Mission: “To engage, educate, and connect entrepreneurs in their local communities.”
On Wednesday of every week between 9 – 10 am, entrepreneurs from over 100 communities nationwide gather for 1 Million Cups (1MC). The program, developed by the Kauffman Foundation, is intended to “build startup ecosystems” through local networking. Each week, two early-stage businesses present their companies to an audience of individuals and fellow entrepreneurs from the local community. After a six-minute presentation, the startup founders spend twenty minutes engaged in a question-and-answer session, which encourages collaboration, feedback, and conversations that are beneficial to all in attendance. Coffee is provided for these events and is fundamental to the design; according to Kauffman, this comes from “the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee.” In Tampa Bay, two communities participate in 1MC: St. Petersburg and Tampa.
The first 1 Million Cups community in the area, St. Petersburg, began hosting the weekly sessions in October of 2013 at The Greenhouse, a local resource center for business owners and hopeful entrepreneurs. Each week for over three years (and counting), coffee has been generously sponsored and provided by the locally owned and operated coffee chain, Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company. Since the inaugural event, over 300 pitches have been made at 1 Million Cups – St. Petersburg, which is organized by volunteer coordinators Sean Kennedy, Danielle Callahan, Murray Anne Bowers, Chris Bennett, and Erin Yonke.
In February 2015, Tampa launched 1 Million Cups on the other side of Tampa Bay at the Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center. Over 150 presentations have been made at the Tampa 1MC since then, including several that have gone on to experience success. Approximately 50 attendees show up each week to learn about Tampa’s budding startups. Coffee for the 1 Million Cups event in Tampa is sponsored by Black and Denim, which is located within the Blind Tiger in Ybor City. Just like in other 1MC communities, Tampa’s event is run by volunteer organizers; these individuals include Lynn Kroesen, Andy Gold, Beth Kerly, Danny McDonald, Eric Liguori, Lee Bell, Chris Krimitsos, and Katie Nafe.