1 Million Cups Unplugged aims to build startups, community

Feb. 20, 2018

This piece is presented by the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.

When Sioux Falls personal trainer Cuong Strong Nguyen went to his first 1 Million Cups presentation a couple of months ago, the entrepreneur left inspired.

“I was meeting other people who were very successful, and it really influenced me to be as successful as I can in my business,” he said.

On Feb. 28, Nguyen will become the featured speaker at the weekly event as he shares details of a new business model he has created and a gym he plans to open next month.

“I wanted to share my story at 1 Million Cups, so I could inspire others to pursue healthier, better lives,” he said. “I applied and they picked me, and I’m excited to go there.”

His presentation at 9 a.m. will mark the second time 1 Million Cups has been held at the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship. It’s part of a new model for the event that both allows it to grow and to offer a smaller venue for speakers such as Nguyen whose businesses are fairly new.

The larger event is held most Wednesdays at 9 a.m. using the stage at the Orpheum Theater Center. That accommodates audiences drawn by speakers such as Daktronics founder Al Kurtenbach, who kicked off the new venue earlier this month.

No matter who speaks, the format is the same: A six-minute presentation about the business followed by 20 minutes of audience questions and feedback. As the name suggests – there’s plenty of coffee, too.

“When I sat and watched someone present, the questions asked after the person was done presenting were really deep and helped the speaker to grow and develop their business,” Nguyen said. “That was something I wanted to get, too.”

Offering 1 Million Cups Unplugged at Zeal on the last Wednesday of the month allows for a more informal gathering and speakers who are just launching or have been in business less than a year, said John Meyer, CEO of Lemonly and part of a group that supports 1 Million Cups in Sioux Falls.

“It’s a little harder for the crowd to take lessons when the company is maybe 6 weeks old, but there’s still value in getting feedback from the community,” he said. “And with Unplugged, we let every person there introduce themselves and say who they are and where they’re from. At the Orpheum, we’re trying to create more of a show with music and production.”

The first Unplugged in late January drew more than 40 people to Zeal, 2329 N. Career Ave.

“Our missions align, and we view it as an opportunity to support the efforts of 1 Million Cups,” said Zeal interim vice president Ryan Oines. “It’s a natural fit as a location.”

Many people who came to Unplugged had never been to Zeal, so the program focused on familiarizing the group with the resources available there.

“We’re finding people are still discovering Zeal, so that’s a great secondary benefit,” Oines said. “Our expectation is not to recruit co-workers or tenants, but we want to support the event and be connected in the community. As people know this resource exists, and if it’s the right fit, we’d like to have that conversation about how we can further support them.”

1 Million Cups began in Kansas City and is backed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which created the application used in Sioux Falls to determine speakers. There are programs in 100 U.S. cities.

For the Orpheum event, “we prefer folks who have been in business at least a year and not really franchises or big chains, something unique to Sioux Falls, and certainly out-of-towners, too,” Meyer said.

Speakers are booked about two months ahead of time.

Upcoming presentations at the Orpheum include a March 7 forum with the mayoral candidates and a March 14 presentation by Laura Benson, owner of the boutique Filly Flair.

To learn more, click here.

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1 Million Cups Unplugged aims to build startups, community

Part of the revamped 1 Million Cups includes a monthly stop at Zeal with a focus on new-business ownership.

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