In 2014, I went to the very first 1 Million Cups meeting in Springfield, curious about the new entrepreneurial community.
Sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, 1MC meets weekly to connect entrepreneurs and encourage local creatives. Two presenters are featured and given 5 minutes to tell their stories followed by 20 minutes of thought-provoking questions. At the time I was in the middle of a book project. Mornings are by far my best writing time. I made a promise to myself to get more involved in the 1MC community “some day.”
Over the past four years, my friend Sterling has invited me multiple times to check out 1MC and each time I remembered the promise I had made. “Some day” became today — mostly because I needed someone to play catch with me.
I am good at making new friends. I am also good at being by myself for long periods of time. On the drive to the Art Museum, I thought of at least 10 other things I could be doing and 15 excuses why I shouldn’t go. Immediately, I recognized the feelings as what Steven Pressfield would label “Resistance.”
Pulling my Royals hoodie over my head as a protective shield from the drizzle, I grabbed a pen and notebook and went inside.
Sterling was the first to greet me, “You made it! Good to see you here.”
I grabbed a cup of coffee and Ramona grabbed my elbow. I grew up going to church with Ramona. She now works at Safe to Sleep, an emergency overnight women’s shelter and one of the presenters of the day. I know of the work of Safe to Sleep because my mom serves there as a volunteer. Ramona introduced me to new friends including Hannah from Bunch of Art who was the other presenter.
And then Nate (Day #13) showed up. I told Nate about needing a catch partner for the day and he went to work immediately, texting friends and introducing me to people. Thanks to Nate, I felt like I belonged at 1MC. He sat next to me in the back row during the presentations and served as a back-up photographer when my camera failed me.
After the presentations, I asked Liz if she had time to toss a ball. Liz is one of the organizers of 1MC. She’s a social media marketing pro who loves to code with a background in accounting. She also loves dogs.
We laughed and practiced backhand catches on the west side of the Art Museum, avoiding puddles and mud from the rains overnight. My camera died on the attempted selfie, so Nate snapped a picture.
Together is Better is my favorite book by Simon Sinek. In the beautifully illustrated short story he writes, “Innovators are the ones whose dreams are clearer than the reality that tells them they’re crazy.”
I left 1MC this morning encouraged and inspired by the creative and passionate stories I heard and the incredible people I met. Future 1MC meetings are now on my calendar in ink.