It’s been one year since the first cup of coffee was served at a 1 Million Cups Sedalia program, and 11 past presenters came back Wednesday morning to join the celebration. Wednesday’s 1 Million Cups Sedalia program marked the one-year anniversary of the program, which helps foster networking between entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as promote community support of those businesses. Over the past year, those present at 1 Million Cups Sedalia programs have heard from a wide variety of companies.
Eleven took part in a panel discussion Wednesday to update attendees on the business’ progress since their first presentations. Those participating included LAG Industries, Spotter Cone, The Original Bucket Stool, Von Holten Ranch, Bluebird Outdoor Adventures, Hexcup, Grable Exterior Maintenance Services, Key Solutions, VanNatta Fabrication, Craft Beer Cellar and Ragar Banners.
For Brandy Von Holten, co-owner with her husband of Von Holten Ranch, an equine riding trail facility and event barn, the past year has been a learning and growing experience.
“I’ve built this, but now I have to make sure I can keep up with the growth,” Von Holten said.
Hexcup, an improved version of the traditional red beer pong cup, has added a wholesale log-in portion to its website to help with bulk ordering and had created in-store displays to help with plateaued retail sales.
“We’ve been able to apply ideas we got from 1 Million Cups to our business,” William Heimsoth, co-founder of Hexcup LLC, said of what it’s been like since his presentation last year.
Key Solutions, which offers company training programs, has seen more growth since its presentation, moving into new areas and tripling customers.
“1 Million Cups really helped launch our business and rebranding,” said co-owner Julie Brunner. “… Thank you for helping Key Solutions get off to a really good start.”
Business is also booming for Bluebird Outdoor Adventures, an RV rental company — owner Mark Kestner said bookings are up more than 400 percent in its second year.
“We decided the other week we’re at that point in our business where we’re right at the ledge,” Kestner said. “… Most people get to the ledge, get cold feet and give up. Well that’s not how we roll. We actually jumped in and we have new units coming tomorrow and the next couple weeks.”
For LAG Industries, business is so good they’re looking to hire more employees to help handle orders. Sales have more than doubled for The Original Bucket Stool and SpotterCone is getting interest from around the country from big names in trucking.
1 Million Cups Sedalia has also created partnerships between the presenters, as Von Holten Ranch utilizes Bluebird Outdoor Adventures for RV rentals at events, and Bluebird has utilized Ragar Banners.
Brandon Grable, of Grable Exterior Maintenance Services, has branched out to other 1 Million Cups programs in Missouri, which he said has helped him gain more customers.
When Jason VanNatta presented in February, he said design work and parts sales were 50/50, but that he’d like to grow the parts side of the business. On Wednesday, he said that has already happened. With more emphasis on parts sales, he added that he can now devote more time to designing, his favorite part.
“The last few months, I’m finally getting to enjoy what I do,” he added.
Brad Wikstrom, franchise owner of Craft Beer Cellar in Sedalia, said more distributors are coming to Missouri, giving him even more options for his customers. The store has ranged anywhere from 300 to 450 varieties of beer, he said.
“Now I’m working on finding that sweet spot of inventory numbers as we get new distributors … and customer feedback,” he said.
Each business seemed to be experiencing its own kind of growing pains, whether it was the need to hire more — or the first — employees, learning more about social media marketing or expanding outdoor seating at CBC. While each had upcoming hurdles, those hurdles seemed to be good problems to have because they were related to success and growth.
During the question-and-answer portion of the panel, many of the speakers said it’s important to expose young people to the idea of entrepreneurship and owning a business to help foster in the future.
Jessica Craig, executive director of Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County and a 1 Million Cups organizer, asked if and when the presenters began seeing themselves as an entrepreneur.
“I view myself more as proof the American dream is alive and well,” Von Holten replied. “I view myself as a provider, I view myself as someone that inspires the average person … I don’t view myself as an entrepreneur, I think I view myself as a dreamer and I refuse to lose because if I lose, I lose my husband’s family farm. You can call it whatever you want, I just call it motivated.”
1 Million Cups, which is open to the public, is hosted at 9 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month in the Thompson Conference Center at State Fair Community College. For more information, visit www.1millioncups.com/sedalia.