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Five years after launching in St. Pete, 1 Million Cups eyes new ways to celebrate entrepreneurs

Margie Manning



Branding House's four-week training course was administered by the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, one of its collaborative partners. File photo.

1 Million Cups, an initiative to connect and support entrepreneurs and the local community, will celebrate its fifth anniversary in St. Petersburg Wednesday.

After 480 presentations by startups, and thousands of questions and offers of advice from the community, the program now is looking at expanding, said Sean Kennedy, community organizer at 1 Million Cups and vice president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Next year, the program expects to add partners who will come together to create a pitch competition, Kennedy said, in addition to the current 9 a.m. Wednesday morning gatherings that give entrepreneurs a chance to present information about their companies, get feedback and make connections with potential customers, suppliers and investors, all over a cup of coffee.

“We will be looking to expand 1 Million Cups offerings at other times of the day, with different liquids in the cup,” Kennedy said. “It adds another dimension to it. It does not change the value proposition of 1 Millions Cups. It adds another time and another way for people to get together and celebrate entrepreneurs.”

Sean Kennedy


The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City started 1 Million Cups in 2012, as a free program to educate, engage and inspire entrepreneurs and provide them with tools and resources.  The foundation invited entrepreneurs into its office to talk over a cup of coffee.

It expanded to other cities, including St. Petersburg in 2013 after Kennedy and two other local residents —  Danielle Callahan, formerly from the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, and Richard Wood, chief operating officer at Eagle Datagistics in St. Petersburg —   independently began exploring bringing the program here.

“We ended up being the 19th community to get it,” Kennedy said.

The program now is in place in 180 communities, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

Each Wednesday morning, two entrepreneurs who have been in business less than four years and are doing something new and innovative get six minutes to give a presentation about their startups. Then the audience, most often 75 to 100 people, has 20 minutes to ask questions, give advice and make connections, Kennedy said. The program is held at The Greenhouse, 440 2nd Ave. N.

Some of the companies that have presented include Intrinio, a financial services provider; Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website; and Presence (formerly Check I’m Here), which develops student engagement software for universities and colleges.

In each community, 1 Million Cups organizers find a local coffee shop for a partner. Kahwa Coffee has been the St. Petersburg partner since its inception, Kennedy said.

Kahwa will be one of the presenters at the fifth anniversary celebration on Oct. 10, Kennedy said. The other presenter will be Chris Bennett, one of the local community organizers and founder and CEO of Callyo, a mobile law enforcement software-as-a-service company. Callyo recently moved to a larger office in St. Petersburg, as it expands operations to meet client demands.

Local elected officials, past community organizers and past presenters also are expected to be on hand for the celebration, Kennedy said.

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