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Artisans fill Ypsi Alloy Studios' new space in Ypsilanti

Ypsi Alloy Studios opened last summer but not in the space where it planned to stake its claim. The small artist community originally was looking in an the area between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Instead it landed in a small industrial space within the Ypsilanti city limits.

"It's a little bit smaller than the one before but it's perfect for us," says Elize Jekabson, co-founder of Ypsi Alloy Studios.

Jekabson, Ilana Houten and Jessica Tenbusch are all artisans active in Ypsilanti’s dynamic art scene. They combined resources to come up with a community space for artisans like themselves. They now have 11 people working at Ypsi Allow Studios, including jewelers, metal smiths, sculptors, painters, illustrators, fiber artisans, fabricators, and a multi-media writer. There is a waiting list to get a space in Ypsi Alloy Studios but interested parties are encouraged to inquire at ypsi.alloy@gmail.com.

The artist space is located in Mansfield Road in 2,440 square feet of a metal worker's shop. The group had to make some small changes to prep the space.

"It ended up working much better," Tenbusch says. "It's in the city limits. The landlord has been a pleasure to work with. He understands what we're trying to do."

"We didn't have much to do beyond adding electrical outlets for each individual space," Houten says.

Ypsi Alloy Studios is looking at launching a crowdfunding campaign in the next few months to fund an expansion of its space. It would like to stay in the same complex. It also plans to host an open house in mid December.

Source: Ilana Houten, Elize Jekabson and Jessica Tenbusch, co-founders of Ypsi Alloy Studios
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dyson acquires Ann Arbor's Sakti3 for $90M

It's the kind of acquisition many a startup hopes will come true: lithium-ion battery developer Sakti3 was bought by UK vacuum-maker Dyson to the tune of $90 million.

No plans have yet been announced for where the battery production facility will be based but Michigan is a possibility.


"The $90 million acquisition — first reported by business-news site Quartz — reflects a win for clean-tech investors in Sakti3, including General Motors and Khosla Ventures. Dyson itself had already invested $15 million in Sakti3.

The University of Michigan spinoff company's founder and CEO Ann Marie Sastry will lead development of her technology as an executive for Dyson."

Read the rest here.


First electric scooters roll off GenZe's Ann Arbor assembly line

Michigan is famous for putting the world on four wheels in the 20th Century. Now Ann Arbor is making its mark in the world of two wheel vehicles. The first electric scooters are rolling off Ann Arbor-based GenZe production lines this month. Although the first order is just a few scooters, the company expects to hit its production goal of 3,000 scooters by next year.

"We're going to ramp up pretty quickly," says Yesim Erez, head of marketing for GenZe.

GenZe makes an electric scooter and an electric bike. The GenZe 2.0 electric scooter aims to make urban commuting more convenient by combining smart design with new technology. For instance, the scooter can recharge by plugging into a normal outlet but is equipped with a touch pad control center in the handlebars and mobile app so users can monitor power levels and travel plans through GPS. It has enough cargo to carry small loads, like groceries, but is small enough to fit in an elevator.

Check out a video on it here.

"They have the built-in capacity for urban commuting," Erez says. "It can satisfy the urban commuters needs throughout the day."

GenZe plans to start retailing its electric scooters for $2,999. It's targeting markets in Portland, San Francisco and Michigan to start, but plans to expand in urban areas across North America over the next couple of years.

GenZe, formerly Mahindra GenZe, opened a tech center in Ann Arbor in 2014. It has since expanded that presence to include a manufacturing facility. It currently employs 36 people, including 10 new hires. The number of staff is expected to increase with sales over the next year.

"We have been hiring as we ramp up production," Erez says. "We plan to continue to build out our staff."

Source: Yesim Erez, head of marketing for GenZe
Writer: Jon Zemke

Hammers start swinging at Go! Ice Cream in downtown Ypsilanti

Work has begun in earnest on building out the first permanent home for Go! Ice Cream. The business plans to open early next year, adding one more cool thing to downtown Ypsilanti.

Go! Ice Cream is taking over a vacant storefront on the alley side of 10 N Washington. It is utilizing $35,029 from a successful crowdfunding campaign to help jump start the build out.

"We just tore out all of the stuff that was there before," says Rob Hess, owner of Go! Ice Cream. "It was an old office space with a drop ceiling and carpet."

Hess started making ice cream in his home as a hobby. That grew into a part-time business of him selling his cold treats at events and from a tricycle all across Ypsilanti. Opening a brick-and-mortar storefront was the next logical step.

The new space will feature a commercial kitchen for ice cream production. It will also have a 1920s-themed soda shop. Both are expected to open early next year.

"We want to open up the kitchen by February and keep working on the soda shop," Hess says. "We want to have the soda shop open by May."

Source: Rob Hess, owner of Go! Ice Cream
Writer: Jon Zemke

Happy hour startup DrankBank capitalizes on 4 years of growth

Jordan Eckstein, Ian Sabbag and Brian Shepanek were working in digital marketing five years ago when the trio of recently graduated University of Michigan students stumbled upon a business idea: centralizing happy hour specials on the web.

That idea launched DrankBank, an Internet startup that helps people find the best happy hour in their city. It started in Ann Arbor in 2011 and has grown to include major cities across North America from Portland to Chapel Hill. All of these dozens of cities shared one thing in common.

"The happy hour information wasn't available," Sabbag says. "It wasn't easy to find."

Most of the time people go to happy hours at bars they like to frequent or ones friends mention in passing. There wasn't a real option to find new ones outside of that person's regular orbit. DrankBank does that by collecting and centralizing happy hour information for bars and breweries across several major metropolitan areas.

DrankBank has grown about 20-30 percent each year since its launch. The number of visitors has increased each month since its launch. The DrankBank team wants to grow it further by collaborating with some major alcohol brands to expand its reach and sharpen its offerings to users.

Despite all of this growth, DrankBank is still an offshoot of the trio's digital marketing firm, Handprint Digital. The downtown Ann Arbor-based company calls an office in Nickels Arcade above Comet Coffee home. However, Eckstein, Sabbag and Shepanek believe they can turn DrankBank into its own standalone business in the not-too-distant future via its current growth curve.

"We're profitable because we have a low-cost model," Eckstein says. "We want to make it into an viable business in the long run."

Source: Jordan Eckstein and Ian Sabbag, co-founders of DrankBank
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Experience Series returns with Oct. 24 tour of northwest Detroit

Since 2005, Model D has told stories of positive neighborhood transformation, from the development of new businesses to the redevelopment of old buildings to the perseverance of long-term residents in the face of challenges. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we invite you to experience neighborhood transformation in Detroit firsthand through the Detroit Experience Series, a partnership between Model D and the Detroit Experience Factory.
Our tours will re-introduce (or simply introduce) you to the small businesses and people in the following neighborhoods:
Northwest Detroit (Saturday, October 24, 10 a.m.-noon) – Includes Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest, University District, and the Avenue of Fashion. (Get tickets)

Jefferson East (Saturday, November 14, 10 a.m.-noon) – Includes the Villages, the East Riverfront, and Jefferson-Chalmers. (Get tickets)
Tours cost $25 for early bird tickets and $30 for general tickets and last approximately 2 hours.
Whether you're a long-term resident wanting to learn more about your neighborhood or a complete newbie, you'll discover something new through the Detroit Experience Series. Sign up today!

Midtown salon shutters, pop-up hub to open in its place

A familiar business in Midtown's Cass Corridor is closing up shop and will be replaced by a pop-up boutique.

Jen Willemsen opened Curl Up & Dye seven years ago. She is closing the non-toxic barber and beauty shop but will retain the storefront, instead launching a new concept.

Willemsen will open JoyRide: Pop Up Rendezvous by the end of the month, she says. JoyRide will utilize the former salon space to host rotating retailers for months at a time. The business at Curl Up was fine, according to Willemsen, and the change is being made to afford her more time as she enters the seventh month of her first pregnancy.

The pop-up has been a popular trend in Detroit, launching a number of what have become permanent businesses throughout the city. Used as an opportunity by what are typically first-time entrepreneurs, the pop-up allows for a brick and mortar experience without all of the up front costs of a traditional start-up. Cinema Detroit, Love Travels Imports, and Coffee and (___) are all recent examples of Detroit pop-ups that have made the transition from pop-up to permanently located businesses.

"I'm proud and thankful to be part of Cass Corridor," says Willemsen. "It's been my home for so long, and in so many ways. The changes I've witnessed in this community are immense, yet it's still a familiar friend. Change can be difficult, but that doesn't make it bad. I miss the old 'Corridor,' but I'm still looking forward to its future and being part of it."

The first JoyRide tenant will be Z Ballerini. The manufacturer of men's travel and everyday bags uses natural materials and makes them in Detroit. Z Ballerini is readying for the holiday season.

JoyRide: Pop Up Rendezvous is located at 4215 Cass Ave.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Pristine Impressions wins seed capital from Warrior Fund

Demetrius Dixon used to work as a carpet cleaner. He was the on-the-ground man in Detroit for a New York-based company. It was a good gig -- so good that it inspired him to launch his own business, Pristine Impressions.

That was a year ago. It started with Dixon just working on carpet cleaning. He then brought his brothers who has worked in things like property management and landscaping into the business. Now Pristine Impressions has expanded into a full-fledged property management firm with a list of a couple dozen clients.

"We're just growing," Dixon says.

Dixon is also a junior at Wayne State University, pursuing a bachelors degree in business management. He got some help from Blackstone LaunchPad, a university program that helps students turn their aspirations for launching a business into reality.

"It gave me all sorts of experience that will help me be a better business owner," Dixon says.

It also gave the Woodbridge-based company some seed capital. Pristine Impressions won $5,000 from Blackstone LaunchPad's Warrior Fund earlier this month as part of the program's pitch competition. Dixon and his brothers plan to put the money to use by purchasing $3,000 in new equipment and spending $2,000 to develop a software database to better run the back end of the business.

"I want to be a leading property management firm in Detroit," Dixon says.

Source: Demetrius Dixon, founder of Pristine Impressions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Craft beer, home cooking, and family come together at forthcoming HomeGrown Brewing Co. in Oxford

John Powers learned the art of home brewing from his son a decade ago. He and his wife, Marie, love to entertain in their home. And throughout their family a mix of talents and skills are coming together with the couple's love of hosting and brewing as they prepare to open HomeGrown Brewing Co. in Oxford.

Their plans will turn the iconic Veterans Memorial Civic Center at 28 N. Washington St. into a beer garden, dining room, sitting room, and eventually an event space upstairs. There will be room for about 100 customers, and up to 20 full- and part-time jobs will come with the opening that's expected in 2016.

Fireplaces, games and dart boards will offer gathering spots for customers. Brewing tanks will contribute to the decor.

The brewpub will serve the Powers family's flagship beers and experiment with seasonal brews along with house-made, fresh food.

The feel will be homey and family-centered with John as head brewer and Marie the culinary manager. Eldest son Joe will return from Australia to be assistant brewer. His wife Kate will work as media liaison, and son Jeff Powers will head up sales, marketing, and the front of the house. Youngest daughter, Katie Powers, will be the social media manager.

"Between engineers, cooks, artists, managers, and journalists, we feel very lucky to have so much collective knowledge in the family. And we look forward to seeing that transform into a great business," Marie Powers says in a statement announcing the business.

Source: John & Marie Powers, proprietors, Home Grown Brew Co.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Akadeum Life Sciences scores $1M in investment

Akadeum Life Sciences has landed seven figures worth of seed capital thanks to recently announced $1 million seed round for the Ann Arbor-based life sciences startup.

"It will help us build out our team," says Brandon McNaughton, CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences.

The 1-year-old startup spun out of the University of Michigan by developing a platform that helps researchers prepare research and diagnostic samples faster and more efficiently. The buoyancy-activated cell sorting technology uses tiny floating spheres, which Akadeum is describing as "microbubbles," to acquire target cells from biological samples. Check out a video describing it here.

"Our product goes into biological samples, like blood, and pulls out specific cells to improve research diagnostics," McNaughton says. "We do that using microbubbles."

Akadeum Life Sciences raised $150,000 from Michigan eLab, an Ann Arbor-based venture capital firm, last year to kick start development. Michigan eLab led this latest $1 million seed round. Detroit Innovate, Invest Michigan, and University of Michigan MINTS also participated in the round. Akadeum Life Sciences plans to raise a Series A next year.

Michigan eLab has pushed Akadeum Life Sciences to adapt lean startup methods, which is not normal practices for life sciences startups. That means Akadeum Life Sciences iteratively built its products to meet the needs of its users, working directly with them to develop products that address their specific problems. The startup is currently selling its technology to pharmaceutical and biotech firms, along with teams from research universities.

Akadeum Life Sciences currently employs four people, but McNaughton expects that number to grow over the next year. The startup plans to build out its sales and business development team as it grows.

Source: Brandon McNaughton, CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

Saline-based Imetris to launch HR management software

Imetris is expanding beyond its normal IT work to launch a new software platform later this year. The Saline-based company has been working on a human resources management software platform for small businesses. It would track recruiting and hiring efforts, helping companies streamline the process. The first module for it is nearly done and the company is preparing for a launch later this year or early next year.

"We are testing it within the company right now," says Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris. "We will be offering it to a select few customers and take it from there."

He adds that Imetris first became interested in building a HR management software platform after noticing there was a growing demand for it among small- and medium-sized businesses. He also noticed there wasn’t much in the market to satisfy that demand.

"There are not many products our there," Acharya says.

Imetris' core business consists of tech services in IT and data management, specifically managing data storage area devices for large corporations. Its revenue has grown 8 percent over the last year, mostly from work from new clients. That allowed the company to hire 10 people, expanding its staff to 110 people.

Source: Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris
Writer: Jon Zemke

Spencer hits crowdfunding goal, plans to open next week

There is good news for Spencer, a new restaurant in Ann Arbor, and its future customers. The eatery recently surpassed its crowdfunding goal of $30,000 with about a week to spare. The restaurant and cheese bar is also set to open its doors for lunch service on Wednesday.

"That gets us going and gets people in the door," says Steven Hall, co-owner of Spencer.

Hall and Abby Olitzky, they are recently engaged, started experimenting with restauranting a few years ago. They gained some recognition with a pop-up called Central Provisions. They switched the name to Spencer last year because another restaurant in Maine opened with the name Central Provisions.

Spencer is set to open in downtown Ann Arbor at 113 E Liberty in a 1,200 square foot space that sits 50 people. They are opening with lunch service first to start generating some revenue. The liquor license approval is a little ways behind but should be done by the end of this fall.

Hall and Olitzky launched a crowdfunding campaign to help put this all together with a goal of raising $30,000. Its now at $32,000 with six days left as of Tuesday afternoon. Hall points out people can still give to help offset the administrative costs Kickstarter charges and other things and still claim the prizes for contributing. More importantly it helps with exposure.

"Every person who gives is one more person that is reading about us," Hall says.

Source: Steven Hall, co-owner of Spencer
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit startup's app tracks behavior to help people manage disorders

For the last three years, Birdhouse has made a name for itself as a startup that helps the loved ones of people with autism with a behavior tracking app. Now the downtown Detroit-based company has its sights set on a bigger audience.

"We have expanded beyond autism," says Ben Chutz, co-founder of Birdhouse. "That's the easiest way to put it."

Chutz launched Birdhouse after spending time with his girlfriend and her autistic daughter. The startup’s platform helps track the behavior of autistic children so the people taking care of them can better manage the disorder. Birdhouse graduated from Bizdom last year and landed a $250,000 angel round to help it scale its online/mobile technology. That work inspired Chutz to expand its reach.

"We saw all sorts of different diagnoses coming in," Chutz says. "We saw ADHD and epilepsy and everything else under the sun."

Birdhouse is working to expand its mobile app to include a wide variety of disorders and chronic conditions -- everything from developmental disabilities to chronic illnesses. The idea is to enable the caregivers to better help the people who need it. Chutz can even see it being used by special education teachers.

"That way teachers can work with parents on providing the best care for their child," Chutz says.

Birdhouse currently has a staff of three employees and a handful of independent contractors. Chutz and his team are in the midst of raising a $250,000 seed round for Birdhouse.

Source: Ben Chutz, co-founder of Birdhouse
Writer: Jon Zemke

Healthy food company Savorfull grows product line, client base exponentially

Savorfull has found a number of ways to grow this year. The New Center-based startup has grown its product lineup, client base, and head count.

The 3-year-old company has found its place helping professional sports teams and other large organizations provide healthy food to their fans, workers, and clients. It pairs them up with packaged, healthy, allergen-friendly foods such as energy bars, snacks, trail mixes, cereals, and beverages. Savorfull has since expanded to include more professional sports teams, some universities, and airlines.

"A lot of sports teams have private planes," says Stacy Goldberg, founder & CEO of Savorfull. "A lot of airlines also have higher-end clients that want nutritious foods."

Savorfull has helped make its services more attractive by greatly expanding its product lineup. It now offers thousands of products across 30 brands.

"We have really grown in terms of our product lineup," Goldberg says. "It has grown exponentially."

Which has allowed Savorfull's revenue to quadruple over the last year. It has also hired two people, expanding its staff to six people. Its new hires include a business development and content editor professionals. It's looking to hire a sales person.

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

Artists seek to transform Livernois with installation along Avenue of Fashion

Detroit artists Mandisa Smith and Najma Wilson are hoping to liven up the Avenue of Fashion with their unique brand of fiber art. The duo owns Detroit Fiber Works, a fiber arts studio and gallery in that district, and is looking to create an installation that will fill the empty space of a Livernois Avenue boulevard median. They also hope to offer fiber arts workshops to members of the community.

In order to reach their goal, Smith and Wilson have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 for their "Fiber Art on the Avenue" project. Should the artists raise $10,000 by November 30, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will award the project a $10,000 matching grant as a part of its Public Spaces Community Places initiative.

The project will receive great input from the community, organizers say, and the money raised will be used for materials, student transportation, teaching fees, and construction costs. The artists will invite community members to lectures, field trips, and lessons in creating fiber art, resulting in an installation created by those taking part in the workshops. That installation will then be located on the Avenue of Fashion median.

For the president of the Avenue of Fashion Business Association, Dolphin Michael, "Fiber Art on the Avenue" would bring some much deserved attention to his district. He says, "Recently, there has been significant national attention on many of Detroit's public art installations in other areas of the city. With the revitalization that the Avenue of Fashion is currently undergoing, including new shops and restaurants, improved street lighting and median landscaping on Livernois, this is the perfect time for our own public art project."

In crowdfunding $10,000, the artists will actually receive $40,000. By reaching their goal and successfully raising $20,000 through the combined crowdfunding and MEDC matching grant, Smith and Wilson will then match an earlier 2014 grant from the Knight Arts Challenge, necessary for that $20,000 Knight grant to be released. Raise $10,000, receive $40,000.

The "Fiber Art on the Avenue" crowdfunding campaign is occurring on Michigan-based site Patronicity and available here.

Fiber Art Works is located at 19359 Livernois Ave.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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