| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter

News

2868 Articles | Page: | Show All

Shelving ponders acquisition, more hiring

Long-term is an important word at Shelving.

The Auburn Hills-based company is a family owned business that aims for strong single-digit revenue growth and steady employee growth. It recently hired an e-commerce/Internet sales professional, expanding its staff to 24 employees.
 
"We have a lot of long-term employees here," says Mike Schodowski, co-owner of Shelving.

Jack Schodowski started Shelving in 1960. The company offers storage products, along with design-build and after-the-sale support services. Among its 15,000 products are wire shelving, rivet shelving, pallet racks, lockers, mezzanines, in-plant offices and security fences.

Shelving grew its revenue by 8 percent over the last year, in line with the family's aim.  Much of that came from extra work from existing clients.

"Slow and steady is our motto," Schodowski says. "You don't want to grow too fast."

With that said, the slow part might not be as slow in the next year or two as Shelving looks to keep expanding.

"We are looking at acquiring another company down the road or hiring some additional sales people," Schodowski says.

Source: Mike Schodowski, co-owner of Shelving
Writer: Jon Zemke

TorranceLearning grows revenue, profitability in Chelsea

TorranceLearning grew its revenue last year (by 20 percent) but the story that makes the 8-year-old business’s leadership smile is how net income spiked.

"Profitability went way up last year," says Megan Torrance, CEO of TorranceLearning.

That is due to a couple of different factors for the education company that got its start providing e-learning solutions. It won an award for an employee education project is did with Denso last year and has been pushing its boundaries by helping create a STEM education exhibit for elementary school students at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

"We're making interactive, personalized exhibits that track the education of students for teachers," Torrance says.

TorranceLearning is also renting out part of its workspace in the Clocktower in downtown Chelsea. The company created a brainstorming space that measures out to about 2,300 square feet. It has been renting it out to local corporations, like Johnson & Johnson and Trinity Health.

"We realized this space was too awesome to keep to ourselves," Torrance says.

That extra income has allowed the company to expand its staff. It has hired two people over the last year (e-learning developers) and now has a staff of 11 employees and one intern.

Source: Megan Torrance, CEO of TorranceLearning
Writer: Jon Zemke

STEM aims to reinvent science-based education

Andrew B. Raupp launched a company six years ago looking to reinvent STEM education by creating synergies between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. He rebranded the company as STEM last fall after he was able to acquire the URL www.STEM.org.

"Because we got that it made a lot of sense to update the site and the logo," Raupp says.

The Southfield-based company is working to improve STEM education in the school curriculum through better intermingling of the subjects. He points out that subjects like math and science are taught in silos and don't bring things like engineering and technology into the curriculum enough, even though all four things are interdependent. Check out a video of it here.

"Very simply, we help schools, districts, and organizations do STEM better," Raupp says.

The company employs nine employees after making two hires (an education director and a partnerships director) over the last year. It also has a stable of 150 independent contractors.

STEM is also working to open a satellite office in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood this year. The firm is currently in the process of raising $700,000 to build out the space that will help local schools, teachers and students integrate STEM materials into their everyday lives.

"We want to create an incubator where schools can learn to set up AP programs, career technical education programs, and STEM programs," Raupp says.

Source: Andrew B Raupp, executive director of STEM
Writer: Jon Zemke

Banza turns chick peas into next big thing in pasta

Brian Rudolph ran into a something of a conundrum early in his adult life. The Detroiter is gluten free and loves to eat healthy, but he also loves to eat pasta. He reconciled these contradictions by creating his own gluten-free pasta and bulding a business, Banza, around it.

"I stopped buying pasta and started making my own," says Rudolph, a Venture for America fellow who co-founded Banza with his brother, Scott Rudolph. "The more I worked on it the more I realized this could be a $1 billion company."

Banza's pasta is made from chickpeas, so it is more akin to hummus and falafel than traditional pasta. It is gluten, grain, and soy free. While normal pasta lacks in providing nutritional value, Banza contains a load of nutrients. It has seven grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein in a serving.

"It's more (protein) than you get in a protein bar," Rudolph says.

The 8-month-old company and its team of three people are currently working to get their pasta-replacement food to market. It is currently in the Eatly fine food stores in the U.S. and should be on the shelves of the 200 Meijer stores by September. The Rudolphs also just participated in a taping of Restaurant Startup, a Shark Tank-style show for entrepreneurs on CNBC.

"Our goal is to do to pasta what Chobani did to yogurt," Rudolph says.

Source: Brian Rudolph, co-founder of Banza
Writer: Jon Zemke

The Inovo Group sees 30-50% revenue spike in each of last 3 years

The Inovo Group's growth rate is something to take notice of. The downtown Ann Arbor-based consulting firm has watched its revenue jump 30 percent to 50 percent in each of the last three years.

This last year the firm added four new clients. That work has enabled the innovation-consulting office to hire two people (analysts), expanding its staff to 13 employees and one intern.

"We are on a steady growth path," says Larry Schmitt, CEO of The Inovo Group.

The Inovo Group has made its way helping large corporations find new, more-efficient ways of doing things. That could range from finding new opportunities to discovering new technology for it to harness. The bottomline is The Inovo Group's clientele recognize that innovation is critical to their growth.

"When we get involved with a company we do it when they want to do something big," Schmitt says. "It's when they want to push their own boundaries."

The Inovo Group also made the moved to new office in January next to the Downtown Home & Garden. The 5-year-old company has now smoothly moved into the new space and used it to help grow its talent base.

"It has energized our environment," Schmitt says. "It's an attractive place for the people we want to recruit."

Source: Larry Schmitt, CEO of The Inovo Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Wallace Detroit Guitars turns reclaimed wood into guitars

Reclaimed wood from disassembled houses in Detroit is popping up everywhere these days. It can be found in trendy coffee houses, in table tops, even in the frames of sunglasses. And it's about to be found in guitars.

Wallace Detroit Guitars is making electric guitar bodies from wood reclaimed from Detroit’s abandoned houses. The Corktown-based company is working to create high-end guitars with recycled materials meant to inspire memories of the Motor City's heritage and musical legacy. Mark Wallace, owner of Wallace Detroit Guitars, was inspired to launch the venture early this year when he started noticing reclaimed materials becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the local creative community.

"I got interested in seeing how far we could push that," Wallace says. "What can we build with reclaimed materials from Detroit?"

An instrument from Wallace Detroit Guitars is meant to emphasize that the quality of the wood (taken from Michigan's virgin forests a century ago) and the advanced skill set of Wallace’s team of eight craftsman. Each guitar will feature high-quality hardware and hand-wound pickups. All of the wood is from reclaimed material, except for the neck of the guitar, which Wallace is sourcing from maple trees harvested in Michigan.

"I'm in the process of finishing the first prototypes," Wallace says. "They're working out great."

The first guitars are expected to come to market later this month. Each will retail for $2,000. Wallace acknowledges that the starting price point means they won't be someone's first guitar, but he eventually wants to make them accessible to a broad range of people -- not just folks who appreciate quality guitars with cool backstories and end up hanging them on a wall, but to musicians and others who will bring the instrument to life in a variety of places.

"I'd like to sell these to everybody," Wallace says. "I'd like to sell them to people who love Detroit and love making music."

Source: Mark Wallace, owner of Wallace Detroit Guitars
Writer: Jon Zemke
Photos: Jesse David Green, MammothReach

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

Park n Party's tailgating services start to go mainstream

Park n Party launched a couple of year’s ago with a novel idea, enabling tailgaters to reserve a parking spot online for University of Michigan home football games. The business has really started to gain traction since then.

"Last year what we saw is people definitely told their friends," says Jason Kapica, partner with Park n Party. "The pinnacle was last year’s Winter Classic hockey game. We sold 3,000 reservations. We sold every spot we had access to."

The big one-off events have proven as popular as the home football games. Park n Party has done well with annual events like Ann Arbor Art Fair and the Manchester United soccer game at Michigan Stadium. Park n Party has also been able to expand into South Bend, Indiana, for Notre Dame home football games and is eyeing Madison, Wisconsin, for University of Wisconsin football games.

"I'd really like to get to Columbus for Ohio State," Kapica says. "Madison is definitely something we're looking at for football."

Park n Party’s software allows people attending big events to reserve parking spots online, saving them the trouble of driving around searching for a place to park their car. The four-person team has refined the system so it covers more than 3,000 parking spots around Michigan Stadium. Those have proven popular with large groups of friends attending Michigan football games and corporate events.

"We get a lot of calls for large tailgate parties," Kapica says.

Source: Jason Kapica, partner of Park n Party
Writer: Jon Zemke

NVIDIA staffs up Ann Arbor office thanks to auto industry contracts

NVIDIA opened a technology center in Ann Arbor last year. The good news is the Silicon Valley-based tech firm has been hiring people (10 so far) for it. The better news is it still has plenty more hiring to do to hit its employment goal.

"It's designed to support up to 20 employees," says Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive for NVIDIA. "We're still staffing up. We’re about halfway there."

NVIDIA's Ann Arbor tech office specializes in making software for the automotive industry. Think navigation and infotainment applications. Ann Arbor turned out to be the perfect place for the company because of its proximity to Metro Detroit’s automotive base and Ann Arbor’s tech startup scene.

NVIDIA got its start making graphics for the video game industry in 1993. It eventually evolved into offering graphic solutions for a variety of sectors. It has been focused on automotive for about the last decade. It does work with the like of BMW, Audi, and Tesla. Shapiro estimated NVIDIA’s products are in 6.2 million cars today.

Source: Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive for NVIDIA
Writer: Jon Zemke

Coupon Wallet racks up customers as it emerges from Beta stage

Lots of software startups make it into Beta, one of the early stages where they get to test out their new idea in the real world. Few make it out.

Coupon Wallet appears to be one of those making it out of Beta and into the world of paying customers. The Sterling Heights-based startup that calls the Macomb-OU INCubator home converted its first users (a couple of bars) into customers earlier this summer.

"We have a couple other businesses in the pilot we’re trying to convert into customers as well," says Christopher Papa, CMO of Coupon Wallet.

Coupon Wallet’s software helps small businesses create digital coupons that in turn aid them in reaching a larger audience. The technology includes managed marketing services and point-of-sale integration. The firm is also looking to marry digital coupons and data analytics as part of its service package.

"Hopefully that will give the customer a rounded offering," Papa says.

Coupon Wallet was spun out of PocketCents Network a year ago. It currently has a team of four employees and two interns.

Source: Christopher Papa, CMO of Coupon Wallet
Writer: Jon Zemke

Carlisle/Wortman Associates turns interns into new hires

Carlisle/Wortman Associates has been doing a lot of hiring from within over the last year.

The civic planning firm has made three hires over the last year, all of which are planning professionals. Two of those three for their professional start at Carlisle/Wortman Associates.

"We were able to locate some pretty god talent through our internship program," says Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates. "We hired two of our interns."

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company provides consulting services to local municipalities looking to overhaul their zoning ordinances and master plans. It currently has a staff of 25 employees, three of which are working out of Carlisle/Wortman Associates' new Troy office that opened in May.

The new office is serving the growing Oakland County sector, which is helping lead the spiking demand for planning services for local municipalities. Carlisle points out a number of communities that have traditionally led the way for planning activities have been leading the charge over the last year.

"That is what has been keeping us quite busy," Carlisle says. "With that comes demand for updating master plans and zoning ordinances. That has increased our workload and allowed us to hire three more people."

Source: Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Siren PR adds to staff as revenue more than doubles

Every year is a growth year at Siren PR, or at least so far for the young public relations firm.

The Royal Oak-based company launched a little more than two years ago handling work for Metro Detroit non-profits, such as OLHSA. The company has gone from revenues of $75,000 in 2012 to nearly $200,000 last year. It is on pace to easily surpass $200,000 in revenue this year.

"We have grown every month since we started," says Lindsey Walenga, co-founder of Siren PR.

That has meant the need for more woman power. The two co-founders hired their first employee last September. That person took another job this month but not before Siren PR made another hire. The company probably isn't done adding to its head count this year.

"We will probably be expanding to four in the near future," Walenga says.

Siren PR has made its mark so far taking on clients with a social purpose, or as Walenga put it, "A mission they can believe in." For OLHSA that’s helping local people find the help and social services they need to succeed. A recent addition is Detroit Bikes, which is working to bring manufacturing back to Detroit by becoming the largest bicycle manufacturer in the U.S.

"I'd love to be representing more for-profit companies that have a community purpose," Walenga says.

Source: Lindsey Walenga, co-founder of Siren PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

HTE hits stride with PlantWatch software platform

Lots of local software companies dream of doing what HTE is doing with its PlantWatch software platform. Get it up, running, easy to use, and attract a growing list of paying customers.

"It really came to maturity about three years ago," says Dan Reed, president of HTE.

The Auburn Hills-based firm creates software for the manufacturing industry. It started off making custom platforms for companies 25 years ago. Today it sells about 20 software products. PlantWatch allows the end user to monitor production while building their own system to maximize cost reduction. HTE just sold the platform to MTD Products, which is using it to monitor and control 25 scanners for error proofing and traceability. It's one of about a dozen firms using the product.

HTE has enjoyed prolonged success with sales of PlantWatch because of its "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy. The company created the software with the idea that integrating it into the users' operations should happen seamlessly and without any problem. That allows the customer to cut out integration costs, which makes it about one-third less expensive than competing products.

"There are thousands of software products out there and every one needs integration," Reed says. "Ours doesn’t."

The "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy is a lesson learned over time for HTE. The company and its nine employees and one intern toiled for more than a decade making software for other people before creating a platform for everyone. Then it realized it needed to make it as simple to use as possible, finding its stride and hitting it.

"We've done it for other people for years," Reed says. "It probably took us 15 years for us to do it for ourselves."

Source: Dan Reed, president of HTE
Writer: Jon Zemke

Carlisle/Wortman Associates opens office in Troy

Carlisle/Wortman Associates opened its first satellite office in Troy last May, bringing three people from its Ann Arbor office to jobs in Oakland County. The planning firm assists local municipalities in Michigan’s wealthiest county in keeping up with demand for new development.

"Oakland County has always been an economic engine in Michigan," says Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates. "As the economy improves those are the communities that see an increase in interest."

Carlisle/Wortman Associates has made a name for itself helping local municipalities overhaul zoning ordinances, create master plans, and complete other civic planning projects. It has seen a jump in business over the last year as the economy improves and developments are coming back to life across Michigan. More and more communities are facilitating new developments in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors.

"We are definitely seeing a resurgence in residential development," Carlisle says.

Source: Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Loc Performance scores new military contract, to add 40 jobs

Loc Performance Products has been working to diversify its client base for years, slowly but steadily adding private-sector clients to its long-established military work. That's changing this year after the Plymouth-based firm landed a big defense contract.

The 43-year-old company established itself with defense contracts consisting mainly of manufacturing large CNC machined components and assemblies for military and industrial applications. With cutbacks in military spending in recent years, Loc Performance Products began adding more and more commercial clientele, so much so that private sector customers comprised more than 50 percent of the firm’s revenue.

"This year we will be more than 50 percent commercial," says Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products. "In 2015 we will be more than 50 percent military."

That's thanks to Loc Performance Products landing of a $161 million defense contract to restore lost mobility to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The contract calls for Loc Performance Products to install kits for tracks, shock absorbers, vehicle suspension support systems, and heavy weight torsion bars.

As such, Loc Performance Products is looking to hire 40 people right now. The company has added a couple of positions over the last year, bringing its staff to 186 people. That number is going to go up significantly soon.

"Now we have a big push to hire people," Dula says.

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle contract will create more than enough revenue over its four-year span to offset other shrinking military contracts and push its revenue up. Loc Performance Products is still pushing to bring in more private-sector work in the heavy-truck, heavy-equipment, agriculture, rail, and oil-and-gas industries.

"All of these markets are opportunities," Dula says.

Source: Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

3LG Tech Solutions spins out with new database technology

3Leaf Group got its start with audio books 19 years ago in a room full of tapes. This year it's spinning out a tech startup, 3LG Tech Solutions, that specializes in database management. Make sense? Trust us, it will.

The Oak Park-based firm has grown to include more comprehensive DIY education solutions, such as streaming instructional videos and training assets. That meant a bigger immersion in technology and a lot of information to manage. The next thing the company knew, it had what it took to create solutions for next-generation database technologies.

That prompted the spinout of 3LG Tech Solutuons six months ago. Today the company and its team of a dozen people are putting the finishing touches on the software platform and working to establish sales with big clients. It currently is running a pilot with a Big 4 accounting firm and installing its software at a shoe manufacturer in Florida. It is also targeting government contracts, including sales in the defense sector.

"There are so many needs," says Stuart Newman, president of 3LG Tech Solutions. "There are so many exit points. We believe there is a lot of value we can bring to the table."

3LG Tech Solutions is currently working to land a variety of customers across industries, ranging from automotive to professional services. Newman points out his firm is doing the hard work of making the long sell to big clients that take a long time to make decisions. But when he gets them to bite he expects to make a lot of sales progress quickly, as soon as next year.

"I'd like to have four signed deals by December 31st," Newman says.

Source: Stuart Newman, president of 3LG Tech Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke
2868 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts