Business, Features

BUild Lab launched partnership with 1 Million Cups

People interact at the 1Million Cups Boston event at the BUild Lab on Wednesday morning. This was the first of a series of monthly meetings held every first Wednesday of the month. PHOTO BY JENNA MANTO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The BUild Lab has ushered in many new programs in the short six weeks it’s been open. Now, it has brought the entrepreneurial nonprofit 1 Million Cups to Boston for the first time.

On Wednesday morning, the BUild Lab hosted the first 1 Million Cups event in Boston, which showcased two local startups: The Collective, run by BU freshman Sarah Greisdorf, and the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, run by BU grad student Marion McNabb.

1 Million Cups is an initiative to educate and engage entrepreneurs in different communities, giving people resources to break down barriers that stand in the way of their goals. As of this year, the project is active in 160 communities across the United States.

“I think BU is uniquely positioned, as the largest university within the city of Boston, to bring many other resources together,” said Rachel Spekman, program director of the BUild Lab.

Each month, Spekman said, the BUild Lab plans on having local startups come and present their ideas, matching a monthly theme. For March, the theme is empowering women, to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Greisdorf, who founded her company, The Collective, in 2017, presented at the event.

The Collective is a company that directs customers to various clothing stores with clothing items with functioning pockets for women. As of right now, Greisdorf said, the company has partnered with one group and is looking for more small brands to connect with.

“A lot of what I was doing and am still doing is validating that people also have this problem,” Greisdorf said in an interview with The Daily Free Press. “We know women’s clothing largely doesn’t have pockets, but how can The Collective be the best solution to this problem?”

After the presentation, the audience broke off into groups and discussed ways to help Greisdorf’s company through advertising, marketing or sales, and then met back as a large group to discuss their ideas. The aim was to create a supportive environment and get ideas flowing, Spekman explained.

“The goal is to inspire, educate and connect,” Spekman said. “So hopefully the audience feels inspired by what the teams working on, obviously feels educated, and the team itself feels connected. It’s not an investor pitch. It’s very much a community pitch.”

1 Million Cups was created in 2012 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which provides educational and entrepreneurial programming for communities across the country.

The initiative is always looking to improve and expand, said Kim Wallace, the director of engagement and entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation.

“We first listen to the communities we serve,” Wallace said, in an interview with The Daily Free Press. “We seek to understand the problems and dream big with people around the country to build our programs.”

The BUild Lab is one of five Boston-based organizations partnering with 1 Million Cups to host events for local entrepreneurs. Two of the other participating community organizations, TiE Boston and MassChallenge, were also present at the launch.

TiE Boston is a nonprofit group established in 1997 that seeks to help the Boston community by providing mentorship, advice and expertise to budding entrepreneurs.

MassChallenge is another nonprofit that calls itself “the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet.” They award more than $2 million in equity-free cash prizes each year.

For April and May, the themes will be giving back to the community and artists, respectively.  The goal with 1 Million Cups — and future BUild Lab events — is to connect students to the city of Boston, Spekman said.

“We want you to come into the BUild Lab and say, ‘Oh, I want to start something’ or ‘Oh I’m working towards something how do I take advantage of the resources here,’” Spekman said. “I could see 1 Million Cups as ‘How do I take advantage of the community beyond Comm. Ave.’”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to 1 Million Cups as a startup accelerator. 1 Million Cups should be referred to as a nonprofit. The current version reflects this change.

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