Danny Smith was participating in a week-long entrepreneurial training seminar when he heard about 1 Million Cups and was inspired. The result? A monthly gathering called Tailgates.
Back in 2012, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation created 1 Million Cups, a free program designed to educate, engage and inspire entrepreneurs around the country. The program took off and as of now, 160 communities gather every Wednesday to give each other support, encouragement and feedback over a cup of coffee.
Smith, the president of the Safford Downtown Association, knew a similar program would work well here.
He chose the name “Tailgates” because in a rural community, people will stop what they are doing and lean against a vehicle as they talk about their situations.
“Around tailgates great ideas are shared and relationships grow every day,” Smith said. “We hope it’s a place for new entrepreneurs to connect and be encouraged. They present their business to a group of people and the thing I like the most is the business owners are asked what we can do as a community to help them.”
The first Tailgates meeting was held at the MainStreet Bean Wednesday morning.
During each meeting, business owners will give a five-minute presentation and a 25-minute question and answer session will follow. Weston Wiltbank, who created his marketing company WBNK Media in 2018, and Tricia Garrett, one of the creators of Gila Valley Made boutique, were the first presenters.
“I think Tailgates is a really great opportunity for small businesses to help them get their needs to the community,” Wiltbank said after the meeting.
Local business owners have a great many needs that aren’t related to advertising and gathering community members in a room once a month for brainstorming ideas could make a large difference for them, Wiltbank said.
“This is a really good middle ground for businesses can come together,” he said.
Garrett was impressed with the first gathering.
“It was a good interaction. It needs to grow,” said Garrett after the meeting. “I was able to meet some new people, definitely. And we were able to get our ideas out to more people at one time. This should grow, it should be bigger. The platform is really good.”
Torey Cranford, owner of Cakes with TLC and co-founder of the boutique, was also at the Tailgates meeting. She agreed with Garrett, saying the Tailgates idea was a positive move.
“It was a brainstorm. We’ve been working tirelessly on this and it was kind of nice to have some fresh input,” she said. “It was good.”