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Program to assist entrepreneurs launches in Lawrence

August 12, 2013

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How to participate

To request to give a presentation, visit the Lawrence branch of the 1 Million Cups website. Entrepreneurs eligible to participate must have been in business three years or less.

The weekly gatherings are open to the public, and videos of each week’s event will be posted on LawrenceHits.com.

Standing before a standing-room-only audience at the Cider Gallery in the Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence, Jay Wachs, general manager of LawrenceHits.com, talked about his vision for a new online radio station, an entertainment and news source for those in Douglas County.

Wachs is an entrepreneur. He has a dream to bring sites like LawrenceHits.com to underserved media markets throughout the state, to have his company serve as a model for small towns that may not have a local newspaper, radio or TV station.

“We want to give communities their voice back in a very cost-effective manner,” he said.

Wachs was pitching his business vision Wednesday morning as part of 1 Million Cups, a program founded in Kansas City last year that aims to give local entrepreneurs a platform to share their ideas and connect with their communities. About 100 people attended the event, which was the program launch in Lawrence, the 11th city to participate.

Kristin Flory, one of the Lawrence organizers, said the city is an ideal setting for what 1 Million Cups is trying to achieve.

“Lawrence likes to give people who have a different type of voice an opportunity to share that voice,” Flory said. “We have people from all different walks of life and with different political stances. It’s a melting pot that entrepreneurs flock to.”

Every Wednesday from 9 to 10 a.m., two startups will present their companies to an audience at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St. Their six-minute presentations are followed by a 20-minute question and answer period.

Wachs and Steve Berger, whose company is Rainbow International Restoration, gave the presentations at the inaugural event on Wednesday. They each provided an overview of their companies and explained goals for growth.

Flory said both walked out of the gathering with new business leads, a testament to what the program is all about.

“As a result, I haven’t had a free minute, because people want to talk about service, talk about advertising and promoting their business, talk about new paradigms and new offerings in media,” Wachs said.

Expanding to Lawrence

One Million Cups was created by Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, a program of the Kauffman Foundation that aims to foster economic independence by advancing entrepreneurial success.

The philosophy behind it is simple.

"The man who had the idea, Nate Olson, said that if every entrepreneur had a chance to have 1 million cups of coffee with 1 million people, that sharing would help them take off," Flory said.

After a well-attended debut in Kansas City in April 2012, the network has expanded to a dozen cities, and hopes to be in 20 by the end of this year.

Currently, 1 Million Cups has a presence in Kansas City, Des Moines, Houston, St. Louis, Iowa City, Reno, Nev., Chattanooga, Tenn., Denver, Chapel Hill, N.C., and Georgetown, Del. Lawrence and Columbia, Mo. were added on Wednesday, and programs are set to launch in Orlando and San Diego in September.

Flory first heard of 1 Million Cups from a friend at the Kauffman Foundation and got the backing of the Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas University School of Business to bring the program to Lawrence. Tony Krsnich, owner of the Cider Gallery, donated the space, and Z’s Divine Espresso committed to providing the coffee at each gathering.

“I thought, ‘Why not in Lawrence?’” Flory said. “My hope is that people come and think, “Even if I can’t give you business, I want to support you and hopefully make you feel that you have the resources, that we appreciate you and when you’re ready to take the next step, we’re here.’”

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