100K Ideas' client storytelling series puts the spotlight on three Flint entrepreneurs

FLINT, Michigan — Oftentimes, access to capital is the biggest barrier standing between a good idea and a great, successful business. Founded in 2017, 100K Ideas was created to help innovators and entrepreneurs feel relief from that financial burden and enable them to follow their dreams. Their work has provided the launchpad for many new local business startups and has provided resources, funding, advice, and networking opportunities.

The recently-released seventh episode in the series highlights three Flint entrepreneurs who brought their ideas to life with resources and support from 100K Ideas — Sheena Harrison of Drinks of Essence & Fruits of Elegance, Lance McLean of Mi Coffee, and Jason Bey of My Bees Nest LLC

Sheena Harrison - Drinks of Essence & Fruits of Elegance

After a long career in social work, Sheena Harrison looked to mix things up a bit. She always enjoyed making mixed drinks so she looked into a fun new business venture within the bartending industry. After working as a bartender for private events and weddings, Harrison started her own traveling bar, Drinks of Essence, in 2015. 

Today, her business portfolio also includes The Drinks of Essence Bartending School which launched in 2019. The Buckham Alley location provides ServSafe Alcohol certification and hands-on training in a bar-like setting. She also teaches mixology classes for private events like team-building corporate outings, bachelorette parties, and birthdays.

“We are the only bartending school in Mid-Michigan,” says Harrison. “There’s only one more and it’s in Detroit.”

Her latest business venture is the addition of a food truck, Fruits of Elegance, offering smoothies, slushes, Italian ice, fresh fruit kabobs, and other fresh goodies on the go. It was with this business that she became aware of 100K Ideas. 

Through their work together, Harrison has been able to finetune her business ideas, get access to important data, and define her target market. Although drinks are her specialty, the world of food trucks was something entirely foreign to the entrepreneur.

Harrison competed in the 100K Ideas pitch competition and won $2,500 which helped the food truck purchase some of their big ticket items.

Sheena Harrison teaches the art of mixology as the owner of Drinks of Essence Bartending School (Photo credit: Bryce Mata)“It was the best thing I could have done because now I am very informative and am very educated on my business and I know what to expect,” she says. “Just to have that little help and support from my community is always a great thing.”

The self-proclaimed ‘boatload of fun’ hopes to bring her personable staff and the best drinks to different venues around town, but also to act as a pillar within the Flint community. 

Harrison enjoys the energy of being a small business owner downtown and hopes to provide residents with more activities to enjoy, apart from the bars, restaurants, and clubs nearby. She encourages fellow entrepreneurs to persevere and see ideas to fruition.

“It’s going to get hard, but you just have to have faith in yourself, pray, have a great support system, and let people know what you need,” she says. “Our community is amazing with helping you out and getting you to the right programs or connecting you with the right people to help you where you have to go.”

Lance McLean - Mi Coffee

Davison native Lance McLean is the owner of Mi Coffee. Lance McLean, a Davison native, studied Business Administration, Small Business Management, and Entrepreneurship at Ferris State University. After friend and colleague Dave Forystek bought the Ferris Wheel building, he called McLean to discuss bringing in another local coffee shop after Foster Coffee Co. left the space.

Although unfamiliar with the world of coffee, McLean, a former insurance professional, was up for the challenge. Today, Mi Coffee uses local Goodrich beans to serve up fresh brew coffee, lattes, cold brews, cappuccinos, espressos, teas, frozen drinks, grab-and-go sandwiches, baked goods, and more.

“100K really helped me get started,” says McLean. “Right when we decided we were getting the business started, they introduced me to a lot of people, and some great resources.”

MiCoffee received a third-place award during a 100K Ideas pitch competition, and the resources and connections from that have proved invaluable. With the help of 100K Ideas, McLean has learned more about accounting, finance, marketing, budgeting, and more. 

“They’ve introduced me to a lot of small business owners, that’s probably the biggest thing they’ve helped me with, too, is getting those outside resources,” McLean says. “For someone like me who’s never done something like this, getting involved with them and reaching out to other people they know has been really helpful for me.”

McLean hopes to expand MiCoffee into other locations in the Genesee County area in the near future.

Jason Bey - My Bees Nest LLC

Flint native Jason Bey is the owner of My Bees Nest LLC. After Jason Bey was injured on the job and unable to work, he looked at sustainable ways of living to supplement his income and keep him healthy. While exploring videos on YouTube during this time, he became fascinated with bees — a similar interest he had when he was younger.

Flint SOUP staff connected Bey with 100K Ideas and he started compiling a business portfolio with market research, competition, costs, profit gain and loss, and more. He won third place, a $1,000 prize in the pitch competition, and likes to compare 100K’s cycle of development to the likes of the necessity of pollinating bees within the ecosystem.

Bey's company, My Bees Nest LLC, offers pure wild honey, cinnamon honey, turmeric honey, honey spreads, beeswax candles, soaps, balms, and more. Calling himself ‘Flint’s beekeeper,’ Bey also removes bees and swarms from nearby residences and properties.

“I do enjoy doing honey bee removals,” he says. “I not only help out the person who has the problem with the bees but I also help out the environment by bringing the bees to a safe environment where they can grow.”

Bey encourages other people with ideas, even if they’re skeptical or not as confident as they’d like to be, to not be afraid. 

“For those that are having the idea of venturing out into the small business world, do it. By all means, do it,” he says. 
Check out the full storytelling segment below.

This story is part of a storytelling series supported by 100K Ideas. To learn more, visit: 100kideas.org
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.