In 2015, the City of Anderson staff knew that entrepreneurism was on the rise in the community, but these emerging business owners needed a space to collaborate, connect, and rejuvenate. Often, being a small business owner can be isolating, and finding solutions to problems can seem like a daunting task. One Million Cups, a Kauffman Foundation national program, was born to support entrepreneurism in Anderson and foster community within the business realm. The program took an ordinary Wednesday morning and turned it into a signature time to reflect, connect, and spark business success! In 2019, the City of Anderson staff was encouraged to reimagine the program with a hyperlocal approach, one that would best serve Anderson business owners and their needs. The Brew was born from a collaboration of local business owners and City officials, marking the beginning of a signature program that would impact many communities across the state of South Carolina.
With a focus on the Anderson area, The Brew serves as a time for entrepreneurs to share their struggles, successes, and brainstorm together, finding common ground along the way. Our motto is “Business Ideas with Community Feedback.” Each week, an entrepreneur presents their business, explaining why they started the business, what products or services they offer, and then end their 10-minute presentation with a few questions seeking the audience’s feedback. These questions must involve a challenge they are facing or an area in which they want to grow their business. Questions vary from topics as small as increasing foot traffic to overcoming negative connotations about their industry. The audience then helps the business owner come up with solutions and creative ideas to overcome the challenges at hand. Even though someone is not speaking about their business every week, much is to be learned from other’s failures and successes. No one is there to sell but everyone is there to help! It is collaboration at its core, and many innovative ideas have been birthed on Wednesday mornings over coffee and conversation at The Brew.
The success of The Brew was infectious, and soon neighboring communities started to hear about the program that was rocking Anderson’s entrepreneurial scene. Other communities began adopting the program, making it their own and enjoying the success of the program once started to serve Anderson business owners. After two years, the program is hosted in 8 communities in South Carolina, and looking to gain traction in future markets! It is a free program waiting to be adopted by other cities interested in making a splash in their entrepreneurial scene. It is completely free to start a Brew community, and a great way to provide genuine networking without the awkward shaking of hands and exchanging of business cards. Wednesday mornings are electrified in all 8 communities due to The Brew!
Providing a space for creativity and entrepreneurism to flourish has led to new business endeavors, changing of business models, rebrands, and so much more within the Anderson community. It has encouraged our small business owners to push themselves, learn new skills, and see what Anderson wants from them. The audience is diverse with entrepreneurs, realtors, Chamber staff, nonprofit leaders, stay-at-home moms, and even retirees. The Brew has given them an opportunity to share their voice with the small business owners in the community about things they would like to see or ways their shopping/dining experience could be better. This program has changed the way Anderson communicates about small business. Everyone is there to cheer each other on and see Anderson be the best it can be!
With each community coming onboard with The Brew, it continues to take a life of its own in its new home. The program has a different flair at each site, but that is exactly what the City of Anderson had in mind when creating the signature networking event. Whether your town is rural, booming with business success, struggling to get downtown on the map, or maybe just looking to encourage business collaboration, The Brew might be the answer for you! You would be surprised at what a cup of coffee and conversation could do for your community! If you are interested in starting a Brew in your hometown, reach out to Sara Wright (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Caroline Gaddis (email@example.com) for more information! We can’t wait to see what’s brewing next!
~ Caroline Gaddis & Sara Wright / City of Anderson Economic Development