CHAPEL HILL – As part of a continued effort to foster the entrepreneurial environment in the area, there’s a program called 1 Million Cups that offers networking opportunities and much more. Each week, two local business venturists present their start-ups to a diverse audience of mentors, advisers and fellow entrepreneurs. The program meetings alternate between the LaUNCh Chapel Hill business incubator and RTP Headquarters in Durham.

Dina Mills, the Program Manager at LaUNCh, is one of the organizers for our local 1 Million Cups branch.

“People are enjoying other entrepreneurs and hearing about what they are doing,” Mill says. “They are getting feedback on their business, and also, just great connections are being made.”

1 Million Cups is “caffeinated,” or funded by the Kauffman Foundation, one of the largest supporters of entrepreneurship in the country, funding activities around the world. 1 Millions Cups has member cities across the country.


One of the presenters Wednesday was Ann Johnston, founder of Local Ventures, a website for small businesses to find and connect with reputable local vendors.  Johnston, who graduated from UNC in May, works out of the 1789 incubator, a feeder to LaUNCh.

Johnston’s vision for Local Ventures grew out of UNC’s JNO Venture Competition. She says the company received $8,500 in funding, the largest sum awarded to date.

“With this presentation now, a couple more people know what we’re doing, and they will tell their network,” Johnston says. “Word of mouth is huge; it’s really important. Without support from the community—we don’t have tons of marketing dollars we can just throw around. Things like this are really helpful to us.”

Besides the valuable networking opportunities, Mills explains that 1 Million Cups now offers the chance for companies to gain national attention as well.

“Today, we are actually doing our first submissions as part of 1 Million Cups. We will have the opportunity to be on Dream Big America which is a new national radio show. We are hoping to have some of our companies profiled in front of 3.5 million radio listeners,” Mills says.

If you have presented at a 1 Million Cups function, Mills says this qualifies you for consideration to be submitted. Program organizers will then pick nominees from the pool of previous presenters.

1 Millions Cups happens every Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m and is open to the public. For information on becoming a presenter, click here.