1 Million Cups Brings Local Entrepreneurs, Community Together Again

By Katie Standlee The Norman Transcript, Okla.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 1 Million Cups is a national program that brings local entrepreneurs together to hear from fellow entrepreneurs. Katie Standlee takes us inside a local Oklahoma chapter.

The Norman Transcript, Okla.

As coffee finished brewing, local entrepreneurs walked into Mainsite downtown at 9 a.m. Wednesday to attend 1 Million Cups.

"We started here about a year ago here in Norman and it's really focused on the idea of creating entrepreneurial thinking and supporting entrepreneurs in our community," Republic Bank & Trust's Andy Sheerer, who helps organize Norman's chapter of 1 Million Cups, said.

This month's presenters were Rachel White, owner of Space Yoga Studio, and Bart Keeton, executive director and founder of Engage Learning Oklahoma.

White, who was a yoga teacher for seven years, took over the studio last April. With a soft and padded floor, Space Yoga Studio has 26 classes, about 13 instructors, two massage therapists, three showers, retail items, a library and yoga props. A small bamboo floored studio in the front is also for rent. While the studio does offer non-heated classes, a special heating system that pulls outside air in and controls the humidity and heat allows for heated classes.

"When I decided to have a space I knew that you could do yoga anywhere you can do it in the park or there are different studios around town, but what I was selling was the space itself," White said.

White said she wanted a space allowed for options besides physical yoga practice. Alternative healing: guided meditation, journaling workshops, chair yoga and a recent female hormone workshop are some alternatives.

White said she pretty much does it all, because she doesn't have a partner or manager. However, she is looking to change that in the future and possibly let go of some control in the future. She said part of the reason for scaling back is her busy schedule, teaching 17 classes a week and being a single mom, but she's also interested in other yoga aspects that she hasn't had time to pursue.

White said she always offers newcomers a package of $20: two weeks for three hours of unlimited yoga, and during the summer she runs a special on a ten class pack for $100.

Keeton founded the non-profit informal learning group Engaged Learning about three years ago.

"We work with public schools and teachers to create remarkable and breakthrough learning opportunities," he said. "A lot of that is Maker Education, but we are expanding into other types of I guess cool ways to help students learn and to keep that learning sticky."

Students use saws, laser cutters and other tools to build playgrounds, houses and any project that involves learning about building and creating.

"They will be always working with their hands, making mistakes and making stuff," Keeton said.

He said they have been to about 45 schools and worked with over 1,000 students. With about five full-time and eight part-time workers, Engage Learning is looking for more people to help and volunteer. He said they are always in need of expertise.

Engaged Learning partners with Tom Love Innovation Hub, Devon Energy, Factory Obscura and others to make these opportunities happen.

He said one of their biggest challenges is the cost to do these projects on the scale they do, but it will continue to stay unique to Oklahoma and go all over the state.

"We love collaborating with people," Keeton said. "So I don't see Engage as separate from public education or in some cases private education we are very much in collaboration with how to empower teachers do stuff. They may not have the resources or the expertise to do these."

During the meeting Keeton presented several projects students that are in progress or completed. One of those projects involved fifth graders from César Chávez Elementary in Oklahoma City who built a life-sized Toro, their school mascot, out of plywood.

"We are going to repeat this project, it's a fantastic one. What we didn't anticipate is this has then become a place making item for a school of 1,000 kids," Keeton said. "All of the fifth graders who graduated wanted a picture in front of this with their parents."

He said right now Engaged Learning doesn't have a designated space, but that they are super agile and go where the opportunities are through partnerships.

"Right now we have some design competitions that have really given some scope to spread across central Oklahoma," Keeton said. "This year we are moving that across the state."

He said for the fall they are partnering with OU athletics to use football facilities to teach basic physics and some math concepts. They are also looking into a food science competition this fall where seventh-grade students will learn about food science to create a food bar.

July 3 is the next 1 Million Cups meeting and, because of the holiday, this is an unofficial happy hour in the evening/ More details will be available soon on the webpage and app.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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