Caffeinate Your Community!

Caffeinate Your Community!

By Amy Kuhlers, Iowa Economic Development Authority

On any given Wednesday morning in Iowa, small business owners, emerging entrepreneurs and the people that support them can be found gathering around cups of coffee and good conversation.  Discussions wander along paths of inspiration, lessons-learned struggles, excitement and issues involved with starting a business, and what’s trending on Twitter.

What’s best?

The voice of each-and-every person in attendance is equal and supportive.

This is 1 Million Cups.

The concept of 1 Million Cups (1MC), was launched by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City in the spring of 2012, where the weekly informal engagements quickly formed a collaborative outlet for entrepreneurs and start-ups in the community.  Realizing that the concept could be replicated to help entrepreneurs across the country, Kauffman identified other communities interested in launching 1MC in their back yard.  Since its inception, IMC can now be found in over 100 communities nationwide.

The concept is simple.  On Wednesday mornings in addition to the caffeine and conversation, one or two early-stage entrepreneurs provides a brief six-minute presentation on their business or idea followed by a 20-minute Q&A session with other attendees.  These can become very engaging conversations providing the presenter with new ideas and opportunities to build the business.

Case in point:  Entrepreneur Brian Gumm with Ross Street Roasting in Tama didn’t know that his first pitch at 1MC Iowa City/Cedar Rapids (IMC ICR) two years ago would directly lead to a partnership with an Iowa City business.  After meeting Brian and hearing his original presentation, organizers at 1MC CR thought there might be some good synergy, made some introductions, and the rest is history!  Local coffee house, Brewhemia became Ross Street Roasting’s first retail outlet selling his coffee, and have since gone on to become an active partner in the business.

Iowa is currently home to four 1MC communities that are supported by several IASourceLink Resource Partners.

Des Moines – 1 Million Cups, Des Moines is held at 8:30 am each Wednesday at the Science Center of Iowa,  with free parking available in the ramp next door.  Caffeine starts flowing at 8:00 thanks to community sponsors and Resource Partners, Square One DSM, and the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Iowa City / Cedar Rapids – 1 Million Cups Iowa City/Cedar Rapids was the sixth 1MC to launch in the nation and uniquely alternates between both ends of the Creative Corridor each Wednesday at 9:00, bouncing between The Geonetric Building‘s Catalyst Café, in Cedar Rapids and Merge, Iowa City.  Coffee pours at 8:00.

Cedar Falls / Waterloo – 1 Million Cups Cedar Valley is hosted at Mill Race Coworking & Collaboration downtown Cedar Falls, at 8:30 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.  It is one of the first support organizations in place in the Cedar Valley’s growing entrepreneurial support community. Coffee is provided by the day makers at local college hill favorite Sidecar Coffee.

Pocahontas 1 Million Cups Pocahontas is the newest member of the Iowa chapter of the 1 Million Cups community. They meet at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of the month at Flex Fitness Center upstairs.

Hard to catch one of these 1MC’s from your location but want to learn more?

The pitches are livestreamed on each group’s Facebook pages on Wednesdays beginning around 8:30.

Or maybe you are already interested in caffeinating your own community?

If you like engaging with local startups and connecting with others across the state, learn more about what it takes to become an organizer and bring 1 Million Cups to your community!

Let’s get coffee — Iowa Startup Style!

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