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Fooke USA sets up shop in Pontiac

Fooke USA is opening an office in Pontiac as the base for its parent company's North American operations.

Fooke is a family-owned business that develops milling machines for a number of industries including aerospace, automotive, railway, and mold and die. Fooke USA is the German-based firm’s North American arm.

"Pontiac has the potential and the space so we can expand our facility," says Matthias Hofmann, CEO of Fooke USA.

Hofmann expects Fooke USA to employ as many as 25 people, primarily specialized technicians, in Pontiac within the next three to four years. The company currently employs Hofmann and he expects to hire a handful of people by the end of the year.

Fooke USA made the leap into Pontiac thanks to the help of Automation Alley. The business accelerator's International Business Center hosts foreign companies looking at establishing an office in Metro Detroit. It provides a temporary home base and professional services that help these companies make a soft landing into the Metro Detroit area.

A dozen foreign companies have made this transition at Automation Alley since it opened the program in 2011. Those companies now have operations in the region that have created 433 new jobs.

Source: Matthias Hofmann, CEO of Fooke USA
Writer: Jon Zemke

HBR Labs launches VeriShow online collaboration tool

HBR Labs is promoting its new VeriShow technology this summer, positioning its online collaboration software to become a fixture with high-end retailers.

The Farmington Hills-based tech company's platform is designed to connect companies and customers online quickly and painlessly. VeriShow provides spontaneous video conferencing, chat, and assistance by simply clicking on the “Live Help” button between customers and customer service representatives.

"It's designed to allow any company that needs to engage customers to do so instantly," says Yuval Moed, CEO of HBR Labs.

The 7-year-old company is focusing on selling to high-end retailers in the car dealership, real-estate, fashion and banking industries. HBR Labs created the multimedia software platform 18 months ago but is ramping up its marketing of the product now that it has worked the bugs out of it.

"We perfected the technology so it's now a pleasure for everyone to use," Moed says.

HBR Labs employs a staff of eight people after hiring one new person (a quality control professional) over the last year. It currently has open positions for two sales professionals to help market and sell VeriShow.

Source: Yuval Moed, CEO of HBR Labs
Writer: Jon Zemke

DIYAutoFTW aims to centralize auto data for gear heads

Steve Balistreri knows a lot about cars, but the auto engineer and car wonk had a problem: there was no centralized place to find particular information about a variety of vehicles.

For instance, if he wanted to find out how to change the spark plugs in a 1969 Mustang, he knew he could find it if he putzed around on a search engine long enough. Same thing if he wanted to know the bumps specs on a 1976 Ford F-150.

"It would take 20 minutes clicking on sites, shifting through conflicting data," Balistreri says.

That's what motivated him to create DIYautoFTW, a website that catalogues the details about vehicles  and centralizes that data.

Think of it as a sort of Wikipedia of car information. Today car enthusiasts have donated information to 400 different vehicles, and the list is growing as Balistreri cultivates his online car community.

"Our goal is to cover all vehicles," Balistreri says.

To make that possible, Balistreri participated in BUILD, D:hive’s entrepreneurial class, last fall. Now he is launching a crowd funding campaign so he can further build out his site to host all of the data. Balistreri wants to raise $40,000 by early July. Check out the campaign here.

"[The improved website] will be easier to manager and a more collaborative environment," Balistreri says.

Source: Steve Balistreri, president of DIYuutoFTW
Writer: Jon Zemke

Hello Records store owner opens second location in Jefferson-Chalmers

Wade Kergan, owner of Corktown's Hello Records, has opened a second Detroit record store. Located at 14401 E. Jefferson in the historic Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, the as-yet untitled record store is taking part in the June on Jefferson pop-up series along the East Jefferson corridor. Kergan, however, already has plans to turn the temporary location into a permanent one.

It was Coffee and (____) partner Ray Cronk who first envisioned a record store for the corner storefront at E. Jefferson and Chalmers. An open doorway connects Coffee and (____) to the former liquor store location, making for an easy back-and-forth between the coffee and record shops. Cronk approached his friend Wade Kergan about the possibility of a second Hello location -- something Kergan was already considering -- and the rest fell into line rather quickly. The pair credit Joshua Elling and the rest of the people at Jefferson East, Inc. for the easy move. Cronk will manage the record store.

Kergan plans on keeping the store open well past the month-long June on Jefferson pop-up run. He says he'll be open at least through the summer but the real hope is to keep the record store open year-round. At roughly 2,000 square feet, the new location dwarfs his 600 square feet store in Corktown and will allow Kergan the chance to show off even more of his massive collection. He has 15,000 to 20,000 records in backstock, he says.

"The last shop was really informed by the neighborhood and gained its identity both through what we hoped to accomplish in the community and also in meeting people and making them a part of it, figuring out what they want and bringing them into the shop," says Kergan. "We hope to do the same thing here."

In addition to records, the bigger shop will feature more floor space for Kergan's vintage stereo equipment, posters, books, and musical artifacts.

The second record store is open every Friday and Saturday this June with plans to expand its hours later this summer. Hello Records will continue to operate as always.

Source: Wade Kergan, owner of Hello Records
Writer: MJ Galbraith

DavaRay leans on Ann Arbor SPARK as it scales up

DavaRay is getting more than a little bit of help from its friends these days as the medical device startup taps into local entrepreneurial resources to grow.

"We have been focusing on utilizing the MEDC groups, like Ann Arbor SPARK," says David Arndt, co-founder of DavaRay.

DavaRay has an office at Ann Arbor SPARK’s Central Incubator in downtown Ann Arbor. The 7-year-old company also graduated from Ann Arbor SPARK's Entrepreneur Boot Camp and is leveraging the coaching resources at the business accelerator. That has allowed DavaRay to nearly triple is sales over the last year and add two people to its current team of 25. It's also looking to export its products overseas in earnest later this year.

DavaRay's principal product is the Nanobeam 940, a proprietary heat dissipation technology that uses light to stimulate the healing process. Specifically its monochromatic LED ray helps soothe chronic pain.

Arndt and his co-founder, David Anderson, launched the business not long after Arndt created a new way to help him cope with chronic back pay. He found relieve in infrared therapy and started making his own products after the company he was using went out of business.

Nanobeam 940 is being used in home healthcare and professional sports team, including by the Detroit Tigers. Check out a video of the Tigers Athletic Trainer talking about the Nanobeam 940 here.

Source: David Arndt, co-founder of DavaRay
Writer: Jon Zemke

HistoSonics adds 3 staff as it continues clinical trial

Clinical trials and venture capital. Those are major milestones the team at HistoSonics is working to hit before the end of this year.

The Ann Arbor-based life sciences startup is aiming to finish raising a Series B round of venture capital and finish its first clinical trial by the end of this year.

"Those are our two biggies," says Christine Gibbons, president & CEO of HistoSonics.

HistoSonics spun out of the University of Michigan four years ago. It's primary product is a medical device that uses tightly focused ultrasound pulses to treat prostate disease in a non-invasive manner with robotic precision. The technology helped inspire the company's name by combining histo (meaning tissue) and sonics (meaning sound waves).

HistoSonics has a team of 11 people after adding three new researchers over the last year. It is currently working on a completing a clinical study measuring the safety of their product. The startup is aiming to submit its technology to the FDA for approval in 2016.

HistoSonics also raised $11 million in Series A funding in 2009. It is seeking another $12 million to $15 million in a Series B round this year.

"We have gotten some interim funding from our investors so we haven't had to raise a Series B yet," Gibbons says. "We want to get that wrapped up by early fall."

Source: Christine Gibbons, president & CEO of HistoSonics
Writer: Jon Zemke

D:Hive Build expands with Build Bazaar, a roving pop-up marketplace

If you read Model D's Startup News section or follow small business development in Detroit, you're likely familiar with several D:Hive Build graduates and their businesses. Since Build launched in 2012, roughly 350 entrepreneurs have graduated from the 8-week business and project planning class designed for aspiring and established entrepreneurs in Detroit. 

This summer, Build is finding ways to venture outside of D:Hive's downtown offices. On June 3, Build began holding summer classes in the Livernois Community Storefront on Detroit's Avenue of Fashion. Build also launched the Build Bazaar, a rotating pop-up marketplace celebrating emerging entrepreneurs from the Build program. The first bazaar was held on June 15 in Eastern Market. Future bazaars are planned for the Concert of Colors on July 12-13, as well as the Livernois Community Storefront August 21-24.

For more information, click here.

Southwest Rides bridges bicycles and business in Springwells

Southwest Rides is opening its first bike/skateboard shop in the heart of the Springwells neighborhood this week, but the founders behind the new venture are looking at making a bigger impact than just sales.

"We see this as more than just a bike shop and a skateboard shop," says Isaac Gilman, board member of Southwest Rides. "We want to provide options for kids."

The low-profit limited liability company (L3C) began as a youth program that focused on teaching inner city kids life skills like entrepreneurship. The idea is to teach kids the ins and outs of working in retail, holding down a job, and running a business by working at the retail store.

"Our big thing is making a big impact on young people's lives in a sustainable way," Gilman says.

The new shop is set to open in a former cyber cafe at 1824 Springwells on Thursday. The cyber cafe is moving to the second floor of the building. The shop will feature repair services for bicycles and skateboards, while also selling bikes, skateboards, and other assorted paraphernalia. It also aims to sells goods from local businesses.

Southwest Rides currently is looking for a seventh member of its advisory board. It also has two employees and one young person serving as an apprentice. The organization is looking for young people from the Springwells neighborhood in their mid-to-late teens to early 20s  to serve in the positions it offers.

"We are looking to bring on two more young people as apprentices to the shop," Gilman says.

Source: Isaac Gilman, board member of Southwest Rides
Writer: Jon Zemke

BUILD grad launches Alegria Pops in SW Detroit

During the work day, Ofelia Saenz toils away as a copywriter and freelance publicist. During events, you can find her selling paletas from her young business Alegria Pops.

Paletas are Mexican ice pops made from a variety of flavors. Alegria Pops advertises its paletas as "small-batch, artisanal ice pops [that] are made from scratch using a blend of traditional Mexican flavors and the freshest available ingredients, often combined in unconventional and surprising ways."

Saenz completed the BUILD entrepreneurial class at D:hive last spring and used that experience as the launchpad for starting Alegria Pops in Southwest Detroit last summer.

"I knew I wanted to do something with food," Saenz says. "Coming up with the recipes for ice pops seemed like a challenge, but an interesting challenge."

Today she has 15 recipes and sells her products by popping-up at local festivals, events, and restaurants like Green Dot Stables. She is also going to be working at the series of BUILD Bazaar events across the city this month.

"My goal is to build the business so it can be sold out of a brick-and-mortar location, preferably in the Southwest or Corktown areas." Saenz says.

Source: Ofelia Saenz, owner of Alegria Pops
Writer: Jon Zemke

Northville's Kona Running Co. plans to expand in Canton

The Kona Running Co. is expanding across Wayne County over the next few years. The Northville-based racing company is in the process of opening a specialty running store in Canton. The opening date is set for this October.

"I have been thinking about this for two years," says Alan Whitehead, president & owner of Kona Running Co. "It's a natural step for us."

Whitehead opened the Kona Running Co. in 2004. Back then he was working as an executive director of sales for an automotive supplier while running remained one of his primary hobbies. He started the Solstice Run in Northville and used it as the springboard to launch Kona Running Co.

"I have always ran to stay in shape," Whitehead says. "I have run 22 marathons."

He retired from his automotive career three years ago and has since focused on growing Kona Running Co. It now organizes five races across Metro Detroit, including the Novi Half Marathon and Wicked Halloween Run in Plymouth. It has become his full-time job and he staffs up with 24 part-time employees during race days.

The Kona Running Co. signed a lease for a 2,900-square-foot location on Ford Road in Canton. It’s currently looking to hire two full-time people with specialty running store experience.

"We're looking at two or three other stores besides that one," Whitehead says. "We're looking at West Bloomfield and Troy. We want to open one per year."

Each store will employ 12-15 people. Whitehead expects Kona Running Co. to have a staff of 15 people by the time it opens its first store this fall. The firm is also looking to add two or three more races over the next year.

Source: Alan Whitehead, president & owner of Kona Running Co.
Writer: Jon Zemke

LLamasoft growth spurt includes 35 hires in 2014

The LLamasoft growth streak continues to spike unabated as the downtown Ann Arbor-based firm expands its footprint around the world.

The logistics firm spent its first decade establishing its software in the logistics marketplace, building up a customer base of bigger and bigger firms. LLamasoft landed $6 million in a Series A round of venture capital investment and has leveraged that to scale its business.

"We have had some really significant growth," says Ginger Stegmier, vice president of marketing for LLamasoft. "We increased our revenue by 80 percent over the last year."

And it has been adding staff, hiring 35 people since the start of this year. It now employs about 150 people in the U.S. and close to 200 people worldwide. After relying on a London office for European growth, LLamasoft has opened satellite in both France and Germany over the last year, and plans to keep expanding its presence in a similar fashion around the world.

It's all part of plan to keep doing all of the little things in its business plan to keep growing the company. LLamasoft has expanded its sales and marketing teams to better brand itself. It has also worked to make its logistics software more accessible to customers.

"It's not one thing we have done," Stegmier says. "It's a variety of things we have done to grow."

LLamasoft is also hosting its fourth annual logistics/supply chain design conference (SummerCon) in Ann Arbor next week. The conference, which features a keynote address by Bill Nye the Science guy, has attracted participants from more than 20 countries and some big names in U.S. logistics, including the senior vice president of logistics for Pepsi.

"We have a lot of industry heavy hitters participating this year, and a lot of local companies," Stegmier says. "We're pretty excited about that."

Source: Ginger Stegmier, vice president of marketing for LLamasoft
Writer: Jon Zemke

FlockTAG sticks to growth plan as it expands across Midwest

FlockTAG, the consumer loyalty startup, is starting to scale it business model across the Midwest this year.

The 2-year-old startup is working to reinvent the customer loyalty programs with creating one centralizes card users can use at a number of different retailers. That way technology can keep tabs on the loyalty rewards the user accumulates at local businesses without them carrying around a different card for each business.

FlockTAG has grown into seven markets across the Midwest, including Columbus, Indianapolis and Champaign. It is working to expand into more metro areas this year, focusing on high-volume retail locations, such as coffee shops.

"We're doing our plan," says David Lin, co-founder & CEO of FlockTAG. "We're growing these direct sales and relationships with franchise groups."

FlockTAG has grown its average transactions per day at a location to 30. It’s users per location is now up to 1,100. Both numbers are up 20 percent over the last year.

"We have several locations where there are more than 200 transactions per day," Lin says.

Lin adds that FlockTAG has been able to drive up those numbers because his team (which stands at 15 people after making seven hires over the last year) has gotten better at its job. Specifically helping keep new stores using the FlockTAG software.

"It's about helping the vendors when they need it," Lin says. "When you bring on a vendor you need to help them so they understand the platform."

Source: David Lin, co-founder & CEO of FlockTAG
Writer: Jon Zemke

Immigration law firm Fragomen adds to Troy office staff

The Metro Detroit office for Fragomen is growing nicely along with the national economy and local automotive industry rebound.

The immigration law firm (formally known as Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy) is based in New York City but has a growing satellite office in Troy. It now stands at 15 people after making two hires over the last year. It is now looking for a senior paralegal.

"We are probably going to add more (staff)," says Alexandra LaCombe, managing partner of the Troy office for Fragomen. LaCombe was recently named the managing partner of the Troy office. She started as a senior attorney at the office 14 years ago.

Fragomen handles immigration law for a broad range of clients in the Metro Detroit office. Those include a number of automotive firms (two of the Big 3 are represented by the Troy office), local institutions of higher education, and financial firms.

"A lot of our clients are bringing a lot of work in-house while before they would use contractors," LaCombe says. "As they grow, we grow."

LaCombe plans to cement Fragomen’s position as a leader in immigration law during her tenure as managing partner of the Troy office.

"We want to make sure that if anybody needs any immigration expertise, they come to us first," LaCombe says.

Source: Alexandra LaCombe, managing partner of Fragomen's Troy office
Writer: Jon Zemke

Fresh Corner Cafe expands with workplace cafe service

Fresh Corner Cafe can now be found in commercial retail spots and office spaces across Metro Detroit.

The Midtown-based business (it calls the Green Garage home) recently launched a workplace cafe service where it installs a cooler at a workplace where patrons can swipe a credit card and take the food when they want. The pilot program can be found in five offices across the region, including St. John's Hospital in Clinton Township and the Franklin Athletic Club.

"We're bringing the corner store model to employers," says Noam Kimelman, co-founder of Fresh Corner Cafe.

The three-year-old business has made a name for itself as a supplier of healthy, organic foods to corner store bodegas across the Motor City. Its sandwiches and wraps can be found in 20 party stores in Detroit. The company has grown to a staff of seven employees after hiring another delivery person over the last year.

Kimelman would like to see both the corner store service and the work place cafe grow to a point where they can each support themselves. The Fresh Corner Cafe team is working to grow to 50 corner store accounts and 50 work place cafe accounts by the summer of 2015. The company is targeting both business offices for work place cafe locations, as well as community centers, where it hopes customers will be able to pay with Bridge cards.

"We're going for 20 work place cafes right now," Kimelman says.

Source: Noam Kimelman, co-founder of Fresh Corner Cafe
Writer: Jon Zemke

The Katz Law Firm opens small biz practice in downtown Birmingham

Donald Katz has been practicing business law for a long time. He recently worked as tax counsel for the combat systems group at General Dynamics and held a similar position at Miller Canfield before that. Today he is celebrating the first anniversary of his own practice, The Katz Law Firm.

"I wanted to do it on my own," Katz says. "I got sick of working for other people."

The downtown Birmingham-based practice focuses on providing law services and counsel for small businesses. Think legal and tax issues arising from the ownership and operation of small- and medium-size businesses, specifically in family-owned and closely-held businesses. It was a natural fit for an attorney who spent 14 years helping other people build their businesses.

"This has always been my focus," Katz says.

The Katz Law Firm recently launched a program to provide legal services to socially-conscious business ventures. The program waives the legal fees for investors and entrepreneurs setting up a low-profit limited liability company, commonly known as an L3C.

"It's a new type of entity in the corporate landscape," Katz says. "It's supposed to get socially-conscious entrepreneurs interested in forming their own entity." He adds, "It's the perfect avenue for certain type of entrepreneurial ventures."

Katz hopes to help about half a dozen L3Cs form and get established over the next year.

Source: Donald Katz, managing member of The Katz Law Firm
Writer: Jon Zemke
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