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Paragon Design + Display hires 4 as it expands workload

Paragon Display Group started out with some humble beginnings in 1982, offering photo finishing for Ann Arbor customers.  The company has since grown into a full-service environmental graphics and printing studio, employing a staff of 34 people and a summer intern. However, getting to this point required a number of pivots to adapt to the market. Paragon Display Group made the move from consumer to commercial work about the same time photos went from primarily hard copies to digital.

"We had to evolve into another type of business," says Gary Snyder, director of sales for Paragon Design + Display. "The commercial work became much more important to us."

And it grew quickly. Paragon hired four people in the last year, and is looking to hire another sales professional. Over the last year it has spiked its revenue by 29 percent and is on track to hit a similar number in 2015. They accomplished this by completing several large projects, including a number for the University of Michigan Athletic Department, Central Michigan University, and Kettering University. However, downtown Detroit-based Fathead is proving to be its most important customer.

"That is growing astronomically as well," says Bill Van Cleve, president & CEO of Paragon Design + Display. "They are giving us a lot of work."

Fathead's work includes everything from its traditional decal wall stickers of athletes to large decals of things like Star Wars characters. It is also doing a lot of corporate display work for Fathead. Paragon Design + Display would like to expand this sort of work to more small businesses in Michigan in the next year or two.

"We want to help brand their environment," says Holly Schoenfield, director of marketing for Paragon Design + Display.

The firm is also looking to return to its consumer-facing roots to help diversify and grow its revenue streams. Paragon Design Display would like to attract more work from everyday people who would like to print out their important photos and other pieces of artwork for their individual living and work spaces.

"Now we're trying to open it up to consumers," Van Cleve says. "We want them to know they can get fine art printing here."

Source: Bill Van Cleve, president & CEO of Paragon Design + Display; Gary Snyder, director of sales for Paragon Design + Display; and Holly Schoenfield, director of marketing for Paragon Design + Display
Writer: Jon Zemke

Clarity Quest Marketing scores best year ever in 2014

Clarity Quest Marketing is one of those companies that has steadily carved out its niche over 14 years of business. Now that it's matured, the company is really hitting its stride.

"We have become one of the biggest healthcare IT marketing firms in the nation," says Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing. "We just closed two deals in the last week."

The Ann Arbor-based firm has hired three people over the last year, including project managers. It now has a staff of 20 employees and one summer intern.

Powering that hiring has been more and more word-of-mouth work from healthcare IT firms. It has signed deals across the U.S., including with the Chronic Care Management out of Cleveland and eMedapps in Chicago. It's also doing work closer to home, handling marketing for Mountain Pass Solutions, a University of Michigan spin-out.

Deals like that cleared the way for 2014 to become Clarity Quest Marketing’s best year ever. Slocum is optimistic her firm’s reputation will lead to a repeat of 2014 because of the steady pipeline of work it has lined up for this year.

"This year we're on track for the same as last year," Slocumb says. "I'm hoping its going to be better."

Source: Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

Hile Creative grows revenue with long-term clients, adding staff

A pivot in the Hile Creative business model is paying dividends for the Ann Arbor-based firm a little more than a year after it was executed.

The digital advertising firm made a shift from project-based work to more comprehensive branding for long-term clients. The move paid off. The 30-year-old firm's revenue is up 10 percent and it's looking to hire two people to its staff of 12.

"Our sweet spot is to work with companies that need help defining themselves in their competitive space," says Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative. "The question we always ask clients is why do you matter? Why would someone choose you over your competitors?"

Hile Creative grew by bringing on some more long-term clients, such as Venturi, a Traverse City-based maker of bathroom products. Hile Creative has also expanded its work with existing clients like Beaumont Hospital, Ann Arbor-based Heatspring, and the University of Michigan.

Hile Creative is looking to hire a graphic designer and web director now because it's aiming to do more video work for its clients. The company is betting more and more companies will turn to short videos to help them tell the stories about them and their products.

"More and more information, especially complex information, can be easily described through animation and videography," Hile says.

Source: Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ghostly International enjoys biggest growth year to date

Ghostly International is enjoying the fruits of a highly successful year of business which came complete with rising record sales, new merchandising successes, and fresh partnership opportunities.

"We have had our biggest year to date," says Jeremy Peters, director of creative licensing & business affairs for Ghostly International.

Peters declined to detail the specifics of the ambient music label's success. However, he did say that Ghostly International has made a hire over the last year, expanding its staff to 10 employees and an intern. It’s also looking to make a hire in online merchandising.

Ghostly International launched out of Ann Arbor in 1999 and now calls the Tech Brewery home. It also has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Over the last year it profited from a wide variety of ventures, such as partnering with Warby Parker to create a Ghostly International brand of sunglasses. It also created the soundtrack for the Hohokum video game for PlayStation. It also released a new album for Tycho, Awake, last year.

"Sales have been pretty awesome on that," Peters says. "It's been one of our best sellers."

Peters expects Ghostly International to repeat those sorts of successes this year. He said some similar partnerships are in the pipeline for this year but declined to reveal what they are.

"Our level of growth has been consistent and heading upwards at a pretty decent tick," Peters says. "It's still organic and manageable."

Source: Jeremy Peters, director of creative licensing & business affairs for Ghostly International
Writer: Jon Zemke

Orange Egg Advertising expands clientele, staff in Ann Arbor

Orange Egg Advertising has been expanding its customer base over the last year, a phenomenon the company's leadership attributes to the quality of its work.

"It's a quality thing, which translates into more revenue," says Amy Grambeau, director of Orange Egg Advertising.

The Ann Arbor-based company has made a name for itself over its 13 years working with the likes of Silver Maples Retirement Community in Chelsea, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, and Ann Arbor State Bank.

"They are keeping us busy," Grambeau says.

Orange Egg Advertising as also added a handful of new clients, such as  Dunning Toyota, and the Michigan Memorial Funeral Home. The work from those new accounts has allowed the company to increase its revenue by 25 percent and grow its core team to five people.

"We continue to grow," Grambeau says. "We are where we want to be."

Source: Amy Grambeau, director of Orange Egg Advertising
Writer: Jon Zemke

Attorneys chase literary dreams with Publishing313

Mark Rossman and Brian Saxe are two attorneys who like to joke that they gave up their dream of a creative career to pursue law. That’s changing now that they are launching Publishing313.

"We have been writing together for a number of years," Rossman says. "We wanted a vehicle to publish. I was talking to Brian and said, 'Why don't we create our own?'"

The venture not only aims to publish the work of Rossman and Saxe, but other local authors across Detroit. Publishing313 will be accepting submissions from local writers of poetry and short stories this spring. The founders hope to print those works and make them available in local bookstores by the summer.

"I am envisioning a journal of 75 to 100 pieces of short stories and poetry," Rossman says.

The partners are inspired by the reinvention of Detroit and believe the work being done to improve the Motor City will produce some classic contemporary literature.

Source: Mark Rossman and Brian Saxe, co-founders of Publishing313
Writer: Jon Zemke

Thomson-Shore smooths out acquisition to grow

Acquisitions are normally heralded as happy things, win-win experiences for everyone involved. Thomson-Shore learned over the last year that is not always the case.

The Dexter-based book publisher acquired PublishNext and its subsidiary the Seattle Book Company last year in an effort to broaden its publishing platform. The idea seemed great on paper.

In reality it turned out to be rocky at first with old management from the company not fitting well with the new ownership. After a few months Thomson-Shore replaced that leadership and promoted one of the employees from within to manage it.

"Since then it has done quite well," says Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore. "It's growing very fast."

The 43-year-old company also rebranded PublishNext and the Seattle Book Company as Thomson-Shore Publishing Services and Thomson-Shore Distribution Services.

"It's an easier message," Spall says. "There was some confusion when customers would call."

Straightening all that out helped the company grow over the last year. It has hired six people, expanding its staff to 160 employees and the occasional intern. It’s also looking to hire another three people, primarily in manufacturing right now.

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

Detroit startup Slope makes cut for prestigious Microsoft Venture Accelerator

Slope, a startup creating a video production platform for everyday people, made the cut for the newest class in the Microsoft Venture Accelerator program. The 1-year-old company is one of 14 startups from across North America to earn an invitation to the accelerator (more than 500 applied) and the only Detroit-based startup.

This is the second class for the Microsoft Venture Accelerator. The residency begins this week and takes place over four months in Seattle. Each startup receives $25,000 in seed capital without giving up any equity. Check out a Fast Company story about the newest class for the Microsoft Venture Accelerator here.

Most importantly for the Slope team, it receives a front-row seat on how to build and launch an enterprise-level software platform from the corporation best known for it.

"It was really a no-brainer for us to go for this accelerator," says Brian Bosche, co-founder & CEO of Slope.

Slope, formerly TernPro, is creating a video-creation platform so simple and accessible that everyday people can produce online videos and track the public's interaction with them. The platform also allows the user to store their photos, graphics, and videos so they are available to create more online content. The startup's platform is currently in private Beta.

"We hope to have a public launch at the end of the accelerator," Bosche says.

Bosche co-founded Slope with Dan Bloom shortly after the pair completed their fellowship with Venture For America, a program similar to Teach For America that pairs talented young people with startups in economically challenged cities. The two recent college grads were part of the first class of VFA fellows in Detroit in 2012.

Bosche worked at the Bizdom accelerator in downtown Detroit, helping startups in the incubator tell their stories through short videos. That work served as the inspiration for the Slope, which has grown its staff to seven people. Bosche (who lives in the tax foreclosure house in Virginia Park that VFA fellows are renovating) and Bloom plan to return to Detroit after the accelerator program is finished and continue building out Slope in the Motor City.

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

Compass aims to connect freelancers with small businesses

A couple of Venture For America fellows are looking to better connect small businesses with local freelancers with their new startup, Compass.

The downtown Detroit-based startup aims to draw upon a network of well-vetted freelancers to help small businesses flesh out their online presence with better websites, digital marketing, and social media. Compass clients are guided through an easy process where they get a dedicated freelancer to create an affordable, agency-quality website for their business. In return the startup takes a percentage of the bill for doing the business-side work so the freelancers can focus on their specialty.

"We manage the project," says Mike Wilner, CEO of Compass. "We handle all of the things a freelancer doesn’t want to handle."

Wilner launched Compass with Taylor Sundali seven months ago. Both are part of the 2013 class of Venture For America, a Teach For America-like program that pairs promising recent college grads with startups in economically challenged cities on two-year fellowships. Wilner worked for Social Proof and Sundali worked at Doodle Home before launching Compass.

The inspiration came from the parents of the fellows. Both sets of parents are small business owners and have been asking both 20-somethings for more and more help with beefing up the online presence of their companies.

"My parents sat me down and asked me for a lot of advice," Wilner says. "More than they ever had before."

The Compass team is currently going through the Venture For America Accelerator out east but plans to return to Detroit later this spring. They are already working with four local freelancers to pair with small businesses and plan to expand that stable of independent contractors markedly over this year.

"We want to have a lively community of freelancers working with us," Wilner says.

Source: Mike Wilner, CEO of Compass
Writer: Jon Zemke

Exxodus Pictures adds staff thanks to more commercial and film work

Exxodus Pictures is growing from its base in downtown Detroit thanks to more work in both film and commercials.

The M@dison Building-based company released the movie "Jinn" last year. It has also made three commercials and is gearing up to make the first of a slate of three movies later this year.

"Our main thing is movies," says Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad, co-owner of Exxodus Pictures. "But if we get contacted for a commercial job, we don't turn it down."

The 5-year-old firm's first theatrical release, "Jinn," came out last spring. The movie is about an elite class of warriors/monsters who are ancient, supernatural, and made of fire. (Check out the trailer for the film here.) The film was released in 210 theaters in North America. It is set to release across multiple channels like Dish Network and Amazon this week.

Exxodus Pictures employs a core staff of 10 people after hiring two editors and two graphic designers. The company will also crew up to 30 people when it shoots commercials and up to 50 people while shooting a movie.

Exxodus Pictures recently received $1.3 million in tax incentives from the state of Michigan to film three made-in-Michigan movies. Those include "My Soul to Keep," "Swish Master," and "Golem." "Swish Master" is a story about Max Sheffield, a boy who unleashes black magic to put a stop to the bullying he is experiencing at school, but realizes along the way he may not be the one in control after all.

"Golem" centers around Adina Akhavan, who witnesses the annihilation of her village by Nazi soldiers. But then an otherworldly beast emerges and decimates the barbarous soldiers and Adina escapes into the forest. Weeks later, she is befriended by Captain Jaeger and his elite team of SS relic hunters who were sent to investigate the disappearance of the brigade and to secure the ancient beast. Adina has no choice but to hide her true identity, help Captain Jaeger secure the beast, and wait for the perfect moment to enact her revenge.

"My Soul to Keep" follows 9-year-old Eli Braverman, who is terrified of his basement and the evil that he thinks is living there. When his older sister Emily abandons her babysitting duties, Eli is left home alone to confront the darkness and the creature that may be lurking in it.

"We're looking to start shooting that in the spring," Ahmad says.

Source: Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad, co-owner of Exxodus Pictures
Writer: Jon Zemke

Creative firm Agency 720 expands across U.S., adds staff in downtown Detroit


For a creative agency, it's good to work with a major automaker’s brand. It's even better when you’re the recommended tier 2 marketing agency for Chevrolet.

That's the case with Agency 720, which has been growing its presence across North America steadily over the last year. It is now in 141 markets across the continent, mainly handling advertising work for Chevy dealerships across the U.S.

"They are a fabulous partner," says Harold Kobakof, president & CEO of Agency 720.

The downtown Detroit-based firm’s has added seven markets over the last year. It has also added work outside of the automotive industry, handling work with Pulte Homes. Most of Agency 720’s work, however, comes from Chevrolet dealerships.

"We're looking to expand into seven more markets this year," Kobakof says.

That expansion has allowed the four-year-old firm to expand its staff to 110 people after hiring 10 over the last year. Those new jobs include account managers and directors. Agency 720 is also in the process of hiring a graphic designer.

Source: Harold Kobakof, president & CEO of Agency 720
Writer: Jon Zemke

Truscott Rossman adds four new employees at RenCen office

Truscott Rossman's Detroit office has come a long way since its opened a little more than a year ago. The public relations agency now employs a staff of four people in the Renaissance Center.

"We felt a commitment to go above and beyond for our Detroit clients rather than just working out of the Lansing office," says Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Truscott Rossman.

The Lansing-based firm got its start four years ago when Rossman-McKinney and John Truscott merged their well-known PR firms into what is now Truscott Rossman. The new company now has satellite offices in Grand Rapids and Detroit.

It has hired nine people over the last year, including four former interns, expanding its staff to 25 employees. Among its recent hires in Detroit are digital media director Chad Cyrowski, account executive Dan Herrick, account executive Matt Brady, and strategic communications leader John Bailey.

Truscott Rossman currently serves a number of clients in Detroit and surrounding suburbs. Some of those include DTE Energy, Detroit Medical Center, the city of Detroit, and the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department.

"I expect we will have at least 10 clients coming out of southeast Michigan," says Rossman-McKinney, who describes the Detroit market as "bursting with opportunities."

"I would like to add at least two more professionals."

Source: Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Truscott Rossman
Writer: Jon Zemke

Styleshack evolves into e-commerce/online content play

Styleshack got its start with the idea of helping local shops expand their business by helping them build out their online presence. The downtown Detroit-based startup has grown beyond that in its first year.

Styleshack started providing online content last year, primarily focused on telling stories about the fashion industry. It resonated with Styleshack's clientele.

"They really enjoyed and connected with the content, so we're an e-commerce, online content play," says Rachel Schostak, founder of Styleshack.

Schostak graduated from the Bizdom accelerator last year with the idea of building out e-commerce platforms for boutique stores and improving their online presence. Schostak learned that writing about fashion also enabled her company to help cross-promote the products in the stores of her company’s clients.

"It all has to connect with style," Schostak says. "For example, I just covered Fashion Week in New York."

Styleshack currently has 120 clients and its list of clientele is growing. Those companies are in metro Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Las Vegas. Schostak is looking to continue growing that list and expand into other parts of fashion and retail, such as menswear.

Source: Rachel Schostak, founder of Styleshack
Writer: Jon Zemke

Media production firm Three Lyons Creative launches out of Hamtramck

Tony Eggert worked a corporate job in the automotive sector until he couldn't take it anymore. Now he is pursuing his passion and launching his own business, Three Lyons Creative.

Eggert launched the media-production company with his brother, Daniel Eggert, and his cousin, Mike Williams. The one-year-old company supports Detroit brands and businesses by creating video, web, audio, and graphic artwork.

"It came together because the three of us could combine and create a project that is greater than the sum of its parts," Tony Eggert says.

The Hamtramck-based company has done work for a number of local clients. During that time it has grown its team to six people. Three Lyons Creative created the campaign video for state Rep Rashida Tlaib's state Senate campaign last year. It also put together a short film called "Thick Air" that will premier next month at the Tangent Art Gallery.

"It's something that is representative of the work we want to do in the future," Tony Eggert says.

Source: Tony Eggert, co-founder of Three Lyons Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

TernPro set to launch first product platform, Slope


Online media startup TernPro is gearing up for the release of its first software product, Slope.

The software platform specializes in video creation so everyday people can produce videos and track the public's interaction with them. That way they can store all of their photos, graphics, and videos and have them available to create online content.

"Think of it like a Dropbox for media content," says Brian Bosche, co-founder & CEO of TernPro.

Bosche is a member of the inaugural class of Venture for America, a two-year program that pairs talented college grads with startups in economically challenged cities like Detroit. He lives in a house on Virginia Park that he and other VFA fellows purchased at the Wayne County tax foreclosure auction and are renovating into a home for future fellows.

Bosche's VFA job consisted of working with the leadership team at Bizdom in downtown Detroit, helping many of the startups in the incubator tell their stories through short videos. Bosche and fellow VFAer Dan Bloom parlayed that experience into TernPro, a full-service video production company serving the tech scene in downtown Detroit.

Slope is its first principal product, and it's set to launch into private Beta next week. TernPro's team of six people is aiming for a public launch later this summer.

"We have over 200 signups now," Bosche says. "We have 20 companies lined up for that in our private Beta."

Source: Brian Bosche, co-founder & CEO of TernPro
Writer: Jon Zemke
1043 Marketing / Media Articles | Page: | Show All
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