A lineup of all black presenters and experts at February’s 1 Million Cups events aims for exposure and awareness about Kansas City’s thriving community of black entrepreneurs, said Adrienne Haynes.
“Many of these companies are not necessarily tech-based. They might not be at Plexpod or WeWork. Many of them have their own facilities — maybe they’re beyond what an incubator or coworking space could offer,” said Haynes, founder of Kansas City’s Multicultural Business Coalition and Innovator in Residence at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. “So I’m looking forward to a new mix at 1 Million Cups.”
In addition to the program’s weekly 9 a.m. Wednesday pitch presentations, which each will play host to two black startups, a special evening event is planned Feb. 28 as the culmination of the Black History Month series. The nighttime 1 Million Cups is set to feature one presentation from a black founder, a “Where Are They Now?” panel discussion of black 1 Million Cups alumni, and a black-owned small business fair.
“It’s important for us to represent the diversity of Kansas City’s entrepreneurs on stage, and we really do our best to get out into the community to invite those people to present,” said Kyle J. Smith, a community organizer for 1 Million Cups and communications coordinator at KCSourceLink. “We know that what works best is featuring entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and all races and all stages. If we can get folks on stage, presenting what they do, they’ll bring the crowds.”
The commitment to supporting and featuring black entrepreneurs is a year-round effort, Smith said, not just confined to February. Founders from black-owned businesses Heartshaped Clothing and The Laya Center, for example, were among 1 Million Cups’ January presenters.
It’s an engaging way for the entrepreneur community to welcome new startups — with founders of varying races, ages or business stages — and for presenters to gain valuable experience, Haynes and Smith said.
“Exposure is a big part of 1 Million Cups. We’re excited to have an event that regularly draws 100 to 200 people weekly, plus live streaming on the Internet, including Facebook Live,” Smith said. “But more importantly is the feedback the presenters get from the community and the connections they make to the entrepreneur community, support organizations and even potential future investors. It’s a great spot to strengthen your network.”
The February lineup should help fuel new connections not just for presenters, but audience members as well, said Haynes, who also is managing partner for SEED Law.
“Every time I come to 1 Million Cups, I meet entrepreneurs who contribute to our local economy that I haven’t met before. And what a privilege it is when I meet a whole group of those folks,” she said. “So I’m hoping that in February it leads to more collisions at 1 Million Cups, more people working together — when maybe they didn’t think they could before or maybe they didn’t even know about each other.”
Black founders and experts planned for February tentatively include:
- Feb. 7 — Presenters: Patricia Mcreary, Margaret’s Place Senior Recreation and Wellness Center; Jaimie Tolbert, Popcorn Heaven. Experts: Burton Kelso, Integral; Brandon Simpson, Jazzy B’s.
- Feb. 14 — Presenters: Chris Evans, T-Shirt King, Inc; Cristina Betts, MD HomeCare. Experts: Thalia Cherry, Cherry Sports Gear; Consuella McCain, Turner Construction Co.
- Feb. 21 — Presenters: Hakima Payne, Uzazi Village; Local Legends Gaming. Experts: Eze Redwood, Twenty30 CEO; Shanita Bryant, Magnolia’s on the Move.
- Feb. 28 — Presenters: Eleanor Lisbon, ExhaleKC; We Are RAP. Experts: Joseph Thomas, 180V Salon; Adrienne Haynes, SEED Law and Multicultural Business Coalition.
The evening 1 Million Cups program — 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Kauffman Foundation — is set to feature a pitch presentation from Miko Richardson, founder of Shots by Miko, with experts Marvin Lyman, of The Black Economic Union, and Aisha Ogletree, founder of AO Salon.
It isn’t the first time for this style of 1 Million Cups event series, Haynes said. It was inspired by 2017’s March slate, which featured all women founders and experts on the 1 Million Cups stage, she said.
“I thought that was a really good way to engage the community that might not normally come to 1 Million Cups,” she said. “I’m really excited to see what happens in February. I don’t think any of these companies have ever presented at 1 Million Cups, and some of them might not have even known about it before.”
While the series is the focus of the Multicultural Business Coalition’s Black History Month efforts, other pivotal organizing contributors include Darryl Answer, Urban Neighborhood Initiative; Davin Gordon, AltCap ; Rebecca Dove, Pennez; Quest Taylor, Project UK; Leslie Walton, KCSourceLink ; and Catina Taylor, DREAMS KC.