Networking with 1 Million Cups at JWU

Group of presenters at the first One Million Cups entrepreneurship forum.

JWU's Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship was a-buzz because of more than just some extra caffeine Wednesday morning as members of the JWU community mingled and networked with Providence-area entrepreneurs while they awaited the start of One Million Cups (1MC)'s Providence kickoff event.

Johnson & Wales has joined forces with the Kauffman Foundation to launch the first edition of this weekly, national forum for entrepreneurs in New England.

1MC is based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee. Every week throughout the country, two local entrepreneurs have the opportunity to present their startups to forum attendees.

From Kansas City to the Ocean State
JWU's kickoff event on May 13 began with a greeting from Taylor Brown, senior program coordinator in entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. Brown walked attendees through the history of 1MC, which grew from a gathering of 12 eager individuals in Kansas City, Mo. in 2012 to the network of 72 cities Providence is now a part of.

“One Million Cups is run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs,” Brown explained. Nationally over 300 volunteers work within their communities to organize their local 1MC meetings.

Student entrepreneurs pitch their idea at the JWU One Million Cups event

Wednesday's event featured presentations from Increment, a toy-design company founded by two Rhode Island School of Design alumnae, and Hippothecary Food Pharmacy, the 2015 Sharkfest People's Choice award-winning startup JWU culinary nutrition seniors Luis Rivera and Rebecca Giambarresi plan on launching this fall.

When asked what advice they had for current students with entrepreneurial aspirations, Increment founders Maeve Jopson and Cynthia Poon quickly responded: “Just do it.” They also encouraged students to find mentors, build relationships, and stay connected with their faculty members and fellow classmates.

Rivera and Giambarresi believe that food can serve as a preventative treatment for many common ailments, but in order to combat the idea that foods that are good for you can't also taste great, they've created a line of non-dairy ice creams. Hippothecary offers 5 types of ice cream, each delivering different health benefits. They've developed vegetable-based, high protein, high fiber, pre- and probiotic, and heart healthy varieties.

Creating Community
After the presentations concluded, Rivera and Giambarresi passed out product samples as attendees excitedly chatted and networked with one another.

“This program creates an ecosystem and support system for young entrepreneurs starting out,” John Robitaille, executive in residence at the eCenter said.

These presentations take place every Wednesday at 9am at all of the 1MC sites around the country, including JWU's, and are open to the public.