Entrepreneur Town:Part 1 An Entrepreneurial Hub


co+work-3In this three-part series, My City will explore the viability of the options Greater Flint residents have when it comes to getting started with a business, or even growing an existing one. Looking at the Michigan Small Business Center, the eTEAM, Leadership NOW, and Co+Work, readers will find that everything in Flint is connected – everything supports everything.

The entrepreneurial spirit is a vital asset for any individual who wishes to start a business; but not everyone feels that they possess the “spirit” that will set them apart or move them forward. Luckily, Flint has an excellent attitude about believing in residents working to start and grow their businesses right in the heart of it all.


Co+Work was established through Flint Area Reinvestment Office (FARO) as a collaborative space that helps direct individuals or teams access local resources, host events or workshops, and provides a variety of programming to broaden the community. Having only opened in March of this year, the venture has already attracted entrepreneurs, investors, social media mavens, digital and media gurus, graphic and game designers, and computer programmers and developers.

co+work-1Extending from Flint City Startup and in partnership with many local organizations (including VetBiz Central, Innovation Incubator, Mott Community College, Red Ink Flint, PTAC, Metro Community Development, Manufacturing and Innovation Technology Institute, Michigan Small Business Development Center, Inventor’s Council of Mid-Michigan, Goodwill Industries, Genesee County MSU Extension, Flint Steamworks, Flint Soup, Flint Public Library, Flint Food Works, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, Mott FabLab, City of Flint Economic and Development Corporation, Oak Business Center and Baker College Center for Business), Co+Work is a self-described “entrepreneurial hub” that offers drop-in availability, desk space, wireless Internet and other amenities to help people with any aspect or stage of their endeavor.

Before officially opening in March, a pilot pop-up version of Co+Work was located on the second floor of the Flint Farmers’ Market (before it became Hurley Children’s Center). They found that they had a steady stream of groups using the space, about 30 people a day.

co+work-6Since its opening, graphic designers, restaurant owners, Flint Handmade, and salespeople for a technology company have utilized the space. Essentially, Co+Work is membership-based, and offers all of the amenities found in any office, but at a discounted rate for those who reserve time to work there. Right now, there are 15 members. Although the co-working space is not a new idea by any means, Co+Work is taking it on with its own Flint style.

Flint Area Reinvestment Office (FARO), established in 2009, is focused on being a catalyst for community and economic development that creates value for everyone in the community by bringing federal and state funding to the area that supports the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

co+work-5Co+Work was born from discussions with entrepreneurs and through other local service providers and partners, who recognized a need for such an operation. FARO took the initiative to launch the space, and although it’s still in pilot mode, they’re listening to their members to learn what they want and need in order to be successful. “We’re not evaluating someone’s business; we’re looking to help them in any way we can,” says Aaron Hans, Consultant.

“We’re still figuring out what entrepreneurs and service providers need,” adds Jason Caya, Director. “We all feel a drive and a sense of pride that we are working toward revitalizing the community. That’s at the core of what we’re trying to do, and Co+Work is the vehicle with which we’re doing it.”

“The co-working model has been proven in other cities,” Aaron says. “For me, it was difficult to point to one place in Flint where somebody who had a business or was starting a business could come and ‘plug in’ to what is happening here. If you look at other startups in larger cities, one of the big things that they have is a space similar to this where people can set up shop and have their business grow. We saw Flint as an opportunity; it had all of this activity that maybe didn’t have a home before, but we thought that we could create that place.”

Adrian Montague, Flint Soup and Co+Work Consultant

Adrian Montague, Flint Soup and Co+Work Consultant

Modeling after other co-working spaces in other parts of the country, like New York, Chicago and Boston, there were also many Michigan cities that had similar spaces: Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Traverse City.

“Everyone is very generous with their time, resources and ideas. It’s a really cool dynamic.”
Adrian Montague

Co+Work also hosts workshops, training sessions, and other events that help further the area’s “startup culture” and make it more commonplace. Specific workshops are geared toward finance, legal requirements, marketing and web presence, and are tailored to the needs expressed by the entrepreneurs.

“Everyone who comes to Co+Work shares a similar passion for reinvigorating the city,” says Aaron. “They all see something unique and special here that they want to be a part of and help develop. Some people have called Flint home for a long time; others think they can call it home in the future. Some people are just curious.”

“Co+Work is a place for people to connect and to have a sense of community,” says Jason. “I think being an entrepreneur can be very lonely, so it’s great to be able to share a place with others who are driven to make the city a better place.”

Co+Work is one of the many facets of Flint that demonstrate to people that their dream or idea can become reality, as long as they have the drive to work for it.

Organizations to Help You Get Started

1. Baker College Center for Business
2. City of Flint Economic Development Corp.
3. City of Flint Oak Business Center
4. FabLab Mott Community College
5. Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce
6. Flint Foodworks
7. Flint Public Library
8. Flint Soup
9. Flint Steamworks
10. Genesee County MSU Extension
11. Goodwill Industries (Specialized services)
12. Inventors Council of Mid-Michigan
13. MI-Small Business Development Center
14. Manufacturing & Innovation Technology Institute
15. Metro Community Development
16. Procurement Technical Assistance Center, FGCC
17. Red Ink Flint (Specialized services)
18. Teen CEO Initiative Mott Community College
19. UM-Flint Innovation Incubator
20. Veterans Outreach Resource Center

Graphic provided by Co+Work & Flint City Start Up

Next month … the Michigan Small Business Development Center and the eTeam

Photography by Eric Dutro


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