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Get Up and Go expands caffeinated food sales

Get Up and Go is on the move in Michigan, carving out space for its caffeinated goodies on store shelves across the Great Lakes State.

The Ann Arbor-based company makes a variety of baked goods infused with natural caffeine. The goodies include muffins, cookies, brownies and granola. Consumers can find Get Up and Go's wares in about a dozen stores in Ann Arbor, Lansing and a few supermarkets.

"We're just getting off the ground," says Chris Bogdan, CEO of Get Up and Go.

The one-year-old company started selling its baked goods in stores six months ago. Bogdan is currently a one-man-show, baking the goods in his home. He is working to move production to a food manufacturer so he can scale the concept into as many as 1,000 stores across Michigan this year.

"I am focusing on Michigan first, building it out and getting into specialty food stores," Bogdan says. "Specialty stores support a lot of Michigan-made products."

Source: Chris Bogdan, CEO of Get Up and Go
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M students make fashion statement with OverTheFly belts

Andrew Jacob and Andre Najmolhoda went to high school in West Bloomfield and college in Ann Arbor together, so it’s not a surprise the two friend are starting their own company together.

The University of Michigan students launched a custom belt company called OverTheFly a year ago and are starting to make a fashion statement or two with it.

"We noticed there is always a trend in shoes, shirts and hats but never belts," says Andrew Jacob, co-founder of OverTheFly. "We want to start trends with belts."

OverTheFly offers plastic belts and buckles of different colors and styles, allowing buyers to customize their own belt with a few clicks of a computer mouse. The company describes its belts as "waterproof, durable, 100% recyclable, animal-friendly, and one size fits all."

"You can pretty much create your own belt," Jacob says. He adds, "We are also the first company we know of that created a belt with Detroit’s skyline on it."

OverTheFly's products can be bought online or at 17 stores in Michigan and Florida. Jacob and Najmolholda plan to continue finding more retail outlets for its belts and hope to scale across the U.S.

Source: Andrew Jacob, co-founder of OverTheFly
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M Credit Union merges with EMU Credit Union

The credit unions at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University are now one institution after consummating a merger earlier this year.

Eastern Michigan University Credit Union officially became a part of University of Michigan Credit Union in January. EMU’s Credit Union will now be known as Eastern Michigan University Financial. U-M Credit Union will keep its branding. Members of both will now have full access to all of the newly combined credit union's branches in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Dearborn.

"It's not a growth strategy," says Jeff Schillag, vice president of marketing at University of Michigan Credit Union. "It's truly a collaboration."

The newly merged credit union will have $545 million in assets and 59,342 members. All of those members will have equal access to affordable financial services, mobile banking, and instant issue debit and credit cards.

Eastern Michigan University Financial will maintain its branch at 761 Jenness St. in Ypsilanti with its current staff. It will continue to employ its namesake university's brand in its name as a point of pride for the EMU community.

"We intend to keep the branding there to better serve that community," Schillag says.

Source: Jeff Schillag, vice president of marketing at University of Michigan Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

CoFoundersLab helps co-founders find each other in Detroit

CoFoundersLab is launching a Metro Detroit version of its online matching portal for entrepreneurs from downtown Detroit next week.

The Maryland-based firm specializes in making online portals that help entrepreneurs connect with a variety of people that can help them build their startup. Each portal specializes in a specific metropolitan area or a university community.

It is opening the Detroit hub because of the area’s emerging tech sector. CoFoundersLab has also found a local ambassador from Detroit Venture Partners to help generate usage of the platform.

"A lot of pieces just fell together," says Michael Hughes, vice president of community development for CoFoundersLab.

CoFoundersLab is hosting a match party at Grand Circus in downtown Detroit at 6:30 p.m. on Mar 19. Grand Circus is based in the Broderick Tower overlooking Grand Circus Park. For information, click here.

Source: Michael Hughes, vice president of community development for CoFoundersLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

Valentine Distilling to triple distillery space in Ferndale

Valentine Distilling's gin is taking a similar path as its vodka. It's winning awards, racking up orders in Michigan and several states, and is on the way to putting the Ferndale craft liquor maker on the world map.

Valentine's latest award, and probably the most significant, came last month when its Liberator Old Tom was named the World's Best Cask Gin by the World Gin Awards in London. Valentine makes a traditional gin, cask gin and whiskey, all released last year. Distribution of its original Valentine Vodka began in 2009.

"We've received many awards, many important ones, but this is a really big one…This came out of London, the home of gin," says founder Rifino Valentine. "I always have high expectations for our products. [We're] not just a local distillery, but this blew us away."

The award is one thing. Keeping up with demand is another. Valentine is in the process of renovating a 15,000-square-foot space in Ferndale into a distillery that will quadruple its output capacity. The new facility is expected to be ready for production in the fall of 2014, says Valentine. At about 5,000 square feet, the current distillery space, which is paired with an often-packed tasting room, will become the pilot distillery, the research and development area, he says.

Research and development is a slow and deliberate process and the reason, Valentine believes, for the success of Valentine Distilling's small-batch spirits.

"We were working on that gin for three or four years," he says. "I never just release stuff to get it out. I want to make sure it's competitive internationally and nationally…That's why it took us years…figuring out the botanicals and figuring out how the taste changed as it aged."

Even before the award, it became clear that Valentine needed to step up capacity.

"My distributors on the East Coast and in Chicago are calling, 'How much can we get and how soon?' "

Michigan is likely to follow suit.

"In Michigan vodka is still really big…The craft cocktail and craft spirit movement is just starting to hit Michigan right now and it's already been going on and is at full steam on the coasts and in cities like Chicago," he says. "So we get a large number of orders in Michigan for our vodka now, but the gin will come.

"The Liberator, we call it a new western gin or an American gin, because the flavor profile strays away from London dry or extra dry. It doesn't just smack you in the face with juniper…It's complex with a beginning, middle and end, with spices like cardamom, coriander and cinnamon."

Valentine, who left a successful career on Wall Street to launch a small-batch liquor company about six years ago, chose Michigan over Miami or other big cities, as a way to help the state by adding a small business to the books. He says the growth and the expansion in space and products was always part of the business plan, but the best part is seeing Michigan's distilleries and craft cocktails take off and make a significant contribution to the local and state economy.

"Looking back on it, it's pretty fun.. Probably five other distilleries have opened or are opening within five miles of us. It's funny to think back to 2008 and actually watch this industry grow. I mean just in the last couple of years alone we've generated a couple million dollars in tax revenue for the state," Valentine says. "It's so neat to see the industry thrive. It's so cool to help the state come back. It's one thing to talk about it, but to actually see it come to fruition is deeply meaningful."

Source: Rifino Valentine, owner, Valentine Distilling
Writer: Kim North Shine

Complete Data Products makes 6 hires, expands customer base

Neal Doshi and his brother, Nyrav Doshi, purchased Complete Data Products two years ago with the idea of turning the software firm into something bigger. A few software product launches later, the Troy-based business is realizing that dream for its owners.

"From a numbers standpoint we expect our company to grow 20 percent, top-line, by the end of the year," Neal Doshi says.

Complete Data Products specializes in paperless document management software. If there is some sort of business function that requires using paper, Complete Data Products is coming up with ways to do it digitally.

For instance, the firm launched its financial receipt product last year, which allowed users to send sales receipts through email. It also recently launched an electronic signature application, and upgraded its financial receipt product to utilize text message technology.

"There were a lot of people who pushed that out," Neal Doshi says. "There was a lot of growth in that vertical."

The customer base of this technology has grown from credit unions to include banks and law firms. That has allowed Complete Data Products to hire six people, primarily in tech support and marketing, over the last year. It now employs 28 people.

Source: Neal Doshi, managing partner of Complete Data Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rebel Nell exceeds expectations in 1st sales season

The women behind Rebel Nell planned to start their jewelry-making business slowly and build it steadily last year. They ended up growing and hiring their Woodbridge-based business faster than they expected.

Rebel Nell is a low-profit limited liability company that makes jewelry from the paint chips that flake off of graffiti murals. It aims to also create jobs that empower and educate disadvantaged women in Detroit. The 1-year-old business mainly goes through COTS Detroit to find its employees, which it did for the first time last fall.

"At the time we were only going to hire one because we were cautious," says Amy Peterson, who co-founded Rebel Nell with Diana Russell. "Diana and I fell in love with three of them and hired them. We said we were going to find a way to make it work."

Rebel Nell hired all three of them and went to work at its space at the Grand River Creative Corridor's 4731 building. Sales of the firm’s jewelry fought to keep up with demand during the holiday season.

"It far exceeded our expectations," Peterson says. "It got to the point we sold the pieces off our necks there was so much demand."

Rebel Nell plans to continue its growth curve in 2014. Peterson and Russell hope to find space for their jewelry in more local stores and add more employees.

"Our goal is to have two more women by the end of the year," Peterson says.

Source: Amy Peterson, co-founder of Rebel Nell
Writer: Jon Zemke

Architecture firm Hamilton Anderson celebrates 20 years with new developments, hires

Detroit-based architecture firm Hamilton Anderson is ramping up for a busy year with seven new hires and a search for several more. The firm, which is celebrating its 20th year, has an immediate need for two architects, a designer, and one or two project managers. The firm is involved in a number of projects that will alter the landscape of downtown, the riverfront, and Midtown. A recent conversation with principal, president, co-founder, and CEO Rainy Hamilton reveals updates on some of their more high profile projects.

The firm is working on Orleans Landing, the five block development along the east riverfront. Hamilton Anderson is applying more industrial design influences to the previously released illustrations. Townhomes are planned for the blocks facing the Dequindre Cut. The rest of the development will consist of mid-rise lofts featuring mixed-use and residential units.

Hamilton and co-founder Kent Anderson spent the early part of their careers in an office in Rivertown, making their involvement in the Orleans Landing development extra special to them. "For us to be involved in the first new development in the east riverfront, it's really quite an honor and a thrill," says Hamilton.

Hamilton Anderson has been selected by New York-based SHoP Architects as the local architects to collaborate with on the Hudson's site building. Hamilton says a concept has been presented to Bedrock Real Estate Services and was well-received.

The firm is the design architect and architect of record for the adaptive re-use of the old Strathmore Hotel in Midtown. Hamilton says that an original light well is going to be preserved and that developers are hoping that a new parking structure will be built nearby.

It's looking like Radio One, a national broadcasting company, will move into the Queen Lillian Woodward Office Building at Stimson and Woodward Ave. once completed, says Hamilton.

Source: Rainy Hamilton, president, co-founder, and CEO of Hamilton Anderson
Writer: MJ Galbraith

WSU-based DragAroundMe places at Michigan Innovation competition

DargAroundMe took third place at the recent Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize competition, setting the stage for the startup to score a run of business plan competition wins.

The 7-month-old startup, which is made up of Wayne State University students, is creating software that enables people to quickly share documents with others in their immediate vicinity. It won the Web/IT prize at the Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize, giving it a few thousand dollars in seed capital and some valuable experience.

"It was a journey for us," says Kun Wang, co-founder of DragAroundMe. "We learned a lot from the program."

The team of five people learned how to grow DragAroundMe through landing customers, validating adoptions and keeping customers. It also gave the team a platform to present the latest additions to its technology.

"We added quite a few features," Wang says. "We're making sure it’s compatible with all of the different platforms."

Source: Kun Wang, co-founder of DragAroundMe
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland Energy & Water Ventures fund launches in Farmington Hills

A new second-stage investment fund is launching in Farmington Hills. Oakland Energy & Water Ventures will specialize in making investments in the clean energy and water spaces.

"We look at opportunities up to $100 million," says Chris Brower, managing director of Oakland Energy & Water Ventures.

Brower adds that the fund, which is made up of three partners, is flexible when it comes to what type of deals it is looking to do. Among them are joint ventures, partnerships, license agreements, and collaborations. The main things Oakland Energy & Water Ventures is looking for are patented technologies that are ready to scale.

"We're a bit more simplistic," Brower says. "We're looking for proof-of-concept technologies. That is our focus."

Brower says there are a couple of potential deals in the works but the firm isn’t ready to make an announcement yet. He adds that the company is focusing on clean energy and water plays because of global macro trends that are spiking demand for both clean energy and water to accommodate the growing world population.

Source: Chris Brower, managing director of Oakland Energy & Water Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M student showcased in Academy Award's "Team Oscar"

Just one of five (out of 5000) student filmmakers, Bronx native and U-M student Zaineb Abdul-Nabi's short film was honored by the Academy Awards. Abdul-Nabi was then invited to hand out Oscar statuettes to the presenters at Sunday night's 86th annual Academy Awards.
 
Excerpt:
 
“I’m a Gonzo cinematographer siezing the richness of the everyday, searching for the infinite forms of strength and tenacity that make us all extraordinary humans,” says the budding auteur in a voice-over during her winning short, which lovingly features images of graffiti-strewn Bronx buildings and street scenes in Ann Arbor, where the 22-year-old senior attends the University of Michigan."
 
Read the rest here.
 

Startgrid brings more collaboration in local new economy

The Detroit Regional Chamber launched Startgrid, an online platform to encourage more collaboration between entrepreneurs, last week at the Detroit Policy Conference in North Corktown.

"Changing the world is no small feat," says Peter Gardner, founder & CEO of Startgrid. "No one can do it alone."

The Startgrid platform enables entrepreneurs to create a collaboration page that fleshes out their idea or business plan. The users can incrementally expand their page to their circle of friends, mentors and industry experts throughout Metro Detroit. The idea is to create an environment where people help each build their business in southeast Michigan.

Startgrid plans to complement the region's existing assets in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It will work with the likes of Bizdom, TechTown, Detroit Venture Partners, Insyght, Ann Arbor SPARK and Automation Alley, among others.

"We have one of the most mature and well-built entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world," says Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative, which is helping fund the creation of Startgrid. "What happened is we have been fragmented. There are gaps."

Startgrid wants to fill those gaps to accelerate the formation and growth of local businesses. To watch a video about what Startgrid is about, click here.

Source: Peter Gardner, founder & CEO of Startgrid, and Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative
Writer: Jon Zemke

Revolver restaurant in Hamtramck thrives on revolving chef concept

The owners of revolver saw promise in melding the concept of table d'hôte -- a set, pre-selected menu at a fixed price - with up-and-coming chefs, a belief in using locally sourced food and a desire to build a community around it all. And in just under six months, they are seeing their vision catch on.

Tunde Wey, who with Peter Dalinowski opened revolver at 9737 Joseph Campau in Hamtramck in September, says revolver will be adding to its list of revolving chefs and opening more days for its reservation-only seatings.

Instead of serving dinner only on Fridays and every other Saturday, revolver will also be open every Saturday and some Sundays.

"We want to grow with demand naturally as opposed to trying to force it,"  says Wey, who describes revolver and the chefs he and Dalinowski select to prepare the day's meal as "artisanal fare, handmade, farm-to-table with attention to detail. Typically the food is new American, he says, but guest chefs have also served Japanese sushi and Indonesian food.

"We're open to all kinds of food genres. But we want food that's approachable and comfortable," says Wey, who like Dalinowski is a self-taught chef and entrepreneur.

The pair wanted to go into the restaurant business and do it in a way that it spoke to things they care about: nurturing the cooking community, bringing people who love different food experiences together and operating in a socially responsible way.

"We've gotten tons of requests from chefs recently and we sell out our dinners," Wey says. "There are so many talented chefs and caterers here waiting to be discovered, and so many people out there who want to try their food first."

The restaurant has room for 36 guests per seating, but can go up to 40. Tables -- the four six-tops and one 12-top -- are seated so that guests often make new acquaintances in their dining companions.

"We have people making friends, getting phone numbers," says Wey. "We're hoping to facilitate a marriage one day."

Want to hear more thoughts from Wey on revolver? Check out his November 2013 blog post on Metromode's sister publication, Model D.

Source: Tunde Wey, revolver
Writer: Kim North Shine

Innovative Learning Group celebrates 10 years this month

Most businesses don't live to see three years. Many more don't make it to five years. Innovative Learning Group is celebrating birthday No. 10 this month.

The downtown Royal Oak-based firm doesn’t dwell on what has changed over the last decade. Its team of 13 people focus on what has stayed the same in that time: "Our great culture and focus on clients," says Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group. "What happened over the last 10 years is we managed to keep pace with technology as it changed."

Innovative Learning Group is a business consultancy that specializes in training and human performance improvement for businesses. It develops learning strategies, curriculum architectures, and implements/evaluates these learning solutions. The firm has done this primarily with digital solutions and it is pivoting its services more toward the mobile realm in 2014.

"What we always care about is steady, profitable growth," Toenniges says. "We aim for 15 percent year over year."

That has allowed Innovative Learning Group to hire two people in January. Those new jobs are in performance consulting and media development.

"Over the coming year we will probably hire several people," Toenniges says.

Source: Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Are You a Human debuts PlayThru for Video technology

Ever count down the seconds before you can click through the commercial preceding an online video? Are You a Human thinks it has an answer for this conundrum in the new spinoff of its CAPTCHA-killing technology it's launching this month, PlayThru for Video.

PlayThru for Video allows users to engage with a quick brand exercise, such as dragging a sold sign to a home in an ad for Quicken Loans. That action takes the user directly to the video, skipping the opening advertisement.

"From the advertiser's side you get real human interaction," says Reid Tatoris, co-founder of Are You a Human. "From a user's standpoint you get to see your video faster."

The 3-year-old startup got its start by replacing CAPTCHA, the squiggly letters used to authenticate human interaction, with a quick, simple computer game for users. The branded games help fight against software bots impersonating human users.

Are You a Human is now bringing the next generation of its technology to help make online users and advertisers happier. Initial testing of PlayThru for Video show users remember the brand just as much as those who watch the full ad, but feel 33 percent more favorably about the brand. Are You a Human is partnering with PopSugar, TubeMogul, and Complex Media for the launch of PlayThru for Video and its currently being used on more than 7,000 sites. Ford, Chevy, and Hasbro have used PlayThru for Video for advertising campaigns.

The downtown Detroit-based company, it calls the M@dison Building home and also opened a satellite office in New York City, has been working with advertisers for the last five months to establish the commercial viability of its products.

"It's all about generating repeat revenue from advertisers," Tatoris says. "We're looking to scale up to lots of advertisers instead of a handful."

Are You a Human currently employs eight people. It has hired three people over the last year for positions in software development, sales and marketing. It is also looking for one front-end developer.

The startup locked down six figures of seed capital from angel investors and Detroit Venture Partners in 2012. Tatoris says the company is looking to pursue a Series A round of venture capital later this year.

Source: Reid Tatoris, co-founder of Are You a Human
Writer: Jon Zemke
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