The entrepreneurial events series 1 Million Cups — a national program born in Kansas City and grown by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation — has set the ambitious goal to expand to 500 communities by the end of 2018.
“We’re looking forward to keeping the magic that we’ve already created with 1 Million Cups on a grassroots level,” said Jordan Marsillo, 1 Million Cups program coordinator. “We’re just looking to get the program into more cities across the country to help more entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.”
Here’s how 1 Million Cups works. Every Wednesday morning, two startups deliver 10-minute pitches to an audience with the intent to educate, engage and network — all over a cups of coffee. The audience then serves up critical questions to founders in an effort to challenge their business models and approaches.
A product of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the forum was established in Kansas City in 2012. The event series has since spread to 140 communities across the nation — that’s 37 additional locations since the end of 2016.
The program’s expansion goal in about 15 months represents a growth of more than 250 percent.
Although reaching 500 cities by 2018 is a lofty goal, Marsillo said that 1 Million Cups currently receives about two new community applications per day.
“We already have 15 cities in the pipeline to launch this year and are already looking at cities for early 2018,” she said. “The great thing about 1 Million Cups is that it can fit city sizes that are quite large and quite small.”
The events series announced its new goal at the annual 1 Million Cups Organizers Summit, which was hosted in Kansas City Sept. 6 through Sept. 8. The event gathered 133 organizers from 108 communities — the largest number of participants yet, Marsillo said.
“Every year we bring together organizers from across the country for a couple days of collaborative learning, creating tactical insights that they can go back home to and implement in their own communities,” she said. “This is the first year we migrated toward a once a year all encompassing summit. In previous years, we would host two or three smaller, more tactical summits.”
During the summit, 1 Million Cups organizers discussed the future of the forum and its growth.
“The Kauffman Foundation is committed to lowering the barriers to entry in entrepreneurship and 1 Million Cups does that,” Marsillo said. “What makes 1 Million Cups thrive is that, if your city has people that are engaged and excited about entrepreneurship, the program is a perfect fit.”
Friendly competition with Fargo
During the month of September, 1 Million Cups Kansas City is engaging in competition with 1 Million Cups Fargo to see which city can garner the most attendees. Marsillo said that such “fun competitions” as this will continue amongst cities as a means to increase exposure and attract future locations.