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Visual Compass Web Design moves into bigger space in Ypsilanti's Depot Town

Visual Compass Web Design has always been an Ypsilanti-based tech firm. It was the first graduate of the Ann Arbor SPARK East Incubator in downtown Ypsitlanti. Its first stand-alone office was in downtown Ypsilanti. Its next move up was to Depot Town. Now the 6-year-old firm is taking over one of Depot Town's largest office spaces.

"After a year we basically filled the space (its previous office)," says Vince Chmielewski, president of Visual Compass Web Design, formerly VC Web Design. "We wanted to hire but didn’t know where to put them."

About the same time longtime Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti staple Fantasy Attic was closing its doors. Visual Compass Web Design took over the space, and moved right in last year. It now employs 10 people there and is looking to add interns this summer. It recently hired one photographer/UX designer and is looking to hire a software developer.

Visual Compass Web Design’s new home measures out to about 3,000 square feet. The company now has room for things like a dedicated photography studio, which occupies about a third of the square footage near the large historic windows.

"We have been trying to expand our video production services and this is a great space for that," Chmielewski says.

Visual Compass Web Design has doubled its revenue over the last year and is on pace to do it again. It has landed new clients, like Perfect Tacos, which owns 160 Taco Bell franchises. Visual Compass Web Design is also looking to add more work in graphic design and animation.

"We're trying to do a lot more mobile application development," Chmielewski says.

Source: Vince Chmielewski, president of Visual Compass Web Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor-based Advanced Photonix grows with merger

Ann Arbor's Advanced Photonix is about to become part of a merger that will turn it into a $50 million company. That's pretty darn impressive for a firm we've been watch grow year after year. In fact, since Concentrate launched in 2008.


"The board of Ann Arbor-based Advanced Photonix Inc., a supplier of optoelectronic sensors, devices and measurement instrumentation for the telecommunications, defense, industrial and medical markets, has agreed to merge with Luna Innovations Inc., which makes fiber-optic sensing and test and measurement products for the same industries."

Read the rest here.

PublicCity PR adds to clientele as company grows

PublicCity PR has come a long ways in its first six years. The boutique public relations firm has literally gone from kitchen table to some of the larger boardrooms in Metro Detroit.

The Southfield-based company has recently expanded its client list with some big names, including the likes of Gardner White, Belle Tire, Affinity Tool, InstaBOOST, Michigan Women’s Foundation, and TVStoreOnline.com.

"I never imagined six years ago that we would be in this position to win business from such big establishments," says Jason Brown, founder & principal of PublicCity PR. "It's all from a lot of hard work."

PublicCity PR started on Brown's kitchen table in Oakland County. At the time he was just a former reporter who had been working in PR for a decade, looking to scratch out a living in the communications world. Now he oversees a growing staff of four employees and an intern in the company's own office.

Part of those gains have come from PublicCity PR joining the PRConsultantsGroup as the new Michigan representative. The nationwide organization is composed of senior-level public relations and marketing consultants in every major market in the U.S. Members often work together on projects with each member acting as the expert for their region. PublicCity PR recently work as part of that conglomerate on campaign for Travelocity where the company’s mascot (a gnome) made appearances across Metro Detroit.

"That was an easy project but there is more work to come," Brown says.

Source: Jason Brown, founder & principal of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

Challenge Detroit doubles staff after it hires two former fellows

Challenge Detroit has started off the new year by doubling its staff, hiring two of its former fellows as the nonprofit begins recruiting a new class of young talent to the Motor City.

"It just makes sense to connect with these fellows," says Deirdre Greene Grooves, executive director of Challenge Detroit. "Hiring alumni makes a lot of sense."

Challenge Detroit matches recent college grads with local employers in an effort to attract talented young people to work and live in the city. Each fellowship lasts a year and provides the participants with a housing stipend. Every fellow volunteers during the program and participates in other activities that get them involved in Detroit's civic life.

Brittany Sanders and Caroline Dobbins both did stints as fellows before joining the program as staff. Sanders will work as a program manager and Dobbins as an events and operations manager. Challenge Detroit now employs four people. It also has a board of directors of 17 people, including the recent addition of Lindsey Walenga, co-founder of Siren PR.

Challenge Detroit applications for the 2015 class of fellows are currently open and are du March 8. This year's list of fellows is expected to be finalized by mid June with the fellows starting work by this fall.

Greene-Groves expects this year's class to round out to 30 fellows. Last year's class consisted of 35, but such a high total was a one-year anomaly.

"Last year we had a lot of great hosts and a lot of great fellows," Greene Grooves says.

Source: Deirdre Greene Grooves, executive director of Challenge Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

GENOMENON leverages local startup support for success and growth

GENOMENON is one of those startups that local leaders get all warm and fuzzy about. The Ann Arbor-based company is a cross between life sciences and tech, and has a very promising future.

And then there are the startup resources that have been invested in its success. GENOMENON has leveraged just about every new economy startup program in southeast Michigan. It spun out of the University of Michigan, taking advantage of U-M's Office of Technology Transfer along the way. It has worked with Ann Arbor SPARK, the local small business development center, and the Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest initiative, among others.

"We have really maximized the resources in the Michigan startup community," says Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON.

GENOMENON is the product of three U-M pathologists, including Dr. Kiel. They are developing software focused on interpreting the mountains of data that come from genome sequencing. The end result could lead to things like improving cancer diagnosis and treatment. Think of it as data analytics for genome sequencing.

"We can produce the data really efficiently," Dr. Kiel says. "It's interpreting the data that is the problem."

GENOMENON is currently made up of seven people after launching last May. It is currently looking to hire a handful of software developers.

"We need boots on the ground, people who can code," Dr. Kiel says.

Source: Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON
Writer: Jon Zemke

Kraemer Design Group adds 10 new people as it fills up office

Kraemer Design Group has a good problem. The architecture firm has been adding staff so fast it has run out of places to put new hires.

"We are trying to grow," says Bob Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group. "We are struggling with the fact that we are out of desks."

The downtown Detroit-based company has hired eight people over the last year and is in the process of bringing two more onboard. Those new hires were primarily arcitects and interior designers, rounding out the firm’s staff at 28 employees and two summer interns.

Kraemer Design Group is now looking to redesign its office to accommodate those new hires. Its home is in the office space section of the Detroit Opera House parking garage overlooking Broadway Street.

Two factors are prompting this growth: Kraemer Design Group's international work, which consists primarily of hotel designs and carried the company through the Great Recession, and adaptive reuse design work in downtown Detroit. The firm has been handling the design of several major recent projects like the David Whitney Building rehab and the new home of the Archdiocese of Detroit at 1212 Griswold.

Kraemer Design Group is currently working on several other renovation projects in downtown Detroit, including the old Kresge Department Store at 1201 Woodward and The Griswold apartments project on top of the Westin Book-Cadillac's parking structure. The firm is also working on the new offices for Covisint in Southfield.

Source: Bob Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

How are the kids in Kidpreneur doing one year later?

About a year and a half ago Metromode wrote about Kidpreneur, a company dedicated to teaching tweens and teens about technology and entrepreneurship. Other publications soon caught on as well, writing up their own coverage. One, Xconomy, checks back in with the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Thanh Tran to see how things are going.


"Kidpreneur recently began offering online classes over Skype, Sunday classes, and all-girl classes. In December, it participated in Hour of Code, a global initiative to teach kids coding basics; 400 kids from 10 schools in metro Detroit joined in the fun. Seidman says Kidpreneur is also working to find sponsors for interested students who can’t afford to attend classes, and the company is reaching out to schools and libraries to gauge interest in after-school programs taught by Kidpreneur in person or over Skype."

Read the rest here.

Rochester's Trent Design rebrands to Trent Creative, grows

Trent Design is in the final stages of rebranding itself as Trent Creative, a move the boutique branding firm will execute later this month.

"We do more than design," says Marilyn Trent, principal of Trent Creative. "Our current clients know that but when we talk to new prospects it can be limiting."

The Rochester-based company, it also has an office in Midtown Detroit, has hired two people in design and client services over the last year. It currently employs six people and the occasional intern. It is also looking to hire two more people in software development and marketing.

Trent launched what will soon become Trent Creative 23 years ago. It has focused on design work for most of its life but recently moved into offering more comprehensive branding services.

The firm's work for Art X Detroit was also recently chosen as one of the 350 best designs in the U.S. in the 2014 Regional Design Annual representing the best in the Midwest. While awards like that may not directly translate into more business it is another feather the company can put in its cap when pitching new clients.

"It gives us credibility and respect," Trent says.

Trent Creative also plans to become more engaged in work in the greater downtown Detroit area. It is currently working with Midtown Detroit Inc and M-1 Rail to help encourage people to continue to do business in the neighborhood while construction of the trolley line is going over the next 18 months.

"We want to continue to help people keep shopping and doing business on Woodward as we keep building this wonderful rail," Trent says.

Source: Marilyn Trent, principal of Trent Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

Saline-based Image Data Conversion hires 7 as it continues to grow

Image Data Conversion has been growing a lot since the economic recovery commenced a couple of years ago through both organic growth and acquisitions.

The Saline-based company specializes in digitizing documents. Think turning paperwork and microfilm into more readily accessible digital documents. That could be everything from newspapers to building permits.

"The business has been growing in the double digits since 2010," says Bob Palmerton, director of finance administration for Image Data Conversion. "There is a lot of paper out there."

The 4-year-old company has also been acquiring or launching new divisions in the last few years. It acquired Beam Film in 2012 and launched Reveal Digital in 2013. It has steadily consolidated it sales efforts since then.

That has allowed Image Data Conversion to hire seven new people over the last 18 months, expanding its staff to 65 employees. Of those, 55 are based in Saline. That number could jump again in the near future as the company considers acquiring more firms in the not-too-distant future.

"We keep a short list of potential candidates that would fit in well with the company," Palmerton says.

Source: Bob Palmerton, director of finance administration for Image Data Conversion
Writer: Jon Zemke

Akadeum Life Sciences spins out of local entrepreneurial ecosystem

Akadeum Life Sciences just landed a six-figure seed capital round. The $150,000 raise was led by Ann Abror-based venture capital firm Michigan eLab.

"They are wicked smart entrepreneurs doing something really hard that will have a big impact on the world," says Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab. "Those three criteria are really important to us."

Akadeum Life Sciences is developing a platform that helps researchers prepare samples faster and more efficiently. It uses buoyant beads to improve cell isolation, allowing the targeting of cells in complex solutions using surface antigens.

The technology was spun out of the University of Michigan and the two-person startup leveraged a number of local entrepreneurial resources along the way, including U-M's I-Corps program and Invest Detroit. It is currently sharing space at Menlo Innovations office in downtown Ann Arbor, receiving mentorship from the company’s principals, like Richard Sheridan.

"We like their approach to solving problems and making products, which is customer-oriented," says Brandon McNaughton, co-founder & CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences.

The 9-month-old startup is rare in that already has customers. Eight researchers working on cancer research are paying for the technology and another half a dozen potential customers are in the pipeline.

"We want this in as many hands as we can possible get," says John Younger, co-founder & CSO of Akadeum Life Sciences.

Source: Brandon McNaughton, co-founder & CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences; John Younger, co-founder & CSO of Akadeum Life Sciences; Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

Wayne State University issues call for new cohort of Detroit Revitalization Fellows

On Monday, Jan. 26, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows began accepting applications for a third cohort.
A part of Wayne State University's Office of Economic Development, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows program is seeking to match approximately 20 "talented mid-career leaders with civic, community and economic development organizations working at the forefront of Detroit’s revitalization efforts." Since 2011, the program received approximately 1,000 applications and awarded 48 fellowships over the span of two cohorts.
Fellows will be paired with one of the program's partner organizations, where they will work for two years as full-time employees while concurrently receiving a slew of professional development services and participating in monthly workshops, study trips, and dialogues with community leaders.
While the program seeks applicants from around the country, it is, according to a press release, "especially interested in receiving applications from Detroiters already living in the city and those who have left the region and are ready to bring their talent back home." Fellows typically possess a graduate degree and between five and 15 years of professional experience.
According to the program's website, Detroit Revitalization Fellows applicants have the chance to be placed with the following employers:
Belle Isle Conservancy, Charles H. Wright Museum, City of Detroit Department of Transportation, City of Detroit Department of Innovation & Technology, Data Driven Detroit, Detroit Creative Corridor Center, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Detroit Future City, Detroit Historical Society, Detroit Riverfront, Conservancy, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, EcoWorks, Eight Mile Boulevard Association, Global Detroit, Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, Henry Ford Health System, Invest Detroit, Metro Matters, Southwest Detroit Business Association, and Teen Hype.
For a complete list of Detroit Revitalization Fellows job descriptions, click here.
To apply to the program, visit detroitfellows.wayne.edu/application.
Applications will be accepted now through Feb. 20.

Reliance One hires 15 as it expands across Midwest

Reliance One has become a staple in the staffing business in Michigan over its 16 years.

The Auburn Hills-based company is now working toward expanding that reputation, opening a new office in Chicago this winter.

"We have clients in that market and clients we currently have locally have offices in Chicago," says Jim Beath, co-founder & chairman of Reliance One. "We need to continue that relationship with our clients."

The company has grown significantly over the last few years, notching a double-digit revenue gain in 2014. It’s on pace to do it again this year. That growth has allowed the company to hire 15 people over the last year, including recruiters, administrative, and back office support staff. It now has a staff of 65 employees and an intern. It is also looking to hire four more recruiters and promote more people internally.

"We added a lot of great people that have learned a lot about our company and our industry," Beath says.

Source: Jim Beath, co-founder & chairman of Reliance One
Writer: Jon Zemke

Touch of Class scores NEIdeas grant to expand restoration business

David Moss's path to entrepreneurship is a fairly familiar one. He started in business as a kid with a paper route. As a grown-up, he went to work in corporate America as a quality analyst, but he grew tired of that and decided to go back into business for himself, starting Touch of Class Restoration.

"When you start with that mentality, it just keeps growing on you," Moss says.

Started 14 years ago as a cleaning business, Touch of Class Restoration has evolved into a remediation company specializing in cleaning up water and fire damage. Moss made the transition after learning there were higher profit margins in that niche.

The company suffered a major setback a 18 months ago when a burglary left Moss with a lot of work and no equipment. Since then, the company's fortunes have changed for the better. Moss applied for a $10,000 NEIdeas grant, which Touch of Class Restoration won last fall.

"I bought a lot of new equipment," Moss says. "I wasn't going to let criminals run me out of Detroit."

Source: David Moss, president of Touch of Class Restoration
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M grads seeks to promote social entrepreneurship with Arbor Brothers

From the University of Michigan to Teach For America to Wall Street, a pair of U-M alums get together for a beer at Ashley's and realize that they still wan't to make the world a better place. Enter Arbor Brothers, a part-time philanthropic organization that helps facilitate social entrpreneurship.


"While maintaining their day jobs, the two started with a few pilot projects. They spent 100 hours with Nick Ehrmann, then a Ph.D. student at Princeton University, who founded Blue Engine, a nonprofit that places teaching assistants in public high schools in New York City. They worked with Hot Bread Kitchen, an organization that empowers women and minority entrepreneurs in culinary workforce programs, a loan package that financed a move to a full-time kitchen. Then in September 2010, they quit their jobs and focused all their efforts on Arbor Brothers."

Read the rest here.

App firm jacapps adds voice-recognition technology to arsenal

Bingham Farm-based jacapps recently signed a deal to partner XAPPmedia to bring new voice recognition technology to its line of mobile apps.

Radio stations have been leveraging jacapps mobile apps for years, giving the company enough credibility to expand its client base into other industries, such as automotive. XAPPmedia provides an interactive audio advertising service, utilizing voice recognition technology. That way people listening to an ad on the radio can respond to a cue on the advertisement to make an order with just their voice. No buttons needed.

"We think this is a huge leap forward," says Bob Kernen, COO of jacapps. "You can see how it can be a big driver with ads."

The 6-year-old company also recently launched a new product platform that allows it to streamline the creation of its apps.

"It allows us to work in a much more efficient way," Kernen says. "We don't need to build each app from scratch. We can configure them to our clients needs."

Which has allowed the company to grow its revenue by 20 percent over the last year. That in turn has prompted jacapps to hire two people (software developers), rounding its staff out to 10 employees and an intern.

"We have had really strong revenue growth over the last few years," Kernen says.

Source: Bob Kernen, COO of jacapps
Writer: Jon Zemke
3215 Articles | Page: | Show All
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