1 million cups: Brewing up entrepreneurialism

Bi-weekly column in Savannah Morning News by Kait Lance. Ever heard of the late Ewing Marion Kauffman? In 1950, Kauffman started a one-man pharmaceutical company operating out of the basement of his Kansas City home. His first year of business generated $36,000 in sales and a meager net profit of $1,000. He continued working for 40 years to grow his company, Marion Laboratories Inc., into a titan of the health care industry. By the time he sold to Merrell Dow in 1989, the company had reached almost $1 billion in sales. Even more inspiring is that Kauffman wanted others to succeed as well. In the 1960s, he started the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation with the vision to enrich communities with economically independent people. Today the Kauffman Foundation uses its $2 billion in assets to support educational and entrepreneurial research and programs across the nation. Bea Wray, executive director of The Creative Coast, was selected as a representative of Savannah to visit the Kauffman Foundation. She asked me to join her and told me we would learn about 1 Million Cups, a program that is changing entrepreneurialism across the country. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity, so earlier this month we hopped on a plane to Kansas City courtesy of the Kauffman Foundation. Co-founder Nate Olson created 1 Million Cups after realizing there was a need to connect entrepreneurs in Kansas City. The name serves as a metaphor for the idea that a community of entrepreneurs could be built if they were able to meet up weekly to discuss their endeavors over coffee. But the program is much more than a meet-up. While at the summit, we experienced a mock trial version run by 1 Million Cups organizers. Every Wednesday morning, two local entrepreneurs give a six-minute presentation of their startup to an audience of mentors, advisors, service providers and other entrepreneurs. Each presentation is followed by 20 minutes of questions and answers from the audience. Depending on the location, 10 to 250 attendees share constructive and valuable feedback with the presenters. Taylor Brown, program coordinator in entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, led the 1 Million Cups Fall Summit. She drove home the point that the program is meant to be an educational experience for both presenters and the audience. Brown said this is achieved when entrepreneurs are open about the successes and challenges they’ve faced creating and growing their startup. Presenters benefit by bringing awareness to their startup and receiving input from the audience, while audience members gain insight into the business techniques that have excelled, or failed, for presenters. Brown also told us that 1 Million Cups now has 56 chapters in different cities across the nation. From Albuquerque, N.M., to Anchorage, Alaska, to Providence, R.I., we joined organizers from 35 of these cities for the summit. The stories we heard were amazing. As a result of 1 Million Cups, startups have been funded, gained national recognition, found solutions to ongoing problems and connected with others. New startups have even formed because of the program. Bea and I flew back to Savannah inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit we witnessed at the Kauffman Foundation. I found myself wondering what Ewing Marion Kauffman would think of the impact he made on entrepreneurialism in America. I am certain he would have taken advantage of the robust community he helped create if it had existed during his time. Savannah is rich with startups. With the creatives and innovators living here, I think it’s time we start reaching out to one another for ideas and support more frequently. The more we succeed as a whole, the better our community will become. Savannah, get ready to caffeinate the entrepreneurial community with 1 Million Cups at The Creative Coast. Keep an eye on www.thecreativecoast.org for future announcements and updates as we start brewing this program in Savannah. Kait Lance is a student at Armstrong State University majoring in professional communications. She is interning with The Creative Coast, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region. This has been a News Recap by The Creative Coast! Here we provide our news mentions and bi-weekly columns… just in case you missed them. Source: Savannah Morning News ]]>

About Kait Lance

Kait has been writing for The Creative Coast since 2014. A self-proclaimed "startup hype-woman," she is passionate about storytelling that shines a light on new ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the southeastern Georgia region.


  1. Joe Marchese on October 3, 2014 at 12:42 am

    I am always a fan of a cup of joe.