Startup America and Shopping Containers I recently attended a 1 Million Cups summit at the Kauffman Foundation this past week. 1 Million Cups is a grassroots national effort to engage the local startup community and connect the modern American entrepreneur. During this summit we learned about how more than 70 communities throughout the country, which meet once a week, are taking creative steps to support, promote and connect their local startup communities.
On my return flight from Kansas City, I read an article that intrigued me. The article referenced a big open parking lot in the middle of downtown Cleveland that was transformed in to a funky retail shopping district made of my favorite metal rectangle: the shipping container. The interior parking remained, but the edges were lined with retail.
Each shipping container was its own retail store. The shop owners had cut out an opening, added windows, painted the containers in colorful ways, and even featured salvaged signage to top it off. The container was re-imagined and then transformed into an opportunity for a startup retail store to bring a vision to life. Without much capital, the retailer learned quickly if the product had viability. If need be they could adjust their product or move on if the concept didn’t’ take. Failure in these retailers’ minds was no longer a Scarlet Letter, but rather a Badge of Courage (did you like the way I used two classics here?). Changing the culture in America and shifting our view on how we reach a success can only come through trial and error.
This block in Cleveland is a showcase on how retailers and entrepreneurs are rethinking how they organize, operate and achieve success. Much like startup America is rethinking the way it innovates, these smaller shopping containers are solving problems by clustering, sharing successes, failures and creating a new and different use in a once derelict space.
During my time at the 1 Million Cups summit, our cluster of creative Million Cups minds from around the country discussed how to better engage our community, draw the entrepreneurs out and how to educate the community on ways to overcome the challenges of being a startup. It is this new wave of open source thinking in America that is leading us to reimagine our spaces, rearrange how we interact and rethink the ways we create and solve problems.
Whether it is selling wares out of a metal container in Cleveland or sharing startup stories in a laboratory in Kansas City, innovation comes with finding simple ways to bring our vision to the American marketplace.