The Poke Bowl

By combining innovation with mouth-watering dishes, The Poke Bowl brings authentic Hawaiian-inspired cuisine to the city of Flint thanks to the many resources available for small businesses in Michigan.

Michigan small businesses are vital for local communities. Small businesses bring positive aspects to their regions by creating jobs, bringing innovation and creativity to the locals, and contributing to the growing economy. Small businesses are the backbone to communities and part of the reason for the resilience seen through the pandemic. The Poke Bowl, a Hawaiian and Japanese-inspired restaurant is a great example of a business that gives back to the community.

The Poke Bowl owners hail Jeron Dotson and Justin Bush from Flint, Michigan and, when on a trip to Venice Beach, California, they visited a “hole in a wall spot” that served poke. It was there that both Jeron and Justin discovered the concept of a poke bowl restaurant, and left the West Coast to bring the flavorful dish back to their hometown in the Midwest. From there, with the help of Michigan resources like the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and winning various local pitch competitions, they were able to secure a location to build this business and begin The Poke Bowl journey.

By engaging early-on with the SBDC, The Poke Bowl was able to access a range of consultant and support services, from pitch development and financing resources, to building acquisition support and partner referrals. Jeron and Justin explained that SBDC “helped from the business plan and projection sheet all the way to contacting banks and different resources and grants.” This resource was essential for The Poke Bowl to begin, but the surrounding community proved to be its secret ingredient for success.

Jeron and Justin knew from the beginning that, while they could have taken their business idea anywhere, they were destined to bring this Hawaiian-inspired cuisine and business back to their hometown of Flint. Having been born and raised in the city, the brothers recognized that their new business venture could provide a great economic opportunity to support the continued growth and prosperity of their community. “We wanted to bring something that was quick and healthy as an alternative to more fast food,” Jeron and Justin noted. Beginning on Day One, the strength and support of their community proved to have the greatest impact on The Poke Bowl’s ongoing growth. In the years ahead, The Poke Bowl will continue to support its community by engaging with them digitally in addition to in-person events, making sure it can continue serving up delicious dishes to every generation.

Being awarded as an SBDC Best Small Business recipient from Michigan Celebrates Small Business, this moment is significant for the owners, as it reinforces that their efforts are being noticed, they are being recognized for all the hard work that they are doing. Their network is growing, their resources are growing, and they have a support system around them to help. “What we started is only the beginning and this [award] will keep that drive up. The Poke Bowl thanks their community for all their help and support and will continue to grow this business to give back to the public,” said Jeron and Justin.

To learn more about how the MEDC helps Michigan small businesses, please visit