Bringing Innovation Home: How One Student is Supporting Local Business in Flint, MI

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Adrian won the GA World Tour back in 2013, getting an exclusive deep dive into GA and the startup world. She has since enrolled in our online HTML, CSS &Web Design Circuit to learn front-end web development and design skills. Now, she’s putting her skills to work as a Senior Consultant for the Flint Area Reinvestment Office, supporting local entrepreneurs and building a startup culture in the blossoming Michigan city.

Follow Adrian on Twitter: @sunnyokina

What brought you to General Assembly?

I fell into (more like immersed) myself into the GA world by being selected as the grand prize winner of GA’s first World Tour back in 2013. I must say…probably the best and most incredible way to be introduced to GA’s culture.

Before your tour, what was your impression of the tech sector?

I honestly didn’t know anything about the tech industry. I half-heartedly believed the stereotype of “techies” as being super nerdy and anti-social. Surprisingly, when I met people on the tour they were neither of those things and they also shared my background of working in politics/majoring in constitutional democracy and international relations.

As the World Tour winner, you did a lot in a short amount of time! What were the biggest challenges and benefits of the tour?

My greatest challenge was being able to keep up. Everything was new and so many languages/concepts that I was unfamiliar with were presented to me. I didn’t even know what a wearable was!

There were too many benefits to count! It gave me an opportunity to look at other cities and programs and see how tech can transform everyday life, more than I ever realize. I saw how you could creatively find solutions to problems and solve them with the means of technology. I met incredible entrepreneurs who encouraged me to pursue my dreams, even if it gets lonely, and told me to never stop dreaming of a better Flint—my city in Michigan. I’m incredibly blessed by GA’s generosity and I can’t wait to share that knowledge with more people in my city.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself over the past year?

That I legitimately love to code. Who would have thought?! I love being able to see my thoughts tangibly appear in code and create what I envision.

Adrian's DASH Meetup

Adrian leads a 40-person DASH meetup, helping other learn to code through General Assembly’s self-paced learning model.

There’s no shortage of people moving from smaller cities to tech hubs like New York and Silicon Valley. Why did you decide to stay in Flint?

I stayed in Flint because I love my city and it’s people more than the dream of being crazy successful in a big city. There is so much work to be done here and so much opportunity. I guess you could say I said “yes” to that call. There are adults and children alike who dream of a better tomorrow, and I feel like I have part of the solution. It would be a tragedy to leave and not be a part of the beautiful narrative and transformation that my city is experiencing. I’m a sucker for happy endings.

At your new job, you can “set the tone” for an innovation ecosystem in Flint. What are you hoping to achieve?

I am a Senior Consultant for the Flint Area Reinvestment Office and we saw the gaps in our startup ecosystem and wanted to be a support to our entrepreneurs and service providers any way we could. We started a Meetup group and so many new faces came out and we discovered there were other people in our community who had that creative and innovative heart like we do!

To put it simply, we are dream-encouragers. We are a sounding board, a coach, a mentor (at times), a resource coordinator, but at the end of the day, I can honestly say we are their friend as well. As for the tone, we are cultivating a community culture based on generosity (time/energy/resources), we encourage that all give before they get and that we celebrate each others successes because we know that without true community, there will not be trust and trust is a big deal. We encourage people to see problems as opportunities, and that Flint is the perfect place to start a business because they have people there that will support them through their failures and successes.

Tell me about your experience in Circuits, our online web development course.

I love it! (Shoutout: My course producers Zoe and John are THE BEST! *throws confetti*) I’m hoping to learn the basic structure and form of HTML5 andCSS and develop our Flint City Startup website! So be on the lookout, friends.

Imagine I’m a startup founder. Why should I move to Flint?

We have a community full of people who have their best interests at heart and genuinely want to see all of our businesses succeed. We also have a market with less competition, lower housing rates, a workforce that is willing and able to learn, we have some of the best colleges in the United States (not to mention one of the top engineering schools in the country – Kettering University), and we are well on our way to being one of the main leaders in innovation and technology again. We have a deep history of birthing the most innovative people and those people have transformed the way we all live today (General Motors).

Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be honest with yourself. Your failures are more important than your successes. Be willing to pivot. Don’t give up. Build amazing teams and learn how to communicate well. Invest in others’ dreams and you have to learn how to follow before you can lead.

 

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Learn More About HTML, CSS, & Web Design Circuit

Nelson Igunma helps to collect Alumni Success Stories from around the world and craft interviews for our blog.