Friday, June 21, 2024

Sharing business tips and coffee one Cup at a time

by BIZ Magazine

A conversation over a cup of coffee is a simple thing, but it can have a profound impact. That’s the idea behind 1 Million Cups, a monthly gathering sponsored by the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP), Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center, and Cohab for local entrepreneurs.

EAP recently partnered with Cohab to revive the informal monthly gathering that Cohab hosted before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We looked around and said, ‘What is the one event that occurs regularly that entrepreneurs or small businesses can attend and ask questions or hear from an entrepreneur?’ like, ‘How did you deal with this problem? What did you do for that?’” said Dave Smith, Executive Director of EAP.

“We looked back, and when it first started at Cohab, when it was under the Texas Street bridge, there were a lot of local businesses that started out of it. We’re like, ‘Man, where is that event? Where is that exchange of ideas taking place?’ We need a regular scheduled event where people can gather, drink a cup a coffee and talk about their startup.”

The 1 Million Cups event on October 11th featured John Dudley, a local businessman who is launching Chasing Aces, a golf and entertainment venue in Bossier City. Dudley shared his entrepreneurial journey — including getting “kicked in the teeth” — with an audience of about 30 people at the Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center in downtown Shreveport.

“When I did experience failure, it was not something I was used to,” Dudley said afterward. “I would have loved for somebody to tell me it’s OK. Going through those makes you grow as a person. It makes you better as an entrepreneur.” 

It’s a message that hit home with Quinton Aught who is a local Shreveport native.

“It gives me hope,” Aught said. “I know he had to go through trial and error. I know I am not the only one. Hearing his personal experience builds my foundation. I’ve got to keep going. I can’t give up.”

Dudley said it was an honor for him to share that message with Aught and the rest of the audience.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to inspire someone,” Dudley said. “It’s also a responsibility I hold at a high standard. I give them the purest statements I can that make an impact in their lives. It’s very gratifying to see when someone gets it. It’s humbling to be part of that.”

That is why EAP chose to revive 1 Million Cups in Shreveport.

“Anyone who’s ever been in business before knows you have to have a strong network to be successful,” Smith said. “Part of the value is you get to come in and be with other like-minded individuals and hear their stories and ask the hard questions of people you are comfortable with who are in that same struggle.”

Smith added that it is what happens next that often makes the difference.

“Everybody goes home, and they are thinking about it,” he said. “But they just don’t leap. Because it’s hard. It’s difficult. There are uncertainties. But there are people in this building who have taken that leap and been successful. And that gives others confidence.”

The 1 Million Cups initiative was developed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in 2012. It is based on the idea that entrepreneurs discover solutions and engage with their communities over 1 million cups of coffee.

Cohab started the local gatherings in February 2014. It was put on hiatus during the pandemic. Jessica Schiele, Executive Director of Cohab, was excited when EAP reached out about reviving the program.

“It is such a valuable program that the opportunity to bring it back was something you couldn’t pass up,” she said. “Historically, whether we had 100 people or four or five people, everyone involved walked away feeling enriched by the experience. I am glad more business owners will get that experience moving forward.”

Smith said the partnership works because of a shared goal.

“BRF’s mission is to diversify the economy of Northwest Louisiana,” he said. “That’s what EAP is here for. We want to hear every product, every service, every idea that an entrepreneur has in Northwest Louisiana. We want it to launch and generate jobs in our region, which helps diversify the economy.”

The next 1 Million Cups event will feature retired Air Force Gen. Gerald Goodfellow, CEO and Founder of the Small Business Consulting Corporation (SBCC). He will discuss his experience launching a veteran-owned business at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, at the Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center, 717 Crockett St. in Shreveport. 

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