During the past four years, 1 Million Cups (1MC) has provided a platform for entrepreneurs to hone their presentation skills and get real-time feedback from their communities. This week, the 100th 1MC community launches in Waco, Texas.
There’s a couple reasons why—in just four years—1MC is 100 communities strong and still counting. Every 1MC event is representative of the community it’s in, but there are two consistent themes that cut across all events: connection and support.
Many have coined 1 Million Cups events as “the church for entrepreneurs” due to the feeling of belonging. No matter your age, gender, ethnicity or background, all are welcomed and viewed as adding value.
“When 1MC St. Louis started in February of 2013 there were few regular opportunities for the innovation community to gather or for entrepreneur to tell their stories. 1MC offered both and helped to add energy and momentum to our growing community. Four years later, in a much more crowded ecosystem, it still remains a go-to venue among entrepreneurs wanting feedback, because of the diverse nature of who attends and the supportive environment it offers,” says 1MC St. Louis organizer Melissa Grizzle.
And that feeling isn’t just unique to St. Louis. Everyone who attends 1 Million Cups has the same goal in mind—to support entrepreneurs.
The program, which originated in April of 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri, was designed as a way for entrepreneurs to ask for help in launching their businesses. By the end of the year, Iowans wanted to bring 1MC to Des Moines and rapid growth continued in the years to come. Along with this growth came evolution. Reno, Nevada, one of the first five 1MC communities, said “three years ago, Reno had many organizations serving small business, but none focusing on startups. There was a budding startup movement in Reno, and 1 Million Cups was uniquely positioned to help those startups and foster the community as a whole.”
What once served as a program specifically for entrepreneurs morphed into a program that supported and reflected the vibrancy of communities as a whole.
“We treat 1 Million Cups as a "front door" to our community. It's a great way for people who are new to town or new to the entrepreneurial realm to get introduced, and once they're at 1 Million Cups, it's not uncommon for them to get involved with other programs or develop a deeper relationship to our community. The weekly format lets people feel connected to what's going on throughout the community. And those who have to drift away for a while know they are always welcome back,” says 1MC Iowa City/Cedar Rapids organizer Jessalyn Holdcraft.
Especially now with 100 communities, the connectivity doesn’t end with each community but extends into what is known as the 1MC nation.
“Since 2012, 1MC has evolved into the entrepreneurial event in Des Moines, while also fueling our connectivity with other communities throughout Iowa and around the country,” says Ben McDougal, a 1MC Des Moines organizer."
Stronger than ever, the 1MC Nation has its own mobile app and 1 Million Cups communities are once again cheering on 1MC presenters in the second annual 1 in a Million competition that culminates in a $25,000 prize. These are just a couple of ways 1MC is growing to provide more support to entrepreneurs, as more 1MC communities continue to ask: What can we as a community do to help you?
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Jordan Marsillo is a program coordinator in Entrepreneurship for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she provides customer support and assists in managing the 1 Million Cups education program.