Business owners share caffeine, concepts

Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

Sharing 1 million cups of coffee over business ideas could be one way to jump-start entrepreneurship across the country. That’s the philosophy that the Kauffman Foundation had when it started a program that “caffeinates the entrepreneurial nation” every Wednesday morning.

“The last question we ask after every presentation is, ‘What can we, as a community, do for you?’ It sets the tone for the entire event,” said Jake Cockerill, manager of entrepreneurship at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and one of the co-organizers of 1 Million Cups in Waco. “It shows the idea that we’re here to support your start-up business, and we want you to be successful.”

One Million Cups is a free program that educates and connects entrepreneurs in different cities. Waco is the 100th community to adopt the 1 Million Cups program, and the meetings are held in the Waco Hippodrome. The format of each meeting is the same for every city across the country, according to the 1 Million Cups website. Cockerill said it benefits both the entrepreneur and the audience. The entrepreneur is presented with an opportunity to practice talking about their business, and the audience has the opportunity to learn about start-ups and be inspired. The event creates a mentorship network by building community relationships, Cockerill said.

“We saw a need to start developing programming of entrepreneurship and support the small community that has been developing,” Cockerill said. “We were at a point where we realized we have the density to support that small community. The program got approved, and we reached out through personal relationships to get it started. We ended up with a great turnout and now see lots of the same people every week because they get value out of it.”

Wednesday morning, the two groups presenting in Waco were Waco Tours and Green Foam Solutions. Waco Tours is a tour service that provides an inside look on all that Waco has to offer, such as Baylor and the Brazos River area. It provide classic tours by bus and helicopter. Green Foam Solutions is a company that offers affordable and environmentally friendly polyurethane solutions for concrete lifting, which is repair rather than replacement, in homes and businesses.

“We’ve loved doing business in Waco because there’s business galore,” said Luke Whyte, co-founder of Waco Tours. “We’re all a part of re-branding Waco, and we all face the task of how do you re-brand Waco but still make it authentic.”

Both businesses had unique aspects to them that made the audience look deeper than just the surface level. Waco Tours said it doesn’t want to be fact-based, and its tour focuses on showing Waco beyond what first pops up in a search engine. Whyte shared stories of having people who had done the tour ask for real estate agents because they wanted to look at housing and visitors who extended their stay after doing the tour.

Green Foam Solutions said that what makes it unique in being in Central Texas is that the soil is good for growing things but not so good for foundations. This is where the work of Green Foam Solutions comes in, by taking the concrete and repairing it so people don’t have to live with the hazard of broken concrete or spend a fortune replacing it. However, the company’s money is for more than just its wallet, as it goes to supply basic needs to people around the world.

“When people said ‘Why do you want to start a business?’ we said that we want to fix concrete. ‘Why do you want to fix concrete?’ We want to make millions of dollars. ‘So, why do you want to make millions of dollars?'” said Dennis Tucker, co-founder of Green Foam Solutions. “When we make money in Waco, that money winds up somewhere else in the world.”

Cockerill said that upfront, there was a lot of publicity pushing the event through the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, City Center of Waco as well as the mayor, who opened up the first session. Cockerill said the event has been able to sustain 50 to 60 people a week. The Hippodrome Theatre provides the venue and Pinewood Roasters supplies the coffee. Clever Guys Media has been a sponsor and livestreams the event so people can watch it if they cannot make it to the Hippodrome.

“I’ve seen an impact on the community in the conversations that have come from the development of 1 Million Cups just because everyone is on the hot ticket of entrepreneurship,” Cockerill said. “I’ve also seen an impact through the overall connectivity that has come from the event. It’s cool to see people working together that met here and partnering up to make things happen. It’s more apparent in the community that we want to be a hub.”