On Wednesday, February 12, Sioux Falls’ 1 Million Cups (1MC) chapter enjoyed a visit from the organization’s midwest representative, Ben McDougal.
McDougal has been involved with 1MC since its second chapter was organized in his city, Des Moines. After regularly attending the weekly event, he soon became an organizer, which he did for five years before helping to develop the regional representative role.
“The community realized its growth nationwide required a new layer of support,” McDougal said. “Large growth without support in place to fuel it can create some fragmentation.”
Since then, he’s spent a portion of his time visiting the region’s chapters to see how they’re working within their entrepreneurial ecosystems. The trip to Sioux Falls marked McDougal’s fourteenth chapter visit. He arrived on Tuesday and had the chance to visit several local sights and businesses before attending 1MC on Wednesday morning.
How does 1MC fuel the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
If you’re not familiar with Sioux Falls’ 1MC community, the weekly events are held every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Museum of Visual Materials. A local business person or entrepreneur takes the floor for six minutes to share their story, and afterward, the audience is given 20 minutes for question and answer. Complimentary coffee is provided for all attendees.
“As an entrepreneur, it’s your weekly dose of innovative energy,” McDougal said.
Since its inception in 2012 as a program of the Kauffman Foundation, 1MC has grown to over 160 chapters across the country, with over 55 in the Midwest. Sioux Falls is one of the earlier adopters in the region, celebrating its sixth anniversary this year.
1MC works in cities of any size—South Dakota has chapters in Rapid City, Brookings, Aberdeen, Yankton and Sioux Falls—as long as organizers and attendees remain committed to developing a consistent, collaborative environment.
“If the mindset for organizers can evolve from size equalling success, and they can just get excited about coffee and learning every Wednesday, five to ten people are all it takes to become sustainable,” McDougal said. “It fuels from within.”
Still, McDougal says mid-sized cities like Sioux Falls offer the ideal balance of a close-knit community paired with a diverse pool of speakers and attendees. He also attributes much of 1MC’s success to its unique structure as a weekly event focused more on support than networking.
“1MC is the ultimate safe space for entrepreneurs,” he said. “It’s a lonely roller coaster, and having that go-to place on Wednesdays is a nice way to break up the week.”
Consistency is key, and it’s what makes 1MC special.
“When you host something monthly it’s just another event, but when it’s weekly, you create community,” he said. “That consistency, paired with a safe space, is the secret sauce of 1MC.”
The visit gave Sioux Falls’ organizers an opportunity to show off their community and gain insight from someone with a range of 1MC experience. According to McDougal, he doesn’t visit to tell organizers what to do, but rather to be a backboard and support system for their ideas.
“I know 1MC but I don’t know Sioux Falls,” he said. “These community visits amplify the level of connectivity, and I’m looking forward to not only just visiting once but maintaining a stronger relationship.”