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FROM READERS: 1 Million Cups caffeinates and educates Columbia entrepreneurs

Monday, August 26, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Matt Fischer is an organizer of the local 1 Million Cups organization, which aims to engage and connect entrepreneurs in communities by exchanging ideas over coffee. He is also the founder and president of his business, SportsFormulator.

It all started early in 2013 as Pack Matthews educated a small group of Columbians about a weekly meet-up at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City where entrepreneurs were presenting their businesses to the community.

It sounded like a good idea to many of us, so we got together about a week later to watch the event being streamed live from Kansas City. We all liked the event concept, and Pack, having presented in 2012 at the event in Kansas City, contacted the Kauffman Foundation about allowing us to become part of the 1 Million Cups family and hosting the weekly Wednesday gathering here in Columbia.

After Pack had spoken to Kauffman and had gotten a positive response about Columbia, we began communing at 9 a.m. each Wednesday at the Regional Economic Development Inc., offices to watch the live stream from Kansas City. The group was small at first, as we typically had 8-10 people in the room. 

It was the start of uniting entrepreneurs, as people with startups were getting together and discussing their businesses and helping one another with the obstacles each of us face when trying to get a business started.

We then got notification that Columbia was going to be added to the 1MC network, and we would be hosting our own events. We got together to discuss it with Nate Olson, who heads up 1 Million Cups, and his team at the Kauffmann Foundation. He told us they liked to launch cities in pairs — and that the border war would be reignited as we would be launching with Lawrence, Kansas, on August 7, 2013.

After we got the green light and a launch date, we began spreading the word among entrepreneurs we know and planning for the first meeting, which happened Wednesday, August 7.

When I started my business, SportsFormulator, here in Columbia late last year, I found it was a very disorganized startup community. I was following startup communities around the country and hoped Columbia could one day reach the levels of Las Vegas or Kansas City. There are startups scattered throughout Columbia. They started like I did in my home. 

Since I’ve started, I’ve searched for ways to meet other local entrepreneurs so we can help one another build businesses right here in Columbia. Joining the REDI Incubator, I began to meet some other entrepreneurs who knew others, but we had no place to gather and discuss startup life. It’s hard for most people to relate to us. As entrepreneurs, we’re the chief of marketing, human resources, accounting and every other aspect of a business. We wear many hats on a daily basis. 

Having other people to share stories and hear success stories with is a great morale booster for us. That is what is so great to see with 1MC. Getting together with other entrepreneurs to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it is how community is developed.

With REDI hosting us, 33 people gathered together to watch Greg Baka of EasyDigging.com and Sharon Paulsell of Wheelchair Personalities educate us about their startups. They shared how they got the idea for their businesses and then how they began executing their ideas. After six minutes, they fielded 20 minutes of questions from the audience. Then, many stuck around up to an hour afterwards as local entrepreneurs and supporters of the entrepreneurial community mingled to learn the latest about companies starting right here in Columbia. 

The Columbia startup community is uniting and working toward building new employers in the area. They’re now being showcased at 1 Million Cups meetings at 9 a.m. each Wednesday at REDI, 500 E. Walnut, Suite 102. So, come join us, get caffeinated, and help build the startup community in Columbia. 

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you’ll consider sharing. Here’s how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.


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