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Hemingwrite offers word processor minus the distractions

A new startup called Hemingwrite is working to build a word processor that looks like a typewriter, works like a computer, and limits potential distractions.

The downtown Detroit-based company is well on its way to raising enough money to pull it off. Hemingwrite has already raised $322,701 in a crowd funding campaign as of Monday night with 10 days left to go. Hemingwrite has already surpassed its goal of $250,000, which it met within 36 hours.

Patrick Paul and Adam Leeb first started developing Hemingwrite last May. Previously, Leeb worked in e-commerce and investment banking and Paul worked in software and rooftop solar systems. Both saw an opportunity in simplifying the process of writing in the distraction-filled world of the 21st century.

"I've used distraction-free software before and it’s too easy to minimize and get on Facebook or Twitter," Paul says. "Adam came back to me and said let's make a piece of hardware."

The partners developed a prototype while working in a Detroit-based co-working space over the last six months. They are now entering the final design phase over the next two months and hope to start moving units later this year.

The current design features a normal-sized keyboard and a small screen for the manuscript. The machine automatically saves and syncs its work. It also can’t facilitate other things that are common distractions to writers, such as social media. Paul points out the startup choose the small screen because its already commercially available, and making a custom-sized screen is too costly.

"It also fits into our philosophy of always writing forward and completing a first draft," Paul says.

Source: Patrick Paul, co-founder of Hemingwrite
Writer: Jon Zemke

Furniture maker continues growth in Russell Industrial Center


Alan Kaniarz started working out of the Russell Industrial Center before it was cool...before it was even a destination for artisans and small businesses.

Kaniarz moved into the Russell Industrial Center in 1988. He and a handful of other woodworkers took over a few thousand square feet of the industrial space and created a wood shop. A few years later he took over his own space (6,000 square feet) and started to build his two business (AK Services and Mobel Link Modern Furniture) from there.

"I never thought I would be there this long," Kaniarz says. "When we moved in here the Russell Center was largely utilized by people in the printing business. Everything that had anything to do with printing was done there."

That ended in the early 2000s as many of the printing businesses left. A series of new owners came and went until Greektown-based real-estate investor Dennis Kefallinos bought the Russell in 2003. He saw a couple of local artisans like Kaniarz making a go of it in a few thousand square feet of cheap commercial space and used that as inspiration to make the Russell Industrial Center the entrepreneurial hub it is today.

"The Russell Center has way more of a neighborhood feel than it used to," Kaniarz says.

AK Services has been working in the Russell Industrial Center since the first day Kaniarz moved in, making custom doors, fixing stain-glass windows, and restoring vintage lights. Kaniarz launched Mobel Link Modern Furniture a few years ago and started selling custom furniture, too.

"The introduction of the furniture line has definitely added to the bottom line," Kaniarz says.

Revenues are up about five percent over the last year, and Kaniarz expects that number to keep growing. Today his two businesses have grown to employ three people and Kaniarz is optimistic that number will grow, too.

Source: Alan Kaniarz, president for life of AK Services and Mobel Link Modern Furniture
Writer: Jon Zemke

American Lightweight Manufacturing Institute opens in Corktown

The American Lightweight Manufacturing Institute opened the doors of its new facility in Corktown last week, a move that promises to bring the 21st century manufacturing jobs to a city long famous for the things it builds.

The innovation acceleration center is partnering with major corporations and institutions of higher education to help bring new manufacturing technologies utilizing lightweight materials to market through its "Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow" program.

"This is industry-driven," says Lawrence Brown, executive director of the American Lightweight Manufacturing Institute. "They help identify the gaps and we as a team will come together and develop solutions for these gaps."

The new 100,000 square-foot facility required $148 million in investment so it could bring new manufacturing technology from the research lab to the production floor. It is partnering with the likes of the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, General Electric, Boeing, and Eaton Corp to push the envelope of advanced manufacturing.

The American Lightweight Manufacturing Institute currently employs three people and is looking to hire a couple more, all administrative positions. Brown expects to expand the staff to nearly 30 people over the next 18 months with the addition of engineering and R&D staff.

"We're trying to ramp up now," Brown says.

Source: Lawrence Brown, executive director of the American Lightweight Manufacturing Institute
Writer: Jon Zemke

Fidelis SecureCare hires dozens as it expands in Detroit market

In the age of Obamacare, healthcare company Fidelis SecureCare is streamlining operations, creating efficiencies, and ensuring better care of its customers. The company is also growing its business in Detroit by taking a slow-food approach to providing healthcare.

The California-based company's business plan focuses on providing high-quality healthcare to low-income and chronically ill Detroiters (and suburbanites) through a concierge model instead of the traditional mass production model of healthcare.

"A traditional medical practice has 3,000 patients," says Greg Bellware, chief marketing officer of Fidelis SecureCare. "A concierge office has 600 patients."

That sort of focused service (think everything from more time spent on solving patient problems to home doctor visits) enables healthcare providers to give better care to patients, helping turn chronic illnesses into manageable ones and savng money across the board. The extensive yet centralized nature of Metro Detroit's healthcare system allows Fidelis SeniorCare to maximize its efficiency in this regard.

"We grew quickly in Detroit," Bellware says. "Its urban setting is ideal for our model."

Fidelis SecureCare has grown quickly in Michigan over the last two years. The 15-year-old firm now employs a staff of 60 people in Michigan, about two thirds of which have been hired over the last year. The company's Michigan headquarters is in New Center.

"We expect to accelerate that growth in a huge way," Bellware says. "The company is expected to grow fivefold in the next year."

Source: Greg Bellware, chief marketing officer of Fidelis SecureCare
Writer: Jon Zemke

Franco Public Relations Group grows staff to 20 as it celebrates 50th anniversary

Franco Public Relations Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary with its biggest growth spurt in a long time. The downtown Detroit-based firm hired four people in 2014 thanks to 20 percent revenue growth.

"It was better than we have done in year-over-year growth than we have done in about a decade," says Tina Kozak, president of Franco Public Relations Group.

The boutique public relations firm has been a staple in downtown Detroit for decades. It moved its office to the Renaissance Center when the building opened in 1977 and has been there ever since. The company now has a staff of 20 employees and two interns. Its newest hires include an assistant account executive, a manager, and a director.

The newly expanded staff is now offering more than the traditional public relations services. It has expanded to include content generation, social media, and integrated marketing. Franco Public Relations Group has also expanded clientele, adding high-profile firms like Punch Bowl Social, which just opened a new location in downtown Detroit.

Kozak is optimistic her company will continue to grow at a similar rate this year, though she points out that Franco Public Relations Group is focusing on doing good business, not just more business. The current economic climate, however, is making growth easier today than it was just a few years ago.

"There is more work out there now," Kozak says. "Businesses we are working with now are loosening up their budgets a little bit."

Source: Tina Kozak, president of Franco Public Relations Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Above and Beyond Orthopedics leverages NEIdeas grant to grow business

Above and Beyond Orthopedics plans to use a grant it won from the recent NEIdeas competition to add a key piece of equipment and create more jobs.

The 3-year-old prosthetics company won the $2,000 late last year, which awards grants to Detroit-based businesses looking for seed capital to grow. The money will go toward the purchase of an oven that will allow the Riverfront-based company to bring more of its production to Detroit and hire a few more employees.

"It (the oven) helps us do in-house fabrication of prosthetics instead of outsourcing it to other states," says YaVonne Money, owner of Above and Beyond Orthopedics.

Money is a native Detroiter and a graduate of Murray-Wright High School and Wayne County Community College District. She spent several years out of state to learn about prosthetics. She came home three years ago to open her business with an ambition of doing right by the community that raised her.

"I felt like I had a need to give back to the people who helped become the individual I am today," Money says.

Today Above and Beyond employs four people after hiring a biller over the last year. Money plans to hire a couple more later this year soon after her new oven arrives.

Source: YaVonne Money, owner of Above and Beyond Orthopedics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Corridor Sausage doubles in size, eyes Chicago, Cleveland markets


Since it launched five years ago, Corridor Sausage has become something of a household name in metro Detroit. The artisan sausage maker spent the last year growing its brand statewide, doubling in size in the process.

"2014 was great," says Will Branch, co-owner of Corridor Sausage. "It was our first full year to cover distribution across Michigan."

In 2015, Branch and his partner have their sights beyond Michigan, hoping to expand into other major Midwestern markets like Chicago and Cleveland.

"We really want to grow the brand," Branch says. "There is a lot of excitement for it."

Corridor Sausage made a permanent home in Eastern Market a couple of years ago after receiving approval from the USDA to sell its products in large quantities, which in turn enabled the company to meet its growing demand.

"Each year we have grown," Branch says. "We have a least doubled our revenue each year."

And the number of places where people can buy Corridor Sausage has grown at the same rate. The company can be found in a variety of restaurants and grocery stores, and some high-profile spots including The Henry Ford. It also opened a new location in Ford Field last year, and is talking to the Michigan International Speedway about a potential stand there later this year. Corridor Sausage is also preparing to open a stand in Metro Airport in August.

"It's an audience (in Metro Airport) that would probably never see us otherwise," Branch says.

Corridor Sausage currently employs 10 people, adding several interns each summer. It has hired seven people over the last year, including sales and production professionals.

Source: Will Branch, co-owner of Corridor Sausage
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sadek Legal adds partner, becomes Sadek Bonahoom

Tifani Sadek left corporate law a year ago to start her own practice, Sadek Legal. Today, another former corporate lawyer is joining her firm, which has been renamed Sadek Bonahoom PLC.

Sadek met Erin Bonahoom midway through last year. Both young women were up-and-comers at large local law firms (Bonahoom at Plunkett Cooney and Sadek at Clark Hill), but both had aspirations to start their own practices focused on helping small businesses.

"We hit it off so well," Sadek says. "We have been meeting for months (and talking about working together)."

The friends decided to launch Sadek Bonahoom this month to start the year with a clean slate. The practice will be based out of TechTown and is looking to grow sooner rather than later.

"We're hoping to add an associate later this year," Sadek says. "We're going to see how it goes."

The duo decided that by partnering they could more easily realize their business aspirations and balance the demands of building a law practice. The partnership also allows them take on bigger clients whose needs require the work and expertise of multiple people.

"We are really going into it with a go-getter mindset," Sadek says. "We want to really grow this firm."

Source: Tifani Sadek, founding partner of Sadek Bonahoom PLC
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Creative Many Michigan moves HQ to TechTown

Creative Many Michigan is moving its headquarters from Wixom to TechTown, bringing with it seven jobs to New Center.

The arts-based-economic-development nonprofit, formerly known as ArtServe Michigan, was renting space in the Detroit Public Television facility in Oakland County. It is now occupying about 1,400 square feet of space to be closer to the heart of the region’s arts scene and its major players, such as the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, which also calls New Center home.

"Clearly Detroit is a major hub for arts and creative industries," says Jennifer Goulet, president & CEO of Creative Many Michigan.

The nonprofit has added one new person to its team of seven people over the last year. It is also looking to add another person. That team plans to spend a large part of 2015 updating the non-profit's Creative State Michigan report, which details the economic impact of the arts and creative communities across the state.

"We are directly working with Detroit Creative Corridor Center for the second phase of our creative economy research," Goulet says.

Source: Jennifer Goulet, president & CEO of Creative Many Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

JPMorgan Chase, Invest Detroit, LISC among latest group to give millions of dollars to M-1 Rail

M-1 Rail has fit a big piece into its funding puzzle. The 3.3-mile-long streetcar line has agreed to a second round of funding though the federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program. In addition to NMTCs received earlier in 2014, the recent agreement on a second phase of tax credit funding brings M-1 a grand total of $40 million. This is the first time a transit project has received NMTC funding since that program's creation in 2000.

NMTCs were designed to spur development, economic growth, and investment in low-income urban neighborhoods by offering tax credits to organizations contributing to qualifying projects. NMTC investors receive a tax credit equal to 39 percent of their total qualified investment. That tax credit is spread out over seven years; the first three years of the credit returns at five percent and the last four returns at six percent.

JPMorgan Chase, Invest Detroit, The Great Lakes Capital Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and United Fund Advisors contributed to the NMTC fund. Major contributions include $18.4 million from Invest Detroit and $14 million from JPMorgan Chase.

Tahirih Ziegler, executive director of Detroit LISC, says her organization is investing in M-1 Rail for various reasons. "All of the catalytic affordable housing and other development that will result as part of the project is really important to our 'Building Sustainable Communities' activities in the Grand Woodward neighborhood," she says. "We think this project ties into other opportunities for small businesses to come in and create new jobs available to local residents."

The approximately $40 million in funding through NMTCs covers just a portion of the M-1 Rail construction costs. M-1 Rail projects that it will cost $140 million to acquire the streetcars and build the streetcar line and vehicle maintenance facility. The rest of the money has been obtained from a combination of private and public entities, including a recent $12.2 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in September 2014.

Source: M-1 Rail press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

iRule lands $2.5 million in venture capital with Series AA round

When the Quicken Loans family of companies launched the M@dison Building building a few years ago, it envisioned the building serving as a hub for high-growth tech startups. Startups like iRule, a M@dison Building-based company that just raised $2.5 million in venture capital.

The five-year-old company makes a cloud-based universal remote control system for entertainment centers that can be operated from the user's mobile device. The $2.5 million will go toward the further development of the company’s product line.

"It will continue to fuel our growth both in terms of products and manpower," says Itai Ben-Gal, CEO of iRule.

The $2.5 million in seed capital comes from existing investors like Detroit Venture Partners and new investors like AOL co-founder Steve Case. Ben-Gal says this round of venture capital is a Series AA for his firm.

The tech startup has grown its revenue by 50 percent over the last year and Ben-Gal expects his company to do it again in 2015. That has allowed iRule to hire seven people over the last year, including four in the last quarter. It currently has a staff of 21 employees and two interns and is looking to hire several software developers.

"We're always interviewing for that position," Ben-Gal says. "We're constantly growing so if the right person walked through the door, we would find a way to bring him onboard."

Source: Itai Ben-Gal, CEO of iRule
Writer: Jon Zemke

MEDC pledges aid for N'Namdi-led arts district

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has launched another matching grant program for a successful crowdfunding campaign, this time by influential Detroit art dealer and developer George N'Namdi. If N'Namdi can raise $30,000 in 30 days, the MEDC will award N'Namdi another $30,000.

George N'Namdi is the owner of N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Midtown. His goal is to establish a new arts district around the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard. The crowdfunding campaign will help finance Quarter Pop on Grand River, an arts incubator and gallery and retail district that will rotate entrepreneurs in and out of renovated storefronts in three month increments. The 4200 block of Grand River Ave. is the focus of the project.

"The vision for the Quarter Pop is to create and activate a space where Detroit creatives can gain success for their businesses while strengthening the neighborhoods around them," says N'Namdi. "Quarter Pop will be a huge catalyst for creative cultural change in the Grand River Creative Corridor, Detroit, and beyond."

Quarter Pop occupants will receive marketing, accounting, and legal advice along with entrepreneurial mentorship. An emphasis will be put on creative retailers. Money raised will be put toward construction and business service costs.

This is not the first time the MEDC has pledged matching grant money toward crowdfunding campaigns. In November 2014, a campaign was announced to fund the construction of a skate park at the old Wigle Recreation Center. That campaign was soon aborted as it was discovered that the city of Detroit seeks to sell the property. In August 2014, the MEDC pledged matching grant money toward a new green alley in Midtown, which began construction in September of that year.

N'Namdi has until Feb. 13 to raise the $30,000. As of this reporting, the project has already received over $17,000 in pledges from just 6 donors. The campaign is being hosted by crowdfunding site Patronicity.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: MJ Galbraith

SimuQuest aims to double revenue within 2 years

SimuQuest spent 2014 laying the groundwork for 2015, inspiring The Ann Arbor-based software firm’s leadership to be optimistic about the coming year.

"We have goals to double our revenue over the next two years," John Mills, founder, president, and CEO of SimuQuest. "We have lots of good reasons to believe we can do that."

The 13-year-old firm specializes in software and data management services. It spend this last year launching two new platforms. It launched UniPhi for Ford earlier this year. The model-based development tool centralizes data management, moving everything to the cloud and streamlining the data management and analysis process for the user.

SimuQuest also launched QuantiPhi this year. The chip configuration and driver integration tool provides a full complement of configurable low-level drivers that guides the user through the intricacies of successfully configuring the chip and driver settings.

Mills and his leadership team are speaking to investors about the prospects to raise a seed round. That capital would help SimuQuest market and sell UniPhi and QuantiPhi, which Mills expects to help spike the company's revenue in 2015.

SimuQuest has also expanded its staff this year. The company has hired one person earlier this year and is looking to hire five people between sales and technical professionals. That expanded team is expected to help push sales and improve the company’s existing technologies and develop the next generations.

"It's pretty amazing," Mills says. "We are doing some things that could change the controls in software products and how they are developed."

Source: John Mills, founder, president, and CEO of SimuQuest
Writer: Jon Zemke

Managing partner on Gold Cash Gold opening: A 'wild' success

Anticipation for Corktown's newest restaurant Gold Cash Gold was so great that a line wrapped around the corner and along Michigan Avenue as people waited for the restaurant's 5 p.m. grand opening Saturday, Dec. 6. Business has been humming ever since.

Eli Boyer is a partner and also the general manager of the restaurant. He says that the first week following a grand opening is important as any, allowing the restaurant to observe, analyze, and react to the customer experience. Just because the restaurant had a successful opening doesn't mean the restaurant is ready to rest on its laurels.

"When building an idea for a restaurant, you can project how guests will react, but that first week is so important to observe and analyze the guest experience," says Boyer. "You gather information in that first week and respond. The tweaks made are small but impactful."

This is the first time Boyer has been a part of opening a restaurant in Detroit. The Farmington Hills native got into the restaurant game in Chicago, starting the DMK restaurant company in 2009. He says the differences between opening a restaurant in Detroit vs. Chicago are many and that the experience here is already a much more fulfilling one.

Boyer says that the team behind Gold Cash Gold can feel the excitement from the neighborhood. That excitement was expressed at the grand opening.

"It was wild," Boyer says of the opening. "I've never experienced that before where people waited outside for the doors to unlock. It made our staff excited to see that. And we were so impressed with how the staff handled it and performed."

Gold Cash Gold opens in time for the holiday season, not by design, says Boyer, but a happy coincidence nonetheless. The restaurant hopes to add 50 seats in a patio setting for the summer, but the current configuration allows for a smaller, more manageable opening.

Source: Eli Boyer, managing partner of Gold Cash Gold
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Disclaimer: The co-CEO of Issue Media Group, Model D's parent company, has a financial interest in Gold Cash Gold.

McClary Bros. delivers on new taste for craft vinegar

Vinegar is much more than the standard base of garden-variety salad dressings, or even balsamic. Here's an artisan maker that's using fruits and vegetables to craft gourmet, drinkable vinegars, soon to be found in stores around the country.

Excerpt:

"While craft beers and spirits are gaining much of the buzz, craft cocktails are also seeing a rise in consumer interest. With bars like  Sugar House  and  Punch Bowl Social  in Detroit and  The Oakland  in Ferndale wowing their customers with craft cocktails, there is also a DIY movement for those looking to change up their at-home imbibing. 

That’s where  McClary Bros.  drinking vinegars come in.

Farmington-based McClary Bros. uses locally grown fruits and vegetables to create drinking/culinary vinegars. These vinegars are not like the ones you use to clean out the coffeepot. These are considered “colonial-era drink mixers” in that these recipes are formulated using unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with added natural ingredients...

A semifinalist in the 2014  Comerica Hatch Detroit  business competition, McClary Bros. expects to have distribution for its infused vinegars in 13 or 14 states soon, thanks to word-of-mouth among high-end retailers operating in several states."

More here.
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