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Edibles Rex hires 20 as it builds out new home in Eastern Market

In 2014, Edibles Rex was all about growing its revenue and food manufacturing business. This year, it's aiming to finish building out its new home near Eastern Market.

The 22-year-old firm has called the Warren-Connor neighborhood on Detroit's east side home for years. There it has provided catering and wholesale food preparation services, such as making the meals for school and corporate cafeterias. It won a $250,000 Mission Main Street grant last year that helped it expand its business by adding things like more delivery trucks.

"We added three more trucks last year," says Tammy Tedesco, CEO of Edibles Rex.

Edibles Rex has increased its revenues by about 10 percent over the last year, enabling it to hire about 20 people in kitchen prep, school lunch service, and clerical work. It currently employs about 110 people and is looking to add a few more jobs as it grows.

Edibles Rex has just entered Phase 1 of building out its new home in Eastern Market to help house that growing workforce. The first phase will build out half of the 50,000-square-foot building. Edibles Rex plans to use part of its own work and also lease out other sections of it for smaller food companies that want access to things like a 24-hour access to a licensed kitchen and office space.

"We are making a space for other food manufacturers who want to be in Eastern Market," Tedesco says.

Source: Tammy Tedesco, CEO of Edibles Rex
Writer: Jon Zemke

Hacienda Mexican Foods lands big partnership with Meijer

Hacienda Mexican Foods has signed a new deal with Meijer to produce a new line of products that will be sold exclusively through the big-box retailer.

The Mexicantown-based food manufacturer will make flour tortillas, corn tortillas, and tortilla chips for Meijer under the Hacienda Mexican Foods label. The new line is set to launch this summer.

"The products will have no preservatives," says Lydia Gutierrez, president of Hacienda Mexican Foods. "It's pretty true to what a true tortilla is."

Hacienda Mexican Foods has hired nine people over the last month to prepare for this bump in business. The new hires are for positions in production, customer service, and administration. The company also is looking to make five more hires to its current staff of 60 employees and a few summer interns.

"We're still hiring," Gutierrez says.

The 25-year-old business expects this new deal with Meijer to significantly grow its bottom line. In fact, Gutierrez believes it could double its revenue this year, and enable it to do more work with local firms. Hacienda Mexican Foods makes an effort to source as much of its work as close to home as possible.

"It becomes an economic driver for us and our community," Gutierrez says.

Source: Lydia Gutierrez, president of Hacienda Mexican Foods
Writer: Jon Zemke

Property management startup Castle closes $270K seed round

Castle, a tech startup focused on property management, has closed a seed round of funding worth $270,000.

The Detroit-based company plans to use the seed capital to add staff and continue to build out its property management software and services. The 1-year-old firm is proving out its business model in Detroit with aspirations of taking it national this year.

"We have seen some really exciting traction over the last few months," says Max Nussenbaum, CEO of Castle. "Let's see where it goes from here."

Three members of Venture For America's inaugural class (2012) launched Castle last year. Venture For America functions similarly to Teach For America, pairing talented college graduates with jobs at startups in economically challenges cities for a two-year fellowship. VFA fellows also helped found Rebirth Realty, which is turning a tax foreclosure in Virginia Park into housing for future Venture For America fellows. Castle is based out of that house.

Castle's software platform handles property management by automating service calls, rent collection, and other similar duties. The company is currently handling management for 52 properties both in the city of Detroit and the surrounding suburbs. Those properties are primarily single-family homes. The Castle team would like to get those numbers to several hundred by the end of this year.

"We figure if we can make this work here, we can make this work in Baltimore or Providence," Nussenbaum says. "It's only going to get easier."

Castle currently employs a team of three people and is looking to hire another three. Those new jobs include software development, business development, and operations.

Source: Max Nussenbaum, CEO of Castle
Writer: Jon Zemke

Reach influence moves to M@dison Building from Royal Oak

Reach influence has moved to downtown Detroit, taking up residence in the M@dison Building and bringing 19 new workers with it.

The retail analytics startup took $5 million in venture capital investment earlier this year with Detroit Venture Partners as one of the lead investors. Based out of the M@dison Building, Detroit Venture Partners is the primary investment fund for the surrounding tech startup cluster, branded as the M@dison Block.

"We are excited to be part of what is happening in Detroit," Eric Green, CEO of reach influence, said in a press release. "The vision, passion, and energy are contagious and will help our company continue to grow."

The 6-year-old startup’s software enhances the shopper experience (and the sales that come with it) with the help of data analytics, along with marketing and merchandising programs. Its flagship products, reach engage and reach offers, provide shopper-facing marketing tools for independent grocery stores in 37 states.

Reach influence has grown to 21 employees (two work remotely) over the last year. It has hired five people in the last year and is looking add a couple more people now.

"We are always looking to add to the team," says Susan Dettloff, director of marketing for reach influence.

The firm had been based in downtown Royal Oak before making the move to downtown Detroit last month. It is currently taking up a large section of the second floor of the M@dison Building, where it expects to continue to add staff as it works to increase sales and its client base.

"It's a very open, collaborative workspace," Dettloff says.

Source: Susan Dettloff, director of marketing for reach influence
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor Distilling Co aims to open near downtown Ann Arbor

A couple of local businessmen are aiming to open a new distillery and tasting room near downtown Ann Arbor later this year.

The Ann Arbor Distilling Co will occupy 6,000 square feet of space in the building at 220 Felch St. The building is currently owned by Icon Interactive, a digital advertising agency. A previous tenant of the space has moved out, opening up the space for new purposes.

"It's something that is exciting. It's way more exciting," says Rob Cleveland, partner with Ann Arbor Distilling Co. "This space was made to be a distillery. It just screams it."

Cleveland is the CEO of Icon Interactive. He is launching the Ann Arbor Distilling Co with Ari Sussman. The business will make vodka, rum, and gin to start with and eventually move into bourbon production. The distillery will include a 1,000-square-foot tasting room and 5,000 square feet for production space.

"There is the same enthusiasm for artisanal liquor as there is for craft brewing," Cleveland says. "It's just a different product."

The Ann Arbor Distilling Co hasn’t set an opening date yet but Cleveland hopes to open the doors to the establishment before the end of the year.

Source: Rob Cleveland, partner with Ann Arbor Distilling Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

Armune BioScience set to double Ann Arbor lab size this year

Armune BioScience plans to double its staff at its Ann Arbor laboratory as revenues start coming in from its cancer blood test, Apifiny.

"We expect to add 3-4 more techs by September," David Esposito, president & CEO of Armune BioScience.

The Kalamazoo-based business landed a $2.5 million Series A financing round last year. That money allowed Armune BioScience to finish developing its innovative, non-PSA blood test to aid in the early detection of prostate cancer. It launched that blood test commercially last year.

"We want to be running 1,500 tests a month by the end of the year," Esposito says.

Armune BioScience currently employs six people and is looking to hire a couple of people right now to help meet the rising demand for Apifiny. It is also raising a $2.5 million Series B, which it hopes to close this summer.

"We feel volume will drive the need for more head count," Esposito says.

Source: David Esposito, president & CEO of Armune BioScience
Writer: Jon Zemke

Blogger digs into Ann Arbor's 826Michigan

A former EMU creative writing student decided to start a locally focused blog. She describes it as:

"Unpublished" is the journey of discovering Ann Arbor and everything it has to offer. It is exposing interiors; offering a deeper look at places I frequent. It is the gathering of recommendations from locals and my experiencing them for the first time. "Unpublished" is spreading Michigan roots in food, fashion, art, music, coffee and local business territories.

Her latest slice of local goodness is the nonprofit 826Michigan. Onward robots!

Excerpt:

"Having a relationship with creative writing all of my life, and working with children for half of it, I am confident in saying that 826michigan is probably the coolest nonprofit organization. Ever."

Read the rest here.
 

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

Michigan Angel Fund closes second fund worth $2.1 million

The Michigan Angel Fund has closed on its second fund worth $2.05 million. The firm specializes in making early stage investments in Michigan-based tech startups. Those investments usually range from $250,000 to $2 million.

The fund expects to make between eight to 10 investments over the next two years, mostly in startups too young for traditional venture capital investment.

"It is designed to fill that need as well for our tech startups," says Skip Simms, managing member of the Michigan Angel Fund, which is overseen by Ann Arbor SPARK.

The Michigan Angel Fund was also designed to introduce more high-net-worth individuals into angel investing. The fund launched three years ago with 72 members. The second fund has 62 members with more than half of the investors in the first fund.

"The investors come from all over the state and some outside of the state," Simms says. "Some of the investors in the first fund come from as many as four different states."

The first investment vehicle from the Michigan Angel Fund is fully invested. Some of the portfolio companies include Avegant, Arborlight, BioPhotonics Solutions, Eco-Fueling, Epsilon Imaging, Larky, stkr.it, and Varsity News Network.

Source: Skip Simms, managing member of the Michigan Angel Fund
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

Berylline Corp. builds three-wheeled hybrid scooter that gets 100 mpg

When people think of hybrid vehicles, they usually picture cars -- maybe heavy trucks and buses. Berylline Corp. wants you to think of its three-wheeled scooters.

"We saw there was a void in the (hybrid vehicle) market for a scooter, a three-wheeled trike," says Dennis Dresser, president of Berylline Corp.

The Troy-based company has created a three-wheeled vehicle called the Berylline F2A hybrid scooter. The scooter has two wheels in the front and one in the rear. It weighs about 300 pounds and gets 100 mpg thanks to its hybrid system that includes a lithium-ion battery.

"You can drive it exclusively in electric mode or exclusively in gas mode or any combination," Dresser says.

The Berylline F2A hybrid scooter comes with a six-pound lithium-ion battery that is removable from the main body of the vehicle. The idea is to enable users to bring it inside their home and charge when they are not riding the bike.

"We wanted to make it as accessible as possible," Dresser says.

Berylline's team of seven people is currently showing off the scooter with the idea of raising money for production. Dresser hopes to raise $5 million in seed capital this year with an eye for selling the scooters next year.

Source: Dennis Dresser, president of Berylline Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mt. Clemens-based eyeWyre Software Studios adds staff

2015 is turning out to be a very good year for eyeWyre Software Studios. The downtown Mt. Clemens-based firm has watched the volume of its work spike by 25 percent in the first quarter.

That has allowed eyeWyre Software Studios to hire a project manager, expanding its staff to a dozen employees and a dozen interns from Macomb Community College and a high school intern from Utica Community Schools. The company is also looking to hire a couple of software engineers.

"The first quarter of this year has been incredible for us," says Matt Chartier, president of eyeWyre Software Studios. "There has been a huge volume of activity."

One of its major projects is launching this spring -- an online recruiting system for culturecliQ. EyeWyre Software Studios designed and developed the software platform with a patent-pending algorithm that assesses and matches a company’s culture and needs to candidate’s employment requirements.

"The systems is pre-screening the candidate to fit the culture," Chartier says. "It's also doing the same for the candidate."

The idea is that there is a simpler way to find the right culture fit for an open position that doesn't require reading thousands of words from resumes and work samples. The hope is that the technology leads to better workplace matches with more longevity. It launched earlier this spring and Chartier expects it to gain traction through the rest of this year.

"It's a whole new way to think about recruiting," Chartier says.

Source: Matt Chartier, president of eyeWyre Software Studios
Writer: Jon Zemke

TelNet Worldwide opens Southfield data center

TelNet Worldwide is opening a new data center in Southfield, transforming a several-year-old building that had never been occupied into a state-of-the-art tech hub.

The Troy-based business opened a Tier III data center, renovating an existing building that was built in a tech park. "It was a brand-new building that has been empty for five years," says Mark Iannuzzi, president of TelNet Worldwide.

The 40,000-square-foot  facility is designed, equipped, and operated to standards ensuring high availability of mission-critical data and applications in a secure environment for industries such as health care, finance, manufacturing, and government. That makes the facility a Tier III data center, one level below the top-of-the-line (Tier IV) data centers.

TelNet Worldwide choose to put the data center in Southfield because of its proximity to numerous businesses, among other reasons.

"There is a very rich vein of fiber going through that area for a number of reasons," Iannuzzi says.

TelNet Worldwide has hired 30 people over the last year, expanding the company’s workforce to 135 employees and an intern. It is also looking to hire six new people right now, including technicians, support, engineers, and sales. Two of those positions are for the new data center.

Source: Mark Iannuzzi, president of TelNet Worldwide
Writer: Jon Zemke

Turbo-Teck launches new electronics website, Cablecables.com

Turbo-Teck is launching a new website, Cablecables.com, with the idea of providing electronics hardware odds and ends at a competitive price.

"Pricing is becoming quite a bit of an issue in the electronics industry," says Jay Askerow, CEO of Turbo-Teck. "People got away with high margins for years, but now with China in the picture, everything is much more price sensitive."

The Southfield-based business will sell high performance HDMI cables featuring RedMere technology, television wall mounts, and frameless in-wall, in-ceiling and invisible speakers among other items. The idea is to offer products at low prices that come with online sales and ship from a central location in the Midwest.

The 1-year-old company currently employs three people and is looking to hire two more in sales and operations. That team is working to make Turbo-Teck the least expensive option for home entertainment center accessory hardware in North America.

"We have quite a few people who buy from us nationally," Askerow says. "We have consumers and installers."

Source: Jay Askerow, CEO of Turbo-Teck
Writer: Jon Zemke

C&G Solutions PLC triples staff in Southfield

Jehan Crump-Gibson worked for many years as an attorney in both government and corporate settings. Those experiences inspired her to launch her own firm, C&G Solutions PLC.

"These were great experiences, but I didn't feel I had the autonomy to really help my clients," Crump-Gibson says.

She launched the legal practice five years ago. Today the Southfield-based firm serves the metro Detroit area and specializes in a broad variety of subjects, including civil litigation, probate, government affairs, and business law. Over the last year, the firm has grown its revenue by 35 percent, allowing it to make its first hires (an attorney and a clerk), expanding its team to three people.

"I have been able to grow personally and give some people some great work experiences," Crump-Gibson says.

That growth has come from word-of-mouth recommendations by C&G Solutions PLC's clients.

"My clients are pleased with my work and are helping me," Crump-Gibson says.

Source: Jehan Crump-Gibson, managing member of C&G Solutions PLC
Writer: Jon Zemke
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