St. Pete 1 Million Cups goes virtual

As businesses close, employees work from home, and social distancing temporarily becomes the new norm, St. Petersburg is taking 1 Million Cups online. Usually, when Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. rolls around, it’s standing room only at the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, a resource for local small businesses -- and the site of 1 Million Cups, the popular weekly entrepreneurial forum. 

But now, on Wednesday, March 25, for the first time, presenters and participants will be checking in from the comfort and safety of their homes, rather than in person. The Greenhouse has teamed up with St. Pete-based tech company Lunchpool to make it happen.

Lunchpool presented its own startup business plan at 1 Million Cups last year and specializes in virtual lunch breaks, coffee breaks, networking, and similar events. Their virtual networking event, “Break Tampa Bay,” held this past January, was a huge success with employees throughout the Tampa Bay area logging in at the same time during their lunch hour, says co-founder Alex Abell. 

Now a similar concept will be in place for 1 Million Cups. Attendees will be able to watch the presentations, ask questions, and network with other attendees on a platform similar to Zoom. Sign up in advance here.  

“We think it's incredibly important, especially during such uncertain times that we retain a sense of normalcy. We are so proud to work with tech-forward, out-of-the-box thinkers here at the Greenhouse, who are taking this leap of faith with us on behalf of our community,” says Pooja Pendharkar, who cofounded Lunchpool with Abell and is spearheading the company’s collaboration with the Greenhouse team to host the virtual 1 Million Cups.

In another first, instead of local startups talking about their business plans and asking for feedback, the Wednesday morning speakers will talk about business resiliency and how Tampa Bay small businesses can endure the challenges presented during the Coronavirus.

“It’s crucial for us to bring important business resiliency information to our community,” says Kim Vogel, Greenhouse Manager. “It’s an honor to be working with Pooja and the entire Lunchpool team to make this possible. 1MCstp is a vibrant community of business owners, start-ups, and the people who care about them.”

The keynote speakers are both St. Petersburg-based woman-owned business entrepreneurs: Ingrid Lindberg, CEO of Chief Customer, and Jaime Moore Marcario, founder and managing attorney of Thrive Law.  

Lindberg calls herself a “serial customer experience officer” and says she has been transforming companies' approach to customer experience for the past two decades. She was named one of the 40 under 40 Global Marketers.  

Marcario specializes in employment laws, contractual matters, and business regulations for small and mid-sized organizations, with a special focus on women-owned and operated businesses. She is offering complimentary legal advice for business owners facing COVID-19-related issues.

“The presenters that the 1 Million Cups team has chosen for this week are perfect to guide our entrepreneurial community through these choppy waters,” says Pendharkar. “We think that the speakers’ experience, the Greenhouse's commitment to supporting the community, and Lunchpool's ability to deliver this content will help calm the frayed nerves, and differentiate St. Pete as a place for businesses to grow.”

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Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.