After launching in April, Sedalia has been part of the 1 Million Cups community for almost six months and it’s already gained a loyal following.
1 Million Cups was created by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City as a way to help entrepreneurs connect and engage with each other, with more than 90 communities participating across the country. 1 Million Cups Sedalia organizers Brenda Bryan and Jessica Craig attended an Organizers Summit at the Kauffman Foundation from July 12-14 to learn about best practices and learn from other organizers, which allowed them to benchmark where Sedalia is compared to communities who have been part of the program for years. Craig said Sedalia is the smallest participating community and already it is “stacking up against communities two times our size.”
Bryan and Craig, along with all other organizers, were tasked with presenting a 30-second wow statement. The pair spent time preparing and getting props, which ended with them winning the contest.
“We thought about what is our uniqueness, what sets Sedalia apart from these communities,” Craig said by phone last week. “A lot of these communities, the program is just one area where they’re helping entrepreneurs, they’ve had the program for a long time in the community. For Sedalia, the launch of the Small Business and Technology Center at State Fair Community College came about right around the same time we launched the program. We came in with our hard hats and gold shovels, and said the program and Center have been the key to Sedalia building an ecosystem for our entrepreneurs and businesses, building a foundation with the program for those business and early stage individuals.”
After meeting with organizers from large communities, Craig said she learned some larger events get an average of 50 attendees while Sedalia averages between 30 and 50, even having 60 people one month.
“To know we’re already getting interest and people continue to come back was very encouraging to me,” she said. “While our population is low, engagement is high.”
Craig said 1 Million Cups not only helps connect entrepreneurs and small businesses, but it also helps them connect with the rest of the community, which may not be aware of the new business.
“A lot have come out of the woodwork since we launched and it’s a great way to engage them in the community, connect them to each other, to community resources and educate them on resources and ways they can make their business more profitable and successful,” Craig said. “We have had several companies that presented come back to us to say they have been connected to resources that made their business more successful, developed partnerships and sales as a result of the coverage 1 Million Cups afforded them.
“What’s more profound than that, they keep coming back. They wouldn’t do that if they didn’t see the value of the program. For us to engage them and keep them engaged is really worthwhile.”
1 Million Cups Sedalia meets the first Wednesday each month, but Craig said she and Bryan are working on a way to bring those entrepreneurs together once or twice a year to network and to thank them for choosing Pettis County to take the risk of starting a business.
Craig said they have a “good pipeline of start-ups and companies, but we don’t have the next three months (of events) booked out,” so they have open spots for businesses interested in presenting their story. Craig added that presenters don’t have to be a new business, but could also include established companies getting ready to go in a new direction or launch a new product.
“It’s wonderful to highlight small businesses and the Small Business and Technology Center, but 1 Million Cups is also an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get on stage, say this is my company, this is the challenges I face, how I make money, then the question-and-answer session,” Craig said. “That is a great way to hear questions they maybe haven’t asked themselves before.
“What happens after they leave the room, the Center is a location that the owner can sit down with our director and receive that one-on-one planning, get help with training, marketing, myriad of topics to help them be successful. That has been a great spoke in the wheel to be creating a workforce, an entrepreneurial ecosystem here in the community.”
The next 1 Million Cups meeting will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Thompson Conference Center at State Fair Community College.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.