merchandising. All of which I loved and still love.
A few years ago I moved from the ambient team to the chilled team and although it’s a lot colder I’m really loving the role. The logistics of buying perishable products is very different to ambient ones and I enjoy it immensely. It’s a busy section of the shop. We deal with lots of suppliers and the increasing popularity of Veganism has meant the fridges in Infinity are more popular than ever. It’s been a challenge to keep up with demand sometimes!
What do you think you changed (for the better) and achieved best during your time at infinity so far?
I really love food shopping! Whenever I go on holiday the first places I hit are the local food shops and supermarkets. I enjoy keeping up with new and emerging trends in food retail and staying ahead of the curve so we’ve always got the latest products for our customers.
Tell me about your favourite Infinity memory?
There are so many! But the one that stands out is being photobombed by Nick Cave.
A good few years ago we had an in-store tasting of Fair Trade Tanzanian coffee. The Tanzanian farmers themselves were actually in the shop doing the tasting and there was a photographer there to document it. At that time Nick Cave was living in Brighton and would occasionally visit the shop and on that particular day, he was in. The photographer wanted to get a picture of the coffee farmers with a few members of Infinity staff, so we gathered around to have the photo taken and Nick Cave suddenly appeared and stood with us as the pictures were taken. The Tanzanian farmers had absolutely no idea who he was and were bemused as to why this tall strange man had inserted himself into their picture. We all found it hilarious and in the pictures, you can see all the shop staff struggling to keep straight faces. I have no idea why Nick Cave found the need to join us for those photos. And I don’t care, It was brilliant!!
What do you love about being in a workers cooperative?
I love the fact that we’re all working together towards the same things. That we all have an equal voice and share in the decision making. When I talk to people sometimes about workers cooperatives they initially have real trouble getting their heads around the fact that there’s no boss. But when I start to explain that we all work together as a team to make the business successful and then all share in that success it starts to make sense.
What has been the pull that makes you stay?
I love my job. Even after all these years I still enjoy it! Oh and the freshly baked sausage rolls…
What do you love about Infinity Foods?
I love the fact that the shop has been going since the 70s. It’s a Brighton institution! And the customers are a really lovely bunch. Over the years we’ve had many regular customers and I’ve watched their children grow up to become regular customers too.
I also love the bakery. It’s a fantastic and integral part of the shop, and the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning is heavenly.
What do you look forward to for Infinity in the future 50 years?
I look forward to Infinity opening a second shop … on Mars. You never know! xx