Making Connections One Cup at a Time

There’s an exciting movement happening among small business owners across the country and right here in northeast Ohio. Startup entrepreneurs of all types — tech firms, manufacturers, professional service providers, and more — are gathering each week to learn about a business or two, share advice, and make connections in an honest and supportive environment...all over a simple cup of coffee. 

There’s an exciting movement happening among small business owners across the country and right here in northeast Ohio. Startup entrepreneurs of all types — tech firms, manufacturers, professional service providers, and more — are gathering each week to learn about a business or two, share advice, and make connections in an honest and supportive environment...all over a simple cup of coffee.

1 Million Cups was founded by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City as a way to engage entrepreneurs in communities, and has since grown to more than 50 cities across the U.S. including Cleveland. Each week, the 1MC program offers two local business owners an opportunity to present their startups to a diverse audience of mentors, advisors, and entrepreneurs to gain feedback and critical connections.

“1 Million Cups is definitely breaking the rules,” says Jose Vasquez, founder of both QuezMedia and Build. Brand. Blast. and one of four co-organizers of 1 Million Cups Cleveland. “It is not a natural instinct to get up and subject yourself and your ideas to feedback from a room full of strangers. You get unscripted feedback and there is just no way to prepare.”

The idea is to create connections that will help build positive momentum for projects. “This isn’t a pitch meeting. We’re not selling a product or service,” says Vasquez. “People are  sharing their entrepreneurial stories and finding real opportunities. It is a community in action.”

“For me, there is something very unique about this experience. I have the opportunity to meet with incredible companies each week and sometimes I am able to directly help them and their business; sometimes they help me and my business. It’s the spirit of sharing and community that is really breaking the rules.”

Put yourself out there. Request to present your business startup at 1 Million Cups.

Want more expert advice? Check out COSE Expert Network, an online forum connecting business owners with creative solutions to the tough questions they face every day. 

This article originally appeared in the January 5, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

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