Small business owners, entrepreneurs and the community come together to help each other at 1 Million Cups.

Photo credit: Brandon Stoddard

Every first Wednesday of the month, Weber State University’s Small Business Development Center hosts 1 Million Cups at the WSU downtown building. 1 Million Cups is an organization for business owners and entrepreneurs to present their businesses and ideas to the community and get feedback on ways to improve.

Brandon Stoddard, director of Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center at Weber State and community organizer for 1 Million Cups, helped get the organization up and running in Ogden in 2016.

“1 Million Cups is like Shark Tank, minus the pressure,” Stoddard said. “Businesses are not pitching for money but for ideas.”

Stoddard believes this organization gives students the opportunity to see first hand how starting and running a business is difficult. It also gives businesses the ability to connect with the community.

Each month two business owners present their businesses to the community to get help and ideas.

On Feb. 6, Rhonda Lauritzen and Joseph Cancilla presented their businesses to the community. Lauritzen, a Weber State alumni, owns Evalogue.Life, where she helps document people’s life stories or other businesses’ stories in Ogden. Cancilla owns Hana Studio, a multicultural dance studio and hub in West Haven.

Both Lauritzen and Cancilla were excited to present in front of 1 Million Cups to spread the word about their businesses and get help from the community. In only six minutes, they each told their story about how they started their business. Afterward, 20 minutes was left to the public to give feedback.

“The whole experience was overwhelmingly positive,” Lauritzen said. “The interaction felt like others were holding up a mirror, so we could take a step back and see our business with fresh eyes.”

Scott Wiser, a Weber State alumni and owner of Scott Wiser Animation in Ogden, presented for 1 Million Cups in September 2017. He presented with the goal of making connections and finding resources to finish his own animation film. He believes that 1 Million Cups provides a rare opportunity to receive direct feedback from an audience.

“You can’t build a business without feedback,” Wiser said. “Any successful business adds value to others and these kinds of presentations help me know what is working and what needs improvement.”

Weber State students Emerald Phoenix and Alethia Ortner attended the event as part of an entrepreneurship class. Ortner thought the event might not be interesting, but she ended up having a positive experience.

“If you’re slightly interested in starting your own business, come to something like this to see what it’s like and see what the feedback is,” Phoenix said.

Ortner and Phoenix said this event helped them see what starting a business is really like and what problems new businesses face. Both hope one day to start their own business.

“You have to be brave to start a company,” Ortner said. “If they can do it maybe I can do it too. It really helped with my self-confidence.”

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