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The Whole Brain Group

315 E. Eisenhower Pkwy
Suite 300
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Marisa Smith

What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
ATHENA PowerLink (2008 winner) - Program administered through MI-SBTDC provides an advisory board to women business owners for one year.
GLEQ (2009 participant) - Business plan competition to refine our AccreditStation business plan.
Ann Arbor SPARK Business Accelerator - Received assistance with marketing projects for our AccreditStation product.

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
The University of Michigan. I was an employee there and spun my own business off to complete a large-scale project for the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Where did you find your first employee?
In my gene pool. My father joined me in 2004. He was unhappy doing programming work in cubicle world at a large corporation, and I needed assistance launching the AccreditStation product while juggling a new baby and other software development projects.

Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
Yes, twice.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We have primarily funded our growth by bootstrapping. We have always had paying customers, but it can be tough to keep up with cash requirements when you're hiring people to do work you haven't been paid for yet. We've had a loan from a local bank, an SBA loan, a microloan from Ann Arbor SPARK, an active angel investor, and have played balance transfer offer bingo on credit cards a number of times.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about opening a business here?
Participate in the entrepreneurial community, specifically groups like Ann Arbor SPARK, GLEQ, MI-SBTDC, MEDC, WXW, ATHENA, WBO, WPO - the organizations in this state are amazing. From day one, I have been amazed by how generous people are with their time and advice, and at first I couldn't understand why. Now that I'm a so-called seasoned entrepreneur, I get it. Once you've figured something out the hard way, you want to share your knowledge and prevent future pain for other people. So don't be afraid to ask for help, and remember to pay it forward.

If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
I'd love to see better public transportation options into Ann Arbor from areas like Saline, Chelsea, and Dexter. The amount of time my employees and I spend in the car is pretty amazing, and we'd all love to be able to take a train or bus and use that time more productively. My Ann Arbor employees use the bus regularly, but those of us who live outside the city could really use some better options.

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