Twenty-nine-year-old Charlie Burt was previously the general manager at Porter’s Orchard in Goodrich, handling all the day-to-day operations and the business side of the company.
The orchard was the only job he’d had, having worked there since he was 17-years-old. He began by picking apples and bagging them for sale. He also helped make cider.
Currently, he’s still got a stake in the small business world — he’s the owner of Flint City Hard Cider. And he’s still making cider — of the hard variety, with apples from Porter’s Orchard.
“Absolutely not,” is Burt’s response when asked if he ever imagined that he’d be where he is today. “The orchard is the only job that I’ve ever had. And I never thought that it would lead to the opportunities it has, in allowing me to follow a passion and have a form of expression through my products.”
Burt’s company specializes in cider that is inspired from all over the world. Think traditional French dry cider or a sweeter apple cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar cider.
His business is a part of a craft brewing culture that pours more than $2 billion into Michigan’s economy annually.
For the last few years, Flint City Hard Cider has been housed at 610 Martin Luther King Ave, close to The Local Grocer and Soggy Bottom Bar. “We are currently a production facility supplying local restaurants and bars. And we are trying to open up the taproom this year where we will have seating for 50 people and also a stage area for music,” Burt says.
Burt is content resting in the feeling that his career is finally coming to fruition and shares that he continues to learn more and more as time goes on. But, he’s also forthcoming in sharing that his journey has been peppered with a number of ups and downs. And, in fact, there have been times when he has found himself ready to call it quits and throw in the towel.
“We have a had a lot of setbacks, just like any other company that is as grassroots as we are,” he says. “Everything from licensing issues to building issues that were uncovered as we began remodeling the building. We have done probably 80 percent of the remodeling ourselves, learning as we go along.”
Stressing that it hasn’t been an easy ride, and that they are still not done and to the point where they would like to be in regards to the taproom, Burt and his staff remain steadfast.
“The main contributor to our persistence has been the community support and the excitement to have this business be a part of Flint and the culture,” he says.
Some strong support in his business expansion has come specifically from Metro Community Development.
“Metro has helped in many ways, going the extra step for this business and my dream since the very beginning,” Burt says. “Being backed by an organization that truly believes in the expansion and development of downtown Flint as much as I do has been very helpful.”
Going above and beyond in helping small businesses expand is routine for Marcus Rankins, a commercial lending manager with Metro Community Development who describes Burt as extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the industry and his business.
“We are fortunate to have the undertaking of assisting entrepreneurs and business owners. Each one of them deserves our very best. And so we approach each opportunity with the goal of finding a way to support them, not create more obstacles,” Rankin says. “There is a plethora of challenges an entrepreneur could potentially face, but our job at Metro is to help them foresee those issues and assist once they are impacted by those issues.”
According to Rankin, many entrepreneurs forget to budget the cost associated with their expansion. This can include the cost for financing, if they choose to use debt in order to expand. And, it can also include an increase in their Cost of Goods or additional delivery costs.
He adds, that generally, Metro can assist individuals looking to expand their business in a variety of ways. They can help with general business planning, implementation, financing, and sustainability.
“Metro (Community Development) has helped in many ways, going the extra step for this business and my dream since the very beginning, Being backed by an organization that truly believes in the expansion and development of downtown Flint as much as I do has been very helpful.” -Charlie Burt, Founder, Flint City Cider
“We have a program called BizBox, which really gives individuals a great introduction to business principles and practices,” Rankin says. “Coupled with BizBox, is our counseling area, which, if an individual isn’t quite credit-worthy, they have the opportunity to work with our credit counselors.”
If Burt, himself, was asked to give a small piece of advice to other business owners looking to expand, it would run along the lines of making sure to give it deep consideration and work on building cash reserves.
“Also, dream big, but start small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and always do your research. Speak with other entrepreneurs, mentors, and business professionals and ask for their advice,” he says.
Support from other local entrepreneurs has been plentiful, whether it is a downtown-based business that is purchasing Flint City Hard Cider, or other businesses in the area. “I think, for the most part, we are all on the same page and just excited to see our businesses grow and be a part of the development,” Burt says.
He expects his company to continue to expand and flourish, with the upcoming taproom serving as an attractive destination for anyone that is in the area and visitors passing through Flint. “I want to continue to supply bars and restaurants around the area, he says. “And, I want to create a cider culture in the area and make people proud to have a product with the city’s name on the label.”
Editor’s Note: Flint Hard City Cider is located at 610 Martin Luther King Avenue in Flint. Learn more by visiting their facebook page or calling 810-423-5655.
Porter’s Orchards is located at 12060 Hegel Road in Goodrich. Learn more at the orchards by visiting their website or calling 810 -636-7156.
Lead photo by Danen Williams