There’s continued momentum behind the ecosystem that is driving growth in Flint and Genesee County. Its downtown is booming, with dozens of developments from the Hilton Garden Inn, Mott Community College’s Culinary Art’s Institute and the newly renovated Perry Building, now home to tenant anchor ELGA Credit Union to The Marketplace, a mixed-use housing and retail development.
With so many projects underway it’s cranes-up time in the city, which seemingly has a construction sign on every corner these days. That’s a good thing, says Dr. Patrick Wayne Sanders, pastor of Flint’s New Jerusalem Full Gospel Baptist Church.
“These projects are representative of only a few initiatives along just a few blocks of the city’s downtown corridor,” says Sanders, who notes that there are countless other development efforts underway and room for “lots, lots more” local development.
With so many larger efforts he says now is the best time to think small, so he is encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to kick their dreams of business ownership into high gear. Sanders also urges area stakeholders to develop new and more innovative ways to incorporate small businesses into funding streams.
“As much as these big project matter, we know that small businesses are a massive source of employment and a powerful engine that drives economic growth,” says Sanders.
The Small Business Administration reports that smaller companies employ 47.5 percent of America’s private workforce. On a state level, Michigan has 870,301 firms with fewer than 500 employees, according the U.S. Small Business Administration’s annual state by-state look at small business in America. The data, looks at the demographics and life cycle of these firms from 2010 to 2013.
According to Hoovers, Flint and Genesee County are home to 32,403 small businesses.
Sanders hopes to see those numbers grow.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS GATEWAY TO PROSPERITY
“When these (small) businesses grow and prosper, the whole community grows and prospers in concert with them,” says Sanders. “Entrepreneurship helps build the middle class, which is needed to lift the economic health of local families, he says.
“Many of our area’s households that faced unemployment preceding the economic recession are still struggling to get up,” says Sanders.
The incomes of Flint and North Flint residents are significantly lower than Michigan and Genesee County residents, according to a 2019 report released by the Ruth Mott Foundation.
For those chronically unemployed or under-employed residents, entrepreneurship provides a pathway for individuals to prosper more quickly and exponentially, says Sanders, a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur.
“When you own your own business you own your own destiny,” says Sanders.
One of his favorite events is ‘Motivational Mondays,’a national call-in he has dedicated to the empowerment and inspiration of entrepreneurs, particularly those of color.
“We devote 15 minutes of our 30-minute session to giving information and the other half to ‘getting inspiration,’” says Sanders.
“People of faith have a real foundation,” he adds. “Faith provides structure and, more importantly, a sense that you are not in it alone. Our Motivational Monday call invites God and fellow believers to join in the journey. And, as important, creates a valuable network of individuals willing to share their first-hand experiences with others.
“Many of us do not trust the process nor the people behind it,” he says. “Rather than rely upon someone or something we are not familiar with, we will go underground, relying only on those people we know.”
Although the pastor believes in the importance of self-accountability, he also understands that some beliefs are grounded in real experiences.
He charges Flint and Genesee County stakeholders to be more purposeful in including under-represented groups at the discussion table and to be respectful of fledgling entrepreneurs and their exposure of intellectual property. Training and mentoring can help young business owners avoid pitfalls, he adds.
Sometimes, he says, the biggest deterrent would-be entrepreneurs must overcome is self-created.
“Discouragement is your enemy,” says Sanders. “When people don’t understand your vision it should not dissuade you. Who told you can’t start a business, get a business loan or lease a building? And, more important, why are you listening?”
Sanders uses a faith-based approach in his 12-chapter book Spiritual Wisdom for Entrepreneurs.
“If you are in business there are going to be failures,” he says. “Failure is a part of an entrepreneur’s DNA.
“Our culture does not teach us to respect or appreciate failure, but failure can teach us like nothing else can. It is failure that allows us to go back and rewrite our business plan, understand our plight in life, how things are going to work, who is for us and who is not,” he says.
Sanders focuses on “R” words throughout his book, from resilience and resourcefulness to requirements.
“You have everything you need to be successful inside you,” he says.
Editor’s Note: Spirtual Wisdom for Entrpreneurs is avaialble on Amazon.