By: Alicia Otto

Connecting entrepreneurs with one another in the St. Joseph area is at the heart of Cup of Joe. On the radar of Annette Weeks when she created the Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at Western, Cup of Joe was inspired by a Kauffman Center Program called 1 Million Cup in Kansas City.

While 1 Million Cup focuses on startups and tech, research proved that the St. Joseph area would embrace all businesses. Led by Weeks and a group of local entrepreneurs, Cup of Joe was branded.

The Cup of Joe partnership includes the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, the Mo-Kan Regional Council, Farmers State Bank and Commerce Bank.

The Cup of Joe, which is held every Wednesday at the East Hills Library, has an audience of typically 40–60. However, two years ago, when they began to broadcast via Facebook Live, those numbers vaulted to as many as 800 online views.

In just over three years, more than 300 entrepreneurs — including students — have given presentations.

“Cup of Joe is a great example of us at Missouri Western, as well as other organizations in the community, coming together to support entrepreneurs,” Weeks said.

One of the grassroots volunteers leading the Cup of Joe charge was Jomel Nichols, who is the Director of PR and Marketing at Western.

“It’s created a community of entrepreneurs supporting each other, making connections and making friends,” Nichols said. “We hear over and over again how their businesses have grown because of the networking and resources they have found at Cup of Joe.”

Presenters and attendees come from all over the region — from Maryville to Kansas City to Cameron — Cup of Joe encourages and embraces regionality.

It is a lot of work for Weeks, but it is absolutely worth it.

Since most students cannot commit to attending every week, it is an easy way for them to interact with other business owners and community members on whatever Wednesdays it is convenient for them.

“Small business is challenging, and there are not a lot of programs to help small business owners,” Weeks said. The Cup of Joe program helps to fill that void.

The goal of the CFE is to help students cultivate their entrepreneurial dreams. Weeks has met with 514 clients in nearly four years, including both students and community members. Weeks defines a client as someone seeking help to start a business, and the assistance is free.

There is a new addition to the CFE website — Business SUCCESSion — and it is designed to connect entrepreneurs with opportunities to succeed. Whether you are looking for a small business to purchase or have a small business for sale, the Business SUCCESSion page is the place to look. The CFE is there to help everyone succeed.