Flint, MI—Flint has received a two-year, $1 million dollar grant as part of a U.S. Small Business Association pilot program aimed at supporting small businesses in underserved communities.

“The City of Flint is home to a variety of entrepreneurs that have chosen to grow their businesses in this amazing city,” said Mayor Sheldon Neeley in a press release. “This grant will allow us to continue the much needed work in the area of economic development.”

The SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program awarded a total of 51 grantees across the United States. Flint was selected as one of 32 grantees with a service area of under 500,000 people.

The program works by channeling funds to targeted small businesses through a “hub and spoke network,” according to the program’s website.

In that network, “nonprofits, state and local governments, universities, and tribal entities” serve as “hubs” for SBA funding, and those hubs pass money on to “spokes”, which they describe as “trusted, culturally knowledgeable local groups and individuals”—that can provide assistance to small businesses during economic recovery.

In Flint’s case, the city’s “spokes” are 100k Ideas; Best Practices Consulting, LLC; Factory Two; Flint Development Center; Friends of Berston Field House; Latinx Technology and Community Center; the University of Michigan-Flint; and XLerateHealth.

“We already have an existing entrepreneurial ecosystem that (Social Impact Philanthropy Investment) helps run,” said Samantha Fountain, small business specialist for the city’s economic development department. “So we pulled a lot of our partners from that ecosystem, but we had a pretty open invitation.”

Fountain said the program is expected to be implemented by Dec. 1, so the city, its partner-spokes, and SIPI have already started to plan.

“We are just very excited to have this opportunity and to roll it out,” said Fountain. “We think our application was unique because we included community centers, and we’re really hoping to utilize those different avenues to meet entrepreneurs where they are instead of expecting them to come to us.”

A city of Flint press release detailed each partner organization’s plan for utilizing Community Navigator grant funding, reprinted below.

  • 100k Ideas: to provide direct services to entrepreneurs referred through the community navigator program. This will include idea assessments, prototyping, brand and website development, and CAD design. 
  • Best Practices Consulting, LLC: to provide direct services to entrepreneurs referred through the community navigator program. This will include enrolling disadvantaged entrepreneurs in workshops and cohort-based training programs.
  • Factory Two: to provide direct services to entrepreneurs referred through the community navigator program. This will include 200 free checkout classes to program participants, as well as 36 full business memberships to participants who will benefit from more steady use of the makerspace. Factory Two will also assist with creation of promotional signs, banners and decals to generate publicity for the program. 
  • Flint Development Center: for outreach and community engagement to reach disadvantaged entrepreneurs in the community.
  • Friends of Berston Field House: for outreach and community engagement to reach disadvantaged entrepreneurs in the community.
  • Latinx Technology and Community Center: for outreach and community engagement to reach disadvantaged entrepreneurs in the community and to provide direct services to small businesses and entrepreneurs, with an emphasis on immigrants and people who speak English as a second language. LTCC will also provide translation services for the program. 
  • The University of Michigan-Flint: to provide direct services to entrepreneurs referred through the community navigator program. This will include technical assistance, coaching, and business plan assistance, among other services. 
  • XLerateHealth: to provide direct services to entrepreneurs referred through the community navigator program. This will include providing four sessions of a pre-accelerator program during the grant term, serving at least 32 small businesses or entrepreneurs.

Kate Stockrahm

Kate is Flint Beat's business and nonprofit reporter. She joins the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered...

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