When I was a wee lad in the ancient times of the 1970s, I remember an old commercial for Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pops that asked how many licks it takes to get to the center of their delicious lollipops. An inquisitive youth poses that question to a variety of animals and is ultimately thwarted when the wise old owl takes the opportunity to hastily consume the treat; thereby leaving the world still wondering, how many licks in fact does it take?

At the Foundation we are posing a similar question with a modern, caffeinated, twist and applying it to a slightly more constructive purpose. Namely, how many cups of coffee need to be consumed in the presence of entrepreneurs, mentors, funders, and related supporting cast to launch great new companies? In setting out to answer this question, we invited, informally at first, two aspiring upstarts (or startups if you prefer) to present at the Foundation of Entrepreneurship on Wednesday mornings to a room filled, at first, with Kauffman Associates.

Participants would politely present for several minutes uninterrupted and then indulge the audience as they asked thoughtful and unscripted questions ranging from idea inspiration, market research, viability, commitment of the presenter to pursue the idea, etc. This informal and slightly eclectic activity of our Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation was originally inspired by the staff simply looking for yet another mechanism for local (Kansas City) interaction within the entrepreneurial community.

Well like all good deeds, few of which ever going unpunished, our little coffee klatches have morphed into a growing social scene. Now, 1 Million Cups (1MC) has made 4801 Rockhill Road the place to be Wednesday mornings IF you are trying to start a company in the area AND you like coffee … OK, truth be told, you don’t have to like the coffee but you have to at least drink a cup so we can count it.

So if you find the urge to come learn about new ideas taking flight in America's Belly Button (my attempt to rebrand the Heartland), sign up, show up, and help someone startup by offering your thoughts, questions, and advice. And maybe together we will discover how many cups of coffee it takes to build great entrepreneurial ecosystems. And by the way, the format for these simple events is easily replicated in other communities and we will be more than happy to help. Just drop an email to our 1MC(MC) Nate "Big Cup" Olson at nolson@kauffman.org.

By the way, Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pops make great stirrers for coffee, adding a little flavor and savor.
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  • Thom Ruhe