People say that we’re losing the art of listening and that the distractions of mobile devices, social media, and overloaded calendars are to blame. However, there is an ever-growing community of Manhattan entrepreneurs of all ages and industries who purposefully show up on the first Wednesday of each month to listen to the business ideas and dreams of others.
The national movement is called 1 Million Cups (1MC), and in November, Manhattan’s chapter celebrated one year of connecting and accelerating local entrepreneurs through business presentations, spontaneous networking, and gallons of coffee. Since the fall of 2017, the monthly meeting regularly attracts 80 to 90 attendees.
Ben Sigle, co-owner of Manhattan Running Company, presented their new online shopping and local delivery service at 1 Million Cups in June. “The relationship aspect is why I continually attend. I have attended every single one, and I will always continue to go to see regular faces and meet new people. I try to insert myself in each presentation, take what they’re saying and implement it in what I’m doing to see if it works.”
In 2012, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City created 1 Million Cups with a mission to learn about local entrepreneurs and what they were creating over coffee each week.
Like Sigle, Trent Armbrust, director of economic development for the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, is a regular attendee. “1 Million Cups has allowed me to see a part of Manhattan that is grassroots, innovative and exciting. The individuals that have presented and their interaction with the audience reinforces the significant relationship between entrepreneurial success and community.”
The format is consistent and simple. Two presenters from area businesses, typically start-ups, are given six minutes each to share their story, explain their business model, and discuss their current business challenges.
Sheila Ellis-Glasper, owner of SEG Media Collective speaks with Jerrod Westfahl, founder of Agrisync at 1MC Manhattan. Photo by Josh Hicks
Another regular attendee, Tim Weddle, a financial advisor for Keating & Associates, said, “The unprecedented challenges facing small business today require a new model of collaboration from the entrepreneurial community to improve the odds of startup success. And that’s exactly where 1MC comes in.”
1 Million Cups Manhattan is not branded by any other organization, even though organizers for 1MC Manhattan are involved with The Fellow Coworking, 502 – A Strategic Marketing Agency, the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, and other local businesses. While the one-hour event has light programming, organizers treat the time spent together not just as an educational experience, but an opportunity to build a community of people who can work together to make Manhattan and beyond a better place through better business.
The Alms Group, which recently opened their innovative real estate and philanthropy brokerage in Manhattan, took the opportunity to present in March of last year. Cameron Ward, broker and partner of The Alms Group, said, “Presenting at 1 Million Cups allowed me to share my story with dozens of local entrepreneurs that took a genuine interest in my company. The conversations and business opportunities that followed closely mirror the reason I chose to go into business in Manhattan; our community is a vibrant, hardworking group of business owners that engage with and give priority to supporting others and making Manhattan a better place.”
The development of growth-focused business events and entrepreneurial communities, such as 1 Million Cups, are crucial and exciting to have in Manhattan because of the collective knowledge sharing and resources to grow our local small businesses.
Trevor McKeeman, CEO of HiddenGenius, an online community-building tool, and an inaugural presenter at 1 Million Cups Manhattan couldn’t agree more. “For startup founders, one of the most valuable environments is to be around other founders. The chance to share notes, to talk about similar challenges, and receive unvarnished feedback is an amazing resource. Years from now, we’ll look back and see how participants’ efforts changed the face of a community and, possibly, how some of their featured startups improved the world,” said McKeeman.
1 Million Cups Manhattan is held in The Wareham Opera House on the first Wednesday of every month. Josh Hicks is a co-owner of The Fellow Coworking Space and a founding organizer of 1 Million Cups Manhattan.