“There’s something really cool happening in Bismarck-Mandan with this group,” I tweeted on a Wednesday morning from my seat within Dakota Stage in downtown Bismarck.
I was attending the relaunch event for 1 Million Cups (1MC) and there was a great energy permeating the space. 1 Million Cups is a weekly meeting, held in cities across the world, where local entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas and get realtime feedback from audience members who learn from the presentations and, enjoy free coffee, of course! Started in 2012, 1MC is the brainchild of a Kansas City-based entrepreneurship foundation which has expanded to cities worldwide. The Bismarck-Mandan chapter began in October 2013 and has been quietly gaining momentum at the hands of the IDEA Center in Bismarck and a handful of local entrepreneurs who wanted to create a way for entrepreneurs to connect. At the time of its launch, Bismarck-Mandan was the smallest community to have a 1MC chapter, which is indicative of the organizers and their followers who seem to have an uncanny appetite for bringing new ideas to the community (I’ll talk more about this in a bit).
Each Wednesday at 9 a.m., the 1MC program offers two local entrepreneurs an opportunity to present their startups to a diverse audience of mentors, advisors, entrepreneurs, and the general public. Presenters prepare a short educational presentation and engage in several minutes of feedback and questioning after they present. Entrepreneurs gain insight into possible ways they can improve their businesses, gather realtime feedback, and most of all connect with the community and other communities. Presenters can also speak to other 1MC chapters, one of the primary goals of the program.
As I sat listening, I heard refreshing ideas from that week’s presenters like “celebrate entrepreneurship in North Dakota,” “co-working space is the future for office space” and “[North Dakotans] need to focus on what we can do versus what we can’t.”