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Andy Ross Design fills out workload in Ann Arbor

Andy Ross and his wife, Amanda Ross, launched their own design firm a couple of years ago called Stunning Creative. The move was prompted by Amanda Ross' job loss and turned into an opportunity for the Ann Arbor couple to create their own business.

That lasted for a year or two until Amanda landed a new job. That left Andy with a company that just didn’t quite fit right anymore. So he started a new one this year called Andy Ross Design.

"I've been pretty busy," Andy Ross says. "I have done some work for some larger local clients like Aysling.  It's a newer client."

The design company has also been taking on more advertising agency work, including working with Lowe Campbell Ewald on its Cadillac account. Andy Ross says he has doubled his workload in the last year as more and more marketing firm take on an increased workload.

"A lot of it is I have put more effort into marketing the company," Andy Ross says. "Advertising budges have increased over the last year."

Source: Andy Ross, owner of Andy Ross Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

HTE hits stride with PlantWatch software platform

Lots of local software companies dream of doing what HTE is doing with its PlantWatch software platform. Get it up, running, easy to use, and attract a growing list of paying customers.

"It really came to maturity about three years ago," says Dan Reed, president of HTE.

The Auburn Hills-based firm creates software for the manufacturing industry. It started off making custom platforms for companies 25 years ago. Today it sells about 20 software products. PlantWatch allows the end user to monitor production while building their own system to maximize cost reduction. HTE just sold the platform to MTD Products, which is using it to monitor and control 25 scanners for error proofing and traceability. It's one of about a dozen firms using the product.

HTE has enjoyed prolonged success with sales of PlantWatch because of its "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy. The company created the software with the idea that integrating it into the users' operations should happen seamlessly and without any problem. That allows the customer to cut out integration costs, which makes it about one-third less expensive than competing products.

"There are thousands of software products out there and every one needs integration," Reed says. "Ours doesn’t."

The "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy is a lesson learned over time for HTE. The company and its nine employees and one intern toiled for more than a decade making software for other people before creating a platform for everyone. Then it realized it needed to make it as simple to use as possible, finding its stride and hitting it.

"We've done it for other people for years," Reed says. "It probably took us 15 years for us to do it for ourselves."

Source: Dan Reed, president of HTE
Writer: Jon Zemke

Loc Performance scores new military contract, to add 40 jobs

Loc Performance Products has been working to diversify its client base for years, slowly but steadily adding private-sector clients to its long-established military work. That's changing this year after the Plymouth-based firm landed a big defense contract.

The 43-year-old company established itself with defense contracts consisting mainly of manufacturing large CNC machined components and assemblies for military and industrial applications. With cutbacks in military spending in recent years, Loc Performance Products began adding more and more commercial clientele, so much so that private sector customers comprised more than 50 percent of the firm’s revenue.

"This year we will be more than 50 percent commercial," says Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products. "In 2015 we will be more than 50 percent military."

That's thanks to Loc Performance Products landing of a $161 million defense contract to restore lost mobility to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The contract calls for Loc Performance Products to install kits for tracks, shock absorbers, vehicle suspension support systems, and heavy weight torsion bars.

As such, Loc Performance Products is looking to hire 40 people right now. The company has added a couple of positions over the last year, bringing its staff to 186 people. That number is going to go up significantly soon.

"Now we have a big push to hire people," Dula says.

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle contract will create more than enough revenue over its four-year span to offset other shrinking military contracts and push its revenue up. Loc Performance Products is still pushing to bring in more private-sector work in the heavy-truck, heavy-equipment, agriculture, rail, and oil-and-gas industries.

"All of these markets are opportunities," Dula says.

Source: Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

White Pine Systems converts part-time workers to full-time employees

The staff at White Pine Systems is in transition. Normally that's not a sign of good things, but it is for the Ann Arbor-based company .

The software firm has made a handful of hires from its own ranks in the last year, bringing on a new CTO and a few web developers.

"We've gone from more part-time contributors to full-time people," says Doug Dormer, founder & CEO of White Pine Systems.

The 8-year-old company’s technology specializing in sharing information between health-care providers. The idea is to streamline the healthcare system (primarily in the behavioral health and traditional healthcare) by making closely guarded personal information readily available to the people who need to see it in a timely fashion.

White Pine Systems has been able to bring on more work with existing clients and land a few new ones. It’s adding new modules beyond its normal behavioral health which also is expanding its workload.

"It's a combination of the market is getting good with regulations, our work is being recognized, and our marketing efforts are working," Dormer says.

Source: Doug Dormer, founder & CEO of White Pine Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

Phire Group hires 3 on slow and steady growth trajectory

Slow and steady doesn't just win the race. It also builds a successful company. That's Jim Hume's opinion.

The principal of Phire Group preaches deliberate and modest growth as the smart way to grow a company. It's been the secret sauce for his own full-service marketing firm.

"We have been fortunate to grow at a consistent, steady pace," Hume says. "That's unusual for marketing firms that are usually boom or bust."

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company takes a longterm approach with its clients and avoids churn and burn work. Treating its long-term clients well produces more referral work and increased workload with existing clients. For instance, it started doing project work with MASCO Cabinetry and is now its agency of record for some of its brands.

"That growth has been slow and steady over the years," Hume says.

That enabled Phire Group to hire three people over the last year, including positions in public relations, web development and strategy. It now has a staff of 20 employees and one intern. Hume plans to add a handful more people over the next year. All of it part of the company’s slow and steady growth plan.

Source: Jim Hume, principal of Phire Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

M-1 Brew in Ferndale is all Michigan, all the time

Longtime Ferndale business owner and activist Dean Bach has turned a vacant VFW hall into a new business he hopes will appeal to lovers and supporters of Michigan-made and grown food, drink and products.

Bach, the owner of Ferndale mainstay Dino's Lounge, renovated the space into his vision of an Up North cottage.

His new M-Brew at 177 Vester St. in downtown Ferndale is cottage on the outside with a wraparound porch and clapboard siding and Up North gas station on the inside, where "guests can stop by for one thing and leave with much more when they discover an array of Michigan-made product to eat, wear or display at home."

The focus of M-Brew is the M, as in Michigan, and on offering only food, drink and products made across the state.

“We live in a great state with great assets and lots of quality products,” says Bach, who is host of the Rib Burn Off fundraiser for the Blues Festival and chairman of the board for the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority.

“From the beginning we decided that M-Brew was going to be entirely Michigan-based -- from the beer that we pour to the food that we serve.” He adds, “With the stuff our state grows and produces, it was kind of a no-brainer.”

M-Brew will serve at least two kinds of brew, its own privately labeled coffee and root beer, and beers from Michigan breweries such as Shorts, Atwater, Founders, MI, Perrin and Liberty Street. Up to 30 craft beer taps are a part of the cozy feel of M-Brew, which has knotty pine paneling and a stone-clad fireplace. To-go beer growlers are a special feature of M-Brew as is stay-in fun in the basement, where there are pinball machines, video games and shuffleboard.

On the food front, M-Brew will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner from a grab & go display to entrees and snacks for eating in or carrying out. Pinconning Pizza, Bruce Crossing Pasties, Garden Fresh Salsa and chips, Smokin' Butts BBQ, Sanders hot fudge, chips and snacks from Traverse City, and dried cherries represent food made in cities across Michigan.

A still-to-come outdoor fire pit will give off the kick-up-your-feet Up North vibe.

The official opening day is Aug. 1, but a soft opening began about two weeks ago.

"Michigan has great products year round, whether it is something to eat or something cool to own. We will be bringing in more carefully selected items as we get up and running,” Bach says. “Beyond that, supporting Michigan-made means your dollars stay in Michigan and help support our comeback economy. We’ve supported local all along, but as the economy gets better -- especially as it gets better -- we can’t lose sight of continuing to support local. It needs to be what we do.”

Source: Dean Bach, owner M-Brew and Dino's Lounge
Writer: Kim North Shine

Lathrup Village startup Telemetrio bridges tech and sports

Marco Cucco is a serial entrepreneur and a big sports fan. His latest startup, Telemetrio, is quickly becoming the place where his passions intertwine.

"Telemetrio is where my interests are most prevalant," Cucco says. "It bridges technology and sports."

The Lathrup Village-based startup is developing technology it describes as "a computer-vision sports telemetrics and broadcasting system specifically geared to youth sports." This boils down to a software platform that films youth sporting events and sorts out the highlights for the parents. It also auto-analyzes the film and extracts statistics before putting it into a web portal for easy viewing.

Telemetrio's team of five people are still refining the platform. The first pilot is now being extended to multiple installations at Ultimate Soccer Arenas.

"We are expanding the pilot to one more field," Cucco says. "We will then be opening it up so more users can give us feedback."

Telemetrio recently secured $14,000 in Business Accelerator Funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corp with the help of the Macomb-OU INCubator. Telemetrio is a client of the Sterling Heights-based business accelerator’s services.

"It (the $14,000) will be spent on securing our intellectual property," Cucco says.

Source: Marco Cucco, acting CEO of Telemetrio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Venture for America fellows launch video production firm TernPro out of Bizdom

Brian Bosche came to Detroit two years ago as part of the inaugural class of Venture for America, a two-year program that pairs talented college grads with startups in economically challenged cities. Bosche ended up working on the leadership team at Bizdom and noticed a common challenge all of the entrepreneurs in the program were facing.

"They all struggled to tell their story," Bosche says. "Especially with video because video is really hard."

That inspired Bosche to start TernPro, a full-service video production company. Along with Venture for America fellow Dan Bloom, Bosche launched the company earlier this year. TernPro is currently going through Bizdom's startup accelerator program, but is already producing videos for a variety of clients, including Come Play Detroit, Quicken Loans, and Grand Circus.

"[We do] everything from real-estate to travel, both in Detroit and across the country, as well." Bosche says.

That workload has allowed TernPro to hire two employees and bring on an intern. Bosche expects to continue adding staff this year, possibly bringing the firm’s intern on as a full-time employee.

TernPro is also developing a video creation platform so everyday people can produce videos and track the public's interaction with them. Bosche hopes to have a Beta version of the comprehensive video creation platform up and running by next year.

"That entire process is one I’d love to have on one platform," Bosche says.

Source: Brian Bosche, co-founder & CEO of TernPro
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland University receives $500,000 gift of robotics equipment

The emerging field of robotics is a wave of the future for the Great Lakes State.

Excerpt:

"FANUC America Corporation recently presented Oakland with a gift-in-kind donation of robots, software and 2D iRVision equipment representing an industry value of $474,398. The gift promises to enhance the university's academic offerings and boost its impact on the regional economy...

The gift will support development of an Industrial Robotics and Automation program within OU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which will train engineers for high-demand jobs in the field. Many of those jobs are located in Metro Detroit as the area is home to world-class robotics and automation companies."

More here
 

EAFocus turns 15 years old, doubles staff

Barbara Fornasiero started EAFocus, a public relations and marketing company, to help take more control of her life. The mother of a young family wanted to stay professionally active and focus on helping raise her young children. Becoming her own boss seemed like a good option to make that happen.

"I wanted the freedom to set my own schedule and pursue the clients that interested me," Fornasiero says.

That was 15 years ago. Today the Rochester-based company has recently hired its first employee and is growing its client list. EAFocus got its start serving professional companies, like consulting and law firms. It now does work for local school districts and municipalities, and a growing variety of clients.

Fornasiero hired Sara Przybylski nearly a year ago. Przybylski had worked as a social media coordinator for an automotive supplier before coming on as a public relations consultant at EAFocus.

"I wanted to expand the business and have a regular schedule," Fornasiero says. "I wanted to grow the business and still be able to take some time off."

Source: Barbara Fornasiero, owner & principal of EAFocus
Writer: Jon Zemke

ENT Biotech Solutions scores $100K from Michigan Pre-Seed Fund

ENT Biotech Solutions recently secured $100,000 in seed capital from the Michigan Pre-Seed Fund 2.0, which is part of a $1 million angel round for the TechTown-based startup.

"We are in the process of closing it," says Andrea Roumell Dickson, CEO of ENT Biotech Solutions.

The two-year-old startup is developing the Elasso, a single-use, disposable device designed as a cost-effective too for reducing the tedious nature of adenoid and tonsil surgery. The one-step tool cuts, cauterizes, and removes tissue, combining the advantages of heating and cutting technologies.

ENT Biotech Solutions is currently waiting for a clearance from the FDA to move ahead with commercialization. That clearance could come as soon as this fall.

"As soon as we receive that we have a green light to manufacture. Our tooling is already cut," Roumell Dickson says. "We are able to very rapidly ramp up for production."

Source: Andrea Roumell Dickson, CEO of ENT Biotech Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Bank of Ann Arbor takes on the big boys

While banks and bankers may not be the public's favorite folks in our age of controversial bail outs and investment instruments, The Bank of Ann Arbor is proving that a local institution can sometimes outperform a multi-national corporation.

Excerpt:

"In 2007, before the recession hit, the Bank of Ann Arbor was sixth in deposit market share with 8.04 percent in the city, with deposits of $329.8 million, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. KeyBank was No. 1 at 16.45 percent with deposits of $675.1 million.

As of June 30, 2013, the latest date for which data are available on the FDIC website, Chase was No. 1 at 17.3 percent with deposits of $901.6 million, while the Bank of Ann Arbor had climbed into second place at 12.38 percent and deposits of $646.2 million. "

Read the rest here.
 

Beyond Startup expands with second stage marketing work

Catherine Juon launched Beyond Startup with the idea of helping growing businesses make the leap to second stage. Now she is launching a second part of that company focused on second stage marketing using her own name, CatherineJuon.com, as the URL.

"I get the phone call when people have an online marketing problem, and it often turns out to be an second stage thing," Juon says. "The whole marketing SEO thing turns out to be the icing on the cake."

Juon helped grow online marketing firm Pure Visibility in downtown Ann Arbor before striking out on her own with Beyond Startup two years ago. The consulting firm helps its clients grow out of small business mode and into rapidly expanding firms.

Much of her work has also become helping those firms with market discovery and customer discovery. That has transformed into the creation of its own line of business.

"The second stage consulting is really its own thing," Juon says.

Juon is now working with Bud Gibson, a profession at Eastern Michigan University who created the search marketing program at the university. The pair are working on creating a sequence of workshops on solving company sales problems in the digital age.

"Our partnership is gradually growing," Juon says.

Source: Catherine Juon, founder of Beyond Startup
Writer: Jon Zemke

Imetris adds staff as it eyes double-digit sales increase in 2014

Talent is a key word for Imetris when its hoping to achieve another key word: growth.

The Saline-based IT company has made a handful of replacement hires over the last year and it's currently looking to hire two more tech people.

"Local talent," says Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris. "That's what we're looking for."

Imetris currently offers tech services in IT and data management, specifically managing data storage area devices for large corporations. It has grown its staff to 110 people over its 17 years.

"We have been able to upgrade our talent and existing employees," Acharya says. "That's part of the reason clients come back to us."

Imetris grew its revenue about 6 percent last year through growing its workload with existing clients and adding a few new ones. That number was a bit of a disappointment for Acharya who aims for consistent double-digit revenue growth each year. To Acharya a lack of growth means a business isn’t moving forward. It’s why he expects Imetris to grow 15-20 percent this year.

"That's a reasonable number considering out overhead and increasing costs over time," Acharya says.

Source: Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris
Writer: Jon Zemke

Wolverine State Brewing Co expands operations in Ann Arbor

Wolverine State Brewing Co grew its kitchen last year and is planning on expanding the rest of its business this year.

The Ann Arbor-based brewery specializes in producing, which means it requires more time and resources to produce its brews. The 8-year-old craft brewery opened up its own tap room on West Stadium Boulevard in the old Big George's space in 2010. Last December it added a kitchen, which meant it needed to hire another six people to serve as kitchen staff. It now employs 18 people.

"It's like two totally different businesses," says Josh Evans, house manager for Wolverine State Brewing Co. "In terms of the way it runs, the way it looks, it's just so much more polished."

He adds that the expansion prompted Wolverine State Brewing Co to become more professional in its appearance and operations. That is setting the table for an even bigger expansion for the brewery later this year. The firm currently produces 2,200 barrels of beer a year, a number Evans expects to go up significantly next year.

"We plan on ratcheting that up substantially in 2015," Evans says. "We're expanding everything but the retail space. Basically everything you don’t see."

Source: Josh Evans, house manager for Wolverine State Brewing Co
Writer: Jon Zemke
2786 Articles | Page: | Show All
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