In September 2017, the chamber announced it had been selected for the Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups (1MC) initiative. 1MC is a free program designed to educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs with their communities.
For the last two and a half years, the Round Rock Chamber has been sponsoring monthly 1 Million Cups Round Rock (1MCRR) events for local entrepreneurs. Last Fall, 1MCRR celebrated its two-year anniversary in Round Rock with a special event highlighting a couple of the area’s most influential and successful entrepreneurs, including Dr. Jim Geracci of Capital Factory and Mike McKim of Cuvée Coffee.
1 Million Cups was founded in 2012 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation with the idea that over one million cups of coffee, entrepreneurs could educate, engage and inspire each other by presenting their business ideas and working together to come up with solutions to their roadblocks. Today, 1 Million Cups can be found in more than 180 communities, including Round Rock.
Bill Combes of Round Rock-based digital marketing agency No Time for Social, another sponsor for 1 Million Cups Round Rock (1MCRR), said the local program has had a phenomenal start.
“We’ve had some awesome presenters come through presenting their business ideas as entrepreneurs,” he said. “We have an amazing group of people providing feedback that has directly impacted all of those businesses in one way or another. We have an email list now of well over 400 people that we’re inviting to these monthly events.”
Combes added that while all Williamson County entrepreneurs are invited to these events, he’s directly seen 1MCRR make a positive impact on Round Rock-based companies.
“I’ve seen presenters come through with serious business challenges and they get great feedback from all of the individuals that show up that are entrepreneurs or owners of businesses that have a lot of wisdom,” he said. “I have reached out to some of the past presenters and many of them have said, ‘That was the best thing that I ever did.’”
Geracci, who serves as director of health and healthcare innovation at Capital Factory, first came to Round Rock by way of the U.S. Army, when he was stationed at Fort Hood.
“I drove north to Fort Hood every day for ten years, so I discovered the Austin area from the north looking south, which is different than most people do,” he said. “What shocked me was that so many things that people will associate with Austin, you don’t find inherently in Round Rock. One of those is an entrepreneurial culture. I didn’t find much of that going on in Round Rock and I wondered why.”
That’s why Geracci was pleased when he joined the Round Rock Chamber a couple of years ago and learned it would be sponsoring the 1MCRR events.
“Some of the entrepreneurs that I mentor and advise are actually living and from the Round Rock area, so I was thrilled when I found out the 1 Million Cups program was because it’s an amazing opportunity,” he said. “People come here from all over the world and they want to start their business in downtown Austin. They get here and realize it costs more to live in downtown Austin than San Francisco. It’s shocking to them when I say, ‘Hey, why don’t you head up north a little way to Round Rock?’”
Geracci added that Round Rock is a great place for young companies and budding entrepreneurs not only because of programs like 1MCRR, but also because of its affordability, entrepreneurial ecosystem and commitment to economic development.
“Most of the time when businesses are thinking of moving here, they spend their week visiting six days in downtown Austin and then the afternoon before they fly out in Round Rock, and they’re shocked,” Geracci said. “I can think of six companies off the top of my head that have changed their mind on that sixth day and said, ‘We need to be someplace like Round Rock.’”
Geracci added that he’s a firm believer in the power of a cup of coffee and a thirty-minute meeting, because it could be the difference between success and failure for many startup companies, which is why 1MCRR works.
“How many collisions does it take to make an innovative idea work?” he said. “I always say every good idea I’ve ever had was written on the back of a cocktail napkin, but how many collisions does it take to get that idea from cocktail napkin to an established business? It’s a lot. I don’t know if it’s a million, but it’s a long time and I will tell you those collisions absolutely are the difference between success and failure.”
The potential for Round Rock in the entrepreneurial arena is immense, said Geracci, adding that he expects to see the environment grow quickly in the future.
That growth will most likely be fueled by people like Mike McKim, a local entrepreneur and founder of Austin-based Cuvée Coffee, who also spoke at the 1MCRR anniversary event about his business and how he became successful.
“I always like to remind everyone that I’m just a regular guy,” he said. “The reason I point that out is because this place where I landed and the path that took me here was a really windy road, but if I can do it, anybody can do it. I think it’s super important to remind everybody of that.”
McKim served in the U.S. Navy and worked a slew of different jobs, like delivering pizzas, telemarketing and sales for AT&T, and selling fiber optic cable. Roasting and selling coffee wasn’t on his radar until 1998, when he visited his uncle and helped him roast coffee in his warehouse. McKim ended up purchasing that roasting machine from his uncle and that’s when his coffee business experimentally began. He began selling to friends and family first, and then, after losing his corporate job selling fiber optic cable in the early 2000s, he got a job selling espresso machines in the southeastern United States.
“I called that my coffee MBA,” McKim said. “I was learning from legendary people, and I was still roasting coffee on the side. Eventually, I started feeling guilty that I wasn’t giving my company my all, so I finally got to the point where I quit my job in December 2006. I declared myself unemployed and went full-time into my coffee business. A lot of people think this was an overnight success, but I always tell everybody that the first eleven years really sucked, and the last ten years have been really good.”
In 2011, Cuvée was the pioneer of the nitro cold brew movement, and in 2014, became the first company to start canning its nitro cold brew. Cuvée Coffee also has a brick-and-mortar coffee bar, located at 2000 E. 6th St. in Austin.
McKim said now he is working on staying ahead of whatever other trends come down the pipeline in the coffee industry. He keeps a sharp focus on innovation and evolution.
“That’s my favorite part of the job,” he said. “As long as I can keep evolving new products and being innovative, we’ll be here doing the same thing, but probably on a much larger scale.”
1MCRR events are hosted the first Wednesday of every month at 9:00 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Austin North-Round Rock at 2370 Chisholm Trail in Round Rock, another sponsor for the monthly events. The events are open and free to the community. For more information or to RSVP for future events, click here.