Kansas City Entrepreneurs Devote February Pitch Confabs To Black-Owned Startups

Feb 8, 2018

1 Million Cups is a weekly event for entrepreneurs to pitch ideas and get feedback. It started in Kansas City, and now, there are chapters across the U.S.
Credit courtesy: Kauffman Foundation

Each Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., between 100 to 200 people gather at Kansas City's Kauffman Foundation to hear two entrepreneurs pitch their startups. Throughout February the lineup is focused on black-owned businesses in honor of Black History Month. 

"1 Million Cups has traditionally been the entry point into the entrepreneurial community here in Kansas City, one of the many," says Adrienne Haynes, who attends the events so frequently that she describes herself as a "1 Million Cups caffeinator."

It's important that 1 Million Cups "looks like our entrepreneurial community does," Haynes says.

Haynes, a managing partner at the business-law firm SEED Law and president of the Multicultural Business Association, teamed up with the organization to highlight black entrepreneurs. Presenters include business owners such as Jaimie Tolbert of Popcorn Heaven in Westport; Hakima Payne of Uzazi Village on Troost; and Chris Evans of T-Shirt King at 12th and Brooklyn. 

"We do have black presenters at 1 Million Cups all the time, and presenters from a variety of different backgrounds," Haynes says. "But this is just a great opportunity for all to feel like they're welcome in the entrepreneurial community and on the 1 Million Cups stage."

Regardless of one's background, it's difficult to be an entrepreneur, says Haynes.

"It takes a tremendous of both grit and grace to actually live your passion out loud through entrepreneurship," she says, adding that there are additional challenges for historically underrepresented communities. 

"I think a big one for black entrepreneurs is you have to see someone doing what you're doing in order to sometimes believe you can do it," she says. 

Her advice: "You can do it. It's not easy, but it's definitely worth it. But you can't do it alone." 

1 Million Cups, Wednesdays, 9-10 a.m., Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, Missouri. 816-932-1000. An additional 1 Million Cups, featuring presenter Miko Richardson of Shots by Miko, is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on February 28.

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.