Ask Business Startup instructors, Russ Goerend and Tyler Wright what the secret is to getting young people excited about entrepreneurship, and they will likely bring up 1 Million Cups (1MC). If you are an aspiring entrepreneur and you are not familiar, then you are missing out.
1MC is a networking, community building, and pitching event that takes place every Wednesday morning all over the country. Based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and engage with their communities over a million cups of coffee, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation developed 1MC in 2012. Through the power of volunteers, 1 MC has supported thousands of entrepreneurs all around the country.These communities of like minded professionals provide a supportive, inclusive space for entrepreneurs and their communities to gather and connect, where they can work through business challenges and identify opportunities.
The Des Moines community of 1MC is hosted weekly at Gravitate Downtown. The event combines a half-hour of networking followed up with a pitch each week from a local entrepreneur. After the pitch is a Q/A segment where the purpose is to build up the entrepreneur’s business idea, asking questions to move them forward and make connections.
Waukee APEX’s Business Startup teams connected with 1MC in 2019. Since that time, student associates and instructors have attended most Wednesday mornings. The goals of attending 1MC are to connect our aspiring entrepreneurs and become a part of the startup scene in Des Moines. An auxiliary goal is exposing them to some of the real challenges of being an entrepreneur, as well as the successes and processes. Russ Goerend explains, “We want our student associates to watch founders pitch their business, and then to take an active role in asking questions of the presenters to move them forward. It takes a lot for a 17-year-old to walk up to an adult professional, introduce themselves, and start a conversation. These are long-term professional connections that are being fostered.”
When asked to highlight some memorable moments that have occurred throughout this partnership, Goerend and Wright identified some of the same stories. One moment occurred at the start of this school year when, during the Q and A portion of the morning, a student associate asked a very thoughtful question to the presenter. The question that he asked impressed the presenter so much that he sought that student associate out afterwards with the hopes of connecting and working together. Additionally, our Waukee APEX program has hosted 1MC at the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center where we had three student associate groups pitch their business ideas to the community to receive feedback.
What are the hopes for continued partnership with 1MC? Goerend expresses “The hope is to continue to add value to our 1MC community in Des Moines. Anyone can watch 1MC on Facebook each week. Anyone can come sit in and listen to a 1MC presentation. Not everyone, however, adds value back to the 1MC community. My hope is that we are giving as much or more than we receive.”
Waukee APEX’s Business Startup course would not be the aspiring professional experience that it is without 1MC. Goerend shares “We are grateful that this startup community welcomes us and embraces us, which is truly humbling. They have never looked at us as a ‘group of high schoolers.’ They have treated us as aspiring entrepreneurs from the first time we attended and that respect they have given us creates a cycle where our APEX associates are part of the startup community. By being part of that community, we add value and receive value in return.”
If you are interested in joining the 1MC community in Des Moines, you can visit their website for additional information: https://www.1millioncups.com/s/.