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Founders

Company

Bandals

Rochester Hills, MI 48036

Tom Sesti

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
Our first customer was Shoes N Stuff in Mt. Airy, NC. One of our sales reps in that territory signed them up

Where did you find your first employee?
I was the first formally paid employee. I was hired by the other founders to get the company off the ground. Prior to this I was in charge of the consumer products division for a privately owned in SE Michigan

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We have had to really pursue capital through non-traditional means. Raising capital through private-equity investors was first, then Hennessey Capital for factoring, First Step Fund loan, Bluewater Angels bridge loan. These are the successes. For every success there have been approximately 75 no thank yous.

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?
From our perspective, it is very hard to see those changes being made, and when they are made, we sure could use more. Too much focus is on what we would call the usual suspects of bio-tech, green tech, advanced manufacturing, etc. While these are all very worthwhile, it is also very narrow. For every company with an idea for a business in those categories, I can show you 2-3 companies that have been actually launched and are generating revenue outside of those areas. These new businesses that are on the outside of the hot sectors can and should be as important a part of Metro Detroit and Michigan's revitalization as the favored businesses.

If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
We need to increase the incentives, access to capital and support for new and growing businesses outside of the hot sectors. Businesses like Bandals are creating jobs in Michigan, but there is a large disconnect between the support for a new business like ours and some of the other sectors out there.



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