Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

1 Million Cups is looking to help DC entrepreneurs get ‘unstuck’

The event series looking to help entrepreneurs solve problems debuted this summer. Sessions are held on Wednesdays at 1776 D.C.

At a 2017 event at 1776 in D.C.

(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

On Wednesday mornings at 1776 D.C. this summer, entrepreneurs have been meeting over coffee. They’ve been sharing stories and challenges with an eye toward providing help to move forward.

The founders are offered advice, which is designed to be specific to the entrepreneur. But instead of a single mentor, it’s a group that is providing the help.

That’s the idea behind 1 Million Cups, a series started by the Kauffman Foundation that’s hosted in cities around the country. The D.C. edition began on July 18, and has been holding weekly sessions. Per the chapter’s website, the organizing team for D.C. includes Austen Brower, Steven Rodriguez, Johanna Ciezczak, Kevin O’Connell and Rod Loges.

Here’s how Brower and Rodriguez described the series in a recent conversation: Each event features one or two entrepreneurs who apply to present on their company, and they’re especially encouraged to talk about challenges they’re facing. Then, the group who is gathered has a chance to ask questions and discuss potential ways to solve the problems. They emphasized that it’s designed to be distinct from a pitch session, and rather a chance to get specific feedback that can help entrepreneurs get “unstuck.”

And the organizers are working to bring lots of different voices into the room.

“As an organizing team we are working to curate presenters so you’re getting perspective from entrepreneurs in different sectors,” Brower said. Whether it’s tech, food and beverage, or environmental work, “We’re looking to provide different types of industries with support.”

In the first sessions, they’ve also seen the community grow organically, as presenters become part of the group that provides advice.

“The audience is already starting to get into that culture of ‘How can I be helpful,'” Rodriguez said.

With the 1 Million Cups’ prevalence (In the Technical.ly network, Delaware has long had a chapter), the local community also has a place within a network that stretches internationally, Brower added.

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