1 Million Cups group starts brewing entrepreneurship in Hancock

HANCOCK — The growth of a business can be measured in cups of coffee — by the reckoning of one group promoting small-business entrepreneurship, 1 million cups’ worth of pitching, brainstorming and collaborating.

On Wednesday, Hancock became the latest of about 160 communities nationwide, and the second in Michigan, to take part in the national 1 Million Cups program.

It was the first of what are planned to be monthly meetings, where two local entrepreneurs will present their business ideas to community members.

“The focus here is to help educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs,” said Jason Mack of the MTEC SmartZone. “So we’re here to support these businesses. Be inclusive as much as possible, with different types of businesses, different types of people of all ages. And we want this monthly event to be a safe place for entrepreneurs, meaning let’s be supportive of what they have to say. If we have something critical to say, let’s be mindful of how we say that.”

Wednesday included presentations from two recent Michigan Technological University graduates, Ashley Kern of Goldstrike Data and Cedric Kennedy of MakerHub.

Kern’s company uses information about college students such as GPA or extracurricular involvement to predict which students might be at risk of dropping out, allowing universities to better target interventions. Kennedy’s site allows people who need custom 3-D printing done to connect with people who have printers available.

Kern said she wanted to be part of 1 Million Cups because of her experience working with the MTEC SmartZone.

“I know every time I get in front of people and pitch my story or let them know I’m here, new opportunities crop up, and I learn something every time,” she said.

What she learned from Wednesday’s presentation were how to grow, with questions about her marketing strategy or where to find new clients.

“I think hopefully people might be reaching out with that expertise and mentoring, because I know there are experts in the room in those areas that I’m not expert in,” she said.