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Savorfull's products makes gains into grocery store market

The team behind Savorfull was thinking big last year when it struck a deal with Sherwood Food Distributors.

Detroit-based Sherwood Food Distributors got its start distributing meats, but now distributes a variety of foods for supermarkets. As part its deal with Sherwood Food Distributors, Savorfull will serve as a nutritional matchmaker, consulting with Sherwood to help it decide which healthy foods it should distribute.

"We knew we had to move into bigger industries, like the grocery industry," says Stacy Goldberg, founder & CEO of Savorfull.

The New Center-based startup helps connect businesses with healthy eating options, ranging from locally sourced foods to identifying which foods work best for people with food allergies. Savorfull had been working with a number of arenas, stadiums, and cafeterias before landing the contract with Sherwood Food Distributors.

"We're focused on volume," Goldberg says. "That's why we partnered with Sherwood Food Distributors."

Savorfull now has a staff of six employees after hiring four new workers in the last year. It also is bringing on six interns this summer.

Source: Stacy Goldberg, founder & CEO of Savorfull
Writer: Jon Zemke

Girls With Guts creates following, gains traction

The three young women behind Girls With Guts showed they have what it takes to get a business off the ground in its first year.

The Midtown-based business serves as platform for women battling Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

"We have grown significantly," says Jackie Zimmerman, president of Girls With Guts. "We have a fanbase of more than 7,000 people on Facebook now. A year ago we had 2,000."

Zimmerman, a recent Wayne State University graduate, launched the 1-year-old business with the help of Blackstone Launch Pad. The idea was to create a safe place for women suffering from the disease to find help, information, and new ideas on how to live a healthier life.

Girls With Guts and its team of five people accomplishes that with its online presence and by leading retreats. It held its first retreat last fall in Michigan. It’s planning one to Texas for 70 attendees later this year.

"We are hoping to get as many people down there as possible and help change some lives," Zimmerman says. She adds, "We would like to do two retreats a year."

Girls With Guts now has support groups in five major metro areas, including Detroit, Philadelphia, Nashville, Dallas, and Chicago. Zimmerman and her co-founders hope to add more cities to their network as this year goes on.

Source: Jackie Zimmerman, president of Girls With Guts
Writer: Jon Zemke

Local Orbit hopes to sprout new food economy

Local Orbit is coming to a market near you soon, one way or another.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup’s local-food-ecosystem-software can now be found in a dozen states and Canada with plans to enter more later this year. It's also expanding its software platform to accommodate larger institutional buyers and offering retreats to help food entrepreneurs improve their business.

"We have really worked on refining our service offerings," says Erika Block, CEO of Local Orbit.

Local Orbit's technology helps connect buyers (think restaurants) with local food producers in, like Eastern Market in Detroit. The software platform provides a flexible, customizable suite of business tools that helps everything from farmer's markets to food co-ops streamline ordering, transaction processing, inventory management, logistics, integrated marketing and business analytics. It works for everything from fresh produce to craft food.

Local Orbit is also preparing to launch a version of this software platform for institutional buyers, like hospitals and universities. The new pilot project, set to launch later this year, helps these big buyers manage and streamline the local food procurement process.

"We can fill a lot of the needs larger institutions have," Block says.

Local Orbit also started offering Hub Camps, which are events that help local food entrepreneurs sharpen their business skills and grow their companies. Local Orbit has held two of these camps so far in Grand Rapids and Los Angeles. It is getting ready to host another one in California this spring.

"It's the nuts and bolts business tools to help people think through the best ways to run their business," Block says.

Local Orbit currently employs eight people and an intern. It has hired one person over the last year, a community manager, and is the process of hiring two more employees right now.

Source: Erika Block, CEO of Local Orbit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Farm and Garden grows in time for spring planting season

Detroit Farm and Garden is entering its third planting season this spring, and the Southwest Detroit-based business is still figuring out what it wants to be.

"We're still a young business," says Jeff Klein, co-founder of Detroit Farm and Garden. "We still have a lot of growing to do to get to where we want to be as a business. We're still figuring out the permanent products for our business."

And that's a good thing. The landscaping supply company has adjusted its stock to fit its customers needs since it opened at a former police station on West Vernor Highway in the shadow of the Michigan Central Station.

Detroit Farm and Garden
still offers staples like topsoil, gravel, and 50-50 mix of topsoil and compost for urban gardening. It also has a broad range of gardening and landscaping tools, including planters made of reclaimed wood. This year it's going to offer more classes on everything from landscape design to urban gardening. It will offer warm composting and worms for vermicompost. And there will be a wider selection of seeds for bulk purchase.

"Those are organic as well, of course," Klein says.

Detroit Farm and Garden recently hired a new person for the warm season, bringing its staff to six people. The company plans to do more outreach into the local Hispanic community with ads on Spanish-language radio.

"We find that for as many people who know about us, there are people two blocks away who don't know about us," Klein says.

Source: Jeff Klein, co-founder of Detroit Farm and Garden
Writer: Jon Zemke

German 3-D printing company chooses Canton for first U.S. facility

3-D printing, a fast-growing technology, has expanded what's possible in a wide range of fields from art to medicine to automotive. And now a 3-D printing company from overseas is now opening a Canton location.

Excerpt:

"A German 3-D printing company has announced it will locate its first U.S. facility in Michigan after representatives met with Gov. Rick Snyder in Germany.

Friedberg-based Voxeljet uses large-format 3-D printers to create automotive parts and molds. Snyder met with Voxeljet's chief executive during the governor's second trade trip to Europe this week."

More here

Living Well Primary Care focuses on preventative medicine

A couple of primary care doctors have launched a new practice in the heart of Oakland County focused on preventative medicine and maximizing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Drs. Alissa Citron and Sandra Lerner have been working in primary care for the last decade. They opened Living Well Primary Care in Farmington Hills in January with the idea of focusing on helping their patients live the most healthy lifestyle they can by focusing on preventative care and making smart, incremental decisions.

"It's not about what not to do, but what do you need to do," Dr. Lerner says.

The new practice is currently staffed by Drs. Lerner and Citron, along with three support staff. The doctors plan to continue to expand their medical staff over the rest of this year as they work to establish their practice.

Living Well Primary Care sees patients of all ages from toddlers to senior citizens. The co-founders hope that working with these patients and their families over the long haul will help them make the best decisions about their long-term health, such as getting vaccinated, eating the right food, and maximizing exercise.
 
"I want us to be a medical resource to guide people through disease prevention," Dr. Lerner says.

Source: Dr. Sandra Lerner, co-founder of Living Well Primary Care
Writer: Jon Zemke

Arbormoon Software moves to new downtown office

Arbormoon Software has a new home that feels, well, more homey for the growing software firm.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based firm’s new office at 123 N Ashley is large,  to accommodate the company's growing staff, and a better place for them to collaborate and work together.

"It has a much better layout for us," says Dave Koziol, president of Arbormoon Software. "Our old space had two separate spaces that weren’t contiguous. This new space is contiguous. It’s also a nicer building with better management."

The 11-year-old software company has moved aggressively into the mobile space in recent years. It has hired three people in the last year (two mobile app developers and one design professional), growing its staff to a little more than a dozen employees. The company has also grown its revenue from an increased workload from existing clients and new customers. One of its more notable achievements in the last year was a a mobile app it created for Weather Underground that received some attention on social media.

"It's an app we’re particularly proud of," Koziol says. "It was nice to be noticed by someone."

Arbormoon Software's revenue has been growing significantly in recent years. It has won two Ann Arbor SPARK FasTrack Awards, which recognize firms with 20 percent revenue growth, and Kozoil is optimistic his team can do it again.

"We expect to keep growing at that healthy fastrack award rate," Koziol says.

Source: Dave Koziol, president of Arbormoon Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

Business and staff is up at Motawi Tileworks

Motawi Tileworks acquired its clay supplier three years ago, an investment that is paying off in spades now.

"Rovin Ceramics at this point is growing by leaps and bounds," says Nawal Motawi, founder & artistic director of Motawi Tileworks. "The brand is totally reinvigorated."

The Ann Arbor-based company specializes in arts-and-craft ceramic tiles. Think the ceramic pieces of art people like to put on kitchen back splashes or around a fireplace. Motawi Tileworks acquired Rovin Ceramics when it was on its way to liquidation instead of letting the locally based company disappear.

Since then Motawi Tileworks has focused on improving the company's customer service and creating a shopping experience at its store. That enabled Rovin Ceramics and Motawi Tileworks to spike their revenues and make some hires over the last year. Both companies have each created one new job in the last 12 months.

"We have been focusing very much on corporate process and execution," Motawi says. "We're becoming very intentional in how we monitor our production."

Source: Nawal Motawi, founder & artistic director of Motawi Tileworks
Writer: Jon Zemke

NeuMoDx Molecular scores $21M in Series B round

NeuMoDx Molecular has $21 million more in its coffers now that the Ann Arbor-based startup has secured a Series B round of financing.

The investment round in the diagnostics company was led by Pfizer Ventures. Other local venture capital investors included Baird Capital, Venture Investors, Arboretum Ventures and the Wolverine Venture Fund. The startup, helmed by veteran local CEO Jeff Williams, also secured $5 million in a Series A in 2012.

"It helps to have an experienced CEO," says Erik Gordon, a professor of entrepreneurship and strategy who oversees the student-run Wolverine Venture Fund at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "We also did a lot of research in the molecular science space."

NeuMoDx Molecular is developing a new platform for high volume, low-cost molecular testing. The company’s patent-pending technology integrates magnetic particle affinity capture and real time polymerase chain reaction chemistry in a multi-sample microfluidic cartridge. That enables NeuMoDx Molecular’s platform to speed up molecular testing, processing about 500 samples every eight hours.

NeuMoDx Molecular is currently going through clinical trials and working to secure regulatory approval, which the new round of funding will make possible.

Source: Erik Gordon, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business
Writer: Jon Zemke

PWB Marketing Communications keeps growth streak going

PWB Marketing Communications isn't measuring its growth over the last year in terms of new hires. It is looking at how much it has built out its network of partners and independent contractors.

"I'm cautious about that (hiring)," says Sean Hickey, COO of PWB Marketing Communications. "We have a core group of (six) people that are pretty flexible and knowledgeable."

The Ann Arbor-based firm now has a dependable stable of contractors it can tap for the growing number of projects its handling. The network of partners handles everything from market research to salesforce automation. The network allows PWB Marketing Communications to stay flexible and ready to take on more work.

"The nature of what clients want us to do is evolving," Hickey says. "I want to be able to say yes to that."

Hickey adds that most of the firm's work has turned digital over the last few years. It's reached the point that customers that want brochures only want them for emerging markets. They don't even take them to make pitches in the First World.

"Even the traditional work is done with an eye toward digital," Hickey says. "We don't do six-page brochures anymore because how are you going to fit six pages into a PDF?"

Source: Sean Hickey, COO of PWB Marketing Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

SimuQuest expands as it leverages work with Ford

SimuQuest is accelerating its growth and the Ann Arbor-based company can thank a few major clients like Ford for it.

SimuQuest specializes in software and data management services. It has been working on its UniPhi for Ford for several years now, launching it earlier this year. UniPhi is a model-based development tool for centralized data management. It moves everything to the cloud and helps streamline the data management and analysis process for the user.

"This really changes the game for them," says John Mills, president & CEO of SimuQuest.

Another software platform SimuQuest is bringing to market is QuantiPhi, a chip configuration and driver integration tool. The 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.

Developing these platforms has prompted SimuQuest to hire two people in the last year. It has added a business development professional and an engineer to round its staff of eight people. It is also looking to add summer interns.

"We're expecting a pretty major growth in the company," Mills says. "There are no guarantees but I would be really surprised if we don’t double our revenue in the next year."

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

Beautifully Wrapped aims to link cultures across the region

One Detroiter sees head wrapping (think turbans and African-style head wraps) as a way to build bridges between cultures and an opportunity to start a business.

"I have always been fascinated with the global art of head wrapping," says Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, founder of Beautifully Wrapped.

Naeem has taught head wrapping for several years now. She created a head wrapping calendar to raise money for 10,000 Girls, a non-profit that promotes education and employment opportunities for 10,000 girls in rural Senegal.

That inspired Naeem, a D:hive BUILD program graduate, to start Beautifully Wrapped from her Cody-Rouge home. Beautifully Wrapped promotes education, classes, and events around the art of head wrapping. It also hosts the annual Headwrap Expo on June 8th at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn dedicated to head wrapping styles from cultures around the world, such as Sikh, Pakistani, and West African, among many others.

"My goal is to have 1,000 people at this expo this year," Naeem says. "Last year we had 350 during a day when we had a tornado warning."

She adds Metro Detroit has such a diverse population that it's pretty easy to find head wrapping enthusiasts of all colors and creeds. The challenge that Beautifully Wrapped tackles is bridging those cultures through a shared art form.

"Metro Detroit is very diverse but very segregated," Naeem says.

Source: Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, founder of Beautifully Wrapped
Writer: Jon Zemke

YumVillage streamlines startup process for aspiring chefs

The sharing economy is creeping into another facet of Detroit’s everyday life: pop-up retail.

YumVillage is working to make it easier for aspiring chefs to find a temporary space to open a pop-up restaurant and create a following.

"We would like to be the AirBnB for the food industry," says Godwin Ihentuge, chief villager at YumVillage.

The mortgage banker at Quicken Loans ran his own pop-up restaurant last year, specializing in gluten-free and vegan foods. He worked a number of events in Detroit, such as Dally in the Alley in Midtown.

The challenge for Ihentuge, who recently graduated from D:hive's BUILD program, wasn’t finding customers. It was finding space to temporarily set up shop. There was no beaten path that aspiring foodpreneurs could follow to find space for their pop-up besides word of mouth and more than a little luck.

"YumVillage was the brainchild to streamline the process," Ihentuge says.

He and a team of four other people launched YumVillage out of Bamboo Detroit last October. It is now working with 25 chefs and 10 locations lined up with easy steps for pop-ups to set up shop. One of the locations is a rotating pop-up restaurant at the Junction440 co-working space in TechTown that is open between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Source: Godwin Ihentuge, chief villager at YumVillage
Writer: Jon Zemke

CORE Partners completes merger, plans to hire in Birmingham

What is now CORE Partners was actually three separate real-estate/construction companies last summer. Today they are setting the stage to become a more dynamic, full-service real-estate firm based out of downtown Birmingham.

"These were three companies that functioned in different silos of the real-estate industry," says Bob Waun, vice president of business development for CORE Partners and recent addition to its team.

CORE Partners functioned as a commercial brokerage before the merger with Burton-Katzman (a construction firm) and ReAlta (a real-estate development firm based in New York City). The new combined company, which employs 85 people and plans to add 3-5 summer interns, has spent the last six months combining and streamlining its operations.

"The growth phase is what happens next," Waun says. "The market can now see that we are a full-service real-estate brokerage firm."

CORE Partners plans to spend the rest of this year acquiring new projects, such as helping reposition bank-owned properties back on the market. It will also continue to evaluate its own portfolio to see what it should keep and what it should sell.

Source: Bob Waun, vice president of business development for CORE Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

UpTo relaunches calendar app with richer content offerings

UpTo is relaunching its mobile calendar app with more built-in content that won't drown users.

UpTo's team is working to turn its new mobile app into a replacement for smartphone calendars. The app combines a users existing calendar and adds in extra information about things they like based on their location, such as concerts, friends' parties, and athletic events.

"It's truly innovative," says Greg Schwartz, co-founder & CEO of UpTo. "It's never been done before. We feel calendars will be the next place for disruption and we want to be that disruptor."

The top-layer of the app is filled with a user's normal calendar. The user can pinch or tap a time block and another layer of upcoming events will appear. Users can also connect privately with friends to share upcoming events to the back layer of a friend’s UpTo calendar. Check out a video about the app here.

UpTo got its start two years ago by launching a software platform that opens up its users' calendars to social media. The idea was to connect the user with friends and family by alerting them where the user expects to be in the near future. The 3-year-old startup abandoned that concept to go with its current version this spring.

"This is the first time UpTo is a total calendar replacement," Schwartz says. He adds that "it's really hard to grow with one foot in both (social and calendar) worlds."

UpTo has raised $3 million in venture capital since its launch in 2011. It has grown its team to 15 employees after hiring five people in the last year. Those new hires include software developers and one marketing professional. UpT also plans to add three interns this summer.

Source: Greg Schwartz, co-founder & CEO of UpTo
Writer: Jon Zemke
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