VIP Interview: 1 Million Cups

By MeLinda Schnyder  

    In April 2012, Kansas City’s Kauffman Foundation held its first 1 Million Cups event, a free program based on the premise that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee. The foundation, one of the country’s largest, developed a format to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities. Today, more than 100 communities, including Wichita, hold weekly 1 Million Cups events.
    1MC Wichita launched in February 2016 and weekly events draw 75 to100 local entrepreneurs and supporting professionals. Attendance is free and doors open at 8:45 a.m. every Wednesday. Presentations begin at 9 a.m. and the format allows two presenters to talk about their business for six minutes. After each presentation, the floor is opened up for a 15-minute question-and-answer session. The last question is always “What can we as a community do to support you as a startup?”
    Space is donated by Distillery 244, although occasionally the event’s location changes so it’s best to follow the 1 Million Cups Wichita Facebook page for event details. Coffee is sponsored by Reverie Coffee Roasters, and the sound and coffee equipment is donated from Martin Pringle Law Firm. 
    The crowd ranges from college students to venture capitalists in their 70s. Jennifer Cole, who had recently been laid off by a local marketing agency, was in the crowd during the second event, in March 2016.
    “I was looking to be inspired and I was tossing around the idea of becoming a freelancer in the social media world,” she said. “1MC inspired me enough that I started my own business, Backspace Media, where my mission is to educate business owners on best practices, tactics and strategies for their own social media efforts. 1MC means so much to me that I volunteered to be on the leadership committee for Wichita’s event, and I avidly preach about it to other entrepreneurs I come across who are looking to grow their business.”
    Cole is now one of nine volunteer organizers who help make the weekly 1MC Wichita events happen.
 
VIP: Who brought 1MC to Wichita in 2016?
JC: Jacob Wayman with e2e Accelerator was the main point man in the beginning. Other early organizers were Los Fernandez, owner of Clutch Studio; Jake Ramstack, InSite Real Estate Group; and Ted Kriwiel, NetWork Kansas.  

VIP: What role does 1MC play in our community?
JC: 1MC does a wonderful job of connecting local and regional entrepreneurs to each other and provides a supportive space for them to connect without it being overly “network-y.”
    I’ve heard many presenters say that they can attribute much-needed awareness to presenting at 1MC, myself included. There’s something about putting yourself up in front of other entrepreneurs in such a supportive setting, vulnerabilities and all, that truly brings an approachable side out of a business owner. I think that this approachability stemmed from vulnerability brings a welcomeness and breaks the tension that you often see in many other presentation situations. 

VIP: Has 1MC had an impact on our community?
JC: I’ve noticed the entrepreneur spirit and cohesion grow since 1MC began in Wichita. I’ve attended 1MC in a much bigger city (San Diego) and it didn’t even come close to matching the spirit and supportive atmosphere that we share at 1MC Wichita. The entrepreneurial spirit in the city of Wichita has truly grown since 1MC started here, followed by Google’s Startup Grind.

VIP: Who are you looking for in presenters?
JC: We are typically looking for people who are already somewhat established and have established business growth plans. We also look for established business owners who are taking their business goals in new and innovative directions. They would need to bring something new and innovative to our community in their business. They really need to define what sets themselves apart from their competition.
    We’ve had Miguel Johns from KingFit Preventive Health & Performance, Suzanna Mathews of The Date Maven, Stacy and Torrey Lattin from Hopping Gnome, Abby Hannaford from Cozy Leaf Tea, Chris Callen from Builders Plus Construction, Toby Kriwiel from Lawn Buddy, myself on behalf of Backspace Media and many more. A full list of past presenters is at 1millioncups.com/wichita.

VIP: How does a potential presenter reach 1MC Wichita? 
JC: To apply, visit 1millioncups.com/presentations, and keep in mind that presenters must put together a concise PowerPoint presentation and limit their presentation to six minutes.

VIP: What should first-time attendees know about 1MC events?
JC: The coffee starts at 8:45 a.m., so join us! Come early and you will be welcomed by a friendly and supportive group of entrepreneurs. Don’t be afraid to ask a question, even if you fear that the subject has already been covered. Also, this is not a place to sell to people. 1MC is to support each other and in turn help connect other entrepreneurs to resources that they might find valuable.

VIP: Is there a way to see the presentations if we can’t attend?
JC: Join us live weekly on 1 Million Cups Wichita’s Facebook page. We typically begin the live sessions at 9 a.m. If you can’t catch a session live, you can always come back and find the replay.