The third episode of 100K Ideas' storytelling series showcases three thriving Flint businesses

FLINT, Michigan — Ideas are everywhere. The motivation, inspiration, and access to resources to make those ideas a reality, however, aren’t always present. Many people have dream scenarios of working for themselves, starting their own business, and changing their lives. 100K Ideas is there to help.

The nonprofit was founded in 2017 with the mission to relieve the innovator of the entrepreneurial burden. Over the years, they’ve connected clients with community resources, funding, expert advice, and endless networking opportunities to help entrepreneurs create a strong foundation for their business.

To highlight these successful businesses, 100K created a storytelling series. The third and latest episode features three Flint entrepreneurs — Tony Vu of Flint Social Club, Jennifer Johnson of Elations Health, and Jeron Dotson and Justin Bush of The Poke Bowl. 

Tony Vu - Flint Social Club

Tony Vu is the man behind many projects, bands, and creative endeavors all over. Through his travels, he found one common theme: the profound power of food’s ability to transcend culture, language, and other barriers. Many of Vu’s ‘life-changing situations’ occurred around a dining table. After starting a successful food truck on a whim, and a restaurant, MaMang, inside Flint Farmers Market, Vu expanded his entrepreneurial portfolio yet again. 

His latest venture, Flint Social Club, a grassroots organization that provides programming events to support local creatives and entrepreneurs, began as a pop-up series. Flint Social Club hosts pop-ups with local makers and chefs, which requires less of a commitment, says Vu. 

“We try to provide the platforms of support, and even if we can’t do it, we’re always connecting because there are so many other amazing programs and organizations here that help people as well,” he said.

The Flint Social Club also hosts First Fridays Night Market, a series of events that brings local artists, chefs, DJs, and musicians to foster a sense of creativity and community. “We have our ear to the ground, we kind of shapeshift each season according to the needs of the community,” he said.

“We are very much food-focused, but we also see this huge gap and need in the community to provide more services and support to the black and brown communities and women as well, so we really try to tailor our services to be as inclusive as possible.”

Vu said working with 100K Ideas, “a really beautiful hub of innovation and small business in Flint,” has enabled Flint Social Club to grow with the community. “My advice for any start-up entrepreneurs is to just get to know the community,” he said. “I think what people see is the successes a lot, and it can be intimidating, but at the end of the day, just remember that I was in your position at one point and I had no idea what I was doing.

This whole journey has been trial-by-fire, and I’ve gotten this far because of the strength of the relationships in the community.”

Jennifer Johnson - Elations Health Tea

Jennifer Johnson is the creator of Elations Health which features loose leaf teas and other natural products that help promote a healthier lifestyle.
Jennifer Johnson spent years as a pharmacy technician, witnessing people get prescriptions for many health issues that could have been easily fixed by diet changes. “I’ve always been passionate about healthcare and helping people,” she said. “It just didn’t feel like I was in healthcare in the right way.”

After transitioning into the janitorial industry, Johnson wanted to return to the healthcare field, but this time, in her own way. She decided to create her own loose leaf tea company, Elations Health

“Our mission with Elations Health Tea is just to promote healthy lifestyle changes,” she said. Johnson contacted 100K Ideas to get a website for her business up and running. Today, she’s her own website manager for the online store created with help from the 100K team.

While 100K Ideas has provided a wealth of knowledge, Johnson said being an entrepreneur with multiple businesses is still a juggling act. “My advice for anybody trying to be an entrepreneur is to expect it to be hard at first,” she said. “Expect to not make very much money at first. But as you go, just don’t give up. If this is something you really want to do, you have to stick with it for some years, even when it gets tough and hard.”

Elations Tea can be found at Shops on Saginaw, Ojibwa Health Store, and online. 

Jeron Dotson & Justin Bush - The Poke Bowl

Jeron Dotson and Justin Bush, co-owners of The Poke Bowl, never gave up on their goal to open their brick-and-mortar location at 1214 University Ave. in Flint. 
After a trip to Los Angeles, Jeron Dotson and Justin Bush knew they had the recipe for a great business idea, in the form of a poke bowl, a type of Hawaiian cuisine. The Poke Bowl became an LLC in 2017, but the vision of becoming a brick-and-mortar restaurant got a bit fuzzy when the pandemic hit.

Bush said the co-owning duo was forced to pivot. “That’s when we ended up taking a restaurant idea and learning how to package it, and putting it into grocery stores,” Bush said. 

Poke Bowl can be found at Local Grocer and Oliver T’s in Grand Blanc. Despite being a few years later than planned, Poke Bowl is happy to announce a July/August grand opening of their brick-and-mortar location at 1214 University Ave. A feat only made possible by a lot of hard work, perseverance, and networking. 

“When you’re starting, the big thing is, you can’t be afraid to accept help,” he said. “The people who have the best help are the people who have been through what you’re trying to go through. Small businesses – don’t hesitate to reach out to other small businesses. You just can’t be afraid to reach out, before you know it, you’ll be in our spot giving your story.”

 
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

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.