Regina Hatter, owner of Snacky Brown LLC, at a Chicago pop-up event. Hatter's Flint-based business is one of six so far taking part in Shop Flint, a resource for local business owners to sell their goods online. (Courtesy | Regina Brown)

Flint, MI—This week, 100K Ideas and the city of Flint launched an online storefront for Flint’s small businesses.

Brandee Cooke, executive director of 100K Ideas, said the new e-commerce platform grew out of conversations with the city’s Department of Economic Development, as both entities had heard a similar concern from small businesses owners.

“We were talking about the kind of gaps that we’re noticing entrepreneurs need filled,” Cooke said. “And access to online platforms was a barrier that we were noticing because a lot of people just may not know how to set that up, or it’s a financial barrier.”

Flint’s economic development department and 100K Ideas then joined forces to set up the Shop Flint, MI site, which launched Feb. 28.

Currently, the platform has six vendors and is looking to add dozens more.

“It’s open to everyone,” Cooke said, noting that business owners who want to be on Shop Flint do not need to be affiliated with 100K Ideas or Flint’s economic development department. 

“It’s a simplified way to really help businesses begin to launch this arm—this next phase of sales—that they may not have done or had the opportunity to do,” Cooke said. “We want to make this a really strong platform and be representative of the talent we have in the city.”

Discussions around small businesses’ need for e-commerce capability have picked up with increasing regularity over the past few years as shoppers moved online due to COVID-19. 

“Although things have opened back up and we are getting back to a certain level of normal–people that have been working from home? They don’t want to give that up right now, ” said Regina Hatter, owner of Snacky Brown LLC, a baked goods business on Shop Flint.

Hatter started Snacky Brown in early 2020, right before COVID hit. She’s been building slowly since then, and currently sells her cakes, cookies, and other baked treats out of a shared pop-up location at Flint Farmers’ Market—which was also part of her rationale for signing up with Shop Flint.

“(The site) is really like the farmers’ market,” Hatter said. “If someone’s coming to, you know, pick up a flower and then they walk past a table and they see carrot cake. They’re not going to pass up the carrot cake.”

Shop Flint has room for up to 50 vendors, and there is a one-time $50 fee to help maintain the site. Otherwise, the platform is open to any small business located within the city, including those that already have an online sales platform, like Hatter.

“There is some compatibility with the site where the site can act as a storefront but then connect to (a business’s) own platform,” Cooke said.

Businesses interested in joining the Shop Flint platform should reach out to 100K Ideas’ operation assistant, Carter Holmes, for more information and help onboarding.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined 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 issues....