Entrepreneurship :Innovation & Job News

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Silver Cafe to Go brings Airstream nostalgia to outdoor events

Jaisy Spinazzola was en route to band practice when her trek took her in a different direction. There, catching the sun by the side of a country road, was the magic bullet that would change her way of life: A vintage Airstream.

Within days, Spinazzola had gently convinced her partner Eric McVay to add a third dimension to their business as the acoustic duo Fringe. McVay would become a master at barbecue. She would summon her culinary talents and acumen for small business. Then, with the 1970s Airstream in tow, the two would combine music and food at public and private events--both local and statewide.

Silver Cafe to Go launched in 2015 and has been steadily picking up acclaim from Williamston to the Upper Peninsula. McVay and Spinazzola remodeled the interior according to health code and other regulations, while retaining original interior features like the stove and oven. Spinazzola even went in search of late 1960s and early 1970s utensils and small appliances to evoke the period flair of the 29-foot trailer.

"It's just beautiful," says Spinazzola. "It's mostly wood cabinets. All of the hardware is mid-century modern. There are Jetson handles on the stove and olive green cabinets. And we added a dark teal blue to bring out the color of the wood."

Based out of McVay's hometown of Fowlerville, Silver Cafe to Go goes on the road for weddings; birthday and retirement parties; flea markets, fairs and festivals; and other family- and friend-based events of 100 or more people. The trailer has also appeared on approved business sites in Williamston. Customers can walk up and enjoy the signature barbecue, as well as sides that change with the seasons including mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, cranberry stuffing and pasta.

"I love to cook, so it's very creative," says Spinazzola. "And we've also incorporated his mom's recipe for chili. It's kind-of southern."

Spinazzola equipped the Airstream mobile diner with a collection of outdoor chairs and plaid blankets. Depending on the event, Spinazzola packs orders into picnic baskets, and provides customers with blankets and chairs to enjoy their meal al fresco. Spinazzola and McVay also occasionally perform—she on vocal and guitar, him on bass—featuring original compositions and covers in the pop-acoustic vein.

"There's never a dull moment," says Spinazzola. "I was previously a hairdresser, and was so accustomed to meeting people. This is another great way to do that."

Silver Café to Go can be booked for events six to eight weeks in advance with more information here. Spinazzola says the diner has the capacity to serve up to 500 people per event, and occasionally hires staff to help with larger events.

Source: Jaisy Spinazzola, Co-owner, Silver Café to Go
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Thriftique combines quality with thrift for unique shopping experience

Although the sign on the outside of Atalie Buyck's shop is somewhat new, everything inside isn't.

In early summer, Buyck finally decided to hang a shingle on the front of Thriftique—a business she moved to REO Town about three years ago. She'd been carrying the professionally-made sign in and out of her shop most days, remembering how it had attracted attention at her previous location near S. Cedar and Holmes.

"They say that signage can be 80 percent of the business," says Buyck. "I've always believed that mantra but I hadn't been living it. I did notice a huge difference when I finally had the sign put up, and people saying to me 'I didn't even know you were here.'"

A peek through the picture window at 1137 S. Washington reveals a well-curated mix of collectibles, vintage clothing and housewares. It's a blend that lends itself to a niche Buyck calls "departmentalized thrift"—or quality, reclaimed items organized in aisles and on clean, tidy shelves.

And while she has at least 200,000 items in the storefront that once housed the long-time biz Betty's Buttons, Buyck can tell inquiring customers exactly what she has and point to where it is.

"I hand-pick the majority of my merchandise," says Buyck. "I do a lot of estate buying, and I'm a salvage picker. I pick up anything I think is unique or cool, and I have people who come trade things, too."

Buyck says the backbone of her business is to redo, reuse and recycle. She wants to teach people not to be so hasty with their spending, and to slow down, shop around and look for something that's secondhand or can be reused. What's more, she's in to the boutique side of thrift, providing a heavy dose of customer service and sales that complements her merchandise.

Buyck says she learned the boutique side of the thrifting biz from her grandma, Rachel Green. Originally from Mexico, Green had a passion for secondhand goods that she curated and gave away through frequent trips to poor areas of Mexico and Texas.

"She taught me a passion for quality," says Buyck. "She really invested time in showing me how to find quality in secondhand goods and resale items like linens, dishes and clothes."

Buyck grew up on the Southside and graduated from Michigan State University in 2000 with her bachelor's in criminal justice and psychology. She got into thrifting about 10 years ago working at the previous University Resale Shop on Homer near Frandor. She eventually purchased the store and all its contents, sold off the goods, and founded Thriftique.

Buyck moved to REO Town in 2014 after moving twice: first from a location near Old Town, and the second time from a location on S. Cedar.

"Being here is awesome," she says. "It's historic and near downtown and the space is just right," she says. "When I first got here, it was a little sparse, but now with all the new developments, it's the place to be."

Source: Atalie Buycks, Owner, Thriftique
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.


On the Rocks climbs ahead of competition with delivery service

The owner of a local, independent party store believes being small allows him to compete in a big way—particularly when it comes to getting out in front of the chains with the delivery of alcoholic beverages.

Beginning April 1, On the Rocks began delivering products to customers—in keeping with the growing trend for personalized delivery of food and other consumables. Owner Rocky Singh began transporting products from store-to-door just three days after the Michigan law went into effect that allowed expanded in-state retailer privileges regarding shipping and delivery of alcoholic products within the state.

"Being small allowed us to implement delivery as soon as it was available," says Singh. "It is a service that benefits customers, and no app, membership or subscription is needed."

On the Rocks will deliver to locations within six miles of the store, which is located in the Carriage Hills Shopping Center at the intersection of Hagadorn and Lake Lansing Roads. Singh says he started the program to provide top service to customers.

"We treat everyone like family, and just like in the TV show, Cheers, we get to know everyone's name," says Singh. "The majority of our customers live close. We're convenient for them. And, because we're small, we have time to get to know our customers and what they like. If we don't have what they want, we order it."

On the Rocks attests to carrying every single bottled Michigan beer, and can order keg-only Michigan beers on request. The party store also carries more than 3,000 wines and every artisan option available in the liquor book. Customers will also find an assortment of soft drinks and mixers, snacks, bulk candies, and every day staples on the shelves of the 4,000-square foot store.

Singh opened the store in October 2014 and employs three full-time and two part-time staff. Two full-timers have been added since the store opened.

Delivery is available Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Orders for same-day delivery must be received an hour before the service concludes for the day. Delivery is free for orders $40 or more, and $10 for orders under $40. Orders are placed by phone, and customers must provide a valid driver license number and payment information at the time of the call.

Source: Rocky Singh, Owner, On the Rocks
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.


Recruitment Management Consultants adds three jobs, eyes expansion

An IT recruitment and consulting company headquartered in East Lansing continues to expand its abilities to match qualified talent with area businesses with the addition of three new employees.

Two of the three new staff at Recruitment Management Consultants will be based in East Lansing, while the third will work from the Novi branch of the small business on the rise.

"Our new talent staff helps to meet our clients' growing demand for qualified technical talent," says Adrienne Moulton, RMC marketing and communications specialist. "The IT field is very tight, especially with unemployment at a 10-year low in Lansing."

The two IT recruiters joining the East Lansing team are Joel Maurer and Rachel Given. The third, Nathan Bristow, will join the Novi team after recently graduating from Michigan State University.

Recruitment Management Consultants was founded in 2010 by Jim Beiermeister and Jamie Lytle, and is headquartered at 321 W. Lake Lansing Road. In the last seven years, the company has grown its staff by 38 percent year-over-year to 12 employees, with eight of those working in East Lansing.

Moulton says the company's expansion mirrors the unwavering growth of the information and technology market and the need for qualified IT candidates to fill vacant positions. Company clients include major insurance companies, universities, Fortune 500 companies, and small businesses, including start-ups. The company is eyeing a third office in Grand Rapids in 2019.

Recruitment Management Consultants has been honored as one of the Top 50 Companies to Watch on the 2016 Michigan Celebrates Small Business list. The company was also a 2015 and 2016 Inc. 5000 awardee.

Source: Adrienne Moulton, Marketing and Communications Specialist, Recruitment Management Consultants
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Lansing City adds kick to mid-Michigan with professional futsal team

The fast and the furious has come to Lansing's in a big league way.

Futsal—or the official indoor version of soccer—has established a foothold in the metro area with a growing fan base for the professional team and youth academies for attracting and developing ongoing talent.

"If you enjoy fast-paced action that is high scoring with a lot of exciting moments packed into an hour and 20 minutes, you'll like futsal," says Jeremy Klepal, owner of Lansing City Futsal. "We've never heard of anybody who's come to watch that has said this isn't their cup of tea. That's why we've grown our fan base so much. Everyone just loves it."

Lansing City Futsal opened its 2017 professional summer season June 23 on its home court at Aim High Sports Complex near Dimondale. The team plays five games at home and five away, and competes against six pro franchises on the East Coast, including Baltimore, New York, New Jersey, Boston and Philadelphia. During playoffs, the team also takes on competitors from the West Coast. The winter season is more regional, with competitions among teams from Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit.

Futsal is played five-on-five on a hard surface like a basketball court. Differences from outdoor soccer include a smaller court—which adds to the faster, goal-driven play—and a smaller, weighted ball with less bounce height.

Klepel is among 16 Lansing City players, which includes athletes from Grand Rapids, Lansing and across the state, as well as a student from Liberia. Several of the players have represented the U.S. in international competitions.

Born and raised in Grand Ledge, Klepel learned the game at an academy in Flint, then went on to play in Brazil. And while he was offered a contract in Sao Paulo, he decided to come back to Lansing and bring the game to Michigan.

The team practices from a training facility at a 7,000-square foot space in the Prudden Tech Center. The training facility is also home to the Lansing City youth program, which trains both girls and boys age 9 to 18 for summer and winter futsal seasons.

"Lansing is in a growing stage as a city," says Klepel. "And I think those conditions lend themselves well for a spot like futsal. We have a diverse culture here in Lansing, and the game is very popular in a lot of different cultures. That bodes well for us."

For dates and times of home games at the Aim High Sports Complex, visit www.lansingfutsal.com.

Source: Jeremy Klepal, Owner, Lansing City Futsal
Writer Editor: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Smart Homes Smart Offices intelligently grows with automation boom

Smart is as smart does when it comes to a growing technology provider in Okemos, Michigan.

Founded in 2001 by company CEO John Gilluly, Smart Homes Smart Offices has grown from a staff numbering in the single digits to one that employs 22. Three of those employees were added in the last year, joining engineers, project managers, IT specialists, sales personnel, installers, administration and leadership.

"Our sales are increasing and we're looking to add up to 10 more staff within the next few years," says Joel Childs, sales engineer. "We'll also be looking for a new space since we're outgrowing our current one."

Smart Homes Smart Offices specializes in a variety of home automation systems. The company also offers a multitude of software and hardware solutions and network installations for an equally broad range of businesses from home offices to larger corporate companies.

Childs says the company's goal is to be the go-to people in Mid-Michigan for IT needs. The company team completely engineers all products including lighting, audio and video controls, HVAC and security system controls, video conferencing capabilities, or the home theater experience.

"There are other IT companies around the state, but we're one of the few that offers every service," says Childs. "Be it commercial or residential, we do it all. Others just specialize in a few things."

Most of the company's commercial clients fall within the scope of bigger companies like insurance, automotive, medical or dental practices, distribution centers or warehouses. On the residential side, staff assists with installing smart systems related to thermostats, appliances, security and surveillance in new homes, or in upgrading existing homes with cutting edge systems.

"Everyone is getting on board now with smart systems," says Childs. "Four years ago, people weren't sure. Now it's more of the norm."

Childs cites a 1 million growth in sales since 2013 as an indication of the increasing popularity of smart systems for residential and commercial use. The company currently occupies a 2,200-square foot office near the heart of Old Okemos on the Red Cedar River.

Source: Joel Childs, Sales Engineer, Smart Homes Smart Offices
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Companies join forces to provide a la carte professional services

Four like-minded businesses in Lansing have merged their thought processes to form a new approach to delivering marketing and consulting services to nonprofits, small business and second stage companies.

In May, AKEA Web Solutions, CJBuck Consulting, Glow Social Media and UnoDeuce Multimedia unveiled 2nd Brain Collective—a collaboration of four partner companies. The collective offers clients the ability to engage with any or all of the four partner companies through a unique pay-only-for-what-you-need service offering.

"We witnessed a lot of agencies that have built their successes on an all or nothing bill," says Schmidt. "But a lot of the folks we work with aren't necessarily ready for full service."

Schmidt says 2nd Brain Collection takes a more a la carte style by offering clients the ability to pick the service or services they need from four providers. Each company maintains their independent operations but shares and refers clients based on perceived needs.

"Each of us has collaborated with each other in different ways in the past," says Schmidt. "The best analogy is we're now like The Avengers—each of us is an individual, but we come together to solve a major problem."

While focused on problem-solving, messaging and storytelling, the 2nd Brain Collective also concentrates on connecting businesses and building community. Among the methods and venues the collective devised are the networking event The Drinking Lunch and the information-driven 2BC Podcast featuring professionals and industry experts.

Source: Paul Schmidt, Communications Director, Meridian Township
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Michigan Creative commits to work-life balance with on-site daycare

Michigan Creative has brought in a new generation to add to the quality of work life. And right now, CEO Brian Town says the company's new team members are learning to walk before they can run.

In February, Town made good on his commitment to provide and pay for in-office day care when two members of his leadership team came back from maternity leave. He set aside a room in the company's new digs in REO Town, hired a nanny, and equipped the space with essentials for infant care and comfort.

Since then, Melissa Meschke and Jenn Putmon have been bringing their babies to work three out of five days a week. And while focusing on career, the two new moms can enjoy the assurance of quality day care and strive for the work-life balance essential in today's world.

"It's a way for me to give back more to the people who have got us to where we are today," says Town. "We eat lunch with the babies. We play with the babies. When we're having a hard day, they're a good distraction."

Town founded Michigan Creative six years ago, incubating his small marketing agency through the NEO Center on Lansing's north side. Then, as now, Town's guiding principle includes surrounding himself with great people who care about the company and clients, and providing for their happiness and satisfaction through the company's culture.

Michigan Creative moved to REO Town around the spring equinox. The goal, Town says, was to be part of the area's positive growth and creative energy. Town's staff regularly supports local merchants and food and beverage businesses as a means to re-energize their creative work that involves video production, web services, digital marketing and design. And with a location at 1149 ½ South Washington, it's never more than a block from their 1,500-square foot, second story office flat to small businesses like Blue Owl Coffee, Saddleback BBQ, Izzo's Pub, Vintage Junkies and The Nook.

"We wanted to follow the artists, follow the local businesses, and be part of a community," says Town. "We feel that if we can be a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the positive growth in REO Town, we'll be happy."

Michigan Creative has 10 employees, with half of those being added in the last 12 months.

Source: Brian Town, CEO/Owner, Michigan Creative
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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The Runway signs five fashion start-ups, alumnus gains national recognition

Five new fashion start-ups have joined The Runway fashion incubator in downtown Lansing, with their designs set on achieving levels of success similar to a recent alumnus.

The five new tenants will bring a host of new services, products and innovation to the Greater Lansing Region. New designers include:

  • Jon Lewis, Project I: A Fashion venture capital firm from New York City
  • Ashton Keys of the Ninety6: A streetwear line that connects with creativity and energy
  • Tyler Mehigh of Northern Etiquette: A northern-themed prep apparel company
  • James Eisenbeiser: A line of totes and fashion accessories
  • Stephane Awuro of 4ace: A menswear line


"It's exciting to see so much new creative energy coming to downtown Lansing through The Runway," says Joe Carr, startup innovation manager at the Lansing Economic Area Partnership and director of The Runway. "We are excited to work with these designers to develop and refine their brand and further solidify The Runway's reputation as the premiere fashion incubator in the State of Michigan."

Carr added that Project I will bring a new capital investment to the region, further positioning metro Lansing as a leader in the fashion industry. The Runway also reports that alumnus Lawrence Hunt has secured a second brand ambassador with New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shephard. The wide receiver joins Detroit Tigers James McCann in donating 200 Lawrence Hunt shirts to students and veterans who are preparing for new careers.

Launched from The Runway, Lawrence Hunt Dress Shirts is best known for designing high-quality professional dress shirts that keep the wearer cool in the heat or during high stress situations.

Founder Jeff Schattner says The Runway was a critical force in the development of the company.

"The Runway was such a great experience and really helped us get our footing and foundation in place," says Schattner. "I talk about it all the time as part of our development."

The Runway Lansing was created in 2014 as Michigan's premiere fashion incubator, and helps aspiring designers produce and move collections to market by providing essential resources like creative space, education and programming. The Runway is funded by the Lansing Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) and is located in downtown Lansing in the Knapp's Centre, 300 S. Washington Square, Suite 100.

Source: Joe Carr, Director of The Runway
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Doberman Technologies honored as top company, merges with Michigan firm

There are multiple reason that Doberman Technologies is being recognized by Michigan Celebrates Small Business as one of the 2017 "Michigan 50 Companies to Watch." And while many of those reasons can be stated through facts and numbers, many trace to the culture that surrounds the managed-IT services provider based in Mason, Michigan.

Founded in 2005, Doberman has focused on delivering customer-centric, fixed rate IT solutions to solve business problems. Since 2010, the company has grown a minimum of 30 percent year over year, with 60 percent for top line revenue in 2016. Within that growth curve, quality has remained high, with the company reporting a 96.5 percent customer satisfaction rating.

"We're thrilled to have been named to the Michigan 50 companies to watch," says Ian Richardson, CEO of Doberman Technologies. "Recognizing those firms that hold to industry best practice and have shown sustainability and growth is a win for not only the company recognized, but for those organizations looking to partner with them."

Doberman's growth was recently reflected in an early April merge with Nonik Technologies. The merger with the Hillsdale, Michigan, IT-managed service provider brings the Nonik staff and operations under the Doberman brand.

In the past 12 months, Doberman has doubled its staff from seven to 14 full-time staff. In 2015, the company moved to a new headquarters that tripled the space from 1,250 square feet to 5,000 square feet. The company is located in a 80-year-old historic building in the Mason antique district—just a few miles from where Richardson grew up in Okemos.

With the recent merger, Doberman forecasts another 30 to 60 percent growth year, and expects to hire one to three full-time staff.

Doberman will be honored at the MCSB gala event on May 4. Companies making the watch list are second-stage enterprises with six to 99 full-time employees that generate $750,000 to $50 million in annual revenue or working capital from investor or grants. Underwriters for the event are the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, PNC Bank, AF Group and Dynamic Edge, Inc.

Source: Ian Richardson, CEO, Doberman Technologies
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.


THiNC.technology launches new apps tailored to customer need

No outsourcing. No prescribed platforms. One hundred percent customer focused.

 

For Craig Tucker, those are factors in the formula for success for a small business competing in the high-tech marketplace. And since 2014, Tucker and his partners have sustained a business that builds software, mobile apps, websites, and integrated solutions for sales and e-commerce—all to customer specifications.

 

"Everyone here is Midwestern--from Michigan or Wisconsin," says Tucker, CEO of THiNC.technology. "We like to keep it local."

 

Intent on keeping an agile mindset, Tucker and his nine-member team operate from a functional office within the University Center at 333 Albert Ave. in downtown East Lansing. Two recently engineered apps underscore the abilities of THiNC.technology to respond to customer challenges and devise solutions that meet both broad and specific needs.

 

The Judgment Interest Calculator, released in April, frees attorneys, law students, judges and other legal professionals from complex hand calculations. The app determines accrued interest on monetary settlements, and then compiles figures into a state-approved form for emailing.

 

A second app under development and set for release later in 2017 answers the need for some health organization to authenticate particular sales activities for compliance. Currently in rollout, the Validu app that will use biometric authentication for attendance when required by regulations affecting pharma, medical and security operations.

 

"We like to build things that solve problems," says Tucker. "They say necessity is the mother of invention. So, we can say we like to create things that are necessary."

 

The company's portfolio includes apps for distracted driving, American Sign Language translation, education and services. The veteran-owned company has also developed dozens of websites, e-commerce solutions and presentations.

 

"We will continue to expand," says Tucker. "We have clients all over the world—including China, New York and California. The vibrancy of East Lansing makes us want to always keep a presence here."

 

Source: Craig Tucker, Owner, THiNC.technology
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.


Burst Into Bloom waxes for the nomadic life with handcrafted bags

Leah Seelye moved to Michigan five years ago with her husband Cody. Relocating from Wisconsin, the two lived behind the Capitol in Lansing, and then resettled in Grand Ledge to build on their devotion to making mid-Michigan home.

All the while, Seelye stayed true to her passion for handcrafted items, determined to become a maker herself. She retaught herself to sew, and set out to fill a niche for attractive clutches, bags, purses and pouches made from waxed canvas.

In 2015, Seeyle equipped a home studio with a sewing machine and everything she needed to create products for contemporary nomadic life. She concentrates on the design and sewing. Her husband does the waxing. And in less than two years, husband-wife team behind Burst Into Bloom has sold about 1,500 waxed canvas items a year to customers as close as next door to as distant as the Pacific Northwest.

"While I was really invested in my day job, I just wanted to do something with a creative outlet," says Seeyle. "My first sale was a wholesale order, and it just blew up from there. I didn't expect it. I've been humbled."

Seeyle's bags and clutches are functional but funky, with colors and patterns inspired by the desert southwest. Made from printed canvas and then waxed, Burst Into Bloom products have the look and feel of leather and are stain and water resistant.

Seeyle says she started Burst Into Bloom with a $300 windfall buffeted by the support and encouragement of her husband, her family, and friends. She recently began full-time at the biz, and has her sites set on continuing to grow her line.

"We're passionate about making things and are committed to helping people make that hand-made connection," says Seeyle. "Our age is so digital. As human beings, we're always craving or creating something to hold, touch and connect with."

Burst Into Bloom purses, bags, clutches and pouches are available online, locally through Polka Dots in Old Town, and in several Michigan stores in Detroit and Grand Rapids.

Source: Leah Seelye, Owner, Burst Into Bloom
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Lansing Mosaic tells stories of area entrepreneurs, provides resources

A small business owner whose path began from a home-based operation has launched a new resource to help promote other Greater Lansing area entrepreneurs, particularly those without a brick-and-mortar presence.
 
Ashlee Willis founded Lansing Mosaic in November 2016, intent on telling the stories of people who apply their talents and innovative ideas through start-ups. Her tool? An online, event-driven publication that highlights diverse entrepreneurs and small business owners through articles and video content.
 
"There are a lot of resources here in mid-Michigan that are helping to get businesses started and helping them to succeed," says Willis. "I want to be part of that."
 
Lansing Mosaic encourages community members and subscribers to be involved in generating ideas for content and events that foster and promote entrepreneurship. Visitors to the site can also find content on technology trends, business initiatives, marketing and other topics relevant to entrepreneurs. 
 
Willis operates Lansing Mosaic from The Fledge—her hometown's incubator for new businesses in Grand Ledge. She writes and curates much of her content herself with the expertise and assistance of several contributing writers, designers and interns.
 
"We're also in the midst of starting an affiliate called Grub Lansing," she says. "We want to capture the food scene, and showcase some of the entrepreneurs here starting food businesses."
 
Willis is the owner of Michigan Premeir Events, an event-service company she started from her home that specializes in event planning, decorating, coordinating and photography. She is a board member of the Lansing Black Chamber of Commerce and will receive the 2017 Entrepreneur on the Move Award at the chamber's annual Pillar Awards in late April.
 
Source: Ashlee Willis, Founder, Lansing Mosaic
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.
 

Love Letters to Lansing continues to bloom at Old Town coffee shop

Bloom is coffee. Coffee is love. Love is needed, now, and lots of it.
 
That's how the founder and manager of Bloom Coffee Roasters in Lansing's Old Town see it. And despite a political and social climate filled with confusion and change, Jared Field and Andrea Sherman believe it's Lansing's opportunity to bloom.
 
Starting February 7, Field and Sherman began providing customers the chance to write what they call a "love letter to Lansing." Customers were offered a postcard—three designs, in fact, custom-made by Sherman's husband Eric—and invited them to write a message on the back that said what they love about Lansing. Customers could hand the completed card to baristas on the spot for a free drink, or bring it in at another time for the same reward. Customers could also opt to have their card hung in the window or their message posted on social media.
 
"The response was overwhelmingly positive," says Field of Love Letters to Lansing. "People love the idea and have been more than willing to share their stories and love for Lansing."
 
Sherman expands.
 
"A lot of people have really taken the opportunity seriously," she says. "They want their words to matter and to have a meaningful impact. I watch as many of them pause and reflect on what part of themselves they want to share with their neighbors. It's almost a 'what can I give of myself that will inspire hope and peace and goodwill?'"
 
Field says Bloom will continue to run the campaign of love and support for as long as people have nothing left to say. And that could be a while.
 
"We greatly appreciate the support in our projects and the pursuits to make Greater Lansing and Old Town a better, welcoming place," says Field.
 
In addition to Love Letters, Bloom has launched a campaign inviting the community to support student artwork that will be displayed on the café walls come May. The project represents a partnership with the Lansing Art Gallery for the Ingham Student Art Exhibit. Customers and community members can help support the display of 10 student artworks at Bloom through the purchase of coffee bags and cups of coffee. Field says Bloom needs to raise $250 to help cover the professional framing and exhibit of each piece.
 
Bloom Coffee Roasters opened the café in Old Town on July 5, 2016. The roasting company has been in the same location at 1236 Turner Street since September 2014. The café employs 10 people.
 
Source: Jared Field, Owner, Bloom Coffee Roasters
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.
 
 

Okemos resident keeps it clean with handcrafted soap business

Autumn Romig says she's always been interested in traditional skills, particularly ones with an edge. She's also driven to have her own business after growing up in an entrepreneurial family in Okemos, Mich.
 
So when Romig happened upon the craft of soap making via a class on beekeeping, she knew, bar none, that she had found an outlet that combined her two passions.
 
"I like making soap because it can be a little complex and dangerous," she laughs. "It's also a way I can take ingredients, do something with them, and create something."
 
Romig launched Autumn's Harvest Soap in November 2016 after making handcrafted soaps for use by her friends and family. She started by making small batches, then word spread to friends of friends. Soon, she was making, storing and delivering soaps as fast as she could.
 
Romig said the turning point came when her husband sat her down and convinced her she could sustain a low-cost business based on her newfound passion. Tapping her powers of creative thinking, Romig researched the ins and outs of becoming a home-based soap maker and created a business model that worked.
 
Today, Romig maintains an inventory of about 300-400 bars of soap she makes through a cold process. The soap, she says, has about a six-week cure time, and is made from a combination of lye, sustainably harvested oils like palm, and fragrances derived from essential oils.
 
"My recipe is a little different and draws on particular ingredients," says Romig. "Like anything in life, you try to pick the best options."
 
Autumn's Harvest Soap makes and sells handcrafted soaps, lotion bars, wax melts and bath fizzies. Most of her business is local, with customers ordering bars for their business, their homes, and for special gifts.
 
"I like products and gifts that are thoughtful and luxurious," says Romig. "I want to make really nice quality products that people enjoy using, and that bring a little joy to them when they use it."
 
Autumn's Harvest Soaps are available online and through the Titus Farms CSA. Romig is also exploring selling her products through Farmraiser come spring.
 
Source: Autumn Romig, Owner, Autumn's Harvest Soap
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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