Wilds Cooperative members turn out for 2023 Membership Meetings
Members of the Wilds Cooperative of PA got a first look at the PA Wilds Media Lab on Tuesday, September 26 during one of the two Membership Meetings held in 2023.
While the first meeting of the year took place in April on the eastern side of the region at Oregon Hill Winery in Clinton County, the September 26 event was held on the western side of the region in conjunction with the grand opening of the PA Wilds Media Lab in McKean County. The Media Lab facility features tools, technologies and classroom space to support the expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as regional partnership work.
Staff at PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, the nonprofit organization that manages the Wilds Cooperative of PA network and related programs for the PA Wilds region, gave a high-level overview of the membership program before providing updates on the last year as well as new opportunities on the horizon. About 20 members of the Wilds Cooperative were present for the event.
Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Director LaKeshia Knarr kicked the program off by welcoming members to the space and sharing information about what it means to be a member of the network.
Value Chain Manager Ashley Fosbrink-Horrell, who oversees day-to-day administration of the Wilds Cooperative program, noted that 120 new members joined the program in 2022. She highlighted the new member benefits landing page (WildsCoPA.org/benefits) that was designed to make it easier for members to access the tools they needed and said that a new member promotional tool, called the PA Wilds Experience Guide, will be produced in 2024 to highlight Experience Maker members. The new tool will complement the existing PA Wilds Buyer’s Guide, which highlights Creative Makers as well as Trading Posts and PA Wilds logo licensees, and the PA Wilds Resource Guides, which showcase Resource Partner members and the various grants, loans and technical assistance available to regional businesses and organizations.
Communications Manager Britt Madera spoke about member promotions on PAWilds.com, the key visitor platform for tourists, and how that platform helps connect prospective visitors to regional businesses and Destination Marketing Organizations for trip planning. Madera noted that PAWilds.com is approved for Google AdWords Grants for Nonprofits, which provides an opportunity to capture up to $10,000/month in in-kind Google advertising based on keyword searches. She said that last year, PA Wilds platforms earned $120,039.66 in in-kind ads, leading to 47,253 clicks onto the website, which already receives upward of half a million pageviews per year. Madera also reminded members that they can take advantage of those free advertising opportunities by sharing blog articles for the PA Wilds Are Calling blog (PAWilds.com/blog) and also by submitting events to the WCO Events Calendar (WildsCoPA.org/events) for promotion on PAWilds.com/events.
PA Wilds Licensing Manager Hannah Brock highlighted how members can leverage the PA Wilds brand to reach new audiences and sell more products through licensing. The program has two different licensing options that allow members to become marketing licensees (for using the logo on non-saleable materials) or merchandising licensees (for those who want to put the logo on products). She noted that four new merchandising licensees joined the program in 2022, bringing total licensees to 71, and that four new licensed products have launched so far in 2023. Details on licensing can be found at WildsCoPA.org/use-the-pa-wilds-logo/.
PA Wilds Sustainable Commerce Director Libby Bloomquist and PA Wilds Marketplace Manager Megan Steele provided information about sales opportunities for artisan members of the network. Bloomquist, who oversees physical shop locations and the online marketplace operations, noted that the physical stores operate on a wholesale basis and that, since opening the first shop in 2016, more than $750,000 in products have been purchased from regional artisans in the Wilds Cooperative. She also noted that more than $40,000 has been raised via the PA Wilds commerce platforms through the Charity Checkout for Conservation initiative, which allows shoppers to contribute donations to the PA Parks & Forests Foundation. Those donations are earmarked for use on public lands projects in the PA Wilds region. Steele shared updates on the online Marketplace, which allows Creative Makers in the Cooperative to sell online directly to customers at retail prices. She said there were 23 sellers on the site at the end of 2022, but 11 new sellers have since joined the platform. In addition, Steele noted that orders have been received from 46 states and Canada, and that one third of all sales have been shipped outside of Pennsylvania. For more information about selling wholesale, visit WildsCoPa.org/gift-shops. To apply to sell on the Marketplace, visit WildsCoPA.org/pa-wilds-marketplace.
Following the updates, members were able to ask questions, share ideas and talk with program managers one-on-one. The pizza party luncheon included pizza and salad from Pepe’s Pizzeria in Kane.
After the Membership Meeting formally concluded, the PA Wilds Media Lab grand opening celebration began. This provided a chance for members, partners and community members to explore the facility, which includes audio-visual tools and spaces, a product photography room and equipment, workshop space and more. Artisans, small business owners and organizations who are participating in the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a free network that brings together and uplifts Pennsylvania Wilds stakeholders, will be able to utilize these resources and learn from each other in this space.
“We held our first Membership Meeting in the fall of 2022, and we immediately saw the value in continuing to create these opportunities for updates, feedback and camaraderie among our staff and members. Our goal is to support entrepreneurs and communities in the region, and we can only do that if we continue to listen and share with each other,” said Knarr. “We appreciate everyone coming together for this event and look forward to continuing the conversations that were sparked there.”
PA Wilds Center intends to hold two Membership Meetings each year going forward and will continue to move them around the region. The meetings will be held in different communities in an effort to make them more accessible to members who may not be able to travel long distances in the middle of the week to attend.
For more information about the Wilds Cooperative of PA, visit www.WildsCoPA.org/about.
ABOUT THE PA WILDS
The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region and its 2+ million acres of public lands as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, attract investment, retain population and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of more than 575 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit www.PAWildsCenter.org. To learn more about the WCO, visit www.WildsCoPA.org. Explore the PA Wilds at www.PAWilds.com. Find regionally made products at www.ShopThePAWilds.com.
Britt Madera | Communications Manager
PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 570-948-1051
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