Small businesses make big impact in Flint, especially during the holiday season

Small businesses make big impact in Flint, especially during the holiday season

Shopping small has a big impact on local economies, particularly during the critical holiday shopping season. And, thankfully, this year there are more of them.

Together with Metro Community Development, Flint SOUP, the Small Business Development Center of Michigan and others, TheHUB Flint has documented the start-up or expansion efforts of nearly 25 small businesses in this past year alone.

Metro Community Foundation CEO Brian Glowiak has witnessed “tremendous” small business growth in Flint this past year. The organization has provided more than more than $1.6 million in start-up and expansion funds to area business over a 12-month period.

“We’ve witnessed tremendous growth in the small business sector,” says Brian Glowiak, the CEO of Metro Community Development, an organization that provided more than $1.6 million in start-up and expansion funds to 19 area business  over a 12-month period in its fiscal year ending June 2019.

The funding helped create or retain 63 jobs, according to Glowiak.

Metro stands among a growing number of small business advocates who are pushing for more support for small business development, which they say pays big dividends to local communities.

Flint Trading Co. Founder Robert McAdow is constantly incubating new entrants to Flint’s small business community and is a part of an emerging business culture that is increasingly collaborative. Photo by Tim Galloway.

“Sixty seven cents of every dollar spent with a local, independently owned “Small Shop’ stays here,” according to Glowiak, who says that those dollars make a big difference in Flint’s local economy helping fuel local employment, procurement and community development efforts.

“Businesses (in Flint) are moving and growing,” says Janice Mueller, the Small Business Development Center of Michigan regional director for I-69 Trade Corridor Region, which offers free help to small businesses from loans and business workshops to lessons in financial management and strategic planning.

Flint Podcasting Founder used Small Business Development Center of Michigan funds to support the build-out of her new podcasting studio. Photo courtesy of SBDC

There was a 20 percent increase in Flint small businesses that worked with the SBDC compared to 2018.  With that increase came a 36 percent increase in jobs provided by those small businesses and a 328 percent increase in capital.

One of the businesses it helped was the Flint Podcasting Company, which got its startup capital from SBDC. Founder Stacie Scherman used the funding to renovate a 5,000 square foot recording studio.

Earlier this year, Justin Bush and Jeron Dotson opened a Poke Bowl restaurant near Kettering in the University Avenue Corridor with help from the Flint SOUP contest.  Poke is a combination of Japanese (usually sushi) and Hawaiian food served in a bowl with an average price tag of $8.00.

Siblings and co-owners Justin Bush and Jeron Dotson are among Flint’s growing food culture. THey opened the Poke (pronounced Pahkee) Bowl restaurant with overflow crowds and have yet to slow down since. TheHUB Flint file photo

Flint SOUP, which promotes community collaboration and fundraising for start-ups and entrepreneurs.  like 4 Kids Like Mine Founder LaTashia Perry, who used funding from Flint SOUP to open her mobile book business.

The organization has been credited with helping launch hundreds of new Flint-based ventures.

Part of what makes the businesses grow certainly comes from community involvement, and the city’s desire to not only succeed, but be a part of the community.

Glam Boutiques Founder Deria Brown expanded twice in 2019, opening her flagship location at Saginaw and Second Street in downtown Flint, and a pop-up shop in the Dryden Building. Photo by Danen Williams

One example of this paying off is Glam Box, which specializes in clothing, accessories, shoes, vintage home goods, all-natural soaps and body care products. Its owner Deria Brown recently opened a new store in downtown Flint and has two other Glam Box shops in the greater Flint area.

A beneficiary of investors, she had the help of Metro Community Development to move into the former Perry Drugs Building downtown. Metro helps companies secure access to capital as well as provide educational and training opportunities through its BizBox program.

Flint’s Small Business Saturday is one of the longest running small business events in Flint. Created by Ebonie Gipson, the founder of I’m Building Something Consulting, the event draws nearly 1,000 shoppers annually and entrepreneurs like Say It Ain’t Krispy Founder Vantrell Irving (front).  This year’s event will take place on Nov. 30 at Word of Life Church located  at 460 Atherton Road. Photo by Danen Williams 

Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30 will showcase many of those small businesses. Marking its 10th anniversary, the event is a chance for small business owners in Flint to meet with the populace and network.

“This event is so vital to our community, it provides a unique opportunity for us to support local business owners and support the thriving economic development of our city,” says Ebonie Gipson, entrepreneurship Expert and CEO of I’m Building Something Consulting, LLC. “Local entrepreneurs needed a space to activate their businesses on the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We felt it was our responsibility to answer that call.”

This year 1,000 Flint residents are expected to show up to support the 75 local businesses featured and spend an estimated $30,000.

Shoppers also love Vehicle City Social’s  Black Friday event, which takes place at 3166 Comer Road in Flint.

Flint Handmade’s Holiday Craft Market is a must stop for many “Small Shops’ fans. The event features handmade one-of-kind items from skilled craftsman. It takes place on Nov. 30 at Flint’s Masonic Temple. Photo courtesy of Flint Handmade

One must stop for many Flint residents is the  annual Holiday Craft Market, which features more than 40 vendors selling fresh, modern handmade goods. The first 25 shoppers of the day receive a free goodie bag filled with vendor coupons, merchandise and other treats.

The event is the brainchild of founder and small business champion Crystal Pepperdine. This year’s event will take place at Flint’s Masonic Temple located at 755 S. Saginaw Street on Nov. 30.

These and other events provide an important proving ground for fledgling entrepreneurial start-ups like Echo Uniquee Designs, which prints images customers provide on clothing, business signs, car decals, wall decals, glasses, hats and more.  All you have to do is email or text the design you want and it is immortalized on the paraphernalia of your choice.

Founder Echo Wofford started the home-based business after attending workshop describing the transfer process. She was so enthralled, she purchased a heat press, cutting tools, and a special type of printer and started making some shirts for herself.

The personal investment led to orders as high as 300 shirts for a charity basketball game.  While still smaller than many businesses it has made a notable foothold.

Many factors have helped move Flint’s small businesses along.

The power of community spirit.

Midwestern grit.

Benefactors who believe in dreamers and doers.

Risks taken with large personal investments.

There are a lot of roads taken, but the destination is all the same. Small businesses are important to Flint’s growing economy now and will be a powerhouse of its future.

Editor’s Note: New business openings and expansions include, but are not limited to the following:

Blueline Donuts

605 Garland St

(810) 233-8787

Based out of Carriage Town Ministries, this donut shop is heavenly according to fans.


Drinks of Essence

Founder Sheena Harrison has expanded, with the opening of her mobile bartenders school earlier this year.

Echo Uniquee Designs

Founder Echo Wofford launched a t-shirt line in 2019 and hopes to expand soon.


The Eberson

130 E 2nd St

(810) 410-4469

Founders Spencer Ruegaegger and Kristy Bearse opened their popular arcade bar earlier this summer, an area favorite.


Flint Hard City Cider

610 Martin Luther King Ave

(810) 423-5655

Founder Charlie Burton brews up some of the best hard cider in the country and has a growing legion of fans to prove it.


Flint Podcasting Company

(810) 347-4763

Founder Stacie Sherman opened her recording studio with funding from SBDC.


Glam Boutique

620 Saginaw Street

(810) 230-0566

Founder Deria Brown expanded and has opened her newest location at Saginaw and Second Streets in downtown Flint. You can shop her pop-up shop in the Dryden Building and her Miller Road location at 3426 Miller Road.


Gumbo Trap

11011 North Saginaw

(810) 546-4760

Founder Princess Greene cooks up her family’s recipes at this popular mobile food truck.


Jack’s Record Stache

124 W 1st St

(810) 986-1834

As more people rediscover vinyl, Jack’s keeps the era alive for older rocker’s and newcomers alike.


Kids Like Mine


Founder LaTashia Perry has taken her book business on the road with her new mobile book store.


Naan Stop

Founders Nikhi Mulkamala and Jon Hardman are making Indian food fast, fresh and affordable through their mobile food truck.


Poke Bowl

1214 University Ave

(810) 882-9009

Justin Bush and Jeron Dotson opened a popular new restaurant near Kettering that serves a combination of both sushi and Hawaiian cuisine


Reclaimed By Whaley

141 W. Second St.

(810) 624-7924

A second-hand store with a purpose.  If you donate money to Whaley’s Children’s Center, this is where it ends up.  With proceeds going to the children’s home, and provides jobs for kids who grew up in foster care.


Refinery Hair Co.

718 Harrison St

(810) 875-9507

Founders Dan Buccilli and David Custer not only want to make you look good, but also give you an experience.  As soon as you walk in you encounter attractive images to hopefully make the experience as attractive as the final product.


Superior Outlet

1705 Saginaw St, Flint

(810) 471-8704

No city is without musicians looking for a break.  This is the newest place to go in Flint.  These music producers and engineers (Sam Doan and Akeem Brown) know the history of Flint music and have developed their own skills.  Both of their interests go back to childhood.  They are ready to help the next generation of Flint musicians be all they can.


The Daily Brew

(810) 771-8478

Founder Lev Hunter is taking his mobile coffee delivery service to new levels, via his new mobile delivery service.


Yum Vittles

Founder Ebonie Jones food truck features delivers such flavorful dishes that it consistently has a line-up of loyal fans wherever it travels.






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