Where Ideas Can Flourish

St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

A great idea had its start in Kansas City. Where this leads, is up to people like those in St. Joseph who plan to gather for coffee next week, and every week after.

1 Million Cups is a project of the Kauffman Foundation, which has made promotion of entrepreneurship a guiding principle. In the past three years, more than 50 cities have adopted a model hatched in the foundation’s labs.

The genius is in the simplicity.

Entrepreneurs, small business owners and their boosters are invited to spend an hour from 9 to 10 each Wednesday morning in an idea exchange. Coffee is a big draw, but so is the opportunity to hear two of their own make 10-minute presentations and engage in 15 minutes of feedback and questioning afterward.

Reno, Nev., was the fifth city to implement the 1 Million Cups program. Organizers there rave about how it has energized the entrepreneurial community.

In the words of one: “Although many positive things — funding, connections and startups — have come out of 1 Million Cups, its biggest impact was on the community itself. 1 Million Cups helped Reno entrepreneurs believe in themselves and recognize the growing support community around them.
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It’s no surprise this local effort is finding backers at the Center for Entrepreneurship that is a part of the Craig School of Business at Missouri Western State University. Or that the call for participants went out from the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations have a big stake in nurturing business growth.

But if our community is to fully capture the spirit, then these gatherings will resemble something other than a chamber committee meeting or a classroom session at Western. Rather, we hope for spirited discussions, applause for both achievers and risk-takers, and moments of unbounded enthusiasm for what can be envisioned and set in motion right here in our mid-size Midwestern city.

That’s a lot to hope for, but like the entrepreneurs in our midst, we prefer not to be bound by conventional thinking when opportunity is knocking at the door.

1 Million Cups of Greater St. Joseph is launching next Wednesday, Feb. 11, at the St. Joseph Public Library’s East Hills Shopping Center location (enter through the east door of the café). Supporters are invited to gather starting at 8:30 a.m., with the program beginning at 9 a.m.

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