Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County members are hoping to encourage local entrepreneurs by bringing a new national program to Sedalia that helps to “engage, educate and connect local entrepreneurs.”
1 Million Cups, a product of the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, will host its first Sedalia meeting April 6 and entrepreneurs, innovators, funders and other interested community members are invited to attend the free, monthly gathering. The new program was announced Wednesday afternoon at the EDSPC office.
“It places emphasis on educating, but also engages and connects local entrepreneurs,” said John Swearingen, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Development Task Force liaison to EDSPC and a local entrepreneur. “The premise of the organization is that true communities are built through the meaningful interactions between people over coffee. 1 Million Cups culture is that of a supportive, neutral space that welcomes entrepreneurs to be open and honest about their businesses and the challenges they face.”
1 Million Cups started in 2012 and now is in almost 90 communities, including Sedalia.
Swearingen said most 1 Million Cups programs host weekly meetings each Wednesday, but Sedalia will be one of a few pilot programs that will instead meet monthly. The inaugural event will feature six-minute presentations from Smiling Mailboxes and LAG Industries Inc., followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session with the audience. Coffee will be provided at each meeting by local sponsors.
Each presentation will end with the same question: What can our community do to help you as entrepreneurs?
“1 Million Cups has been described to me as ‘church for entrepreneurs,’” Swearingen said. “It’s a place where you can go once a week for an hour where people who are of similar beliefs can support you in what you’re doing. It’s a place where you can connect with people of similar beliefs. We all need that to some degree as business-people, but I assure you entrepreneurs need that in a very big way. We intend to be that community, that ‘church,’ for entrepreneurs here with our 1 Million Cups program.”
According to a release from EDSPC, Smiling Mailboxes “is based upon the premises that a child loves to receive mail, especially when the mail is personally addressed to her or him. … Each Smiling Mailbox postcard also links to a corresponding educational video on (its) website that further illustrates the topic presented on the postcard.”
LAG Industries manufactures livestock equipment such as alleyways, tubs, chutes, continuous fence panels, portable panels, gates, feed bunks, calving and creep pens.
The EDSPC Board created the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Development Task Force, one of the first working committees created after strategic planning, working through concerns from the strategic planning meeting.
“As a result, we identified the need for a greater focus in this area, the need for more mentors, the need for improved communications,” said Task Force Chairman Brenda Bryan. “Central Missouri has the largest growth of business in the state, and even in the country. Resources, and rightly so, are placed where they can make the biggest impact. … We need to realize these small companies are the large companies of the future.”
Many people from local educational entities, the City of Sedalia and businesses and industries across the county helped create “another tool in filling the toolbox that supports new and developing companies,” Bryan said. A team has also been created to help guide the 1 Million Cups program, comprised mostly of Task Force members who will eventually rotate off and be replaced by community members.
The first 1 Million Cups meeting will be from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 6 in the Thompson Conference Center at State Fair Community College. Meetings will take place the first Wednesday of each month. For more information, visit www.1millioncups.com or www.SedaliaMoED.com.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.