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It began over a cup of coffee at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri; how can our community further help our entrepreneurs? What began with a question led to the first 1 Million Cups event in 2012. To date, there are 77 1 Million Cups communities. In February of 2013, St. Louis became the organization’s fourth city to implement the 1 Million Cups program, bringing the community and entrepreneurs together.
Familiarity across the country
“The format is the same across the country,” explains Melissa Grizzle, lead organizer for St. Louis’ 1 Million Cups. “We meet every Wednesday morning to allow an entrepreneur to present their company to the community. Each presenter has six minutes to introduce their company, which is followed by a 20-minute question and answer session with the audience.”
This is not meant as a sales or funding pitch, but instead as an opportunity to receive feedback, ideas, and support. “We offer ideas for them to consider and provide connections and introductions.”
As with all 1 Million Cups cities, St. Louis is a community-owned entity and is run by a volunteer organizing team. Members of the ITEN staff have been a part of the team since the beginning, but are looking to grow the group. Ideally the team would consist of 6-8 members who could rotate off after 12 to 18 months. Anyone who cares about the innovation community and wants to give back qualifies to be a part of the team. Some of the volunteer tasks include recruiting entrepreneurs, coaching presenters and running the weekly event.
The St. Louis event is currently held at the Nine Network of Public Media at 3655 Olive Street from 9-10am every Wednesday.
Presenting at 1 Million Cups:
1 Million Cups is designed for companies with a minimal viable product and a need to advance their growth. Any product-based, scalable company, from any industry is welcome to apply. As part of the application process, the company will be introduced to key components ofthe Kauffman Founders School online video series. Once a company presents at one city’s event, they are able to apply to other cities. “We typically get half a dozen presenters each year from across Missouri or out-of-state,” says Grizzle.
Is 1 Million Cups right for you?
If you are considering presenting to St. Louis’ or another 1 Million Cups city, here are some tips to get you started:
- Attend a few presentations and network to get a feel for the program
- Be prepared to answer the capstone question: what can the community do for you?
- Be open to receiving feedback.
For those in attendance, the excitement comes from being introduced to up-and-coming companies. For the presenters, hearing new opinions and broadening their network make the experience worth it.
“I had the opportunity to introduce our startup at 1 Million Cups and enjoyed it tremendously,” says Erik Tversland, of Opsanalitica, a mobile checklist and analytics platform for restaurant operators. “I got some great feedback from some great people, walked away with some great contacts and a couple leads.”
Felice McClendon of Sound Scrip, a neurological music therapy app for special need families, adds, “Sometimes every step you take as an entrepreneur requires you to walk through fire. 1 Million Cups is the right path that legitimizes your business.”