Brandee Cooke of 100K Ideas discusses community building in Flint at TEDxDetroit 2021

FLINT, Michigan — Executive Director of 100K Ideas Brandee Cooke was among the 30 speakers featured at TEDxDetroit 2021 which took place on November 10, 2021. The annual day-long conference was presented by UWM and held at The Icon Detroit located along Detroit's Riverfront.

The Lansing native took to the stage at the expansive venue where she explained to the TEDxDetroit audience how 100K Ideas came to be and their “Think. Make. Market” model that guides entrepreneurs through the process of bringing their ideas to life. She also touched on the early days of 100K when the organization was growing and trying to find its footing in downtown Flint. 

“We were a startup just like the people we were helping," Cooke said, "so we were building a plane and flying it at the same time and not taking a second to really stop and say, “Are we hitting the mission we’re hoping to hit?” Are we helping the people we’re hoping to help?”

Cooke also shared a vulnerable moment with the audience when she reflected on the time she felt "called out" at a speaking engagement for not building a presence in Flint neighborhoods.

"That is what we were not doing, we weren't in neighborhoods," she explained. We didn't go to Flint residents because we were like, 'hey, we're opening our doors, people are gonna come see us. We have all of this momentum,' and we left some people behind. So what do we do now?"
 
Cooke went on to explain how she and the team at 100K took a step back to rethink the organization's outreach in the community. What came of it was a slew of community-focused initiatives, including monthly workshops, quarterly community engagements, and the Office Hours initiative which placed 100K Ideas staff members in several community locations on Flint's North and East sides in an effort to support neighborhood organizations.

The new strategy also birthed 100K's Pitch for $K competition which gives local entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their business ideas for a chance to win thousands of dollars in prize money as well as mentorship from business leaders.

Before wrapping up her talk, Cooke touched on the importance of feedback and how it can aid in an organization's growth and structure. 

"The main thing that I want people to take away is no matter how you come in, how much fanfare you get, how far you are, that feedback you're getting is essential and it's necessary to help keep you on track for what you need to know in moving forward. It did wonders for us and made our imprint even stronger in the community which we are incredibly proud of."

To find out more about 100K Ideas, visit the website: 100kideas.org

Read more articles by Tia Scott.