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Berg Muirhead adds new clients in legal, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors

Berg Muirhead and Associaties is gearing up to take a significant step forward this year, adding a handful of large clients and some new hires to go with them.

The New Center-based public relations and marketing firm has made a name for itself since 1998 handling a number of high-profile clients both in Detroit (Strategic Staffing Solutions) and outside of it (the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and The Somerset Collection in Troy). Those clients aren't going anywhere.

"We have a great set of longterm clients and clients who come in and out with projects," says Peter Van Dyke, partner with Berg Muirhead and Associates.

This year, the firm is adding some larger clients. Berg Muirhead and Associates is now handling work with Metro Detroit’s new Regional Transit Authority and the Varnum law firm, which is opening a new office in downtown Detroit. Berg Muirhead and Associates is also helping a second-stage manufacturing firm in metro Detroit (Van Dyke declined to name it) re-brand and is about sign a contract with a major local health-care provider.

Berg Muirhead and Associates made two replacement hires last year, but Van Dyke expects to add some new hires on top of his staff of eight employees and two interns soon.

"We are looking to expand the team," Van Dyke says.

Source: Peter Van Dyke, partner with Berg Muirhead and Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery celebrates Midtown opening

This past weekend, the stretch of Canfield Street between Second and Cass celebrated the opening of its third brewery, making the Midtown block an easy destination for fans of craft beer. Newcomer Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery joins the well-established Traffic Jam & Snug and Motor City Brewing Works on Canfield. A strong beer and food neighborhood just got stronger.

Located at 441 W. Canfield, the pizzeria and brewery is the fourth location for the Jolly Pumpkin brand, which is based out of Dexter, Mich. and has locations in Ann Arbor and Traverse City. While most of the company's beer is brewed at the main Dexter facility, representatives say that a small brewing operation will produce beer at the Detroit location.

The Detroit Jolly Pumpkin is styled differently from the other locations, says partner and co-founder Jon Carlson. "The biggest waste in brewing are the wooden pallets. We're using reclaimed pallet boards everywhere." A long bar lines the west end of the 5,000-square-foot restaurant while communal dining-style picnic tables take up most of the floor space. Large windows face the sidewalk to the north. Reclaimed pallet boards cover the walls.

The kitchen offers signature pizzas with fresh, local ingredients, including dough hand-crafted by the nearby Avalon International Breads bakery. Other Michigan businesses tapped by the company include the Brinery, Guernsey Dairy, and McClure's Pickles. Soups and salads round out the menu.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales was launched in 2004, becoming the first craft beer brand to concentrate solely on sour ales. Of the 32 taps at the Detroit location, roughly half offer the wide range of sour ales developed by the company. The other half feature another Michigan-based brewery, North Peak Brewing Company, which offers a more traditionally-varied selection of different kinds of beers. Jolly Pumpkin co-founder and master brewer Ron Jeffries is also a collaborator of the North Peak line.

Source: Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery and Jon Carlson, partner and co-founder
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Mega Tiny Corp reinvents iPhone case in downtown Detroit

Mega Tiny Corp. has something more going for it than just a cool name. Its co-founders believe they have the next cool product for iPhones.

The 4-month-old startup is developing an iPhone case with suction technology built into it, enabling users to stick it against just about any flat surface. Check out a video showcasing it here.

"This is the first case to offer nano-suction material built into the case," says Carl Winans, co-founder of Mega Tiny Corp. "You can do hands-free selfies."

Most of the 10 people working on Mega Tiny Corp. are based in southeast Michigan and the company is about to sign a lease on an office in downtown Detroit. In the meantime, the team is finishing off a crowdfunding campaign to finance the manufacturing of its Zero Gravity iPhone case. Mega Tiny Corp. has raised $44,369 as of Monday night, by far exceeding its original $25,000 goal with 16 days left in the campaign.

"We met the goal in about four days," Winans says. "We're getting ready to add some stretch goals."

You can check out its crowdfunding campaign here.

Source: Carl Winans, co-founder of Mega Tiny Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

NEIdeas challenge returns for second year of grants to Detroit businesses with ideas for growth

Last year, the New Economy Initiative and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation teamed up to award 32 existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park a combined total of over $500,000 for their ideas for growth.
Instead of focusing on startups like other Detroit business competitions, NEIdeas is designed specifically for small businesses that are at least three years old and have had a lasting impact on their neghborhoods -- established businesses like Touch of Class Restoration, a Brightmoor-based construction and remediation company that used its 2014 NEideas award to buy new equipment and hire a marketing manager, and G + C Style, a 50-year-old storefront barber shop that used its award to expand its services to repairing and sharpening clippers for other barber shops.
In 2014, 30 small businesses each received awards of $10,000, while two businesses with high growth potential each received $100,000.
This year, a whole new group of time-tested Detroit businesses will receive NEIdeas challenge grants. On Thursday, April 16, the 2015 round of the challenge opens with an event at the Bel Air 10 Theater located at 10100 E. 8 Mile Rd. Starting at 10 a.m., winners of the 2014 challenge will be on hand to answer prospective applicants' questions, as will other challenge ambassadors. At 10:30 a.m., Dave Egner, executive director of the NEI, and Rodrick Miller, president and CEO of the DEGC, will give remarks, which will be followed by an NEIdeas information session.
Visit neideasdetroit.org for more information.

Tech startup Amber Engine sees opportunity in home furnishings market

Home furnishings and decor isn’t a conventional space in which to launch a tech startup, but one group of entrepreneurs in Detroit thinks it has a lot of potential.

Amber Engine has created a software platform that streamlines the sales process for home furnishings and decor. The idea is to capitalize on the inefficiencies in the market, which is worth $275 billion.

"It's unusually under-penetrated online," says Morgan Woodruff, president and CEO of Amber Engine. "There is a lot of headway for growth."

Rock Ventures, the umbrella entity for Dan Gilbert's business and real estate portfolio, launched the company in January. The business-to-business, cloud-based platform provides an online portal for manufacturers and online retailers that handles data management and keeps the availability of product offerings up to date.

"If you're looking for bar stools we want to show you every sort of bar stool available around the world," Woodruff says.

Amber Engine, which is based in the basement of the Chrysler House in downtown Detroit, currently employs a team of 15 people. It currently has a handful of openings, which Woodruff doesn’t expect to go away anytime soon.

"We expect to hire a person every other month for the rest of the year," Woodruff says.

Source: Morgan Woodruff, president & CEO of Amber Engine
Writer: Jon Zemke

Urban Aging families find resources for elderly loved ones

Patricia Rencher is all too familiar with the challenges of getting old. The downtown Detroit resident supported her parents through their final years when they were in their 80s and 90s.

"I discovered how disjointed and fragmented aging services were," Rencher says.

That inspired Rencher to start Urban Aging, a low-profit limited liability company that specializes in helping people navigate the aging process. Rencher recently graduated from the BUILD Social program, which teaches the basics of business to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Urban Aging will help its customer figure out what services, resources, programs, and products are available so they can maximize the comfort level of their loved ones' final years. The company also plans to host conferences and launch a tabloid newspaper to help guide people through the aging process.

"People need to know what services are available for home healthcare," Rencher says.

Urban Aging plans to host its first conference on May 16 in the Wayne County Community College District's Northwest Campus at 8200 W. Outer Drive in Detroit.

Source: Patricia Rencher, owner of Urban Aging
Writer: Jon Zemke

123.net leads effort to create Detroit Internet Exchange

123.net is leading an effort to add more speed and remove more problems from you Internet experience.

The Southfield-based Internet/data center company is pushing for the creation of Detroit Internet Exchange (Det-IX for short), a local Internet exchange passing Internet traffic locally between carriers for improved speed and lower cost.

"Our goal is to get as many companies in Michigan to interconnect locally instead of paying carriers in Chicago," says Ryan Duda, CTO of 123.net.

Today, people from metro Detroit who send an email to their neighbor first have to route it through a Chicago-based Internet exchange. Going through a third-party provider in another time zone creates a longer sending time. Many major metropolitan areas already have an Internet exchange, but this will be metro Detroit’s first.

Det-IX will enable local carriers who share bandwidth to send information over the World Wide Web faster and more affordably by utilizing peer-to-peer efficiencies. The creation of Det-IX will also upgrade the data infrastructure in Michigan and make it more appealing to new economy businesses who depend on Internet connectivity.

Source: Ryan Duda, CTO of 123.net
Writer: Jon Zemke

Attorney creates own law practice based on mediation

Antoinette "Toni" Raheem knew what it was like to work in corporate law. She knew it so well that she was inspired to launch her own legal practice: Law & Mediation Office of Antoinette R. Raheem.

"I was with a big firm for a number of years and learned what I could from them," Raheem says. "I decided it would be best if I went out on my own."

The Bloomfield Hills-based legal practice specializes primarily in mediation. That can mean settling disputes for everything from divorces to business partnerships gone wrong.

"The legal system is made to increase animosity between people," Raheem says.

She adds that the legal system sets up people to argue with each other. It picks winners and losers. It decides who is right and wrong. Raheem believes there is a different way forward for litigants through simple communication.

"You can meet everybody’s needs," Raheem says. "You don't need a winner or a loser."

The Law & Mediation Office of Antoinette Raheem is a one-woman show, but it's one that is pushing for change in the local legal system.

"I'd like to see more immediate and frequent use of mediation," Raheem says.

Source: Antoinette "Toni" Raheem, owner of the Law & Mediation Office of Antoinette Raheem
Writer: Jon Zemke

Community Choice, NuPath credit unions merge

Community Choice Credit Union is merging with NuPath Community Credit Union, creating a larger metro Detroit-based financial institution that will carry on under the Community Choice Credit Union’s banner.

The newly expanded credit union will now have 67,000 members across Michigan and $665 million in total assets. The merger with NuPath Community Credit Union will open up the downriver market to Community Choice Credit Union, along with other locations across Michigan.

"Downriver certainly is an area that is a good fit for us," says Alan Bergstrom, senior vice president & chief marketing officer for Community Choice Credit Union. "NuPath also has a branch in Holland, which was attractive to us. We have been looking at going from a strictly metro Detroit credit union to serving other areas of Michigan."

NuPath Community Credit Union has three branches in Wyandotte, Flat Rock, and Holland. Those branches and the credit union’s employees will be folded into the Community Choice Credit Union's workforce. The new credit union now employs about 200 people.

Community Choice Credit Union will now have 13 branches after the merger. The Farmington Hills-based credit union recently opened a new branch in Northville near Six Mile and Haggerty roads. It is also in the process of building out another new branch in Shelby Township that is set to open early next year. The 80-year-old credit union is also looking to execute more mergers, one of which is currently in the works.

"Based on our strategic plan, we have a pretty aggressive growth plan in place," Bergstrom says. "That includes mergers."

Source: Alan Bergstrom, senior vice president & chief marketing officer for Community Choice Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

Qstride looks to hire 25 people at Techweek Detroit

Qstride is celebrating its birthday in a big way. The 3-year-old firm plans to hire 25 people later this month, starting at the Techweek Detroit conference next week.

"We're looking to hire a number of technologists at Techweek," says Shane Gianino, CEO of Qstride.

Techweek is a national conference that specializes in technology entrepreneurship. It brings together local leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors who specialize in everything from software to hardware. The week-long event will be held at Ford Field starting on Monday.

Qstride is one of the sponsors of Techweek Detroit and plans to use the event as a recruiting tool for the staffing end of its business. The Troy-based company (it also has an office in downtown Detroit) generates the lion’s share of its revenue from providing staffing and consulting services to tech firms. It also resells software.

Qstride has customers across the U.S., from New York to Texas to San Francisco. It has grown significantly over the last year, expanding its staff to 20 people with eight hires. It is also looking to begin raising a $1 million seed round to help it rapidly scale its growth curve.

"We're starting the process of raising the capital, such as putting together the pitch deck," Gianino says.

Source: Shane Gianino, CEO of Qstride
Writer: Jon Zemke

Canine to Five buys new building in Ferndale, plans to expand Detroit home

Next month, Canine to Five will celebrate 10 years of providing dog boarding and grooming services on Cass Avenue just south of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Since its launch, the dog daycare has become one of Midtown Detroit's name-brand businesses.

Today it's building the same reputation in Ferndale, where it has acquired its own building on East 9 Mile Road between Hilton and I-75. Canine To Five opened its first satellite location in Ferndale two years ago in a rented building. Its new home in Ferndale is nearly four times as large.

"We're going from a 6,000-square-foot building to a 22,000-square-foot building," says Liz Blondy, owner of Canine to Five.

The extra space is needed to keep up with Canine to Five's growth. Business at the company's Detroit home is up 14 percent in the last year and its business in Ferndale doubled by the end of its second year. Today Canine to Five has 18 employees working in Ferndale and 25 in Detroit. Fifteen of those employees were hired over the last year.

"We grew much quicker than anticipated," Blondy says. "The reception we got in Ferndale was outstanding."

Blondy expects to execute the move to the new building this spring, but Ferndale isn't here sole focus. Canine to Five is currently working with an architect to add 6,500 square feet to its Detroit home, which will double the size of its flagship location later this year.

Canine to Five is also partnering with Ferndale-based Treat Dreams Ice Cream & Desserts, which will provide Pooch Pops (an ice cream treat to dogs) at Canine To Five’s two locations this summer.

"It's important to me to use as many products as possible from Michigan for my business," Blondy says.

Source: Liz Blondy, owner of Canine to Five
Writer: Jon Zemke

Creative agency The Work adds staff as it expands workload

There is no shortage of work at The Work, a creative agency based on Detroit's east riverfront.

The 5-year-old boutique firm has so much work that it has hired three people over the last year, expanding its staff to 11 people. The new hires include editorial personnel and producers.

"The last year has been very busy," says Jesse Ford, managing director of The Work. "We have been taking on a diverse set of assignments."

Major clients include Team Detroit, for whom The Work produced a Speed Dating video in a Mustang. The firm has also been contracting with advertising agencies like Commonwealth, Leo Burnett, and Lowe Campbell Ewald. The Work also recently signed a partnership with Native of Los Angeles for creative consulting, commercial video production, and post-production services in LA and New York.

"Our goal is to continue to support the Detroit agencies and support the automotive industry," Ford says. "We're also looking to work with some agencies in LA and New York."

The Work got its start when five people working in local advertising circles banded together. The idea that their expertise in videography, photography, editing, production, and other creative outlets was worth more together as one company than as individual 1099s. All five co-founders are still working with the company on a full-time basis in the Elevator Building.

Source: Jesse Ford, managing director of The Work
Writer: Jon Zemke

Quizzle set to move into larger downtown office after being acquired by Bankrate

Quizzle is celebrating an acquisition this month and is getting ready to enjoy some extra elbow room later this spring.

Bankrate acquired the credit-monitoring company last week, making it the first Quicken Loans-built startup to exit through acquisition. It's common for acquired startups to be absorbed into their new parent companies. In this case that could mean downtown Detroit-based Quizzle folding into Bankrate's New York operation.

But Quizzle isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's getting ready to move into a bigger office in the 5th floor of the office building at 1274 Library (the former L.B. King and Company Building) next to the Boll Family YMCA.

"They are literally demoing the space right now," says Todd Albery, CEO of Quizzle. "It has room for growth. We have 19 people now and we will be able to hold 30."

Quizzle launched in 2008 as a side project within Quicken Loans. Today it provides free credit scores and reports, as well as credit monitoring and identity protection services. It currently has a staff of 19 employees and the occasional intern. The 20th employee is set to start work later this month. Quizzle has hired eight of its interns into full-time positions. Albery expects that growth to continue in downtown Detroit for the foreseeable future.

"When (Bankrate) acquires companies, it typically leaves them where they are," Albery says.

Source: Todd Albery, CEO of Quizzle
Writer: Jon Zemke

Social entrepreneur turns old houses into new furniture business, Owen & Abbey

Kimberly Watts' new business does a lot to make its customers feel good about their purchases. The Detroit-based business utilizes reclaimed wood and provides jobs to disadvantaged women.

Owen & Abbey makes tables and an assortment of home furnishings from wood reclaimed from deconstructed homes in Detroit and Pontiac. Watts was inspired to start this business last year when she first came across products made from reclaimed building materials.

"I thought there was a business here, but I wasn't sure about it yet," Watts says.

While Watts had an extensive background in fundraising, she did not have much of a history as a maker. But the idea of turning reclaimed building materials into a business stuck in her head, so she wrote a business plan and entered it into the Michigan Social Entrepreneur Challenge. She won the Jaffe Right Start Prize.

"Then I knew I was onto something," she says.

Today Watts is splitting time between her day job and Owen & Abbey. She hopes to grow the company to the point where she can start to hire people, specifically local women battling through economic adversity. To help make that happen, she has been filling orders from referrals and Etsy listings. Watts also graduated from the Build Institute's entrepreneurship program earlier this year, which is also helping steer work her way.

"It does a great job of supporting its graduates," Watts says.

Source: Kimberly Watts, owner of Owen & Abbey
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Venture capital competition will offer $120k in prizes to local minority-owned businesses

An event designed to connect minority-owned businesses with venture capital will make its Detroit debut next week. Occurring April 13-15, PowerMoves@Detroit will offer $120,000 in direct prizes in addition to exposure and networking opportunities. Local business owners will compete with entrepreneurs from across the country in a series of venture capital-style pitch events. Attendance to events at the Detroit Athletic Club, Garden Theater, and One Detroit are open to the public through an online registration system.

PowerMoves began in New Orleans, where it was founded by current Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) CEO Rodrick Miller. The event is sponsored by Morgan Stanley and is hosted by the DEGC and Invest Detroit.

Events include training sessions, a panel discussion focused on startups and exit strategies, two back-to-back pitch events with cash prizes, and a final pitch event featuring 15 early-stage entrepreneurs, also with cash prizes.

"With all the enthusiasm for entrepreneurs in Detroit and our city’s great legacy for providing opportunities for African Americans, this seemed like the perfect time and place for PowerMoves@Detroit," Miller says in a statement. "This event fills an important niche in the broad spectrum of activities that DEGC undertakes to support small business in Detroit."

The event will feature a number of minority-owned businesses from the Detroit region as well as New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Mayor Mike Duggan believes that not only will it provide Detroiters a pathway to venture capital, it will also expose minority-owned businesses from other parts of the country to opportunities available in the city of Detroit.

Local representatives include Jerry Rucker and Edward Carrington of Warranty Ninja, Terreance Reeves of Networkingout, and Dana White of Paralee Boyd Salon.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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