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Photo by grantmeeks.com
Devin Dillon, 28
Owner, Cien Solutions
Founding organizer, 1 Million Cups Springfield
In early 2014, Devin Dillon—with partners Sterling Huff and Richard Thomas—introduced the 1 Million Cups program to Springfield. Since then, more than 5,000 people have attended the weekly event at Missouri State University’s eFactory in downtown Springfield.
The concept, licensed by the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, seeks to bring together entrepreneurs with investors who could help them find their break. More than networking, 1 Million Cups is an event. Springfield’s is one of the most successful chapters in the country, which has surprised even Devin, who spends a large amount of his time tracking down and vetting presenters for each Wednesday morning session.
“It’s filling a void, meeting a need and bringing together a community in Springfield,” Devin says, himself an entrepreneur who has started a handful of businesses since opening his first advertising company as a college sophomore.
His current endeavors (outside of 1 Million Cups, which is not a paying gig), include DK Financial Group, a small investment fund, and Cien Solutions, which specializes in global distribution for U.S. manufacturing and supply companies—and we’re talking big stuff, like generators and motors. With Cien “growing like crazy,” Devin’s hope is to be able to let 1 Million Cups fly on its own a little more often in year two, so he can travel and keep an eye on his own entrepreneurial projects. “I like innovating,” he says. “I like changing things for the better. To me business is kind of a means to an end. What that end is, I don’t know. Good question.”
Job title and where you work: CEO – Cien Solutions LLC, Managing Trustee – DK Financial Group
Education: Missouri State- Finance/Real Estate
City or town where you live: Springfield
1. How did you end up at your current job/profession?
I started a collegiate advertising company with a friend at 19, and I have not looked back since. With DK Financial Group we just wanted a return on our own retirement accounts and an association developed from our own needs. Four years ago I was asked to connect one manufacture to some partners in Saudi Arabia; last year we started Cien Solutions LLC to facilitate these foreign contracts. Turns out the demand for domestic SME’s to increase global distribution is large.
2. Where do you find passion to do what you do?
Solving problems, efficiency, quality and utility beat vibrantly at my core. Innovation, progress, and momentum keep me going. Business and entrepreneurship are the fastest ways to innovate and to reach desired outcomes—Simply a Vehicle.
3. Are you single/married, and do you have any kids?
I am single without children.
4. What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
Sports, culture, music, movement, business, food, dancing, things that go, travel, learning, spending time with people I love.
5. Are you involved in any charitable organizations?
Currently I’m the founder and organizer of 1 Million Cups, a platform for start-ups to get invaluable feedback and access to Real Resources.
In the past: Missouri Mentoring Partnership-Mentor and Board Member—all about the kids. Mentors are why I am here; the cycle must continue.
6. Are you a member of any professional organizations?
7. How would you define the secret to success?
There is no secret to success. Success is individualized and subjective. Be happy, make the world a better place— if you’d like to.
8. What's your favorite thing about your career?
Learning—it never stops. Flexibility—location independent. Growth—unlimited.
9. What's your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
The people are what makes 417-land special, period! But the 10 minute drive anywhere and cost of living for the lifestyle is unprecedented— even compared to Private Islands in the Caribbean, seriously.
10. If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do whatever is it that you want to do, and do it now. Go!
11. What was your “dream job” at age 5?
Don’t recall an exact job... Soccer player?
12. List three traits that define a successful career:
Expertise, critical mass, linchpin.
13. Why are you a 20 Under 30?
I have been building in 417-land since 2006. What we built with 1 Million Cups Springfield created an ecosystem that did not exist. Better said: “What 1MCSGF has done for local entrepreneurship…is what the flux capacitor did to the DeLoreon.”—A.D.Kunkel
14. What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
In country partnership with Saudi Arabia, Cien Solutions is filling a void we did not know existed in the Manufactures Representative and Export business. Global distribution of domestic products can be complicated, long and costly—we are simplifying this process and growing US companies.
15. What completed project are you most proud of?
Having the ability to be there when my family and friends need me. Building a community in Springfield through 1 Million Cups was an honor and privilege.
Fill in the following blanks with five words or less:
People make life worth living.
A day at work wouldn't be complete without Pandora.
Ten years from now, I hope I'm still a happy healthy guy!
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would Tower Club = Panoramic Penthouse.
The best part about being a 20 under 30 is creating and deepening relationships.