On a recent return flight to Kansas City attending a 1 Million Cups summit at the Kauffman Foundation, I read an article that intrigued me. In the article a big open parking lot in the middle of downtown Cleveland was transformed or at least part of it was transformed into a funky retail shopping district made of my favorite metal rectangle: the shipping container.
Each shipping container was its own retail store that had cut out an opening, adding windows, painting them in colorful ways and adding creative signage. The container was re-imagined and then transformed into an opportunity for a startup retail store to bring to life a vision. Without much capital, the retailer learned quickly if their product had viability, ways to adjust if need be 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 the way we reach a new version of success can only come through trial and error.
This block in Cleveland is a showcase on how not just retailers, but entrepreneurs in general are rethinking how they organize, operate and find success; just like startup America rethinks the way it innovates, these small container boxes are solving problems by clustering, sharing successes and failures and creating a new and different sense of space.
During the 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 educate them through a grassroots approach to collaborative discussions on the successes and challenges of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. It is this new wave of open source thinking in America that is leading us to re-imagine 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.