by Dewey Evans

    A million cups of coffee – that’s what, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, connects entrepreneurs in over 180 communities in the United States to the resources and solutions needed to help start or grow their business ventures.

    1 Million Cups (1MC) is a program of the Kauffman Foundation, which seeks to “fulfill its mission to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities.” Three communities, of the aforementioned 180+, are here in Upstate SC. Anderson, Greenville, and Spartanburg counties regularly host local gatherings of entrepreneurs and their support networks.

    The format is simple: Each month, entrepreneurs present their ideas and startup companies to their local ecosystem partners in hopes of gaining valuable feedback on how to best grow their business.

    “The essence of an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” as defined by the Kauffman Foundation, “is its people and the culture of trust and collaboration that allows them to interact successfully. The ecosystem allows for the fast flow of talent, information, and resources so that entrepreneurs can quickly find what they need at each stage of growth. As a result, the whole is greater than the sum of its separate parts.”

    Typically, each 1MC gathering sees one to two entrepreneurial presentations, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. The benefit here is two-fold. First, entrepreneurs are able to gain genuine feedback regarding their ideas at no cost. Secondly, the community is made aware of new business activity and how they are able to best support their local entrepreneurs.

    Erin Ouzts, director of VentureSouth and community organizer for 1MC Spartanburg, had this to say regarding the program:

    “1 Million Cups is like a workout for startups: entrepreneurs talk about the challenges of the heaving lifting and their goals. The audience is the spotters and coaches, challenging the founders to approach problems differently and cheering them on with connections and leads.

    “In the 1.5 years we have been meeting, the audience has grown in their ability to ask questions that get to the heart of the founders’ problems and expanded their ecosystem of connections and support for our startups.”

    As the Upstate continues to develop its reputation and capacity for entrepreneurial success, it is crucial that we have programs such as 1 Million Cups to champion this cause. The onramps (access points) for entrepreneurs to enter the ecosystem must become smoother and be available to all Upstate citizens, regardless of their background.

    To get involved with a 1 Million Cups event in the Upstate, attend one of the next gatherings:

    1MC – Anderson

    Meets weekly on Wednesdays in the Anderson Community.

    1MC – Greenville

    Meets the 3rd Wednesday of the month at 4:00 p.m. at the Clemson MBA Program in Greenville.

    1MC – Spartanburg

    Meets the 1st Wednesday of each month at Ciclops Cyderi and Brewery in Spartanburg.


    Please visit the Upstate Business Ecosystem Resource Map to find ecosystem partners in your area.

    Do you or your organization provide support to entrepreneurs or small businesses in the Upstate? Consider joining TATT’s Entrepreneur Support Providers Network on March 20th, 2019 for our first workshop of the year. The network will be reviewing lessons learned in 2018 and looking ahead to building the regional awareness and capacity during 2019. Register here for the March 20th workshop.