Tenth episode of 100K Ideas' storytelling series showcases three unique local businesses

FLINT, Michigan — Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village of networking, support, and resources to start a business. Fortunately for local Flint entrepreneurs, they have an extra level of support via 100K Ideas, a nonprofit providing dreamers and innovators with resources to make their ideas a successful reality. 

The tenth and latest episode in 100K's client storytelling series features the stories of three Flint entrepreneurs — Sean Murray of Rootless Coffee Co., Grace Brackney of Swim With Callie, and Adeola Osun’lowo of Wombman Unspoken.

Rootless Coffee Co.

Sean Murray always dreamed of opening up a brewpub, but when he stopped drinking, that idea shifted to becoming a coffee brewer. Rootless Coffee Co. started in 2020, at the same time when many coffee shops were struggling.

Focusing on the e-commerce side of things, Murray and his business partner, Co-owner Jono Diener, launched a business that could be recession-proof and pandemic-proof. Since then, it’s seen major growth — partly due to the way the business does things differently, and their focus on art. 

“It’s all about the art, working with artists and promoting different, weird, crazy things that we do,” Murray says. “Having that focus in mind, it really resonated with people, specifically when, at the time, coffee was boring. Craft coffee was a plain bag, a region, the elevation, the tasting notes. People didn’t know what that meant, and it was very pretentious.”
A bag of fresh coffee beans from Rootless Coffee Co.
Murray set out to give people craft coffee who would otherwise be confused or put off by walking into a pretentious coffee shop. Instead, they made their products fun and accessible, and customers were quickly drawn to their unique blend of quirk, art, and honesty behind the Rootless brand. That helped the company grow to include wholesale options, and being sold in grocery stores just a few months after their launch. 

Initially, Murray was unaware that 100K Ideas had offices and services for businesses past the start-up stage. Today, the three-year-old business is able to continually elevate, thanks to additional resources from 100K Ideas. 

“Having that support system at any age of a business is awesome because problems pop up. You don’t know exactly how to handle it, and the smartest thing I've learned to do is to ask for help,” he says. 

One of those ‘big moments’ for Rootless Coffee Co. was landing a deal with Meijer stores across the state. The news of the partnership brought Murray to tears. The entrepreneur is happy to be a part of Flint’s unique and cool community and enjoys a challenge. He looks forward to seeing the growth and development the area can have in the next 20-25 years. 

Murray encourages other entrepreneurs to believe in their ideas, products, and services even though it can be difficult. 

“It’s going to be hard,” he says. “Expect it to be hard, but if you believe in your idea, if you believe in the thing, your product, your service, whatever that thing is you want to get out to other people — if you believe in it enough to say ‘I’m going to risk everything to do it,’ you can do it.”

Swim With Callie LLC

Grace Brackney is a lifeguard and founder of Swim With Callie as well as the author and illustrator of the waterproof book “Callie the Cat Learns to Swim: And So Can You!”
When lifeguard Grace Brackney was teaching her nieces and nephews to swim, holding their attention for more than five minutes was a difficult task. She quickly realized that reading a book could hold their attention for an hour. What a powerful and effective tool.

From here, she got the idea of using a colorful, waterproof picture book as a means to teach young children how to swim. From there, Swim with Callie was born. Brackney wrote and illustrated “Callie the Cat Learns to Swim: And So Can You!,” an instructional book with her friend, Kaity. 

“It’s been this fun process of learning, experimenting, trying, and retrying,” says Brackney. “Having people in your corner to work on the project with is so helpful. If you’re working on something, find someone to work on it with you, to be able to bounce ideas off of.”

Brackney says the $2,500 award from the 100K Ideas pitch competition allowed Callie Swims to purchase waterproof paper, fund the first print, get an ISBN number, and a website domain. Additional collaboration has come from the 100K Ideas network, too. 

“This opportunity led to another opportunity, and doors keep opening up, and it just keeps happening,” she says. 

Brackney encourages other dreamers to be persistent in sharing their stories. “If you are finding yourself with an idea, feeling stuck or asking if it’s good enough, stop asking those questions and just tell somebody about it,” she says. “Starting the conversation is the first step. You never know who you’re going to talk to and the ways that they might be able to help you get started. It's worth sharing, it’s worth researching.”

Wombman Unspoken

Adeola Osun’lowo is the founder of Wombman Unspoken which provides yoni steams and healing herbal blends that help with menstrual regulation and fertility.
Initially starting as a blog, Wombman Unspoken was a safe space for Adeola Osun’lowo to share personal things. In 2023, she stepped back from writing and shifted her business to help women in their first stages of conception. Today, the holistic fertility doula focuses on yoni steams and provides healing herbal blends that can help regulate menstrual cycles and help with fertility. 

“It’s been a very fulfilling experience thus far, it brings me so much joy, sometimes more than my career. I think that’s to be expected when you’re doing purpose work,” Osun’lowo says. 

Wombman Unspoken won $1,000 in the 100K Ideas pitch competition in 2023 and Osun’lowo is grateful for their support. 

“I am just so grateful for 100K Ideas because I am a solopreneur. A lot of times, I am the PR person, the negotiator, the liaison, the graphic designer, I am all of these people,” she says. “When you have a vision about something, and there’s an organization that wants to help you bring your vision into reality, that has been so humbling for me. It also has been helping me to recognize where I try to take on too many things.”

The entrepreneur is dedicated to being socially responsible with her business, being sensitive culturally, and garnering trust and earning respect within the community. 

“I appreciate Flint,” she says. “Flint has shown me so much love. I couldn’t have asked for any better environment to be able to flourish in as an entrepreneur.” 

Wombman Unspoken's yoni soaps, steams, and detox bath bombs are available at Shops on Saginaw. In the future, the business will fully roll out an online store and host more local workshops to educate and increase awareness of womb wellness. 
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.