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Carbon Media Group adds 15 jobs, signs bull riding partnership

Carbon Media Group has inked a new partnership with the Professional Bull Riders, a deal that the online media startup hopes will bring its viewership together.

The Bingham Farms-based company helps coordinate advertising and content creation for more than 600 websites for fans of the outdoors, agriculture and action sports/events/activities. It has an extensive network of outdoor-related YouTube channels and its own CarbonTV outlet for online videos about the outdoors. The startup’s two primary audiences consist of fans of outdoors and rural activities along with fans of action sports like hunting, fishing, and skying.

"The Professional Bull Riders is a very elegant bridge between the two types of content we have," says Hyaat Chaudhry, CEO of Carbon Media Group.

YouTube made the introduction between the two organizations because Carbon Media Group is the second largest global sports network on YouTube. The Professional Bull Riders, which has roughly 20 million fans, was in the process of figuring out how best to develop its digital audience.

Carbon Media Group is on track to grow 35 percent in 2014, and Chaudhry expects to do that again next year. "That's roughly on track with our annual growth rate," he says.

The 7-year-old company has hired 15 people over the last year, including professionals in design, sales, account management, and executive leadership. It now has a staff of 62 employees and plans to bring on two interns this summer. It is looking to hire five people now, including staff accountants and marketers.

"We're always looking for good digital media sales people," Chaudhry says.

Source: Hyaat Chaudhry, CEO of Carbon Media Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Managing partner on Gold Cash Gold opening: A 'wild' success

Anticipation for Corktown's newest restaurant Gold Cash Gold was so great that a line wrapped around the corner and along Michigan Avenue as people waited for the restaurant's 5 p.m. grand opening Saturday, Dec. 6. Business has been humming ever since.

Eli Boyer is a partner and also the general manager of the restaurant. He says that the first week following a grand opening is important as any, allowing the restaurant to observe, analyze, and react to the customer experience. Just because the restaurant had a successful opening doesn't mean the restaurant is ready to rest on its laurels.

"When building an idea for a restaurant, you can project how guests will react, but that first week is so important to observe and analyze the guest experience," says Boyer. "You gather information in that first week and respond. The tweaks made are small but impactful."

This is the first time Boyer has been a part of opening a restaurant in Detroit. The Farmington Hills native got into the restaurant game in Chicago, starting the DMK restaurant company in 2009. He says the differences between opening a restaurant in Detroit vs. Chicago are many and that the experience here is already a much more fulfilling one.

Boyer says that the team behind Gold Cash Gold can feel the excitement from the neighborhood. That excitement was expressed at the grand opening.

"It was wild," Boyer says of the opening. "I've never experienced that before where people waited outside for the doors to unlock. It made our staff excited to see that. And we were so impressed with how the staff handled it and performed."

Gold Cash Gold opens in time for the holiday season, not by design, says Boyer, but a happy coincidence nonetheless. The restaurant hopes to add 50 seats in a patio setting for the summer, but the current configuration allows for a smaller, more manageable opening.

Source: Eli Boyer, managing partner of Gold Cash Gold
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Disclaimer: The co-CEO of Issue Media Group, Model D's parent company, has a financial interest in Gold Cash Gold.

SimuQuest aims to double revenue within 2 years

SimuQuest spent 2014 laying the groundwork for 2015, inspiring The Ann Arbor-based software firm’s leadership to be optimistic about the coming year.

"We have goals to double our revenue over the next two years," John Mills, founder, president, and CEO of SimuQuest. "We have lots of good reasons to believe we can do that."

The 13-year-old firm specializes in software and data management services. It spend this last year launching two new platforms. It launched UniPhi for Ford earlier this year. The model-based development tool centralizes data management, moving everything to the cloud and streamlining the data management and analysis process for the user.

SimuQuest also launched QuantiPhi this year. The chip configuration and driver integration tool provides a full complement of configurable low-level drivers that guides the user through the intricacies of successfully configuring the chip and driver settings.

Mills and his leadership team are speaking to investors about the prospects to raise a seed round. That capital would help SimuQuest market and sell UniPhi and QuantiPhi, which Mills expects to help spike the company's revenue in 2015.

SimuQuest has also expanded its staff this year. The company has hired one person earlier this year and is looking to hire five people between sales and technical professionals. That expanded team is expected to help push sales and improve the company’s existing technologies and develop the next generations.

"It's pretty amazing," Mills says. "We are doing some things that could change the controls in software products and how they are developed."

Source: John Mills, founder, president, and CEO of SimuQuest
Writer: Jon Zemke

McClary Bros. delivers on new taste for craft vinegar

Vinegar is much more than the standard base of garden-variety salad dressings, or even balsamic. Here's an artisan maker that's using fruits and vegetables to craft gourmet, drinkable vinegars, soon to be found in stores around the country.

Excerpt:

"While craft beers and spirits are gaining much of the buzz, craft cocktails are also seeing a rise in consumer interest. With bars like  Sugar House  and  Punch Bowl Social  in Detroit and  The Oakland  in Ferndale wowing their customers with craft cocktails, there is also a DIY movement for those looking to change up their at-home imbibing. 

That’s where  McClary Bros.  drinking vinegars come in.

Farmington-based McClary Bros. uses locally grown fruits and vegetables to create drinking/culinary vinegars. These vinegars are not like the ones you use to clean out the coffeepot. These are considered “colonial-era drink mixers” in that these recipes are formulated using unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with added natural ingredients...

A semifinalist in the 2014  Comerica Hatch Detroit  business competition, McClary Bros. expects to have distribution for its infused vinegars in 13 or 14 states soon, thanks to word-of-mouth among high-end retailers operating in several states."

More here.

Automation Alley aims at advanced manufacturing with 7Cs Program

Automation Alley is going for the low-hanging job creation fruit in Metro Detroit with its new program.

The Troy-based small business accelerator is launching the 7Cs program this week. The new initiative is focused on advanced manufacturing, specifically accelerating the growth of small businesses looking to leverage or improve advanced manufacturing.

"We want to focus on those businesses that can have the biggest impact on southeast Michigan," says Tom Kelly, director of entrepreneurship at Automation Alley.

Kelly took over as Automation Alley’s director of entrepreneurship last spring after working as a small business coach for the state of Michigan stationed in Automation Alley. He has seen companies come and go from Metro Detroit, but knows that any company that wants to work in manufacturing will come to Michigan. Why not exploit that strength?

"We think the ecosystem is ripe for this sort of focus," Kelly says. "If you think about it, we should have been doing this a long time ago because we’re really good at it."

Automation Alley's 7Cs program will guide entrepreneurs through a customized seven-step process that starts with the conception of their technology and leads to commercialization. The program includes intense coaching and a commitment from Automation Alley to invest resources and capital.

Kelly hopes to facilitate 10 companies in the program’s first year, and to grow that number incrementally in the following years.

Source: Tom Kelly, director of entrepreneurship at Automation Alley
Writer: Jon Zemke

Digital Inclusion bridges digital job skills divide in Ypsilanti

Eastern Michigan University is developing a new way to help bridge the digital divide in Ypsilanti's low-income communities and enhance the city's downtown retail scene.

The university's The Business Side of Youth program, also known as the the B. Side, is debuting Digital Inclusion this fall. The social enterprise teaches local at-risk youth how to repair and refurbish computers. It has opened a pop-up store in downtown Ypsilanti where the students sell their services and reconditioned electronics.

"It gives them a viable skill," says Jack Bidlack, director of The Business Side of Youth. "It's giving them unique knowledge and skills to fix computers. It also bridges the digital divide in low-income communities."

Working class communities have long struggled to keep up with technology advancements. That often means they are at a disadvantage in the job market, especially in the technology-dominant Information Age of the 21st Century.

The Business Side of Youth launched six years ago out of EMU with the idea of giving local young people born into working class communities a chance to make inroads in technology careers. The program has facilitated 137 at-risk young people over the years. Each semester is takes on about a cohort of about a dozen of them to teach them skills in both technology and entrepreneurship.

"There are plenty of people who work in automotive design because they learned how to change oil," Bidlack says.

Digital Inclusion is the latest iteration of that initiative. It is operating a pop-up store where these young people work on computers and mobile devices at competitive prices. The pop-up is located at 10 N Washington St and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The pop-up will run through Dec. 17, and Bidlack is evaluating whether it could become a permanent part of the program.

Source: Jack Bidlack, director of The Business Side of Youth
Writer: Jon Zemke

Online Tech hires 15, opens fifth data center

Online Tech is opening its fifth data center this fall. The newly refurbished facility is the company's fourth in Michigan.

This is Online Tech's first data center in metro Detroit and part of its expansion plan across the Midwest. The Ann Arbor-based company took an old telecom data center and refurbished over six months to handle cloud computing demands as well.

"That is two we have opened this year," says Yan Ness, co-CEO of Online Tech.

The other data center is another beefed-up facility that can handle cloud computing demands in Indianapolis. That one opened last spring, and was Online Tech's first outside of Michigan. The 20-year-old company also has three data centers in the Ann Arbor area.

Online Tech is embarking on a multi-year expansion plan across the Midwest. It is taking on other Midwestern markets as opportunities present themselves. The company is open to the idea of launching another data center next year but doesn’t have an immediate plans to do so.

"It's up in the air," Ness says. "We're certainly excited about Metro Detroit and Indianapolis."

Online Tech has hired 15 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 55 people. It is also looking to hire another six people in sales, network administration and support staff.

Source: Yan Ness, co-CEO of Online Tech
Writer: Jon Zemke

Brooklyn's Galapagos Art Space to make new home in Detroit, buys property in Cortown, Highland Park


Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, apparently, is a really big deal. So big, in fact, that the New York Times referred to it in a Dec. 7 article as "a performance center and cultural staple in Brooklyn for nearly 20 years."
 
But Galapagos's tenure in NYC is drawing to a close, its last day of programming scheduled for Dec. 18. But that doesn't mark the end of Galapagos's existence. According to the art space's website, Galapagos is moving.
 
"After nearly 7,500 programs and just over 1,000,000 audience members through our doors, Galapagos Art Space is moving to Detroit," writes Galapagos's executive director Robert Elmes.
 
Elmes is giving up on New York because "Simply put, New York City has become too expensive to continue incubating young artists. The white-hot real estate market burning through affordable cultural habit is no longer a crisis, it's a conclusion.
 
In Detroit, Elmes hopes his art space can take advantage of the three ingredients he feels are necessary for a creative ecosystem to flourish: time, space, and people. Elmes believes that Detroit has both time and space in abundance and that the city "is gaining its critical third component - artists - at an astonishing rate."
 
Galapagos's new website, galapagosdetroit.com, claims that the arts space has already secured over 600,000 square feet of real estate in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood and the enclave city of Highland Park "for the price of a small apartment in New York City." According Galapagos's Detroit website, one of the properties is the old Highland Park High School and Junior College building located between Second and Third avenues on Glendale (For an incredibly detailed history of that building, check out this profile from Detroit Urbex.), and another is a vacant manufacturing facility located at 1800 18th Street.

In an interview with Crain's Detroit Business, Elmes says, “We are not coming with $60 million to $90 million. We are there to build a venue and build studios and some lofts. As that gains traction, we’ll add more parts to the whole and that’s the goal of the project.” 
 
The website also makes two bold promises: 1) one of Galapagos's properties will feature a 10,000-square-foot man-made lake, and 2) the art space will host a 2016 Detroit Biennial. (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is currently hosting its "People's Biennial" through 2015.)
 
Galapagos will join 333 Midland as the second prominent art space to locate in Highland Park in recent years.
 
The news of Galapagos's relocation occurs in the midst of Berlin electronic music label and club owner Dimitri Hegemann's repeated expressions of interest in creating a venue for electronic music performances and entrepreneurship in one of Detroit's vacant factory spaces.
 
Model D will continue to follow all of these stories as they develop.

Birmingham's Griffin Claw Brewing adds bottle spirit sales

Griffin Claw Brewing Company is now in the business of selling bottled vodka, gin and rum from its taproom in Birmingham.

Earlier this year the brewery, which has made its name in craft beer, added liquors to the menu. Bottled sales were the next step.

The lineup: Griffin Claw Grain Vodka, Griffin Claw Potato Vodka, Griffin Claw Botanical Gin and Griffin Claw Black Strap Rum sell for $20 each and can be purchased inside the taproom. The brewery will also be releasing KRUPNIK, a polish style honey liqueur in a 750ml bottle, for $20, for the holiday season as well as its popular Oblivious Wheat Wine in a 22-oz. wax-dipped bomber bottle for $17.

Griffin Claw biergarten and taproom are at 575 S. Eton St. The 12,000-square-foot operation in the city's Rail District includes a brewing system, distillery, and distribution operation.

Source, Jaclyn Robinson, JT Marketing Group
Writer: Kim North Shine

BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting expands to 29 states

BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting isn't known as a company that is big on hiring.

The life sciences consulting firm hasn't hired or fired anyone over the last year, and doesn't plan to in the near future. It just stays steady at seven employees. In fact, when it moved to a new office last summer it went to a smaller space.

"That building was bigger than what we needed all along so we sold it," says Lisa Kurek, managing partner of BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting.

What it is doing is growing its footprint. The Ann Arbor-based firm is now doing work in 29 states, up about five from its mark last year. That means it is helping life sciences startups snare non-dilutive government funding to develop their technologies. Kurek hopes to expand the firm's reputation and prowess even more in 2015.

"I'd like to see us in 39 states next year," Kurek says.

BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting has built up a steadfast reputation as one of a boutique consulting firm with a deep expertise in helping startups capture six figures or more in government research funding. If you’re a region looking to build a life sciences startup scene, you want a BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting in your backyard, or for it at least to have a presence there. More and more states are coming around to that idea, bringing BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting into their regions.

"We're in a very niche area of expertise," Kurek says. "It (the firm's growth) is a combination of referrals and presence at national conferences. Our web and social media presence helps, too."

Source: Lisa Kurek, managing partner of BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oxford Companies aims at residential, commercial market expansion

Oxford Companies is positioning itself to become the property management company in Ann Arbor, strengthening its holdings in both residential and commercial areas.

The Ann Arbor-based company acquired the Northeast Corporate Center this year, a 220,000-square-foot commercial space near Plymouth and Green roads.

"It is the largest acquisition ever for our company," says Andrew Selinger, investment analyst for Oxford Companies. "It also made us the largest commercial property manager in Ann Arbor."

The 16-year-old, full-service real-estate firm also recently expanded into the residential market. It purchased the Arch Realty portfolio of off-campus student housing near the University of Michigan in 2012. It has since folded the properties into its operations, upgrading the buildings and improving relations with tenants. The Michigan Daily, U-M's student newspaper, named Oxford Management Services (Oxford Companies residential arm) the best landlord this year.

"It's going very well," says Deborah Pearson, marketing director of Oxford Companies. "We have integrated it into our company and opened up a whole new market. We have come a long away with our residential portfolio."

Oxford Companies currently has a staff of 50 employees and three interns. It has hired eight people over the last year, including maintenance workers, construction tradespeople, property managers, and a COO. The company is looking to hire two more people right now. The hiring is helping the firm keep up with its growth and prepare for more in 2015.

"We are still in a growth mode working on acquisitions," Pearson says. "We're working on an acquisition right now."

Source: Deborah Pearson, marketing director of Oxford Companies; and Andrew Selinger, investment analyst for Oxford Companies
Writer: Jon Zemke

RightBrain Networks triples in size as it hits $1M in revenue

RightBrain Networks has experienced quite a growth spurt over the last year. The Ann Arbor-based IT firm has tripled in size, added several jobs, and is closing in on a major milestone.

"It has grown substantially," says Jamie Begin, CEO of RightBrain Networks. "This will be our first $1 million year."

Begin launched RightBrain Networks in 2009. He had been laid off from his position in IT when the recession hit in 2008.

"I couldn't fathom sending another resume and not getting a response back," Begin says.

RightBrain Networks grew slowly at first. It hit three employees about a year ago, and then really started to hit its growth streak. The company has hired 10 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 13 employees. The new hires include IT professionals, marketeers, administrative folks, and project managers.

The Ann Arbor-based company is now a team of engineers providing IT and cloud-computing services for both large and small companies. Some of its customers include Intuit and the University of California, Berkley. Begin would like to expand its client roster even more and do so closer to home.

"In 2015, I would really like to grow our business in our backyard," Begin says.

Source: Jamie Begin, CEO of RightBrain Networks
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pillar Technology Group hires 30 software developers in Ann Arbor

Pillar Technology Group is about to become a company on the move. The software firm is in the process of moving its Ann Arbor office from the Tech Brewery to a new space in downtown Tree Town.

"They should be in there putting up drywall as we speak," says Charles Fry, executive vice president of global growth for Pillar Technology Group.

The 20-year-old company is moving to a 10,000-square-foot office at 301 E Liberty St in downtown Ann Arbor early next year. The company has called the Tech Brewery, a software entrepreneur collective located on the city’s north side, home for the last few years. However, a spate of rapid-fire hiring has prompted it to find a new space with more elbow room.

"We just outgrew it," Fry says. "It (Tech Brewery) is a great space. It has done great things for us. We have a holiday party next week and it will probably be standing-room only. We are just busting at the seams."

Pillar Technology Group provides software and consulting services for a broad range of industries in the Midwest, such as automotive, financial, insurance and telecommunications, among others. The company has hired 30 people (mostly software developers) in Ann Arbor in 2014, expanding its staff to 60 employees and two interns.

Pillar Technology Group is currently looking to hire as many as a dozen software engineers. It is looking for senior-level developers with a high-end skill set.

"We are always looking for the smartest software engineers we can find," Fry says.

Source: Charles Fry, executive vice president of global growth for Pillar Technology Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac n' Cheez! restaurant to occupy old Marwil Bookstore space in Midtown

Marwil Bookstore was a Detroit institution, serving Wayne State University students since 1948. That bookstore closed in 2013, thanks, in part, to competition from the Internet. Gary Sussman used to shop at that bookstore as a Wayne State student. Today, he and his wife and business partner Lorraine Platman are busy renovating that building, preparing it for the late-February target opening for their Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac n' Cheez! restaurant. They're even leasing the space from the Marwils themselves.

The Midtown location will be the company's fifth Mac n' Cheez! restaurant. Their company's first franchise location opened in the Renaissance Center earlier this month. That franchise is owned by Randy Dickow, also owner of downtown's Lunchtime Global restaurant.

Platman and Sussman are also the team behind Sweet Lorraine's, the popular full-service restaurants in Livonia and Southfield. The Mac n' Cheez! concept is more of a fast-casual restaurant, featuring soups, salads, and sandwiches in addition to the macaroni and cheese at the heart of the menu. Platman, who develops the menu, has created 14 made-to-order macaroni and cheese dishes.

"The concept is fun but it's also about quality," says Sussman. "It's an interactive process that's unique to mac and cheese."

Sussman says that the Midtown location will open early in the day with a breakfast menu, free Wi-Fi, and a lounge space. The pair hopes to use locally-sourced ingredients, he says. They're looking at products from Corridor Sausage, Detroit Institute of Bagels, and local bakeries. A Michigan-only beer bar is planned.

Howard Ellman, Principal Architect of Birmingham's Dynamic Designs, and Patrick Thompson, creative director of Detroit's Patrick Thompson Design, have been hired to renovate the 3,000-sqare-foot space. Sussman says that they have already pulled away three layers of vinyl flooring to expose original terrazzo tile floors. The drop ceilings have come down, revealing wood beams above. The windows along Cass Avenue, long-filled in with cinder blocks, will also be opened back up.

The partners are also looking at spaces around Campus Martius for another location. Nothing is finalized, however, and that restaurant could end up franchise- or company-owned. Platman and Sussman hope to open their company-owned Midtown location by the end of February.

Source: Gary Sussman, co-owner of Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac n' Cheez!
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Woodward Throwbacks sets up woodshop just west of Corktown

A fledgling business turning old, discarded building materials into new products is building out its new home on the western edge of Corktown.

"We're going to turn it into our new studio," says Kyle Dubay, co-founder of Woodward Throwbacks.

Dubay and his partner, Bo Shepherd, launched Woodward Throwbacks a little more than year ago, making consumer products from wood they found at illegal dumping sites around the city. The products ranged from bottle-opener signs to six-pack containers that resemble lunch boxes from the early 20th century.

"One thing led to another and soon we were selling them in Eastern Market," Dubay says. "I can't believe we have grown this much this quickly."

The growth prompted them to purchase a building on Michigan Avenue just west of I-75. The new space will expand the company’s production capabilities. The structure has been vacant for years, leaving it in need of significant renovations. Woodward Throwbacks is currently trying to raise $10,000 in a crowd funding campaign to pay for some of the upgrades.

"The building was ravaged by thieves before we got it," Dubay says.

Dubay and Shepherd hope to begin wholesaling their products once they move into the new space. They aspire to turn Woodward Throwbacks into a national brand with its products available at retail outlets across the U.S.

Source: Kyle Dubay, founder of Woodward Throwbacks
Writer: Jon Zemke
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