“The idea behind the space is to provide resources that are needed by early-stage businesses as they work to scale but likely do not have the funding to invest,” said Cooke-Brown. “These resources include computers, media and photo equipment, a packaging station, meeting space, and more.”
She said the plan is to have professional service providers such as lenders, attorneys and accountants maintain a regular schedule at The Center, not full time but on regular schedules participants can count on.
Partners in The Center operations include Huntington Bank; Chase Bank; Flint SOUP, a startup supporter in Flint; Metro Community Development of Flint; the regional Small Business Development Center based at Kettering University; the city of Flint Office of Economic Development; and Best Practices Consulting Services LLC of Flint.
Cooke-Brown said she also has about 40 volunteers with a wide range of expertise supporting clients and their projects.
Shops on Saginaw redux
The second iteration of 100K Ideas also meant the revival of the Shops on Saginaw, a space on the ground floor of the Dryden for budding entrepreneurs to show and sell their wares with a minimum of rent despite the location in the heart of downtown, with large, floor-to-ceiling windows allowing passersby to see what is on offer inside.
The shops also had their grand reopening July 18.
Cooke-Brown said tenants will pay no rent or up-front fees but will pay a commission of 15 percent on sales. She said she had 16 tenants for the opening with room for a few more.
One tenant is Jason Bey, whose Flint-based My Best Nest LLC makes and sells honey.
Others include Clothed Boutique, Good Boy, Rootless Coffee, Kitty’s Kloset, the Lynette Rose Boutique and Elations Health.
The Shops on Saginaw launched in 2018 when 100K Ideas started up next door. They were shut down last year when Hagerman began trying to sell the building.
The Dryden opened in 2015 after a $6.8 million remodeling by Hagerman.
Last year, Hagerman sold the Ferris Wheel to Dave Forystek, the CEO of Premier Security Solutions, a fast-growing security firm that had outgrown its third-floor headquarters in the Dryden Building. Forystek’s firm was itself a graduate of 100K Ideas.
The Ferris Wheel building opened in 2017 after a $7.5 million buildout. For the previous 30 years, its only tenants had been pigeons. Built in 1930, the art-deco building previously had housed Gainey Furniture and Ferris Brothers Furs.
As Premier Security continued to grow and expand into more space in the 50,000-square-foot building, Hagerman decided it made sense to move 100K into the Dryden. And to allow Cooke-Brown to reopen the Shops on Saginaw.
Another addition to the new 100K Ideas is a space in the lobby of the Dryden Building for a series of pop-up restaurants, where budding food entrepreneurs can show their skills and build up a following.
That project will be overseen by Tony Vu, a serial food entrepreneur and the son of Vietnamese immigrants who grew up in Flint.
“It’s very exciting for us, having partners like Tony come in,” said Cooke-Brown. “And it will be nice having good lunches available in the building.”
In 2016 he opened MaMang, a Vietnamese food stall in the Flint Farmers’ Market, and founded the Social Club, what he describes as a support system for women and people of color to carve out niches in a sector dominated by white business owners in a city with a large Black population.
In 2018, he and Soon Hagerty, also a Vietnamese refugee, launched the popular Good Bowl Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Traverse City.
Last September, Vu bought Tom Z’s Coney Island restaurant on West Court Street in downtown Flint, a once iconic city legend, from Athanas (Tom) Zelevarovski, who had run the Coney Island for 25 years before retiring three years earlier.
Zelevarovski was the third in a line of family members from Macedonia who made three Coney Island restaurants into community mainstays. Generations of fans swore allegiance to the Flint Coney and professed it better than Detroit Coneys.
Instead of the chili topping on Detroit Coneys, Flint Coneys had a meatier sauce made with ground beef heart.
Vu declined to disclose the purchase price but said he has lined up funding for the remodeling the Coney needs and hopes to have it reopened as a Coney this winter.
He said he got a loan of $200,000 from Metro Community Development in Flint and a grant of $50,000 from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint for the construction work.
Vu said he is in the permitting process with the city and Flint-based Siwek Construction will do the remodeling when permits are in place.
100K Ideas grew out of a visit to Marquette in 2015 by Gov. Rick Snyder. He toured an entrepreneurial support center at Northern Michigan called Invent@NMU and later told Hagerman about it.
Hagerman recruited Dave Ollila, the founder of Invent@NMU, to come to Flint and start a similar effort in the new Ferris Wheel Building.
It had a small paid staff and relied on volunteer support, including from business students at Mott Community College and the University of Michigan-Flint and engineering students at Kettering University.
After getting 100K launched and well established, Ollila returned to Marquette to pursue other entrepreneurial efforts.