By Kristen Ritch
At 9AM on October 26, the historic Waco Hippodrome will open its doors to local entrepreneurs. The scent of locally sourced Pinewood Roasters' coffee will entice locals inside to become a part of the 1 Million Cups community.
1MC is a national program that happens weekly, giving local entrepreneurs the opportunity to ask other Wacoans for input on the improvement of their businesses as well as communicating what they need from citizens to become successful. Founded in April of 2012 by the Kauffman Foundation, the first event took place in Kansas City, MO, growing from twelve to 200 people in attendance by December.
Kevin Renois, project manager of City Venture Waco through City Center Waco, plays a key role in introducing 1MC to the heart of Texas. A recent Baylor graduate, Renois worked for the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City over the summer before choosing to come back to the city he had grown to love: Waco. He joins a team of six other volunteer organizers—Cory Dickman, Brooklyn Bolton, Kevin Cochran, Dylan Washington, Cydney Cockerell, and Jake Cockerell—who utilize their connections within the entrepreneurial community seek out local businesses that would add value to the 1MC community.
“I got to learn from the people that put this on at the headquarters level, finding out the inner workings of it,” Renois said. “That is part of why it was so easy to launch this—because we’re friends now.”
His connections, along with Jake Cockerell’s influence as Manager for Entrepreneurship at the Chamber of Commerce, allowed Waco to become the 100th 1MC community, which holds weight for Waco’s business future. The Kauffman Foundation is focusing on what’s called "entrepreneurial ecosystems." According to Renois, “it’s this way of understanding cities, like communities, as far as how capable is this city of fostering entrepreneurship. Not just how easy, but how good, how connective, how supportive is it to be an entrepreneur in this city.”
The first 1MC event will feature two local entrepreneurs—Kevin Cochran of photo service Kornerbooth and Cory Dickman of Waco Escape Rooms—who will give six-minute presentations, followed by a Q&A session with audience members.
“I think there has been something missing like this—a place where anybody can come, anybody is invited and welcomed, and people are just here to listen to cool new ideas,” said Renois. "It’s a good place for learning and connections to happen. We try to stray away from the word “networking,” because it’s more than about networking—it’s about connection."
With Waco’s entrepreneurial spirit on the rise, an event like 1 Million Cups, whose goal is “to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities,” may just provide the community with the connections it needs to foster true economic growth and civic unity.
The free event takes place on Wednesday, October 26, at 9AM at the Waco Hippodrome. Pinewood Roasters coffee is complimentary for attendees.