A recent 1 Million Cups event at Café Commerce. Courtesy photo.
A recent 1 Million Cups event at Café Commerce. Courtesy photo.

Have you ever had an idea that you didn’t realize was good until you saw it on one of those “As Seen on TV” ads? Maybe you thought it was too simple of an idea, so you just let it fall through the cracks. If you’re a business owner, how many times have you needed to get feedback from the community on changes to your service or product? If you didn’t get that feedback and still made the changes, how did that work out for you? Wouldn’t it be great to have a soundboard?

Café Commerce has your soundboard through a unique program called 1 Million Cups.

1 Million Cups, founded by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, focuses on bringing the entrepreneurial community together to collaborate. Launched back in 2012, 1 Million Cups is now a network that includes 61 cities with a geographical reach extending from Anchorage to Miami.

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The basic idea: Two entrepreneurs come and share their story in six minutes, explaining who they are, what they’re doing, how they make money, what successes and failures they’ve had, and what the future holds. After each presentation, they give the community a chance to provide feedback and help the presenter address the problems they are currently facing in a 20-minute Q&A session. Think of it as a chance to get a free focus group of unbiased people who have either been in your position or are currently facing the same issues.

One of the best qualities of the program is its industry agnostic format. You could potentially see someone presenting his or her fashion startup, followed by a 15-year-old software company presenting a new product. When these types of collisions happen, both the audience and the presenter are able to connect with others from different backgrounds that they might never have met.

The power of 1 Million Cups really shines through in the interaction between audience and presenter. A few weeks ago there was a company whose owners initially applied to speak about their pet tech product. After the presenter supplied the audience with details about what he was doing, he mentioned how he felt his company had to pivot away from the product until further resources were found. Initially, the audience was supportive of the pivot, but as the conversation developed, it began to really dig into his initial idea and rally behind him to persevere.

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More than just a support group, 1 Million Cups provides presenters with real feedback. When a local nonprofit, B-Cycle, presented and asked for suggestions in finding supporters and increasing revenue generation, the audience was quick to react.

“Think about partnering with corporate wellness programs.”

“What if you change your daily pricing to a dynamic, pay-by-the-minute model?”

“Have you talked with or met (insert connection’s name here)? She really knows a lot about this sector.”

This coming Wednesday from 9-1o a.m., we will be hosting Spandango and Make San Antonio. Spandango is a local company providing Spanish education training through an online medium. Make San Antonio is an effort to create a makerspace for the builders and creatives in San Antonio. Both companies are in the initial stages of getting started, which allows the audience the perfect opportunity to offer advice or connections to help these companies achieve success. Really, that’s what you get when you attend 1 Million Cups – the chance to help others create their businesses.

Our community is growing larger and more impactful each week. Regardless of your walk in life, there is something here for you at 1 Million Cups. It might be helping someone else solve a problem, it might be a chance to learn about an industry you didn’t know much about, or maybe it’s just meeting someone with the same mindset. If you want to share your story or just come and listen, we will be here every Wednesday from 9 -10 a.m. at Café Commerce in the downtown library.

Did I mention there is also free coffee?

*Featured/top image: A recent 1 Million Cups event at Café Commerce. Courtesy photo.

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Ryan Salts is director of Outreach and Engagement at Café Commerce. He graduated from St. Mary's University with an Accounting degree but soon realized his passion was people. Using his understanding...