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Underground Printing leverages revenue spike for 52 hires

Underground Printing spent most of the last year building up the business infrastructure it had laid the groundwork for in previous years, and is starting to reap some significant rewards.

The Ann Arbor-based clothing printer is projecting that it will hit $16 million in revenues this year. That's up from $13.8 million last year, a jump of nearly 15 percent. As a result Underground Printing has hired 52 people in a wide variety of positions. It now has a staff of 190 people with 133 based in Ann Arbor.

"It (the new hires) are across the board," says Rishi Narayan, co-owner of Underground Printing. "The new employees are all over the company."

The 13-year-old company makes custom printed apparel, like t-shirts and embroidered clothing. It has 19 stores across North America, including four in Ann Arbor. It production facility is also in Ann Arbor.

Underground Printing opened a handful of new stores a few years ago. Since then it has focused on building up sales for those locations, along with its production capabilities. The firm has added two automatic presses and other parts of screen prep equipment.

"Our improvements have been focused on the backend," Narayan says.

Source: Rishi Narayan, co-owner of Underground Printing
Writer: Jon Zemke

Seelio adds 14 people to downtown Ann Arbor office

Startups launched and grown in Ann Arbor can sometimes end up in new homes after they are acquired. That’s not the case with Seelio. The 3-year-old startup is doubling down on Tree Town with a small spike in hiring.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based higher education software startup has hired 14 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 22 employees and an intern. It is currently looking to hire four more people in software development, educational services, and a director of a university partnership development. Check out the openings here.

"We have been hiring at a rapid pace," says Emily Keller-Logan, director of marketing & communications for Seelio. "We have brought on a lot of talented people."

Seelio's platform enables college students to showcase their portfolio of work. The software documents how their college projects came to fruition and presents them for employers in job interviews. Check out a video about the platform here.

"We're providing student lifecycle portfolios to institutions so that students can begin preparing for their careers from orientation to graduation," Keller-Logan says.

Seelio raised a $1.5 million seed capital round in 2013. It was acquired by Kansas City-based PlattForm last summer.

Source: Emily Keller-Logan, director of marketing & communications for Seelio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Renovo Power Technology expands product lineup, staff

Renovo Power Technology has a growing staff to go with its expanding product portfolio in alternative energy.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company has doubled it staff with three hires in sales, marketing and government affairs. That employment growth is thanks to more sales from a wider variety of products.

Renovo Power Technology makes advanced inverters that help transition energy from solar panels to the electric grid. The transformerless inverter technology gets rid of the copper coils of traditional transformers and replaces them with electronics that are both more efficient and cheaper to manufacture. Normal five kilowatt inverters weigh 150 pounds. Renovo Power Technology's inverters are less than 60 pounds.

It recently launched a micro inverter that allows an inverter/solar panel ratio to be as low as 1/1. Often an inverter will service an array of solar panels that can number a dozen or more.

"It offers more flexibility when it comes to installations where shading might come into effect," says Shane LaHouse, managing partner of Renovo Power Technology. "It also allows for smaller installations."

Renovo Power Technology currently has its technology being used in two large installments in Michigan with a third being lined up in Traverse City. It also looking to use its technology in a 166-panel array on 416 W Huron in Ann Arbor next year. The company is also looking to land more orders from governments, such as municipalities, in 2015.

"Our primary focus is on the Midwest," LaHouse says.

Source: Shane LaHouse, managing partner of Renovo Power Technology
Writer: Jon Zemke

DC3‘s Creative Ventures looks for a few good service firms

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) is looking for a few young creative service firms for the latest cohort of fellows in its Creative Ventures Residency program.

The New Center-based organization specializes in helping grow the creative economy in Detroit, specifically in the Woodward corridor between downtown and New Center. This fall, the Creative Ventures Residency invites creative service firms (e.g. interior design and graphic design companies) to apply for the mentorship program.

"We felt we had the most to offer to design service providers," says Ellie Schneider, associate director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center.

The Creative Ventures Residency has been helping creative firms grow into stable companies that create jobs in the greater downtown Detroit area. It has incubated 45 early stage creative startups, creating 89 jobs and generating $2.1 million in revenues.

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center has reformed the program a little, shrinking its total length from 12 months to six months. It is also focusing on service-providing firms instead of startups. It is also looking for firms that are just beginning to establish themselves and want to move to the organization’s headquarters in New Center.

"We think they benefit much more from being based in our offices," Schneider says.

For information on applying, click here.

Source: Ellie Schneider, associate director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

TechTown’s AiirShare brings sharing economy to private planes

The sharing economy has made its way into most facets of everyday people's lives. Today, it's not uncommon to rent out your car for cab rides or a spare room for hotel stays. A TechTown-based startup now wants to take that concept airborne.

AiirShare brings sharing economy to aircraft and flying, helping people with private planes rent out empty seats to fliers. Those seats can range from single-engine Cessnas to private jets.

"I always loved aviation and always wanted something to do with it," says Joe Tuchman, co-founder & CEO of AiirShare.

Tuchman participated in TechTown’s DTX Launch program last summer. He said it gave him a lot of basic tools to get his startup off the ground, such as identifying customers and networking with other resources.

"That was a huge help," Tuchman says.

AiirShar's team of two people currently is working with a few dozens pilots flying out of Michigan. The flights go to nearby places, such as Indiana and Chicago. Tuchman hopes to reach further over the next year.

"I want to completely saturate Michigan with flights to Chicago and Indiana," Tuchman says.

Source: Joe Tuchman, co-founder & CEO of AiirShare
Writer: Jon Zemke

Zingerman's co-founder weighs in on minimum wage

Paul Saginaw, co-founder and partner at Zingerman's blogs about his company's commitment to a thriveable wage for its employees.

Excerpt:

"I hear many in the restaurant industry say raising menu prices will result in customer loss and diminished profits, but I reject that and question the scale of those profit margins, wondering if the margins are maintained by shorting their employees. Customers have voted with their pocketbooks for locally sourced, organic, and free-range products. Now is a prime time to educate “voters” for ethical employment practices as well.

Many myths about the industry workforce and the minimum wage create a false reality and highly unproductive debate. The truth is that livable wages and profits are not mutually exclusive, and Zingerman’s are not the only businesses to know this and operate accordingly. RAISE, an alternative restaurant association, is aligning businesses across the nation to adopt “high road” labor practices. Zingerman’s Community of Businesses joined. I sense that there is public readiness to join this growing business leadership and leverage its consumer dollars to “vote” for raising standards for workers."

Read the rest here.
 

Farmington Hills-based ReapSo launches 2.0 version of app

Mobile startup ReapSo is launching the 2.0 version of its brand-advocacy app this fall.

The Farmington Hills-based company’s platform connects fans with the brands. It encourages its users to "WIN. VOTE. SAVE." so they can win prizes, voice their opinion and save money. Check out a video on it here.

The new version is focused on making those connections on broadcast mediums.

"We have expanded the 2.0 version to go after TV and radio channels with enhanced digital strategies," says Bill Wildern, co-founder & CEO of ReapSo. He adds, "You can get audience pulse with immediate feedback. They can send that out via social media."

ReapSo has grown its staff to seven employees. It is focusing on establishing the 2.0 version of its app across the U.S. this year and next.

"We want to grow the value proposition," Wildern says.

Source: Bill Wildern, co-founder & CEO of ReapSo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Simons Michelson Zieve moves into dynamic new space

Simons Michelson Zieve's new home is light years away from its old space in regards to openness and feel. Its old and new homes are also just a few blocks away from each other in Troy.

The 85-year-old advertising agency just moved into its new office at 1200 Kirts Boulevard, which measures out to 12,000 square feet. The space is actually a little smaller than its previous office but it doesn’t feel that way, with wraparound windows bringing in more natural light and multiple floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled meeting spaces.

"It just feels bigger," says Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve.

The new office is much more open, conforming to the modern creative class demands of connecting people by breaking them out of the physical office silos. Michelson's team worked in several individual offices at the old office but wanted a more collegial atmosphere in its new one.

"People would say you have all of these wonderful people here but I can't see them," Michelson says.

Simons Michelson Zieve has a staff of 47 employees and a couple of interns. It has hired three people over the last year and is looking to hire another three right now. The open jobs include junior-level account coordinators. More info on the openings here

Source: Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve
Writer: Jon Zemke

Blexting expands to Highland Park and Hamtramck

Save for the border they share with each other, the cities of Highland Park and Hamtramck are completely surrounded by Detroit. Despite that, those two small cities did not receive the benefit of the Motor City Mapping project that occurred earlier this year. That all changed Monday, Oct. 20, when that project, which cataloged every parcel of land in the city of Detroit, kicked off a week of documenting properties in Highland Park and Hamtramck.

Blexting -- a portmanteau of the words 'blight' and 'texting' -- is an app that has allowed people to document the physical shape of their communities, in turn allowing municipalities to better tackle issues of blight in those neighborhoods. Developed by Michael Evans of Loveland Technologies, the app is available on both iOS and Android smart phones.

This week, surveyors will canvas the two cities, taking photographs of parcels of land and then detailing each property with information regarding vacancy, damage, blights, and similar variables. For the project that occurred in Detroit, residents can now update that information through the app. Residents of Highland Park and Hamtramck will soon be able to do the same.

20 surveyors have been hired to document the roughly 6,600 parcels in Highland Park and 6,700 parcels in Hamtramck. Funding has been provided by the Skillman Foundation and Kresge Foundation with support from Loveland Technologies, Data Driven Detroit, and Rock Ventures. It's predicted that the surveying will take about one week to complete.

Blexting was developed by Detroit programmer and technology enthusiast Michael Evans in 2013. Having shared a co-working space with Loveland Technologies at the Department of Alternatives in downtown Detroit, Evans eventually joined Loveland to develop the app. Since its initial use in Detroit in late 2013 and early 2014, a number of cities have showed interest in the app, including New Orleans, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh.

Source: Rock Ventures press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

The Recovery Project adds 5 jobs, plans move to larger office

To say The Recovery Project comes from humble beginnings might be a bit of an understatement.

The physical rehabilitation firm got its start in the Livonia YMCA with three people in 2003. Today the company employs 40 people between its home base in Livonia and satellite office in Macomb Township. It has hired five people over the last year, including physical therapist assistants and technicians.

"We do plan on hiring over the next year," says Charles Parkhill, co-CEO of The Recovery Project. "Probably 4-6 over the next year."

The Recovery Project specializes in high-intensity physical therapy and rehab services. It has full-service independent clinics in Livonia and Macomb. The company has watched its revenue jump 20 percent over the last year as more and more doctors refer patients.

"They only come when doctors see progress with their patients," Parkhill says.

The Recovery Project is also planning to move its Macomb Township facility to a larger space next year. The new space will be about double the square footage of its 2,700-square-foot office.

"We expect our clientele to quickly fill out the space," Parkhill says.

Source: Charles Parkhill, co-CEO of The Recovery Project
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ease Living brings style to home medical equipment

Getting old isn't really fashionable in the 21st century. A new company in Beverly Hills is trying to change that.

Ease Living sells lifestyle aids for seniors and people with disabilities. The offerings are curated to help bring more fashionable items to the people who need them, such as compression socks with patterns.

"Most of the common home medical equipment doesn't work very well and it's ugly," says Alison Emerick, president of Ease Living.

Emerick is an occupational therapist who launched the company from her home a year ago. She sees making these sorts of fashionable offerings as bringing mobility and dignity to the people who need them.

"No one want their house to look like a hospital room," Emerick says.

Ease Living sells its wares from its website. Emerick is looking at adding a print catalogue to appeal to older customers. She is also looking at the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar shop in the next year.

Source: Alison Emerick, president of Ease Living
Writer: Jon Zemke

BoostUp grows staff to 6 people in M@dison Building

Finding the money for the down payment on a car or a home is never as easy as it sounds. It's a challenge one Detroit-based startup is turning into a business.

BoostUp provides an online platform that helps users to save up enough money for the down payment on the house or car of their dreams. The platform lets the user tell their family and friends about their goal through social media and gives them an option for people to donate toward that cause in the form of birthday or holiday gifts.

"We have recently put the emphasis on cars and homes," says John Morgan, founder & president of BoostUp. "We are focused on the downpayment phase."

The 1-year-old company spun out of Synergy Marketing Partners and was originally named Motozuma. It scored an angel investment from Detroit Venture Partners, which prompted it to move from Chicago to the M@dison Building. It is working with a number of large corporations, such as Hyundai and Quicken Loans.

BoostUp currently has 40,000 users. They spend about 4-6 months saving for vehicles and 6-12 months saving for homes. Morgan hopes to scale those numbers significantly over the next year hitting six-figures of users.

"We think a goal-based interface is important for consumers," Morgan says.

BoostUp currently employs a staff of six full-time employees and another three part-timers. It has hired four people over the last 12 months, including positions in marketing, sales and customer support.

Source: John Morgan, founder & president of BoostUp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Customer Discovery Ninja platform helps gauge customer demand

Customer Discovery Ninja isn't Steven Sherman's first startup, but his first startup served as the inspiration for Customer Discovery Ninja.

The Ann Arborite spent a large part of last year trying to build up YouKnowWatt, a technology platform that brings real-time information to home energy audits with an eye for making more houses energy-efficient. That startup didn't pan out, but Sherman and his co-founder did stumble upon a market need when trying to determine their customer base.

They were doing customer research with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform when they realized the technology wasn’t doing everything they wanted. So they decided to make their own to facilitate more comprehensive interviews with potential customer.

"You're not pitching a solution," Sherman says. "You're trying to understand the core of their problem."

Customer Discovery Ninja is currently in private Beta with a handful of paying customers. The platform works to gauge customer demand for a new product. For now the new service is limiting its focus as it building up its platform.

"It's for general U.S. consumers," Sherman says. "You won't find an B2B on there."

Sherman and his partner would like to hire 100 paying customers (think businesses and entrepreneurs) paying $5 per interview by the end of this year.

Source: Steven Sherman, co-founder of Customer Discovery Ninja
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Detroit’s foodjunky spreads across U.S.


Last year, foodjunky was a startup trying to gain traction for its 21st century food ordering platform. It had big ambitions and a small customer base, mainly in downtown Detroit. This year, that customer base is much wider.

"In January, we were in one state," says Travis O Johnson, co-founder of foodjunky. "Now we're in nine states. We’ve been growing pretty rapidly."

The 1-year-old company's platform helps large groups make orders from restaurants, simplifying the error-prone process of one person relaying lots of food orders to another over a phone line. Check out this video of how foodjunky works: 



Foodjunky currently has a few hundred restaurants in its network, mainly in the Midwest and Texas.

"We will be hitting 1,000 pretty soon," Johnson says.

Foodjunky, which graduated from Bizdom last fall, has hired two people over the last year, and is currently looking to hire a software developer. The startup employs a staff of six people.

Those number could grow quickly as foodjunky gets ready to close on a seed round. It originally aimed for $250,000 but became over-committed. Johnson hopes to close on a bigger round later this year. He also hopes to hit $1 million in revenue next year.

"We should have a majority of the U.S. states covered," Johnson says.

Source: Travis O Johnson, co-founder of foodjunky
Writer: Jon Zemke

OcuSciences enlists Adams Fellow to grow startup

OcuSciences hired two people over the last year, expanding the bio-tech startup’s staff to five. One of those hires was a new CTO (coming Accuri Cytometers) and another is from the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship program.

The Automation Alley-managed program pairs recent college graduates with locally based startups. The idea is to get more talented young people involved in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Erich Heise joins OcuSciences as its business manager, specializing in business development.

"It's a chance for Erich to get his feet wet in a company," says Kurt Riegger, COO of OcuSciences. "OcuSciences is doing a lot of business development and Erich has a chance to do a lot of it."

OcuSciences spun out of the University of Michigan six years ago developing a new way to diagnose diseases like diabetes with eye scans. Its ocular diagnostic technology for metabolomic diseases that allows doctors to diagnose patients earlier and with higher accuracy. It's the type of new technology in an emerging area that attracted Heise back to Ann Arbor after he graduated from Case Western University.

"Ann Arbor is really an area of opportunity when it comes to entrepreneurship," Heise says. "Most people run to the coasts but I think this area is really blossoming."

OcuSciences’ technology is being used in two clinical centers, and the startup is working to bring two more online in the coming months.

"The need is high," Riegger says. "The challenge is can we get ahead of the need?"

Source: Kurt Riegger, COO of OcuSciences
Writer: Jon Zemke
2856 Articles | Page: | Show All
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