Ten Thousand Coffees: Connecting Business Leaders With Youth

by Donia Varghese
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Ten Thousand Coffees

Dave Wilkin and John Betts, CEO of McDonald’s Canada have a conversation over a cup of coffee. (Image courtesy: Ten Thousand Coffees)

Fancy a cup of coffee with retired astronaut Chris Hadfield or CBC Host Rick Mercer?  All you need to do is join tenthousandcoffees.com and send them an invite.

Thanks to the new initiative by 26-year-old Dave Wilkin, young people now have the unique opportunity to connect with industry leaders over a cup of coffee, seek advice, share ideas and have a better understanding of what to expect in their chosen field.

Check out what Dave Wilkin has to say about Ten Thousand Coffees, how leaders are selected and why it’s something youth should take advantage of.

Fresh Print: When did you start Ten Thousand Coffees and how old were you at the time?

Dave Wilkin: Ten Thousand Coffees launched in January 2014 and at the time, I was 25.

Fresh Print: What inspired you to start this movement?

Dave Wilkin: Ten Thousand Coffees was founded on the insight that great conversations begin with a cup of coffee. Most of the time, these coffees happen through an established network— a network that many young people don’t have access to. Ten Thousand Coffees connects students, recent grads, and young professionals (novices) with industry leaders and influencers (experts), providing youth across Canada the opportunity to meet someone with experience and have a meaningful conversation about a field they’re interested in.

Fresh Print: How did you come up with the name Ten Thousand Coffees?

Dave Wilkin: We are so excited to see what will happen when 10,000 coffee conversations take place across Canada. Ideas will be sparked, businesses will be started and opportunities will be unlocked.

Fresh Print: How many people do you have working on the Ten Thousand Coffees team?

Dave Wilkin: Right now we have a team of about twenty people working at Ten Thousand Coffees. We are currently looking to hire a number of summer interns. Those interested in working with us should visit tenthousandcoffees.com and join our team. Internships are paid!

Fresh Print: Can anyone request an invitation to be an expert? Is there a screening process?

Dave Wilkin: Anyone can visit Ten Thousand Coffees today and join the movement. Those with industry experience looking to connect with the next generation can ‘request an invite’ to join as an expert. Expert requests go through a quick approval process. We want to make sure experts are in fact professionals in their industry. Once an invite is approved, experts are notified by e-mail and can then build their profile and start connecting over coffee.

Students, recent grads and young professionals are encouraged to go to tenthousandcoffees.com and join as a novice. Once you have completed your profile, you can browse through our experts and begin requesting coffees. You must also answer a few pre-populated questions to give the expert a little more information on why you want to meet with them specifically and identify a challenge facing their industry and what you as the novice sees as a solution to this challenge. It allows the novice to not just seek advice from the expert but show the expert the value they can bring to the conversation.

Fresh Print: What do you think motivates experts to get involved?

Dave Wilkin: Firstly, it is a way to give back to the next generation, just as someone probably did for them when they were starting out in their career. Secondly, I believe it’s the two-way exchange of information or reverse mentoring as it is commonly referred to. The introduction of social media has completely changed the way companies market their businesses. The younger generation has grown up with social media at their fingertips.

Many businesses leverage their younger employees to help them engage in this new online, social environment. This upcoming generation also has different wants and needs from employers than the generations ahead of them. By speaking with a young person, businesses and governments can help to future proof their organization and determine what this new generation wants and how they can attain and retain this generation in their workplaces.

Ten Thousand Coffees - Fresh Print Magazine

Everyday more novices and experts are meeting up for coffee (Image courtesy: Ten Thousand Coffees)

Fresh Print: Do novices get back to you about how their meetings went?

Dave Wilkin: Everyday, novices and experts tweet, share on Facebook or email us about how great their coffee chats went. Novices and experts are ecstatic about what they learn from each other during their coffee conversations. In one instance a novice, who was the top of her class, had applied to a major accounting firm for a summer position. Because she was supporting herself through school, most of the experience on her resume was in retail and did not make it through the electronic screening process. She approached an expert on Ten Thousand Coffees from that same accounting firm. He was so impressed with her that he passed her onto someone in the recruiting department to discuss a possible job when she graduated from school.

Although the promise of the Ten Thousand Coffees website is not to find young people jobs, it does provide students, recent grads and young professionals access to a network of experts who can help them unlock opportunity, whether it’s from some great advice, access to a new network or a potential job.

Fresh Print: Have you gone out for coffee with novices? If so, what was the experience like?

Dave Wilkin: I go for coffee with young people all the time. I got my start through a conversation over coffee and believe that the solutions to our world’s biggest issues are in the minds of this upcoming generation. Since I’ve had quite a few novices invite me for coffee, we have done a few novice meet ups at the Ten Thousand Coffees office headquarters where I speak with a group of four to five novices and talk about their concerns and the solutions they believe they can bring to these challenges. I am always beyond impressed with their ideas, insights and positive outlook for the future and that makes me confident that the Ten Thousand Coffees platform will be the solution to help bridge the gap between the leaders of today and leaders of tomorrow.

Fresh Print: Do you know if a lot of people have asked Chris Hadfield for a meeting over coffee?

Dave Wilkin: Chris Hadfield has definitely had a lot of coffee requests. What is interesting about the platform is that although the more ‘famous’ experts do get quite a few coffee requests, there are some experts who have received more requests than those more well-known names. We have some experts who have already gone on five or six chats and they say that every chat they go on, they learn something new from the novice.

Fresh Print: What are some of your future plans for Ten Thousand Coffees?

Dave Wilkin: Ten Thousand Coffees is not the goal; it is only the beginning. We are all so excited to see the opportunities this platform will bring both novices and experts.

Who would you invite for coffee? Click here to browse through experts. If you are looking for a Specialty coffee roaster, look no further than tapestry coffee.

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