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Atwater in the Park named one of nation's 10 best new beer halls

The beer tasters at Jetsetter.com are drinking the suds and the ambience at Atwater Brewery's new beer hall.

Excerpt:

"The most traditional beer hall of the list,  Atwater in the Park  opened in former Grosse Pointe Park church. Brew barrels now stand where the altar once sat, and long, communal tables have been fashioned out of reclaimed church pews. The menu skews German — think fresh kielbasa, pretzel baskets and smoked knockwurst — but the 40 drafts are from all over. The bulk or them are brewed in house (the bar also has a distillery license in the works), but about 15 of them are secured exclusively for to the Atwater in the Park taps."

More here

Molecular Imaging adds staff, opens San Diego office

Molecular is growing its business in a couple of different ways.

The Ann Arbor-based tech firm has opened a new office in San Diego and made a number of hires over the last year, adding five people in Ann Arbor over the last year, including a couple of PhD scientists and experts in oncology.

"We have done quite a bit hiring," says Patrick McConville, CSO & senior vice president at Molecular Imaging. "We have filled a few key positions."

Molecular Imaging provides in vivo pre-clinical imaging services for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies. A group of venture capital firms, led by Farmington Hills-based Beringea, acquired the tech firm three years ago. Molecular Imaging opened a satellite office in San Diego in January. It hired two people for that office.

"There is a very big pharmaceutical and biotechnology community on the west coast, particularly in San Diego," McConville says. "We thought proximity would be important."

McConville notes that Molecular Imaging has experienced solid growth over the last year. He adds that is has doubled in size over the last three years and plans to maintain that growth curve.

"Now we're targeting the next doubling," McConville says.

Source: Patrick McConville, CSO & senior vice president at Molecular Imaging
Writer: Jon Zemke

ISSYS wins patent for sensor tech in Ypsilanti, adding positions

Integrated Sensing Systems, AKA ISSYS, recently received a patent for one of its minimally-invasive procedures used to insert its sensing technology,

The Ypsilanti-based tech firm designs and develops microelectromechanical systems for medical and scientific sensors. Its technology (miniature, wireless, batteryless, sensing implants) can be used in a variety of ways, such as wirelessly monitoring a heart or as fluid sensors in industrial manufacturing. The new patent is part of Integrated Sensing Systems’ sensor implementation as part of a minimally-invasive procedure, such as arthroscopic surgery.

"The patent covers how you do the actual implementation," says Nader Najafi, president & CEO of Integrated Sensing Systems.

The 19-year-old company has hired four people over the last year, including three engineers and an administrative person. It now has a staff of close to 30 people and is looking to hire another three people in engineering and quality control.

Integrated Sensing Systems has experienced incremental growth over the last year, but Najafi is optimistic that 2015 should bring double-digit revenue gains. He points out that Integrated Sensing Systems technology has received government approval for a few countries in Europe, which should clear the way for more sales.

"The potential for expansion has improved dramatically for 2015," Najafi says.

Source: Nader Najafi, president & CEO of Integrated Sensing Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

Arborlight starts to sell new LED technology across U.S.

Arborlight is starting to go national this year, and has its sights set on some big milestones in 2015.

The Ann Arbor-based tech startup is starting to sell its sun-light-like LED lights across the country. It now has a backlog of orders amounting to $150,000 and is gearing up to start selling both a commercial and residential version soon.

"We have made tremendous strides,”"says Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight. "We have completed product development."

The 4-year-old company is creating a "daylight emulation system." Think of it as an energy-efficient LED light that can imitate sunlight down to the color, temperature, and other subtle details. The technology has an algorithm that is connected to a weather forecast, allowing the LED to behave in the same way as the outside lighting.

Arborlight has developed a commercial version that is 4 feet by 4 feet. It also recently came out with a 2 foot by 2 foot version that can be used in residences. The company has fielded orders from architects across the U.S.

"We have a fair amount of interest and traction," Forbis says.

Arborlight is in the process of raising a $1 million Series A after raising $500,000 in seed capital last year. Forbis hopes to close on the Series A before the end of the year. The company is currently made up of six employees and the occasional summer intern. It has hired three people over the last year, including marketing and sales professionals. Forbis expects his staff to reach eight people by next year.

Source: Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight
Writer: Jon Zemke

Veggie Pails delivers fresh veggies in Oakland County

Melissa Tabalno and Nicole Converse spent a lot of time in Alaska in recent years, working in the fishing industry.

The partners are back home in Metro Detroit now after getting their new business, Veggie Pails, off the ground. The Highland-based business delivers buckets (or pails) of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other locally produced foods to customers across Oakland County.

"This is a business to get us back on land," Tabalno says.

She and Converse turned Veggie Pails into their full-time jobs earlier this year. The company has now grown to the point where it is looking for its own commercial space to operate out of. Tabalno and Converse are specifically looking for a storefront/warehouse combo where they can build their core business and a retail presence.

In the meantime Veggie Pails is growing through word of mouth and on the strength of its pails full of nutritious food.

"Our pails are really pretty," Tabalno says, saying how the company is continuing to focus on the presentation of its product.

Source: Melissa Tabalno, co-owner of Veggie Pails
Writer: Jon Zemke

Guidesmob grows as its app introducing students to college towns takes off

Guidesmob, a startup product from Bizdom, is gearing up to release the second generation of its higher-education guide app, and it's looking to take over the Big Ten with it.

The downtown Detroit-based firm’s mobile app helps students discover and learn more about their new college towns. Daniel Kerbel, CEO of Guidesmob, started working on the app after going to Michigan State University as an international student from Costa Rica.

Guidesmob launched the Spartan App for Michigan State University in 2012. It has been downloaded 27,000 times since. The company is now looking to release a new version of that app for Michigan State University, along with Central Michigan University and the University of Michigan later this year.

"We're getting ready to launch a new platform," Kerbel says "Basically a Spartan App 2.0."

Kerbel and his two co-founders went to Michigan State and Central Michigan universities. They choose to focus on those schools (and U-M) because of the number of connections they have built there over the years and because many of those students co-mingle. It’s a big reason why Guidesmob is going to target Big Ten and MAC schools for expansion first.

"The approach is to take over conferences of universities," Kerbel says.

Guidesmob is in the process of hiring two people right now. It's also working to raise a seed capital round to finance its expansion and to build out its team. The company hopes to raise a Series A of $750,000 to $1 million by next spring.

Source: Daniel Kerbel, CEO of Guidesmob
Writer: Jon Zemke

GreenPath credit-counseling organization hires 55 in Michigan

GreenPath is expanding by opening up new credit-counseling offices across the U.S.

The Farmington Hills-based non-profit has opened five offices over the last year, including new offices in Escanaba and Canton. It now has 60 offices across 12 states.

"Our primary growth has been opening up the new offices," says Kurt Murphy, CFO of GreenPath.

The 53-year-old non-profit has been helping people regain control of their finances through counseling and strategic planning. That means helping clients avoid foreclosure or repairing their credit scores.

GreenPath has grown to the point where it employs 470 people. A majority of them are based in Michigan (385) with 310 employees at the organization’s Farmington Hills headquarters. It has hired 65 people over the last year, including 55 in Michigan. Those jobs ranged from IT professionals to customer service reps.

GreenPath's revenue growth has been flat over the last year. Murphy attributes that to the growing economy and how hard American consumers were hit at the last recession.

"People got hit pretty hard," Murphy says. "It makes you a bit more careful before you pull that credit card out."

Source: Kurt Murphy, CFO of GreenPath
Writer: Jon Zemke

Father & son launch car-mechanic software startup, Optus Software

Martin Waldo played around with an idea for a startup that would help create trust between automotive mechanics and motorists a few years ago.

The idea went sideways at the time, and he put it to the side. Then his son, Austin Waldo, graduated from the University of Michigan early this year, and the father-son duo became inspired.

"We decided to relaunch and try again," Austin Waldo says.

That's how Optus Software began early this year. The Northville-based startup is creating a software platform that enables mechanics to utilize visual media to help gain the trust of their clients. So when a motorist comes in to get a car fixed, the mechanic can show them pictures or video of the problem and any other problems that arise during the inspection.

"It's a whole 360 transparency experiment so the customer can feel like they can trust the dealership," Austin Waldo says.

Optus Software's team of three people is currently testing the system with a large car dealership group at two of its dealerships in Canton and Plymouth. They plan to sell it to the dealerships as software as a service.

"We're close to having a finalized product," Austin Waldo says.

Source: Austin Waldo, co-founder of Optus Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sisters launch organic deodorant company, Rustic Maka

A pair of sisters in White Lake have turned making organic deodorant into their own company, Rustic Maka.

Kasia Rothe and Monica Stakvel started down this road a few years ago when Rothe was pregnant and developed a body odor she didn't like. She couldn’t do much about it with options available on store shelves.

"Nothing seemed to be working for me," Rothe says.

So she started making her own deodorant. Rothe is also a stickler for living a healthy lifestyle so she made sure she only used natural ingredients, leaving out the likes of parabens and aluminum that are often found in deodorants.

"We realized deodorant, among other things, has a ton of bad ingredients," Rothe says.

That home-made deodorant turned into the answer Rothe needed, working for her for 12-24 hours. She and Stakvel turned it into Pachy, the new odor-fighting deodorant for Rustic Maka. They launched the company in February and have been selling Pachy online and in 12 stores (primarily natural foods shops) across the state.

"We're hoping we can get some national exposure and take this to the next level," Rothe says.

Source: Kasia Rothe, co-founder of Rustic Maka
Writer: Jon Zemke

Stratos ramps up staff for new Ann Arbor office

The startup formerly known as Protean Payment (freshly rebranded at Stratos) has a new name, a new pool of money to draw from, and is looking for a new home in Ann Arbor to accommodate its growth.

Stratos announced last week that it raised $5.8 million in a Series A round. Silicon Valley-based Toba Capital Partners led the round with Ann Arbor-based Reasonant Venture Partners participating, along with two other venture capital firms.

Stratos is working on disrupting the way people pay for everyday purchases, but not too much. It is making a new card that combines all of the cards in your wallet (credit, debit, loyalty) into a bluetooth enabled device. The idea is to simplify how a person pay for things without having to build a whole new payment infrastructure (and learning curve) around it. It is also the reason behind the larger-than-usual-by-local-startup-standards initial capital raise.

"We're a software company and a hardware company, so we have an increased capital requirement," says Thiago Olson, co-founder & CEO of Stratos.

Stratos is still working on developing its technology and Olson declined to give some details about it, such as when it's anticipated to launch and how many people work for the startup today. He did say the company is looking to hire 10 people right now and expects to keep hiring for the foreseeable future.

"We're scaling on all fronts," Olson says. "It's going to be constant hiring on all fronts."

Stratos currently works from an office building in Kerrytown that it shares with Duo Security and Reasonant Venture Partners. Duo Security, also in the midst of a hiring spree, is moving to a bigger office in downtown Ann Arbor this fall. Stratos is evaluating whether his firm will expand into the newly vacated space or elsewhere as it looks for a space that could house between 40-50 people.

"We're expanding and we're going to be moving into a new office and that's one of the places we're looking at," Olson says.

Source: Thiago Olson, co-founder & CEO of Stratos
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit's Savorfull is showing pro sports teams how to eat healthier

Savorfull, a New Center-based startup that connects businesses with healthy eating options, is growing after landing a number of prominent clients, the foremost among them being professional sports teams.

"Some of the best successes we have had is with professional sports," says Stacy Goldberg, founder & CEO of Savorfull, whose clients include the Cleveland Cavaliers (an NBA team) and the Cleveland Gladiators (an Arena Football team).

Savorfull helps professional sports teams and other large organizations provide healthy food to their fans, workers, and clients by lining them up with packaged healthy allergen friendly foods such as energy bars, snacks, trail mixes, cereals and beverages. 

Savorfull has also been working with arenas, casinos, and wide variety of businesses both big and small. Many (but not all) of them are part of the Quicken Loans family of companies. All of them are interested in making smart decisions about what their employees eat.

"They are feeding team members all day," Goldberg says.

Savorfull is currently working to win one of the Chase Small Business Mission Main Street grants. The startup’s team of three people plans to use the money to create a comprehensive marketing plan that includes a digital marketing campaign, a trade show presence, and adding more staff. You can vote for Savorfull here.

"We want to work with these companies that understand that choosing food is proactive and is a form of healthcare," Goldberg says.

Source: Stacy Goldberg, founder & CEO of Savorfull
Writer: Jon Zemke

Family biz VernDale Products doubles down on Detroit, opens second factory


LaVerne and Marlene Johnson started VernDale Products in 1958, using the Detroit-based manufacturing business to feed and employ their family. Today, a third generation of Johnsons is helping the company execute its biggest expansion in decades.

"It takes a big team to put it all together," says Dale Johnson, president of VernDale Products. He adds that many members of the family had to dig deep to open a second plan on Detroit's west side.

VernDale Products makes roller dried milk powder, which is primarily used by premium chocolate manufacturers. The company was originally based near the Detroit River in the footprint of what is now the Renaissance Center. It’s currently based at 8445 Lyndon on the city's west side. It is currently working on building out a new facility at 18940 Weaver St., also on the city's west side, north of Joy Road between the Southfield Freeway and Evergreen Road.

VernDale is investing $20 million to build out the production facility with the help of a $436,000 business development incentive from the Michigan Economic Development Corp and tax abatement from the city of Detroit. The new space will allow the company to keep up with its organic growth of 5-7 percent annually.

"The new plant will add about 60 percent of capacity," Johnson says. "There are times of the year when we definitely need it and sometimes we don’t need it."

VernDale Products, which was founded by Johnson’s parents, currently employs a handful of his siblings, in-laws, and other members of his extended family. The company has hired eight people over the last year, ranging from maintenance workers to management. It now employs 49 people who will work between both facilities when the second one opens later this month.

"The plant is highly integrated and automated," Johnson says. "The jobs we provide are good jobs. We need people who think, not just sweat."

Source: Dale Johnson, president of VernDale Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

Expetec grows for 5th straight year, adds data-sharing product

Expetec is growing the old fashioned way, through improved services to its customers and client recommendations.

The Rochester Hills-based IT company has been hiring more staff, including a position in network administration support work, and is in the process of hiring a sales person. It now has 10 employees, with an eye for adding more at its current pace of expansion.

"We're on pace to grow for the fifth straight year at 20 percent," says Michael St. John, vice president of marketing and sales for Expetec. "We have been adding new clients and looking into new products in the market place."

Expetec offers network-managed services, telecommunication systems, servers, firewalls, computers, and a 24/7 help desk. It recently added a new product called E-Lockr. Think of it as a more secure version of Dropbox that enables businesses to share and sync important data anywhere on any device with continuous, real-time backup and comprehensive usage reports. More importantly, St. John believes it’s a more secure option than rival products.

"It allows us to control what's going on with our clients in regards to the user," St. John says, adding their clients can determine who can see what documents, when, and for how long with E-Lockr.

St. John is optimistic that Expetec's current growth streak will continue, and not just because the economy is picking up speed.

"We have been consistently getting a lot of referrals from our clients," St. John says. "They trust us and the work we do."

Source: Michael St. John, vice president of marketing & sales for Expetec
Writer: Jon Zemke

Brogan & Partners adds 5 jobs in downtown Birmingham

New jobs and promotions have been cropping up at Brogan & Partners this year.

The advertising and digital marketing agency recently promoted three account managers (Kristin Morris, Katie Rehrauer and Morgan Eberle) to account directors. It has also hired five people over the last year, including another account director. The company currently employs 42 people, including 27 employees at its downtown Birmingham headquarters.

"We're hoping to get a really good intern that can become a permanent position," says Ellyn Davidson, managing partner of Brogan & Partners.

The 30-year-old firm has enjoyed 12-percent revenue growth over the last year. That makes for its best year since 2008. It’s also looking to increase revenue by 20 percent in 2014. The firm has more work with existing clients like HoneyBaked Ham and has attracted new clients, like ComForcare, Frankenmuth Insurance, and Michigan First Credit Union.

Brogan & Partners hopes to turn each of those new clients into a long-term business relationship. Davidson is optimistic that will happen thanks to the company’s track record of staying ahead of what’s coming up in the digital marketing world.

"We're heavily invested in research in what's new in marketing and what's next," Davidson says. "We stay on top of how communications are changing."

Source: Ellyn Davidson, managing partner of Brogan & Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

Coherix growth continues on strength of global work

Talk to Dwight Carlson about manufacturing for any length of time and he will tell you about how it has become a global venture. The founder & CEO of Coherix, which makes software for advanced manufacturing, knows because so much of the revenue for his Ann Arbor-based business comes from well-outside of its hometown's borders.

"We are truly global," Carlson says. "More than 75 percent of our advanced manufacturing technology is shipped outside of the U.S., and that is only going to increase."

Coherix's principal technology provides high-speed, high-definition 3D measurement and inspection services to manufacturers. The software is designed to streamline a manufacturer’s production capability by finding efficiencies through high-tech, optical-based measurement and inspection of the manufacturers assembly processes.

The 10-year-old company has operations in China and Japan. It also has subsidiaries in Singapore and Europe, all of which have consistently grown in recent years.

"Europe is starting to take off with sales to Opel and Ford," Carlson says.

Coherix has hired five people in the U.S. over the last year. It currently has a staff of 40 employees and the occasional intern in Ann Arbor. To Carlson, there is no better place to do the white collar side of the business.

"It's an excellent place to do high-tech R&D," Carlson says. "There is a reason why Toyota has $100 million invested in R&D here."

Source: Dwight Carlson, founder, chairman & CEO of Coherix
Writer: Jon Zemke
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