“Ask for Help.” How Coffee and Conversation Can Transform Your Business

No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, you’re going to get stuck.

And that’s not a bad thing!

What’s important is how you deal with the challenge. The solution seems simple enough, but it’s not always easy to do.

“You ask for help,” said Danny O’Neill, founder of The Roasterie and a Kauffman FastTrac alum. “You ask those who’ve done it. Those who know just seek.”

Why not start those conversations over coffee? National Coffee Day is coming up on September 29, and to celebrate, we decided to showcase the connection between two important entrepreneurial tools: coffee and conversation.

Whether you’re building your network or sitting down with a fellow entrepreneur to bounce ideas off each other or discuss an obstacle you’re facing, you can’t underestimate the power of staying connected to your entrepreneurial peers. To help give you some ideas about how you can tap into the benefits of coffee and conversation, we’ve compiled a list of caffeine-fueled gatherings that we think should be on your radar.

1 Million Cups: The Kauffman Foundation launched 1 Million Cups in 2012 based on the notion that “entrepreneurs discover solutions and engage with their communities over a million cups of coffee.” 1 Million Cups has since grown to 180 communities, which means there’s probably a 1MC meet-up near you!

The foundation of 1MC — besides coffee, of course! — is weekly meet-ups that feature presentations by local entrepreneurs. This is a prime opportunity to share more about your business with an active, engaged audience to build your brand recognition.

“It’s not a sales pitch, and it’s not an investor pitch,” according to 1MC. “The goal is to have people understand what you do and some of the challenges you have had in building your business.”

Check out what 1MC events are coming up in your community and consider applying to be a 1MC presenter. Think of it this way: 1MC meet-ups are also an effective way to polish your elevator pitch. Just don’t forget your business cards and, of course, coffee!

Creative Mornings: Each month, people interested in creativity and connecting with others gather for this breakfast lecture series that launched in 2008 in New York. Now, Creative Mornings has local chapters in more than 180 cities around the world, including Kansas City.

Don’t let the name fool you: you don’t need to run a creative business to attend Creative Mornings. These monthly meet-ups are more about inspiration; about showing you what’s possible; and about helping you tap into the incredible creative and entrepreneurial energy that’s buzzing around your own community. In addition to networking time, you’ll hear from a speaker who structures his or her talk around a one-word theme (i.e. community, chaos, craft) that’s followed by all Creative Mornings chapters.

Oh, and did we mention free (usually local) coffee? We bet you’ll be buzzing when you leave a Creative Mornings breakfast — and it won’t just be the caffeine! Find an event near you.

Your neighborhood coffee shop: When’s the last time you invited a fellow entrepreneur out for a cup of coffee? There’s no doubt that being an entrepreneur can sometimes make you feel isolated. That’s why meeting up with other entrepreneurs isn’t just helpful — it can be downright invigorating!

A casual conversation over a cup of coffee can also be an effective way to follow up with a new connection. Instead of throwing those business cards you’ve collected in a pile and forgetting about them, why not schedule a follow-up chat? Networking events are wonderful, but they’re not always the best place to get into an in-depth conversation, especially if you want to meet multiple people. By scheduling follow up chats, you’ll learn more about fellow entrepreneurs, have an opportunity to share more about your business and see if there are ways you can help each other succeed.

If your business allows, you might also consider working in a coffee shop a few hours a week. Your brain will appreciate the change of scenery, and you never know who you’ll bump into or meet! Bonus points if you bring your own mug to cut down on environmental waste.

BYOC with Kauffman FastTrac: If you find yourself stuck on a particular business problem or simply need a push in the right direction, try this. Brew your favorite coffee, grab a mug and register for Kauffman FastTrac, a free online course that gives you all of the information you need to know to start a business.

“FastTrac had a huge impact on me and a lot of my colleagues,” said O’Neill, who completed Kauffman FastTrac in 1994. “First and foremost, validation and, just as important, confidence. Not everybody’s honest about it but most of us are scared to death when we’re starting.”

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