1 Million Cups – I heard the name “1 Million Cups” before from many different people. “You should head over to the old candy company building and do it!”
“To a group of people who can critique Woje Money.” I had to see for myself what this was about.
I walked into this old small warehouse area built around the twenties or thirties possibly. It had slightly uneven cement floors, large wood posts, and giant wooden beams. The place had chairs lined in rows with an aisle down the center. It reminded me of some of the old halls and theaters where there is sometimes a seat sitting right behind a post to where you would need to have your head placed on the next person’s shoulders to sway your neck enough to see what’s happening up front. “This 1 Million Cup thing ought to be interesting,” I thought.
Two companies pitched that day. I don’t remember either, but their excitement for what they were doing was fantastic to see.
Then it came to the questions and critiques from the crowd. Some were good, some questions and comments almost felt like a knockdown, and I felt their embarrassment rise as the questions and statements continued. One man was very blunt and outspoken. I looked over and saw a tall older gentleman with a white beard and hat. He resembled a much larger Dennis Hoffman, if Hoffman was a much larger fellow and had a short well-groomed Santa’s beard. I thought to myself, “He is being a little tough on the two people who pitched.”
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined 1 Million Cups would lead me to this same gentleman. A few years later, this same man would become first, a great mentor, second an amazing connector, third a dear friend, and soon after, he asked to come along on this fantastic Woje Money ride as a shareholder.
The 1 Million Cups Ride
Several times people told me to pitch the idea in different settings, but to me, it seemed a waste of time. I can test, validate, alter, test again, and change the “idea” into a valid business. And that’s what I did. I shared a few times with people in small group settings or around a table of four, but not on a stage where observers could critique. Thinking back, if I had the heart and validations I have now in Woje Money, it would have been a benefit. Back then, Woje was more of an idea, and the questions they asked would have led me down a sequence of “I don’t know…” answers.
“Scott. I know you don’t want to do this, but you need to pitch to 1 Million Cups!” (I use the exclamation mark as his voice and demeanor often portray the quality of don’t hesitate and do it.) This same gentleman I have spoken of has now run through the gauntlet, become a friend, and shareholder.
“Why? We have been validating this the whole time?”
“Woje doesn’t need this. You do!”
“OK, let’s go to the old candy company building again.”
“It’s since moved. RevRoad now hosts 1 Million Cups!”
Putting My Toe In The 1 Million Cup Lake
“We are heading down to sit in the audience and listen to two pitches…JUST TO OBSERVE,” I said. I should have expected that he planned to push me in.
The building was much newer, with a rustic and metal decor. As you walk into the foyer, a multi-tandem, almost steam-punk art design of a full motorcycle was along with the left windows and wall. Turning through another set of doors is a large open room, a small stage one step up, two large televisions mounted to the wall on both sides of the stage and a decorative shelving unit behind the four or five rows of chairs. Beyond the shelves is an open-style business layout with desks and tables; no cubicles. Just for humor’s sake, I should mention flags were hanging from the open industrial ceiling with different company logos on them, I had a flash of a modern Harry Potter Hall crossing my mind. It didn’t dawn on me till later that it was a fitting flash. RevRoad does work magically! But that will be for another story.
The Bait and Switch
The two businesses pitched well. They were well prepared, and I participated in the five to ten minute question-and-answer sessions. Then came the sounding, very forceful nudge. The woman with the microphone stated, “We have a slot available for anyone to pitch for next week.”
Jim’s hand shot up so fast that I could feel the gust of wind. “Right here!” as he pointed down at me. Crap! It was a setup from the start. The woman on the stage said, “Great! What is your business, and what do you do?” After a brief explanation and a few questions from the audience, it was announced that RevRoad thought it prudent that I would be the only pitch the following week.
I have failed to mention the magnitude of 1 Million Cups. It is a nationwide organization of business owners and investors, where new and up-and-coming businesses can pitch and hone their skills to prepare for sales, investors, or see its validity and ask for advice from a wide variety of minds. I recommend it to all new business ventures.
Preparing for my first ever major pitch
I am more the “Ready, Fire, Aim” type on new occasions. I learn much faster this way. The “Ready” is more a calculation—kind of like doing the most complex version of Sudoku. You can test up to a point, and then it is either one number or another. This is the “Fire.”
Within a short time, you will know which squares are wrong, switch the number and move quickly through the puzzle to perfection. The pitch to 1 Million Cups is that Sudoku Square and my mind was racing towards what will change from the questions and comments. Will it be the marketing, the sales pitch, or the words we use to define aspects of Woje’s products?
The pitch was raw, and I didn’t dress to impress. I wanted to see the audience’s responses to the pitch, not to a well-dressed-looking investment banker or whatever first impression they could get. I wanted it to be down-to-earth and comfortable for them and me. After all, Woje Money is for the handyman, dentist, and attorney.
That over-extended 10 minutes.
The 1 Million Cups pitch, though rough, went well. It took about six to seven minutes, from what I remember. Then the wall of questions hit. Again and again and again….and again! 10 minutes of questions turned into 3 hours of how it would work in different scenarios and businesses and examples, so on and so forth. I was gleaning as much from them as I hoped they were from me. One gentleman from RevRoad was there. Seth was very knowledgeable in the Woje area, or should I say financing, merchant, and collection arenas. He questioned everything. It was a great discussion. Then his “Aha!” moment hit that I love witnessing in people’s eyes. Only because of Seth’s in-depth knowledge and background, it was more profound than I had seen previously.
“You have to pitch to RevRoad!”…which is for another entire lake and rollercoaster of amazing people and experiences.
Changes were made to Woje Money. New doors of opportunity and growth grew from the experience, and the event altered the Woje team’s perception of how impactful Woje Money is to small businesses across the country and soon to be the world.
If you haven’t, check out 1 Million Cups. Use it to glean information and help polish your business and you. And second, Check out RevRoad in Utah. Become a part of their pitch experience. I’ll save their “awesomeness” for the next blog.