“1 Million Cups” program brews better businesses

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Higher Power Yoga and Fitness owner Jessica Coyne of Smyrna and Life Counseling and Design owner Kevin Kelly of Dover spoke Wednesday morning at Delaware Technical Community College’s weekly One Million Cups program where two local entrepreneurs present their business ideas to gain insight into how they can improve their businesses and get feedback from members of their community. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER –– Every Wednesday morning, Delaware Technical Community College brings together local entrepreneurs, business professionals and community leaders to discuss small business over coffee.

The program is part of a national initiative “1 Million Cups,” designed to grow and strengthen small businesses and startups through community cooperation.

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Smyrna town manager David Hugg is one of the co-organizers of the event and remarked that “the best economic tool is a cup of coffee” before he introduces Wednesday’s two entrepreneurs. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“Here small businesses have the opportunity to network, share their successes, failures and goals and receive instant feedback,” said Richard Rexroad, program organizer for Delaware Tech.

He and a handful of representatives from Delaware Tech were attending a conference in Kansas City, Missouri when they heard about the program and decided to introduce it to Delaware.

“One of the best development tools is a cup of coffee so the whole concept is to get together many different people over coffee to discuss ideas over coffee on a large scale,” Mr. Rexroad said.

And it is happening on a large scale –– in 35 states and one territory over six time zones with an average weekly attendance of 2,500.

At each meeting (every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at Delaware Tech’s Terry Campus), two businesses make six-minute presentations and answer questions, hear constructive criticism and words of advice during a 20-minute session.

Wednesday’s presenters came from opposite ends of the spectrum –– an established local business, Higher Power Yoga and a business in its infancy, Life by Design.

“We’re pioneering uncharted territory,” Jessica Coyne, owner of Higher Power said. “Yoga is pretty new in Kent County and we are striving to provide a safe, warm and welcoming environment.”

Since her business opened in December 2013, she’s had an increasing number of clients but wants to keep her business on the same track so she came in search of marketing advice.

“Once people do it once, they’re hooked,” she said about yoga. “It’s not just a physical activity, it’s a lifestyle and you always feel better leaving then when you came in.”

She doesn’t have a problem drawing in women but she touched on the industry-wide misconception that yoga is only for women and is looking for ways to draw in more male students.

Ms. Coyne has revised her business plan within the past month and hired a marketing director to help her through the process.

Some of the top suggestions she received were reaching out to airmen from Dover Air Force Base, to physical therapists and chiropractors. Yoga is frequently a recommended practice for recovering patients to keep a healthy mind and body.

Although she’s looking forward to growing, an increased client base comes a need for additional instructors which aren’t easy to come across in Dover.

Instructors must have 200 hours of training before they can be certified so Ms. Coyne is actually teaching a certification course from her studio.

“It can be difficult because hiring people to teach yoga isn’t like hiring someone in retail where you can just train them on the job,” she said.

Kevin Kelley is still in the planning stages for Life by Design and working on the first draft of his business model. He knows what he wants his business to be, he just needs to get it off the ground.

“I’m doing what I love part-time now and for free but I think it’s time to do it full time and get paid for it,” he said.

Mr. Kelley’s passion is helping other improve their own lives. He has volunteered for eight years mentoring incarcerated individuals and helping them plan for their lives once they re-enter society.

“I’ve been kicking my heels around for a few years and now is the time to do it,” he said. “I’m working on my business plan now and want to get this off the ground.”

After explaining his progress on the plan for his life coaching service, he was offered personalized help from other small business owners to help him develop a plan that will increase his chances of success.

“Models for this kind of business aren’t always successful so I’m trying to figure it out,” Mr. Kelley said. “I’m doing well with my job in the IT field, but that’s not my passion –– Life by Design is.”

One of the biggest challenges Mr. Kelley will face is advertising his services and obtaining clients for such a specialized service.

Audience members asked him questions about his own background to help him take steps in the right direction. When it was discovered he is a veteran, it was suggested that he reach out to the base so he can help airmen make the adjustment from military to civilian life.

He plans on helping people set personal goals and mentoring them to follow through with those goals whether it be only through moral support or by setting up clients with the right connections they need to start the journey to reaching their goals.

To apply to make a presentation or to find more information, visit 1millioncups.com/kentcounty.

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