100K Ideas presents storytelling series that highlights innovative Flint businesses

FLINT, Michigan — For many entrepreneurs just starting out, the pursuit of bringing an idea to life can be an exciting but also daunting experience as factors like finding resources and support can become hindrances in the process. The nonprofit organization 100K Ideas was formed to help streamline that process so that more local innovators can reach the goal of bringing their business ideas to fruition.

Located inside The Ferris Wheel building in downtown Flint, 100K has worked hands-on with local start-up companies and individual entrepreneurs since its opening in 2017. The team's main agenda has been to work one-on-one with each entrepreneur or business to come up with a realistic plan that creates value and growth.

Inspired by the success of past clients, 100K created an exclusive storytelling series to highlight several past clients and how they were able to establish a strong foundation in their businesses. 

The first episode of the series features three innovative Flint businesses — Elle Jae Essentials, The Golden Balance, and John L. Logistics — who each worked with 100K Ideas to assist in a plan to sustain and scale. In the video, the business owners sit down to talk about humble beginnings, community support, the entrepreneurial journey, and their experience working with 100K Ideas. 

Elle Jae Essentials

In 2017, when she was she was experiencing burnout at her job, Flint native La'Asia Johnson decided to take a leap into the small business world with her all-natural skin, hair, and body care line, Elle Jae Essentials. Offering 50 different products, including body wash, whipped body butter, hair butter, and hand sanitizer, she soon saw a boom in business which went from making products in her home to opening a kiosk at Great Lakes Crossing mall to opening a brick-and-mortar store on Flushing Rd. on Flint's Northside.

With the help of word-of-mouth marketing and savvy social media promotion, Johnson was able to build a supportive customer base and also secure financial backing such as the $10,000 grant she recently won from Shop 313

Embodying a true entrepreneurial spirit, she first sought out resources in her own backyard to help with funding for the small business. In Feb. 2020, Johnson won $5,000 as runner-up at a pitch event hosted by 100K Ideas. She then worked with the organization as a mentor to inspire and assist other entrepreneurs in their pursuit of success. 

The Golden Balance

Flint native Ahmad Alzahabi, creator of The Golden Balance, has found success online as his TikTok videos amassed over 4.9M followers.

Ahmad Alzahabi is the creator of The Golden Balance, an online space that features special recipes and cooking tips from Alzahabi himself. Traveling between Michigan and Miami, Florida, the Flint native always had a passion for the culinary arts and wanted to start a restaurant attributing its flair to traditional Middle Eastern-Arabic hospitality.

The Golden Balance is unique because Alzahabi presents food in a fun way with simple ingredients, given that Flint is categorized as a food desert. According to him, he’s “just a dude that cooks,” and it’s that mantra that gives him and his brand an authentic connection to his audience.

The drive for hospitality and to create his restaurant led Alzahabi to utilize the vast network of social media to expand his reach of over 1 million followers on Instagram. As a business student, he relied on his love for cooking as well as the knowledge he earned from 100K Ideas to hone his presentation skills. During his time spent with 100K, he gained insight in establishing a brand, business owner and customer relations, and how to add value to everything he creates.

The John L Group, Inc.

Antonio Brown (left), Jermaine Brown (middle), and Luther Brown (right) established their family business, The John L. Group, Inc., in 2019.

Jermaine, Antonio, and Luther Brown are the Chief Sales Officer, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Operating Officer of The John L Group, Inc., respectively. Named in honor of their late grandfather, John L. Smedley, the company was created in 2019 and is now HUBZone Certified and a National Minority Supplier Development Council Member. The company helps businesses, whether commercial or governmental, coordinate with drivers and carriers to transport client shipments from one place to another. In addition to transporting, the company also expanded to include financial and construction services.

The idea for The John L. Group began on a Sunday morning to acquire trucks and start a family business. It led the three brothers down a path to research the process of freight, shipping, and other valuable logistics. They spent their initial six months in 2019 networking and collaborating with the “who’s who” in Flint.

Later on, the Group participated in 100K's 'Next Step Service Bundle' pilot program which allowed the brothers to get significant help with marketing, SEO utilization and growing their business for sustainable success. 
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 Tia Scott.