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Second To None

Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Jeff Hall

What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
In our formative years I attended an Entrepreneurial conference sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. Immersing myself in the presence of regional entrepreneurs who'd been very successful helped confirm my desire to start a company. After being recognized as a Michigan Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003, I've had the opportunity to attend the local and national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur gatherings as well as Inc. Magazine entrepreneurship conferences. I occasionally attend Robert Pasick's local CEO's Connect breakfast gatherings and presentations at Zingerman's Roadhouse.

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
Mainstreet Ventures, based here in Ann Arbor. I founded our company as a student at U-M and working the summer months as a waiter at the Gandy Dancer. Approaching a local restaurant operator with multiple properties seemed to be a natural starting point. Mike Gibbons at
Mainstreet Ventures had faith in my business concept and because of his early support, we've chosen to keep the company Ann Arbor-based.

Where did you find your first employee?
Started with a part-time student intern from EMU, who was then hired as our first employee.

Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
Starting with our first employee, we have done this a handful of times over the past 21 years.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We've borrowed very little over the course of our growth, preferring to be self-funded and guided by the needs of our clients versus outside investors. We have enjoyed working with Ann Arbor Commerce Bank (recently renamed Michigan Commerce) for the past two decades. Original seed capital (a very modest amount) came in the form of a financial inheritance from my grandparents.

It's often said that Metro Detroit and Michigan need to reinvent their economies to be competitive. Are we making those changes, and if so are we making enough of them or doing it fast enough?
I have experienced firsthand how Ann Arbor is a vibrant, creative and supportive region for starting and growing a company -- and having travelled extensively throughout the country, am proud to call Ann Arbor home to Second To None. It is encouraging to see U-M and others consciously focusing on all sorts of new economy startups and spinoffs coming out of the university. This contributes in such a meaningful way to both students and area residents thinking in terms of entrepreneurship and having the courage to start a new venture.

If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
I would encourage our state lawmakers to rethink and simplify our current business tax structure. It is a significant detractor to encouraging growth and to businesses who might otherwise consider locating here.

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