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Thomson-Shore acquires PublishNext, Seattle Book Co

Thomson-Shore has acquired PublishNext and its subsidiary Seattle Book Company in an effort for the Dexter-based firm to broaden its publishing platform.

"It is something we have been wanting to do for sometime now," says Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore.

The 40-year-old company, which is 100-percent employee owned, operates as a full-service book publishing, production, and distribution company. It employs 200 people and a couple of summer interns. The firm has hired 10 people (mainly in production and manufacturing) over the last year. It is also looking to hire two more people in sales and customer service.

PublishNext enables authors or small publishing houses to print their tomes or create an eBook. The Seattle Book Company has distribution channels in new markets that Thomson-Shore desires. Thomson-Shore’s acquired the two entities so it can create a broader publishing and distribution platform that allows it to fill the gaps it has with its customers.

"It was a really good fit from a market-fit and customer-service standpoint," Spall says.

He adds that Thomson-Shore has been looking to make an acquisition like this for the last 18 months and passed on a few other opportunities because they didn't fit Thomson-Shore's goals of supplying high-quality products and services.

Source: Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore
Writer: Jon Zemke

Basso Design Group doubles work space in Troy

Basso Design Group is moving on up in the world, or at least in Troy.

The 11-year-old digital marketing agency is moving into a new office this week. The 3,000-square-foot space is twice the size of its previous office, which will help accommodate the firm's growing staff.

Basso Design Group has hired three people over the last year: a website developer, sales professional and a creative director. It now employs a staff of 15 people. The agency is looking for summer interns. It is also looking to hire two people now for website development and website design.

"We have landed some pretty significant clients over the last year," says Dan Santonocito, managing partner with Basso Design Group. "Everyone from Michigan State University to Wayne State University to Michigan First Credit Union to Hansons."

The Troy-based firm handles a wide variety of digital marketing services, including website building, social media, search engine optimization and mobile app development. It is looking to get into developing mobile apps and responsive web design this year as it looks to continue growing its revenue at a double-digit clip.

"We steadily grow between 20-30 percent a year," Santonocito says. "Every year has been our best year so far."

Source: Dan Santonocito, managing partner with Basso Design Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Seelio continues to expand software platform across U.S.

Seelio is starting to grow beyond its humble beginnings in Ann Arbor. The software startup's digital portfolio platform for college students is appearing at more and more universities across the U.S.

Seelio is developing a software platform that allows college students to showcase their portfolio of work. The software enables the students to document how college projects came to fruition and use that to get a start in the professional world, such as for job interviews. Seelio’s software is actively being used at seven universities across the U.S., including the universities of Michigan, Toledo and Texas, among others.

"We have a very strong pipeline of universities," says Moses Lee, CEO of Seelio.

That growth has allowed Seelio to grow in a number of different ways. It raised a $1.5 million seed round last year. It also hired six people (mostly in sales and customer service), expanding its staff to 12 employees. It also moved to new space at Ann Arbor SPARK’s Central Business Incubator in downtown Ann Arbor.

Seelio is looking to continue to grow its product use in more universities across North America. It currently has string footholds in the Midwest, East Coast and South, but would like to partner with more institutions of higher learning in other regions of the country in 2014.

"It's all about growth," Lee says. "We want to provide stellar outcomes and services to university students."

Source: Moses Lee, CEO of Seelio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Bizdomís Cribspot helps connect college students with housing

Tim Jones knows how much of a pain in the ass it is for college students to find off-campus housing. It’s why he and a group of three other undergrads at the University of Michigan started Cribspot, an Internet startup that helps connect students to off-campus rental housing.

"It's archaic (looking for off-campus student housing in Ann Arbor)," Jones says. "It's inefficient for most people. People talk to a friend or walk around in the cold and dial the numbers on the house."

Cribspot's website acts as one central location for landlords and students to offer and find rental housing around universities. Jones launched the startup a little more than a year ago, then called A2cribs, with Evan Dancer, Jason Okrasinski and Alex Gross. The idea of helping Ann Arbor students at U-M. It is now being used at half a dozen campuses across the U.S., including the University of Iowa, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Our main goal is to get all of that (housing) data on a map," Jones says.

The quartet of entrepreneurs took Cribspot to Bizdom in downtown Detroit and are working on turning it into a national brand. It wants to create a mobile app for its software and generate revenue from referrals for things like meal plans and furniture sales for students.

"We want to focus on just off-campus housing in college towns," Okrasinski says.

Source: Tim Jones and Jason Okrasinski, co-founders of Cribspot
Writer: Jon Zemke

Skidmore Studio scores more national biz as it grows in Detroit

When Skidmore Studio made its move to the M@dison Building in downtown Detroit two years ago, work from local companies drove the growth at the creative agency. The firm looked beyond the Motor City in 2013.

"Growing national work," says Tim Smith, president & CEO of Skidmore Studio. "We brought in five new clients with national scope."

Those new clients include Dave & Busters, Expedia and Chrysler. Skidmore Studio is doing everything from print and TV and digital work for those companies. Smith explains that they were attracted to Skidmore Studio’s heartland characteristics.

"It's that Midwestern work ethic," Smith says. "They are finding it a refreshing change of pace."

Skidmore Studio
also clocked a significant chunk of work from local big-name firms, such as DTE Energy and Quicken Loans. It is also working on a marketing campaign for Detroit Public Schools.

"We're still finding a lot of local firms that need help," Smith says.

That has allowed Skimore to hire three people over the last year, including a vice president, digital producer and interactive designer. It is also looking to hire an account executive. The firm currently has a staff of 29 employees and a couple of interns. Smith hopes to make a few more hires in 2014 as it works to land more mid-sized companies with a national scope.

Source: Tim Smith, president & CEO of Skidmore Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

ArtServe study helps highlight local creative economy

A new report from ArtsServe is providing some hard statistics on the impact of Michigan's growing creative economy, and the Detroit Creative Corridor Center is providing a number of its own.

The CreativeState MI report issued by ArtServe shows that 9,700 creatively inclined companies, ranging from advertising agencies to design firms, employ 74,000 people in Michigan as of 2011. They represent $3.6 billion in wages. Oakland, Wayne, Macomb and Washtenaw counties are four of Michigan's top five counties for creative industries.

"I see this day in and day out and I didn’t think the numbers would be so big," says Matt Clayson, director of Detroit Creative Corridor Center.

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center provides business-building services to creative-based firms and aspiring entrepreneurs who want to set up shop in Detroit greater downtown area, specifically the Woodward corridor between Grand Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue. Its operates a year-long incubator program for these types of startups and is shepherding its third class through this year.

It currently has 18 companies in the incubator that represents 32 jobs. Those companies have added three jobs since the incubator class started last fall. Among its promising startups are Wedge Detroit (a marketing and branding firm), MammothReach (a web-design firm) and The Empowerment Plan (a company that makes a combination sleeping bag and winter coat.

"They have been fundraising machines," Clayson says. "They have been aiming to launch a kickstarter campaign to fund their prototype."

Source: Matt Clayson, director of Detroit Creative Corridor Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

GraphiColor scores best growth year in 30-year history

GraphiColor Exhibits is celebrating its 30th year in business this year but the event firm isn’t resting on its laurels.

The Livonia-based firm has spiked its revenue by 23 percent in 2013. It also hired two people in sales and marketing and a production assistant. The company now employs nine people.

"We had our biggest year ever last year," says Anita Mitzel, president of GraphiColor Exhibits. "We are extremely pleased with that."

GraphiColor Exhibits specializes in creating trade show displays and organizing corporate events. Mitzel credits last year’s growth to repeat business from the firm's longtime customer base, along with bringing on a couple dozen new customers in 2013.

"We're pretty easy to work with," Mitzel says. "A big reason we are successful is because we do what we say we're going to do. We don’t miss deadlines."

She adds that she is optimistic about GraphiColor Exhibits' chances of growing at the same rate this year. She expects repeat business will make that possible. "I would be very happy if we do that," Mitzel says.

Source: Anita Mitzel, president of GraphiColor Exhibits
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's stkr.it adds 2 jobs after locking down Series A financing

Ann Arbor-based stkr.it may be about to turn three years old, but most of its growth took place over the last year.

The software startup helps people create and connect new messages to items like greeting cards and scrapbooks. The company has landed a number of partnerships with larger companies that will utilize its technology. Some of those partnerships include deals with Epson (a printer company) and Walsworth Publishing (a yearbook firm).

"It has been gratifying to see all of these partnerships come about," says Mike Newman, president of stkr.it. "As these products hit the market we expect to see a dramatic level of growth in the next six months."

The startup, which has dual offices in Ann Arbor and New York City, also locked down a Series A round of seed capital worth $600,000. That has allowed it make two of its part-time employees full-timers, rounding out its staff to five people. It is also looking at adding interns this year. Newman hopes to leverage a growing staff and revenues to flesh out its product in 2014.

"Now that we have built up a user base we want to give them the best product we can," Newman says.

Source: Mike Newman, president of stkr.it
Writer: Jon Zemke

Wedit hires 2 people, looks to add another

Wedit is one of those startups that launched out of the early days of Bizdom and has been knocking around the Quicken Loans family of businesses ecosystem for a few years. This last year is when it started to gain traction and then some.

The 4-year-old startup made its name by offering affordable wedding videography solutions that are shipped to the happy couple in a box and then edited upon their request. It hired two people (a video editor and project manager) last year and is looking to hire another person who specializes in customer service now. It currently employs a team of three full-time employees and eight independent contractors. It is looking for summer interns.

"We tripled our sales," says Sarah Brithinee, CEO of Wedit. "It was our first cash-flow positive year."

The new economy startup made that happen by harnessing some new economy tricks to grow its revenue.

"It's all through social media," Brithinee says. "Ninety-seven percent of our sales come from Pinterest."

Wedit currently works out of the co-working space at Bizdom at 1528 Woodward. It is looking to move into its own space in the First National Building before the end of the winter. Wedit is also planning to rebuild its website and build up the company brand in this year.

"We're setting the table for a big 2015," Brithinee says.

Source: Sarah Brithinee, CEO of Wedit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Buy Michigan Now readies for annual market in Northville

A festival that comes to Northville each August may look like any summertime fair, but behind the temporary town of tents, banners, bands and children's play areas is a successful effort to build up fledgling Michigan-made businesses.

For five years the Buy Michigan Now festival has shut down Main & Center streets and opened 2 1/2 blocks of downtown to small- and medium-sized Michigan businesses looking for exposure for their goods and services. Dozens and dozens of times over the years, says Buy Michigan Now founder Lisa Diggs, the vendor-customer connection made at the fair propels entrepreneurial ideas into commercial reality.

"We've had businesses that grew out of the event in a great way, where they've gone on to get on store shelves. Others have opened their own shops or offices. We're sort of a little breeding ground for that kind of success," says Diggs.

This year, as in past years, about 100 vendors will bring all sorts of products, such as foods, patio furniture, smartphone repair services, to the festival. Small businesses in downtown Northville are also part of the event, which draws large crowds with its carefully-screened vendors, a beer and wine garden where Michigan crafters sell their liquid handiwork, live entertainment and a kids' play area spread across the festival area.

The 2014 festival is Aug. 1, 2 and 3, and applications for vendors are now being taken online here.

"It's a campaign and a festival with a cause," says Diggs, an entrepreneur herself. Through Buy Michigan Now and her consulting work as owner of The Catalyst Co., she promotes businesses in a number of ways throughout the year, including providing publicity and media exposure that is normally too costly for a start-up.

The first year of the Buy Michigan Now campaign was in 2007 and came with heavy involvement from the state of Michigan and Gov. Jennifer Granholm. It was a weeklong event with numerous celebrations and promotion. It formed at a time when Michigan's economy was tanking and when the mindset of buying local was taking shape.

"We're literally about getting more people to sit up and take notice of where their product or service comes from. The idea when we started was to have a day for people to think about how to buy only Michigan products, make a meal only from Michigan. Then we realized we needed much more than a day."

Source: Lisa Diggs, founder Buy Michigan Now
Writer: Kim North Shine

Gongos hires 19 new employees in Auburn Hills

The leadership of a medium-to-large-size firm always says the business will soldier on and continue to grow just as it did before if it loses a key member (think founder or CEO) of its team. Following through on those statements is not easily done. Gongos is getting the job done.

The Auburn Hills-based market research firm lost its founder, John Gongos, suddenly to an illness a little more than a year ago. The company notched more than 20 straight years of steady growth on his watch, and it has continued to do that since. Gongos just booked its 23rd straight year of strong growth in 2013, spiking its revenue by 12 percent. Camille Nicita, president & CEO of Gongos, credits the team John Gongos assembled around him when he built the company.

"He relied heavily on the people around him," Nicita says. "He wasn't the end-all-be-all type of person."

Gongos has also grown its staff by 15 percent over the last year. It has hired 19 people since January of 2013 and now employs 125 full-time staffers and one intern.

"We're really hiring across the board because we're growing so rapidly," Nicita says. "Our goal as a company is not to be big, but to be great."

Nicita oversaw the combining of Gongos Research and O2 Integrated into the singular Gongos brand last year. The company is now working to move from solely market research to what Nicita and her team are coining the "decision intelligence space" that leverages traditional market research and data analytics that come from both Gongos overall research and from each customer.

This evolution is part of what makes Gongos a "living and breathing" thing that bases most of its ability on the combined vision of its workforce.

"We're trying to hire people who believe in the vision of this company as much as we do," Nicita says.

Source: Camille Nicita, president & CEO of Gongos
Writer: Jon Zemke

Post-production firm Pluto moves to full-content creation

Pluto has seen itself as a post-production studio for many of its 16 years, but the downtown Birmingham-based content studio has been working to make the transition to "full content creation" in recent years.

"We are trying to broaden our client base," says Dave Corbett, creative director of Pluto. "Also, with services we don’t have, we want to bring in top talent from across the country."

Pluto has traditionally worked with firms, like Leo Burnett, Commonwealth, Lowe Campbell Ewald and Team Detroit, that handle advertising and marketing for automotive companies. It provides post-production services, along with visual-effect and interactive services. It is also teaming up with other firms, including coastal-based Spotwelders, on Chevrolet and Ford campaigns. Pluto has also attracted a some out-of-town firms to bring work to Metro Detroit. Nice Shoes, a New York City-based firm, is opening a remote-color-correction suite inside Pluto's studios in Birmingham and Detroit.

"Our goal is to provide enough services so the creative community doesn't need to go out of town," says Natasha Marin, director of business development for Pluto. "We want to offer services that are as good if not better than what you can find out of town."

Expanding Pluto’s service offerings has allowed growth in its staff. It has hired two interns for visual effects positions over the last year, expanding to 30 full-time workers, 5-10 independent contractors and one intern.

Source: Dave Corbett, creative director of Pluto and Natasha Marin, director of business development for Pluto
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Urban Science plans to add 126 staff in Ren Cen

James Anderson has some big ambitions for Urban Science. The CEO of automotive retail consulting firm has built the 37-year-old company into a $200 million business. That is up from $147 million in 2012, and Anderson expects to grow the firm exponentially within the next 10 years.

"I like the b word (billion)," Anderson says.

Urban Science provides sales and marketing software and other solutions for the automotive industry. It got its start in 3,600 square feet of the Renaissance Center when it opened in 1977. Urban Science now occupies six floors of the building. It employs about 850 people after making 110 hires (mostly of technical talent) in the last year.

Urban Science plans to create another 126 jobs over the next five years. The firm plans to expand its software consulting and engineering and services operations with a $2.1 million investment. Anderson hopes to hit that hiring goal sooner rather than later.

"I would expect to see a lot of that happen before we hit year four or year five," Anderson says.

The downtown Detroit-based company also recently hired Elizabeth Klee as its chief information officer. Klee served as managing director at Accenture before joining Urban Science. At Accenture, she was responsible for numerous technology strategies and outsourcing engagements across multiple industries.

"As the world becomes more digital everyday we have to rely more on software to thrive in the marketplace," says James Anderson, CEO of Urban Science.

Source: James Anderson, CEO of Urban Science
Writer: Jon Zemke

Fathead adds a couple dozen hires in downtown

Patrick McInnis isn't gun-shy about hiring someone at Fathead. The poster-decal firm has two open positions for sales professionals and the company would be ready to take a shot on good candidates even if those jobs weren't on the table.

"If we come across a good candidate we will pull the trigger," says Patrick McInnis, CEO of Fathead. "That is a revenue opportunity for us."

The downtown Detroit-based firm, it calls the Compuware Building home, has taken a lot of shots over the last year, hiring 25 people. Those jobs include sales, operations, marketing and customer service. It now has a staff of 100 employees and half a dozen interns. The number of interns expands to 20 over the summer.

Those hires go with Fathead's increasing growth. Its revenue is up 35 percent last year, making 2013 its best year so far.

"We are expecting to grow another 30-35 percent this year," McInnis says. "We're definitely a company on the rise."

The 8-year-old company got its start making poster-size decals of famous athletes that adhere to walls. It was acquired by Dan Gilbert and is now a member of the Quicken Loans family of companies.

Fathead has grown its product portfolio over that time. It now offers jumbo-sized wall art for commercial buyers, such as ceiling to floor decals for major universities, like the University of Michigan and Miami (of Ohio) University, to name a few. One of its new products is Fashion Fat Dots, which are small stickers that go on the navigation buttons of iPhones and other mobile devices.

Fathead also is moving into the home decor arena. It now offers products that are similar to customizable wallpaper. For instance, renters who can't paint walls can order a piece of vinyl in any color they want. That way the renter's room is customized to their wants and they don't have to worry about losing any of their damage deposit when they take the piece of vinyl down.

"We're going to continue to expand that product line," McInnis says.

Fathead is also planning to expand its traditional product portfolio in 2014. The company wants to add more licenses for non-sports celebrities for their original-style wall decals. Last year Fathead nailed down the image rights for One Direction and it wants to bring in more celebrities that resonate with teens and tweens.

"The up-and-coming kid bands are a big focus for us this year," McInnis says.

Source: Patrick McInnis, CEO of Fathead
Writer: Jon Zemke

1000 Tools brings sharing economy to pricey tools

The inspiration for 1000 Tools, a startup based on the idea of a sharing economy, came from an unlikely source: a Ford Probe.

Alan Mond used to own a Ford Probe. Like most other student-owned automobiles it eventually needed repairs. And like most college students, it made more financial sense for Mond to fix it himself than go to an auto repair shop. The only problem is he didn't have the tools he needed to do it.

"I could have bought the tools outright or I could have borrowed them from my friends but they didn't have all the tools I needed," Mond says. He adds that borrowing tools isn't a practice that strengthens friendships as much as it wears them thin.

So he came up with the idea of creating a website where people could put their expensive and niche tools up for rent. That became 1000 Tools about six months ago, when Mond teamed up with Julien Vanier (a software developer) to bring the idea to fruition.

1000 Tools is based on the idea of the sharing economy. Think Airbnb (where people can put homes or rooms up for rent online) but with tools. 1000 Tools and its team of three people have so far attracted 270 users who have put everything from a bread maker to an excavator up for rent online.

"We're going to grow it first in Ann Arbor and spread it to other cities," Mond says. "We'd like to have 1,000 tools by the end of the year."

Source: Alan Mond, co-founder & CEO of 1000 Tools
Writer: Jon Zemke
913 Marketing / Media Articles | Page: | Show All
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