The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization representing more than 1,200 businesses and affiliates. We also work with hundreds more each year through our Economic Development arm. That’s a lot of business. It’s also a lot of people. In recognition of the entrepreneurs and business owners driving our economy forward, we present FACES, a monthly Q&A series featuring our members and clients. If you’ve ever wondered who it is you’re doing business with – or could be doing business with – in Flint and Genesee, here’s your chance to find out.
When Ray Porter went into partnership with his father in 1979, he already had more than 15 years of orchard-related experience under his belt – an impressive feat for someone who was just 22 at the time.
“I remember being about five years old and sweeping the floor,” says Porter, the third-generation owner of Porter’s Orchard in Atlas Township. “I got paid a nickel.”
By 16, Porter was operating the cider press. And even though his title is business owner today, he still considers himself an apple farmer at his core.
Tracy Aubuchon was a single mom when she decided to open her own skin spa.
“It was scary – really scary,” says Aubuchon, an esthetician who had been working at a local dermatologist at the time. She was dating the man who would later become her husband and they “couldn’t live on one salary alone. It was a joint-risk for us.”
Steve Wolbert’s favorite gift of all time just might be one that he received for Christmas last year: a plaid “Made in Flint” vest from Stormy Kromer – the well-known clothing manufacturer based in Ironwood, Michigan.
“Receiving that vest was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” recounts Wolbert, a Flint native who graduated from Powers Catholic High School and Michigan State University.
On the night of Poco Loco’s grand opening in Burton, the pop machine broke. Then they ran out of ice.
“Everything that could go wrong, did,” recalls the restaurant’s owner, Luz Martinez.
It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but Martinez is glad he persisted. The builder-turned-restauranteur says that things have been looking up since that day. He finds the Burton clientele to be exceptionally loyal.
It started with an idea and a $10,000 credit card. When Kevin Begola quit his job in the insurance industry a few years ago, he dove head-first into the world of men’s wedding rings.
It stemmed from his own experience: when Begola got married, he noticed that the focus was on the bride and her wedding day, but there weren’t a lot of options for men to express their personalities. So he connected with a few ring manufacturers and launched Titanium Buzz, a website offering a unique selection of camouflage and sports-themed bands.