Entrepreneurship :Development News

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Specialty Asian grocer opens in Hannah Plaza

The feeling of being close to home just got a little stronger for East Lansing's Asian community as a new convenience store specializing in Chinese, Japanese and Korean foods opens in Hannah Plaza.
 
Yiming Shao opened the doors to the Hannah Market at 4790 Hagadorn Road right before Valentine's Day.
 
"We have lots of store frontage and signage so we're not hard to find," says Shao of the store situated between GNC and Sultan's. "Lots of people go in and out of here every day, so we hope people can find us and get what they may be missing from their home country."
 
The Hannah Market will offer fresh produce, meats, frozen foods, sodas, snacks, and made-to-order smoothies and bubble tea. Many of the products come fresh from local farms, with Chinese and other Asian products coming from distributors in New York, Chicago and California.
 
Shao knocked down walls between three previously vacant suites to create the 2,950-square foot store. He also put in new ceilings and flooring and upgraded the lighting. New shelving and high-end freezers and coolers create a clean, bright feel, as do the vibrant green hues that permeate most every inch of the store.
 
"It's the theme of the store—go green," says Shao. "It ties in with the university campus as well as relates to healthy food, too."
 
Shao says his emphasis on a clean, well-lighted space reflects his desire to create a nice store with good, solid products that will make people want to come back and shop. The Hannah Market created five part-time jobs. Shao plans to add full-time staff as the store expands and offers more options such as seafood and bakery selections.
 
Source: Yiming Shao, Owner, Hannah Market
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Beer Grotto set to premiere hybrid bar and retail experience in Stadium District

The soon-to-open Beer Grotto in Lansing's Stadium District is a testament to the vision of Sam Short and his business partners to rethink why people come to bars.
 
The absence of a traditional bar and the inclusion of "tasting pods" that dot an open landscape create an environment where customers can enjoy extraordinary beer or wine. Well-trained "beer geeks" and "cork dorks" will advise and assist customers with sampling and selecting a craft beverage that suits their tastes and preferences.
 
"We're looking to eliminate that buyer's remorse," says Short, one of four owners along with Troy Ontko, Brandon Ansel and Lisa Manno. "There's no need for that in this modern world. Our goal is to restructure the experience and to make sure you get what you want."
 
The combination tasting and to-go store is slated to open in early March and follows two Beer Grottos that recently premiered in Ann Arbor and Dexter. Patrons will be able to hang out in a full-service lounge, reserve event space for parties or other events, and purchase any of the craft beer and wines carried on site.
 
Designed as a destination for craft beverage fans, the Beer Grotto has 48 craft beers on tap and dozens of boutique wines—with about 75 percent made in Michigan. Customers can also enjoy a select line of non-alcohol beers, wines and sodas, as well as limited food options—or as Short says, "enough to get you through the happy hour."
 
Aside from the beverages, the interior décor will be an attraction unto itself. The 4,100- square foot space will feature tables with Cyprus wood tops made from 100-year-old Heinz pickle barrels. A 30-foot by 15-foot mural painted by Detroit artist Jeremy Harvey will add to the restaurant's welcoming ambiance.
 
"Jeremy is doing something similar to our Dexter store but unique to Lansing," says Short. "He did some crazy stuff there with phosphorescent paint, so you know he'll do something super amazing here, too."
 
The Lansing Beer Grotto will create about 25 full-time and 10 part-time jobs. Staff are expressly trained by area managers, and also receive training as beer cicerones and wine sommeliers.
 
"We have a triple bottom-line," says Short. "We think about people, the planet and profit—with people being first."
  
Source: Sam Short, Owner, The Beer Grotto
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

CrossFit Sanction grows, offers professional coaching to all levels of athletes

Dan Romigh started helping people reach their fitness goals through a gym he set up in a pole barn. Today, he's holding classes in a more conventional space on Lansing's southern edge with plans to move to a larger facility as membership grows.
 
Romigh started CrossFit Sanction in late October 2013 after taking exercise physiology courses at the University of Findlay in Ohio. As a former collegiate athlete, he was interested in pursing CrossFit as a sport, and was urged to open a gym of his own.
 
"I started out with two members," says Romigh. "We're up to 43 members and four coaches today."
 
Soon after starting CrossFit Sanction, Romigh moved operations to the current location at 3681 Pine Tree Road. With 1,200 square feet of training space, CrossFit Sanction features equipment like Olympic lift barbells, more than 1,000 pounds of weights, and 15 types of kettle balls.
 
Romigh contributes the rapid growth to the professional coaching as well as the community atmosphere of the gym. All coaches, including Romigh, hold a level 1 CrossFit license, with one claiming credentials as a USA Olympic weightlifting coach. All training takes place through organized classes, with all members encouraged to have workout partners.
 
"Our members range from elite athletes who compete on a regular basis to people who come here to get back in shape," says Romigh. "A lot of people like CrossFit because it's a different kind of routine."
 
Similar to his workouts, Romigh has specific goals for his business. His sites are set on a larger facility, one that will accommodate his increasing membership and additional training and CrossFit activities like rope climbing.
 
"We'll be ready to make the move once we hit about 70 members," say Romigh. "My goal is to reach that by October 1, as well as to add a couple more coaches."
 
In addition to managing CrossFit Sanction, Romigh is training for a spot on a professional fitness team. The team is one of just nine in the U.S. through the National Pro Grid League.
 
Source: Dan Romigh, Owner, CrossFit Sanction
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

RCP offers high-end scanning and printing to Michigan artists

A picture can be worth a thousand words, except when the picture doesn't do justice to original art or photography it represents.
 
As the owner of Reed Consulting Partners, also known as RCP, Mark Reed helps artists and photographers share and catalog their works by offering high-end digital imaging services.
 
"The only real answer was to invest in the highest quality scanner," says Reed. "The business evolved from there."
 
Reed purchased a large format Cruse Sycron Scanner—a piece of equipment he says is among the best in the nation when it comes to fine art scanning and printing. Most of these particular scanners, he says, reside in government installations, the Smithsonian, and European museums.
 
"The artists we have met to date are very impressed with the quality of the scan and what it can do for their career," says Reed.
 
The scanner's unique abilities enable the creation of digital images without ever touching the art. Images can be output onto most any medium including canvas, matte, archival paper, and vinyl, with stitch-less, large format pieces among RCP's specialties.
 
Reed works primarily with Michigan artists who come to him to create digital files for use in portfolios, copyright applications, catalogs, Web and magazine images, and reproduction prints for sale. He has scanned and reproduced fine art pieces up to 60- by 72-inches, including a large South American hymnal from the 1600s, pieces for a sports artist licensed by the National Football League, and large format photographs for display at Jackson National Life and Michigan State University. Another recent job involved scanning cherished watercolor paintings created by a family's deceased mother.
 
"She had spent years painting all these pieces and when she passed, all her kids wanted them," says Reed. "They split them up, but were also able to get scans and prints created if they didn't received the original."
 
RCP printing recently dove into the quilt market. Scanning quilts rather than photographing allows each stitch to stand out and highlights techniques used by the artist. Reed anticipates scanning for art quilters worldwide since quilts can be easily shipped.
 
Reed opened RCP in early 2014 in Portland. Six people work at the 5,500-square foot facility at 1301 E.Grand River Ave. shop, with plans to bring more on board in 2015.
 
Source: Mark Reed, Owner, RCP
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

The Cosmos brings out-of-this-world menu and sci-fi vibe to Old Town

Sam Short has been a science fiction fan since he was a kid.
 
Now he's created his own universe called The Cosmos.
 
In late January, Short opened a new pizzeria in Old Town that radiates sci-fi nostalgia. What's more, the restaurant plates up cuisine that propels pizzeria fare beyond the stratosphere.
 
"Science fiction gives us the most wondrous possibilities for progress," says Short. "And pairing it with wonderful and good food just made a lot of sense."
 
The 1,000-square foot restaurant at 611 E. Grand River is the previous home to Poppa Leo's and is attached to Zoobies Old Town Tavern via a short hallway addition. The Cosmos is the second of three ventures undertaken by the Potent Potables Project—a restaurant group Short operates with Aaron Matthews and Alan Hooper. The first was Zoobies. And the third will be The Creole, slated to open in early April.
 
"We're rehabbing part of Lansing's history and joining it with another historic part," says Short of connecting The Cosmos to Zoobies. "There's no sense in destroying an old building when you can repurpose it."
 
The Cosmos seats 48 people and when the weather warms up, will provide access to another 120 or so seats at an outdoor bar and roasting pit. Patrons can dine at old video consoles. Other tables and walls are decorated with sci-fi images of the 30s, 40s and 50s. Reproductions of nostalgic movie posters join phantasmal renditions of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon painted by Detroit artist Jeremy Harvey, further satiating Lansing's appetite for unique dining and drinking venues.
 
Head Chef Dan Konopnick is the force behind the menu, applying his Johnson & Wales training to out-of-this-world variations on wood-fired pizza that feature Bosc pears, caramelized apples, onions, pancetta, and gorgonzola, arugula and house-made mozzarella cheeses. Konopnick will also continue to perfect his famous duck fat fries and sweet treats like homemade ice cream and donut bites.
 
"I like the 'Trust Me,' pizza," says Short. "It's literally a special that Dan comes up with. You come in, say 'Trust Me' and Dan will bring out a pie that's his special of the day. His pizza is just fantastically good."
 
About 40 full- and part-time people work at both Zoobies and The Cosmos—nearly double the staff from six months ago.
 
Source: Sam Short, Co-Owner, The Cosmos
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Gravity Works expands presence in Old Town, adds six staff

Lauren Colton was among the first people on board when Gravity Works set up shop in Old Town in 2009. Today, she is one of 17 on staff, with six new talents joining the design and development company in the past year.
 
Located at 1132 N. Washington Ave., Gravity Works continues to expand its universe of providing graphic design, website and mobile app work. With the recent acquisition of the former Love Betti antique shop, Gravity Works doubled its footprint to nearly 3,150 square feet. Once a small shop two doors from a streetlight, Gravity Works today illuminates corner real estate, providing frontage and visibility for a growing list of clients.
 
"The main thing is we want to have a space that supports the size and culture of our team," says Colton, information architect and business development strategist. "The new space supports that, and it supports clients coming onsite and being with us for longer stretches."
 
Gravity Works began their office transformation in late 2014 by knocking down and putting up walls, and accentuating the classic Old Town elements of plank floors, exposed brick and tin ceilings. The remodeling involved creating several private rooms with doors—something new to Gravity Works office culture.
 
"We have conference areas but they're open," says Colton. "It's nice for collaboration to have that open environment, but it's nice to have a closed space to sit down with a client for a long conversation."
 
Each of the three new private rooms has been named and decked out by employee teams. Themes include the Science Room, the Star Wars Room and the Video Game Room. New interior décor in other parts of the office includes a built-in couch and gaming area for employee breaks.
 
"It's a space that really gets everyone working together," says Colton. "It fosters bonding and forward thinking and looking ahead to what we want to become next."
 
Gravity Works originally took off with just 10 clients. At last count, the company serves 60 clients statewide with services that help an organization communicate, promote and connect with targeted audiences and customers.
 
"We started with the idea that design and development go hand-in-hand," says Colton. "You see a lot of companies that outsource development to India, or companies that outsource design. We can make a customized product by having those functions side-by-side."
 
Source: Lauren Colton, IA and Business Development Strategist, Gravity Works
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.
 

Mert's Meat expands Okemos location to satisfy customer appetite for specialty products

Accommodating customers is always top-of-mind for Shirley Decker Prescott. So when retail space opened up adjacent to Mert's Specialty Meats in Okemos, Prescott jumped at the chance to expand the footprint of her popular family market.
 
Right before the winter holidays, Prescott brought down the wall between the two suites, and added 1,300 square feet to her market's sales floor at 1870 W. Grand River Ave. It was a decision, she says, that was driven by seeing her customers volley for space within the friendly confines of her original store, and one that she says will enable her to carry an increasing line of fresh cut meat, seafood, dairy and cheeses, frozen items, and a variety of Michigan-made products for creating favorite meals.
 
"We have a lot of open space now in the grocery section and could add hundreds of more items," says Decker. "We're hoping to do that, and are looking for our customers to tell us what they want."
 
The expanded Mert's Meats consists of 3,000 square feet of retail space plus back room operations. Areas and aisles were reconfigured to accommodate 15 more doors of frozen, additional produce, and more sets of streamlined shelves for grocery.
 
"Our customers were wonderful during the transition," says Prescott of the transformation that took place over the winter holidays. "And now, they're here, enjoying the additional room and new products. I even saw some people the other day who had room to stand in the store and chat. That wasn't really possible before."
 
Prescott started the market with her husband Mert Prescott and son Brandon Decker in July 2012. Together, the three family members bring nearly 100 years of retail, food and community experience to the business. 
 
Mert's Meats employs 14 people between its Okemos location and newer store on Lansing's East Side. Because of the expansion, Decker says she has made some previously part-time staff full-time, and will bring back some seasonal help in the summer.
 
Source: Shirley Decker Prescott, Owner, Mert's Specialty Meats
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Popular Asian chef brings New Thai Kitchen to Okemos

Connoisseurs of Asian cuisine welcomed a popular local chef to Okemos when New Thai Kitchen opened in the former Sip N' Snack in December.
 
While Ying Xiong had intended to retired after closing the long-time Thai Kitchen in East Lansing two years ago, he couldn't resist the allure of serving up food in the previous space of the iconic Okemos diner.
 
"It's close to everything," says Xiong who lives in Okemos. "It's close to local shopping, and to residential places. And it's at the center of town."
 
Xiong and his wife, Chou, acquired the space at 4960 Okemos Road last June and undertook several months of renovations before the official ribbon cutting in January. He estimates he spent upward of $80,000 to knock down walls, upgrade fixtures and systems, outfit the kitchen with new equipment, and set the stage for dining through an inviting, modern décor.
 
"It's roomy but cozy," says Xiong. "We may expand, too, depending on how well it goes."
 
New Thai has attracted former customers from Xiong's East Lansing location, and has sparked the curiosity of suburban residents. The restaurant comfortably seats 48 people, with a capacity for 50.
 
Xiong employs a staff of six and serves lunch and dinner. The menu features traditional Thai fare including three types of Pad Thai, Pad Kee Mao and Panang. Eventually, Xiong hopes to add a beer and wine license.
 
"We have a lot of different flavors and a different style of cooking than other Thai places," says Xiong. "I do a lot of the cooking myself, and learned over the years from my friends."
 
Source: Ying Xiong, Owner, New Thai Kitchen
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Small batch coffee roaster relocates blooming business to Old Town

Business is blooming in Lansing's Old Town.
 
In late 2014, the co-owners of Bloom Coffee Roasters moved their less-than-year-old business from a south side warehouse into an 800-square-foot space at 1236 Turner St. It was a move, says Master Roaster Jared Field, that put him and business partner Cameron Russell in the right place at the right time for business growth.
 
"We're very excited to be completely immersed in the Old Town business culture and the atmosphere that comes with it," says Field. "It feels as if everything's in its right place."
 
Bloom Coffee Roasters focuses on sourcing high-quality coffee and roasting beans for optimal flavor. Field and Russell currently offer coffee from six different countries of origin in both whole bean or ground varieties. Coffees can be purchased through the Web site, or through the Allen Street Farmer's Market, Old Town General Store and Spotted Dog Café. A coffee program for businesses enables companies and organizations to place orders for up to five pounds of coffee at a time.
 
Long-term, Field hopes to build craft brewing and preparation into the equation. For now, he and Russell are sticking to the grind. Plans are also brewing for programs and services that benefit the greater good and particular non-profits.
 
"As an entrepreneur and as a human being in general, it's important to consistently grow and to always strive to be better," says Field. "It's also important to us to contribute to making our community a better, safer, and more comfortable place to live."
 
Source: Jared Field, Co-Owner, Bloom Coffee Roasters
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Long-time coworkers envision new salon for downtown Haslett

They went to the same high school. They worked at the same place for five years. And while they lost touch for a few short months, the two met again, this time to set up shop doing what they both loved.
 
In September, Taylor Schavey-Feldpausch and Brooke Gonzalez opened the doors to Amore Salon and Spa at 1482 Haslett Road in Haslett. While both hail from Holt, the two stylists say they feel right at home starting their business where Schavey-Feldpausch's mother and grandparents grew up.
 
"The biggest thing for us right now is getting to know the community," says Schavey-Feldpausch. "We want to get the word out about who we are and get involved."
 
Amoré  sits at the top of a small hill near the base of a railroad track. The two friends were happy to find the space in mid-2014 and set out to bring a comfortable, laid-back feel to the 1,400-square foot space in a building they share with Hilltop Yoga.
 
"We spent a lot of days traveling to Detroit and back looking for furniture," says Schavey-Feldpausch. "We wanted to go with a more rustic look with older-looking furniture. We found everything we were looking for and more."
 
The salon features four hair stations, as well as areas for pedicures, manicures and waxing. While both friends are professionally educated and trained by the likes of Douglas J Salon and Institute and Protégé, each has their specialties.
 
"I like doing the cutting, both men's and women's hair," says Schavey-Feldpausch. "Brooke really likes doing the color."
 
Amoré  welcomes men, women and people of all ages for a menu of services that includes cuts, bang or beard trims, color and highlights, waxing and nails, and special occasion styling. Schavey-Feldpausch and Gonzalez currently staff the salon and are looking to hire up to two more stylists in 2015.
 
Source: Taylor Schavey-Feldpausch, Co-Owner, Amoré  Salon
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea? Drop me a note at annhkamm@gmail.com

Nutrition specialists open club in downtown Lansing

Father-daughter team Amanda and Jeff Whitson want to help reshape downtown Lansing one person at a time.
 
In mid-December, the Whitsons celebrated the grand opening of their new nutrition club just blocks from the state capitol. Located at 108 W. Allegan St. in the Hollister Building, CHEERS Nutrition Club offers a place where people can come on a regular basis to share general health, wellness and nutrition information in a social atmosphere.
 
"We call it CHEERS because it's like Cheers on TV where everybody knows your name," says Amanda Whitson who co-owns the club along with her dad. "It's a social atmosphere and a community. We like to say 'cheers to good health.'"
 
CHEERS offers daily and weekly memberships that allow access to a nutrition club as well as to all club activities including group sessions on nutrition and community weight challenges. Members and walk-ins can also enjoy protein snacks and a signature smoothie drink that Whitson says is a complete meal replacement with 21 vitamins, minerals, essential nutrients, 24 grams of protein and 300 calories.
 
"We call them fast food for smart people," says Whitson. "We have 32 flavors to choose from. They are all amazing and taste incredible."
 
Whitson says CHEERS is among several nutrition clubs she and her father have opened in Mid-Michigan communities in the past seven years, including Charlotte, Grand Ledge, Olivet, Lake Odessa and Hastings. Whitson says she and her father are independent distributors for Herbalife, with the clubs serving as a venue for distributing Herbalife products.
 
The 1,200-square foot Lansing club can accommodate up to 53 people at sit-down tables and a smoothie bar. A private room is also available for consultations and measurement taking. Whitson says the club will be primarily staffed by her and her dad, as well as by four additional health coaches.
 
"Our goal is to promote healthy, active lifestyles," says Whitson. "We're different from weight loss programs you might get at a retail vendor since you not only get our products, you get a personal coach to help you get the results you deserve."
 
Source: Amanda Whitson, co-owner, CHEERS
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains Development News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Traditional baker and Mexican chef opens new restaurant on Lansing's West Side

Ofilia Diaz checked out locations on the south, central and eastern edge of Lansing but decided on a tiny space on the West Side for her new restaurant serving authentic Mexican food and pastries.
 
El Burrito Mexicano opened the week of Thanksgiving for breakfast, lunch, dinner and occasional catering services at 801 W. Thomas L. Parkway. Big enough to seat 18 diners but small enough to feel cozy and warm, the 1,060-square foot space allows her to offer an expansive menu with familiar fares like burritos, tacos and enchiladas, as well as specialty egg and meat dishes. Customers can also satisfy their cravings for sodas and sweets tooth through a variety of Mexican sodas, dessert cookies and traditional pastries.
 
"I do all the cooking," says Diaz. "Lots of people like my enchiladas and wet burritos. I also make specialty beefs here, as well as tamales, barbacoa, menudo and soups. I'm excited."
 
Diaz has been baking and cooking as long as she can remember, and often worked as a part-time baker while holding a full-time job as a hospital tech. Diaz said her hospital co-workers had always encouraged her to open up her own restaurant, but she wanted to wait until she retired and could give the enterprise her full attention.
 
"My mom was an excellent cook, and I think I must have learned from her," says Diaz. "I was always calling her to ask how to make something. She would simply tell me over the phone because she doesn't have any recipes. Neither do I. It's just a little of this and a little of that."
 
In addition to stints baking cakes, cookies and pastries, Diaz also prepped, served and catered food through small locations at the Lansing City Market and the Lansing Mega Mall. None, she says, provided the space or accommodations she was looking for—until now.
 
Diaz has three staff, including her grown children and grandchildren who help around the kitchen.
 
"I used to help my mom bake," says Diaz. "And she would show me how to make sugar and butter cookies. I basically got all my recipes from her."

Source: Ofilia Diaz, Owner, El Burrito Mexicano
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor
 

Long-time artist friends open Peculiar Perspectives gallery in Williamston

They've been friends for more than 20 years. But it only took a single day for the two to join forces and open a business built on a shared aesthetic.
 
In early fall, artists Matt Mulford and Tony Steele opened Perculiar Perspectives—an art studio, gallery and gift shop offering works in cartooning, gothic and imaginative drawing. Located in Williamston's Keller Plaza, the new gallery is what the friends say might be the most eclectic 260-square-feet of space in Greater Lansing.
 
"It's quite a mix," says Steele. "We have our artwork plus hundreds of items including books, cards, matted prints for framing, and pins, jewelry and magnets featuring our art."
 
Steele and Mulford came upon the idea to open the gallery last summer during on one of their "art days"—or monthly outings the two take together to draw and create in different locations.
 
"On that particular day, we were in Williamston and someone pointed out that the upstairs of Keller's Plaza was full of spaces for artist types," says Mulford. "We checked it out and immediately knew we wanted to share the space and sell art from our studio."
 
Mulford says the majority of art he and Steele create is two-dimensional and purely imaginative—with no physical references. And while Mulford is primarily self-taught, Steele holds degrees in commercial art, illustration and graphic design from Lansing Community College.
 
"Tony and I complement each other very well," he says. "I lean toward wildlife or landscape themes so we meet in the middle with fantasy art. It's very inspiring."
 
In addition to using the space as a working gallery and gift shop, Mulford and Steele plan to hold drawing and painting classes for adults and children. Customers can also come in and browse, or simply observe the artists at work, creating two-dimensional critters, monsters and other fantasy-based artworks.
 
"Our goal is create a welcoming space, one that you won't come in and flee in terror," laughs Steele. "Everyone here in town has been really friendly, so sticking around is on our menu."
 
Source: Matt Mulford and Tony Steele, Owners, Peculiar Perspectives
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor
 

Established Trade Network moves to East Lansing

From skilled trades to professional services, the barter economy is alive and well, drawing on roots that pre-date the monetary system.
 
Greater Lansing's Trade Network, Inc., focuses on barter interactions between small and medium sized businesses throughout mid-Michigan. The office moved in early summer from West Lansing to a new East Lansing location to accommodate growth and put a fresh perspective on the age-old business.
 
Located at 740 W. Lake Lansing Road in Harrison Crossings, Trade Network serves more than 1,200 members across the state, with about 600 in Greater Lansing. Founded by President Gary Kay in 1991, the company is part of a $12 billion a year national industry that involves an estimated 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Lansing area business owners have used Trade Network to exchange products and services ranging from restaurant food and beverage, employee incentive programs, auto repairs, furniture, home improvements, weddings, legal services, housing, automobiles and even a one-person helicopter.
 
"Lots of people already barter," says Kay. "They say, 'I'll do your plumbing if you do my roof.' But the problem with one-on-one is you have to have what each other wants."
 
Kay says that in a trade exchange, members have more options to exchange and barter for services. Staff work with members to facilitate exchanges, and keep track of the transactions for year-end tax and other recordkeeping.
 
"We work with members to trade big things and little things, products and services," says Kay. "Trade exchanges are everywhere. Lots of people don't have the cash, but they do have the service or product that can be turned into a currency."
 
Kay took the opportunity to upgrade software and networking capabilities with the new office. About 7 people work in the 2,200-square foot space.
 
"I actually traded for the space," laughs Kay. "It's all part of the economics of barter."
 
Source: Gary Kay, President, Trade Network, Inc.
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Inventive family opens We Love Kids N Dogs in Meridian Mall

Artists, writers and filmmakers have long recognized the nearly symbiotic relationship between kids and dogs. And while Chris Allen's creativity leans toward business, the bond between fidos and children inspired his family's newest venture in the Meridian Mall.
 
Allen and his spouse Melissa opened We Love Kids N Dogs about a month before the start of the holiday season. The unique boutique and gift store features products for kids that encourage creativity and entrepreneurship, and curates a variety of pet products from small businesses not typically found in larger pet stores.
 
Allen says he got the idea for We Love Kids N Dogs after traveling to pet industry product expos. He and Melissa had taken to the road to promote the Poochie Bowl—a uniquely designed water and food bowl made in Lansing and invented by the Allen family.
 
"We met the creators of so many unique products, and realized we were all small business owners that didn't have the cache to get into a big box store yet," says Allen. "At that point, we decided we needed to do something to bring all these products back to Lansing."
 
After his travels, Allen mapped out a concept and took it to the Meridian Mall. A few months later, Allen found himself contacting folks he had met through expos, and bringing in products that include custom doggy coats, organic dog cookies, hand made leashes, ribbons and bows, and other one-of-a-kind pet accessories.
 
The 1,000-square foot space in the Macy's wing also features kids products and toys rooted in STEM curriculum. The goal, Allen says, is to offer products that can support a child's curiosity and natural play, while encouraging them to build, innovate and create.
 
"We want to help cultivate that mindset of building and engineering and being creative," says Allen. "That's where we got our start—by inventing a product—so we want to inspire kids to see where they can take things, too."
 
We Love Kids N Dogs carries about 35 product lines. The Allens staff the store with help from family members. After the holidays, Allen says he plans to create three to five jobs, and assess the possibility of opening a second store in Greater Lansing. 
 
Source: Christopher Allen, Owner, We Love Kids and Dogs
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor
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