Flint's food entrepreneur community comes together for the Flintrepreneur Symposium

FLINT, Michigan — On Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 100K Ideas in downtown Flint, the Flint Social Club hosted a unique event called the 'Flintrepreneur Symposium' to highlight the hard knocks of starting a food business in Flint. Sponsored by Flint Social Club, 100K Ideas, Flint & Genesee Food Policy Council, Block, and Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems, the event brought out a broad audience of Flint creatives, business owners, and community members.

Organized by Flint Social Club, the symposium offered an evening of networking, food, conversation, and a panel discussion. The focal point of the symposium was for the audience to hear from a panel of local business owners who have been through the grind and are in various stages of business growth.

The panel included local food entrepreneurs Mama Sōl of The Sōl Section, Jaszmane Sisco of Little Suga’s Bakery, and Tony Vu of MaMang and Flint Social Club. The trio illuminated numerous hard knocks they’ve experienced in Flint.

Scheduled to open in 2024 inside Totem Books, Mama Sōl’s The Sōl Section is a relatively new venture for the Flint icon. The spoken word and Hip-Hop artist talked about her long and arduous efforts to provide Flintstones with good vegan food at the symposium, including her partnership with Very Vegan and Healthy Side Juice Bar to host “A Month of Sundays” events last month. Mama Sōl mentioned her challenges, including failed promises, and how she’s taken some lessons from her music and personal journey and applied them to The Sōl Section.

Jaszmane Sisco shared her experience creating Little Suga’s Bakery during the pandemic. She discussed her journey which began with her graduation in Healthcare Administration and her rediscovery of her passion for baking. Sisco also talked about her workshop series “Little Chefs” where parents and children can learn how to bake. However, her journey has not been easy as she faced challenges, including not having a physical store, funding issues for Little Suga’s, and the need to pivot in various ways. 

Tony Vu shared his journey of creating MaMang’s in Flint Farmers' Market before transitioning into his passion for bringing awareness and supporting other Flint food entrepreneurs through Flint Social Club. Vu remarked that he’s had to stop cooking as frequently to bring his visions to life. He also offered sobering words about dealing with gatekeeping, lack of support, and the importance of community involvement. 

The symposium concluded with a Q&A discussion with the audience. Many asked questions about starting a business, different ways to grow and expand, and how Flint businesses can unite to break the gatekeeping cycle and revitalize the city.
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Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.