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Java Hope Project focuses on helping chronically unemployed

The Java Hope Project has a hard nut to crack, helping chronically unemployed women become self-sufficient through entrepreneurship.

The Ypsilanti-based non-profit helps women escape poverty through a 3-month training course that takes them from unemployment to running their own coffee stand that could gross as much as $100,000 annually. It sounds like a good idea on paper. Maybe even easy. It's anything but in reality.

"I have to go back and do what the parents didn't teach them to do, like being self-sufficient and believing in themselves," says Brenda Moore, executive director of the Java Hope Project.

The Java Hope Project has been working with women at Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Detroit for the past year. The program has had 63 participants. So far three of them of stuck through it, built up professional skills and used them to land jobs. It's a step in a long process that Moore hopes to get a couple of them running their own coffee cart in the next year.

"We have to make sure they have the wherewithal to manage the cart," Moore says.

The program teaches the women, often single mothers, the need for professionalism in the workplace. It also teaches the basic of running a small business in the hope that entrepreneurship will help them break the cycle of poverty.

The Java Hope Project has recently been approved to become an apprentice program by the U.S. Dept of Labor. Moore is exploring the option of partnering with a large local organization or two to grow its reach later this year.

"I think the program will get better with that umbrella over it," Moore says. "It will strengthen the program."

Source: Brenda Moore, executive director of the Java Hope Project
Writer: Jon Zemke

Social Club Grooming Co.'s "Shop Talks" not your average panel discussions

The Social Club Grooming Company hosts panel discussion that are wholly unique in Detroit. During the Social Club's "Shop Talks," panelists have an intimate conversation with an audience about the future of Detroit -- while sitting in a barber chair and getting their hair cut.

The next Shop Talk is scheduled for Thursday, July 24 from 6-8 p.m. The Social Club will host a Duke and Harvard student-moderated panel discussion on the social-entrepreneurial climate and business innovation happening in Detroit. Panelists include designer Rick Williams, fashion photographer Piper Carter, chief talent officer for the city of Detroit Bryan Barnhill, and Crain’s Detroit Business's director of audience development Eric Cedo. The panelists will receive haircuts while speaking so the shop can collect the trimmed hair and use its nitrogen content to help grow vegetation in Detroit.

The Social Club’s Shop Talk series is designed to provide a monthly opportunity for the Detroit community to hear from a diverse group of community leaders, artists, business leaders, and activists about specific issues. The objective is to help young people develop thoughtful positions on topics being discussed in Detroit, as well as increase their understanding of the positions of others.

“There’s so much positive energy in Detroit right now,” said The Social Club founder Sebastian Jackson. “It’s wonderful to see tomorrow's leaders at Harvard and Duke take notice. The fact that these students are here to experience a firsthand account of what’s going on means we are beginning to change the narrative of Detroit. Thursday’s panel discussion gives these students an opportunity to interact and learn from the individuals influencing the future of Detroit.” 

Other panelists may be added.

The Social Club Grooming Company provides environmentally friendly grooming services to the Detroit community through socially responsible practices. The Social Club prides itself in catering to all who enter, regardless of race or gender. The shop is located at 5272 Anthony Wayne Dr. on the campus of Wayne State University.

For updates, visit the Social Club's Facebook page.

NextEnergy scores $745K grant for clean-tech startups

NextEnergy is receiving several hundred thousand dollars in federal grant money to help it further entrepreneurial outreach and develop clean-tech startups.

The New Center-based nonprofit is splitting a large grant with Clean Energy Trust. The $745,000 grant comes from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It will fund the creation of The Bridge, which will offer a suite of services for early-stage technology companies in Michigan, Illinois and the Midwest region.

"It will be predominately based here at NextEnergy," says Jean Redfield, NextEnergy's president & CEO.

The Bridge will offer incubation services for startups and entrepreneurs specializing in transportation, the grid, and the built environment. The program will offer entrepreneurial training, access to technology partnerships, and demonstration platforms. The idea is to work with local entrepreneurial communities to help accelerate the process of turning more research into viable commercial ventures for the region’s existing manufacturing base.

"There is a significant amount of supplier and OEM activity in these three areas (Michigan, Indiana and Illinois)," Redfield says.

Source: Jean Redfield, president & CEO of NextEnergy
Writer: Jon Zemke

140 Proof expands team in Elevator Building on riverfront

140 Proof is growing its presence in Detroit. The social media advertising startup has grown its Motor City staff to three people after making a couple of hires this year.

"It's been a huge year for us because social media and big data are big parts of our business," says John Manoogian III, founder & CTO of 140 Proof.

The 4-year-old company is based in San Francisco. One of its big claims to fame is serving as one of the early development partners with Twitter. It currently employs 30 people, including a handful in the Elevator Building.

140 Proof was one of the first tenants in the Elevator Building, a century-old warehouse turned loft-style office building overlooking the intersection of the Detroit RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut. It has recently hired two sales professionals for its office here. It also has served as a sponsor of the Detroit City Football Club this year.

"We love being in the Elevator Building," Manoogian says. "We have great neighbors here. It's nice being in a creative space down there on the waterfront by the Detroit River."

Source: John Manoogian III, founder & CTO of 140 Proof
Writer: Jon Zemke

Former Compuware tech unit rebrands as Lochbridge

A former business unit in Compuware has a new name and brand related to its relatively new ownership.

The former Professional Services Division of Compuware is now known as Lochbridge, a stand-alone full tech-service integration firm. Los Angeles-based Marlin Equity Partners purchased the division from Compuware in February, spinning it out as its own company. It was briefly known as CW Professional Services before becoming Lochbridge.

"It [the transition to a stand alone company] has been going quite well," says Bob Kennedy, vice president of strategic services for Lochbridge. "Our customers have taken very positively to it."

Lochbridge serves as a full-service systems integrator in the IT and software sectors. It builds custom tech platforms for large businesses and organizations. Those range from big-data platforms to mobile apps. About 1,000 employees work for the company (mostly former Compuware staffers), with about 200 of them toiling away at the Compuware Building in downtown Detroit.

"We're hiring people every day," Kennedy says. "We have new people coming into the organization every week."

Source: Bob Kennedy, vice president of strategic services for Lochbridge
Writer: Jon Zemke

Big Air Software racks up hackathon wins, prize money

Sam Harrell is becoming a brand name in local hackathons and beyond, recently winning several and taking home enough prize money to supplement a comfortable middle class lifestyle.

The Ann Arbor-based computer programer and founder of Big Air Software works on mostly consulting contract work in the private sector and developing his own apps. He won the New York City Kaltura Video Experience Hackathon earlier this summer, which included a $50,000 purse. He took $20,000 home when he won the Code Michigan hackathon last fall. He also won hackathons hosted by Ann Arbor SPARK and Maker Faire Detroit, which included some nice tech swag.

Hackathons are usually one-day events where software developers, and sometime tech makers in general, collaborate to come up with innovative new technologies in a short, intense time period. Harrell likes them because they help him keep his edge when it comes to staying on top of what’s next in technology.

"I just like to move fast and be agile," Harrell says. "Keeping up with tech trends and staying on top of them is a risky business. Not everyone has the stomach for it."

When a tech startup goes on a competition tear like Harrell has been on lately that usually means some sort of angel investment isn't far behind the prize money. That's not the same situation with solo operators like Harrell because investors tend to gravitate toward teams with products as opposed to individuals with ideas. That means Big Air Software will probably remain a one-man operation until investors or entrepreneurs figure out a workaround. And that’s fine by Harrell. He is already planning on what to do at his next hackathon.

Source: Sam Harrell, founder of Big Air Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

TECAT Performance Systems triples revenue since 2012

There is a lot of new over at TECAT Performance Systems. The Ann Arbor-based startup has some new staff, new markets for its principal product to explore, and a new name.

The 2-year-old firm, which spun out of TECAT Engineering, changed its name to TECAT Performance Systems this summer. It also hired some new staff, including a new marketing person and CEO. The team of less than 10 people has been focused on growing the company’s revenue. It has added to its customer base and has tripled its revenue since 2012.

"This year we have already exceeded last year's revenue," says Don Keating, vice president of business development for TECAT Performance Systems. "We have some exciting things in the pipeline for the rest of the year."

TECAT Performance Systems is commercializing wireless sensor technology that collect environmental, motion and mechanical information and stream it wirelessly to a central control unit. These sensors, designed to be used in confined spaces, monitor and record live torque data from any rotating shaft. The company is now exploring options on using the technology to measure other things in other industries, such as defense.

"The product itself has evolved so it can do multiple functions besides just measure torque," Keating says.

In the meantime, TECAT Performance Systems is continuing to refine its sensor technologies with an eye for mass producing them on a much larger scale. However, such a increase in productivity is still a year or two away.

"We're in the very early stages of those discussions," Keating says.

Source: Don Keating, vice president of business development for TECAT Performance Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

Code ReConnect graduates first class of new IT pros

The first crop of graduates have been harvested from Automation Alley's newest IT development program, Code ReConnect.

Code ReConnect is a training program that helps people transition into careers in the IT and software sectors. The program, held at Oakland Community College's M-TEC building in Auburn Hills, includes courses on computer programming and web and app development. Graduates receive Microsoft Certified Professional certification after 120 hours of classroom instruction and 64 hours of hands-on lab time.

The first class graduated eight people. So far two of them have landed positions and the other six are interviewing for jobs. Automation Alley is working with Kelly Services to provide participants with access to employment opportunities with local tech companies through a six-month paid mentorship program. Among the participating companies are Digerati, CDH and Altair Engineering.

"It allows them to try out an employee before committing to permanent employment," says Alysia Green, director of talent development at Automation Alley.

The costs for the program are paid for by Automation Alley from funds received from a $5 million workforce development grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. Automation Alley is looking at launching its second class for the Code ReConnect program in October. For information on it, contact Automation Alley Talent Development Specialist Karol Friedman at friedmank@automationalley.com.

Source: Alysia Green, director of talent development at Automation Alley
Writer: Jon Zemke

HIROTEC AMERICA plans to expand Auburn Hills facility, add 140 jobs

HIROTEC AMERICA is making a sizable bet on Metro Detroit, investing $26 million into an expansion of its Auburn Hills facility. It’s a move the automotive supplier expects will create 140 new jobs.

"We added 37 jobs in 2013," says Jim Toeniskoetter, president & COO of HIROTEC AMERICA. "So far this year we have added 22 jobs. We will continue to add jobs as we continue to expand."

HIROTEC AMERICA is the North American arm of HIROTEC Group. The global automotive supplier manufacturers everything from body-in-white closures to exhaust systems. It has operations in Auburn Hills, New Haven, and two facilities in Chesterfield Township. The company employs 285 people between all four facilities.

Its current facility in Auburn Hills measures out to 170,000 square feet, which includes 20,000 square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Toeniskoetter points out his firm is expanding in Auburn Hills because of its longstanding relationship with the city (it goes back to 1992), its central location in the region with easy access to I-75 and M-59, and close proximity to its existing employee base.

The first step in HIROTEC AMERICA's expansion plans in Auburn Hills included the purchase of 20 acres of land in the Oakland Technology Industrial Park earlier this month. It plans to construct a new building with 42,000 square feet of office space and 174,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The facility will also have room to expand its operations by another 125,000 square feet in the future.

"They will start moving dirt in August when we get our building permits," Toeniskoetter says.

HIROTEC AMERICA plans to keep its current facility when the new one is finished. It will have close to 400,000 square feet of commercial space when the project is completed in August of 2015. The 140 new hires are expected to take place over the next 2-3 years and will be on top of the current workforce of 285 people.

Source: Jim Toeniskoetter, president & COO of HIROTEC AMERICA
Writer: Jon Zemke

Livio Radio co-founders launch new tech venture, Tome

Fresh off a successful exit of tech startup Livio, co-founders Jake Sigal and Massimo Baldini are at it again, launching a new venture called Tome out of Ferndale.

"People like to say we're like an old married couple when it comes to business," Sigal says.

Sigal is shy to describe Tome in too much detail but would say its technology is focused on the "Internet of things," a newer term used to describe the movement to connect the power of the Internet with tangible objects. Specifically, Sigal says Tome’s principal product aims to merge mobile apps, devices and services.

"We're looking at the larger issues in the tech industry," Sigal says.

Sigal and Baldini launched Livio Radio in Ferndale, making physical radios that could play Internet radio stations in the late 2000s. The startup evolved to creating software that connected mobile devices with automobiles. Ford acquired the startup, later rebranded as just Livio, last year. Sigal and Baldini left the company soon after but stay connected with its staff and progress.

"We're excited about what Ford is doing with it now," Sigal says.

Tome now has a staff of three people after launching in April. Sigal says it's in "stealth mode" but he did describe it as a non-automotive play that focuses on software. The pair raised a $250,000 angel round that closed in June.

"Our mission right now is to build the right team and the right product," Sigal says.

Source: Jake Sigal, co-founder & CEO of Tome
Writer: Jon Zemke

Peteet's Famous Cheesecakes opens new store in West Bloomfield

Peteet's Famous Cheese Cakes has baked its way to a customer following that required the family-run business to open a second location.

The new store at 6548 Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield takes Peteet's to another, busier part of Oakland County than the original Oak Park location, which opened in 2010.

Peteet's cakes, which come in 90 flavors, including gluten-free and kosher options, are also sold in restaurants and bakeries in metro Detroit.

The new store is the latest chapter in a family story centered around the use of cheesecake to rebuild the Peteet family's livelihood after the death of a father and loss of the family real estate business. Son Patrick Peteet, founder of Peteet's Famous Cheese Cakes, helped the family avoid financial devastation and pull through grief by using his cheesecake recipe to start a business. He envisions selling Peteet's from multiple locations and possibly franchising.

In the meantime, he is celebrating the excitement and warm reception for his new location. Read the Metromode story, "How Cheesecake Saved a Family's Future."

Source: Peteet's Famous Cheese Cakes
Writer: Kim North Shine

Kimberly LED Lighting set to move into bigger facility in Clarkston

The LED lighting industry has been on an upward trajectory for years now as it becomes the go-to brand for energy-efficient lighting in the 21st century. Kimberly LED Lighting is riding that wave, expanding its sales and moving to a bigger facility this summer.

The 8-year-old company is putting the finishing touches on a new facility in Clarkston. A move-in is set for August. The new facility will be exponentially larger than its current office in Auburn Hills.

"We're going from 5,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet," says Doug Jenkins, managing partner of Kimberly LED Lighting. "It's a pretty big jump."

Kimberly LED Lighting specializes in changing out traditional incandescent bulbs for LED lighting in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Often LED lighting is up to 70-80 percent more energy efficient than traditional options.

The switch to LEDs has allowed Kimberly LED Lighting to double its sales each year, and nearly triple them in the last year. The company has also hired three people over the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen full-time employees handling everything from LED switches in houses to factories.

"The bread and butter of LEDs right now is in the commercial and industrial side," Jenkins says. "Businesses are getting payback on them within two years."

Source: Doug Jenkins, managing partner of Kimberly LED Lighting
Writer: Jon Zemke

The Brinery doubles production as it grows across Midwest

Even though The Brinery can be described as a slow-food startup, fast would be a better word to describe the Ann Arbor-based firm's growth.

The 4-year-old company’s sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and tempeh can be found in close to 100 stores in Michigan and Chicago. The Brinery has taken on two outside distributors over the last year after relying on self-distribution at local businesses and farmers markets.

"We have pretty much doubled sales since last year," says David Klingenberger, founder of The Brinery. "Every year we have come close to doubling our sales."

Helping make that possible is moving to a bigger production facility. Klingenberger started The Brinery by making sauerkraut in his home. This February he moved his business to the Washtenaw Food Hub, a new facility that helps provide support to local farmers and food companies to become economically and environmentally sustainable.

"We're the anchor tenant there," Klingenberger says.

And it's filling out that space quickly. The Brinery's team now stands at a dozen people, which is up from four a year ago. Klingenberger expects the numbers for his business (sales and staff) to keep growing as he aims to open up in markets in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois over the next year.

Source: David Klingenberger, founder of The Brinery
Writer: Jon Zemke

RIIS hires 18, moves to bigger offices in Troy

Change is afoot at RIIS, and that's an encouraging thing for the growing tech firm.

RIIS has hired 18 people so far this year, including a recruiter, sales professional, mobile developers, and software developers. It now has a staff of 54 employees and three summer interns. It plans to hire another 18 people over the next year to keep pace with its growth.

"We have had the two best revenue months we've ever had," says Godfrey Nolan, president of RIIS. "The growth is consistent, not explosive."

RIIS has done tech work (think custom software platforms and mobile apps) for the likes of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan since its start in 1998. It has since diversified its customer base, taking on larger clients like North American Bancard, Michigan First Credit Union, and DTE Energy. Often it has used its expertise in mobile to help land that new work.

"We're doing lots of mobile work and a lot more work with DTE Energy," Nolan says. "We have great salespeople and have done work there before."

RIIS also executed a move from its old office in Southfield to a newer, bigger space in Troy earlier this week. The new office has 1,500 square feet more than its previous space, adding up to a total of 5,000 square feet.

"One of the reasons we moved to Troy is for more space," Nolan says.

The new space is consolidated and open. Nolan points out that the cubicle workspace for software developers is dead and an open floor plan that encourages collaboration is what's making firms like RIIS competitive today. The company's new office not only lacks walls but has space for training and recreation for the company's growing number of employees.

"It's way better than what we had before," Nolan says.

Source: Godfrey Nolan, president of RIIS
Writer: Jon Zemke

ASquared Legal Group sets up shop in downtown Detroit

Alari K. Adams has been spending an increasing amount of time in downtown Detroit over the last few years, so it’s little wonder she moved her legal firm down here with her.

ASquared Legal Group, formerly based in Bloomfield Hills, now calls the Motor City's Central Business District home. Adams, the firm's managing attorney, moved to downtown Detroit in recent years. After a few months living there, she knew she would be bringing her law firm with her.

"I'm able to hop on the People Mover to get to work now," Adams says.

Adams got her start practicing corporate and employee law at a firm in Grand Blanc. She started ASquared Legal Group four years ago as her primary way to practice law with small businesses. The company focuses on advising businesses with their legal matters and human resources management.

"I get much more enjoyment out of small business practice," Adams says. "I help them grow their businesses and they help grow my business, too."

ASquared Legal Group currently employs two people after Adams hired an assistant over the last year to help her juggle the growing caseload. Adams wants her law firm to continue growing downtown and hopes to eventually add more staff.

Source: Alari K. Adams, managing attorney for ASquared Legal Group
Writer: Jon Zemke
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