entrepreneurship :Innovation & Job News

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MEDC announces funds to support entrepreneurship, technology

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced the approval by the Michigan Strategic Fund of Entrepreneurial Service Provider Request for Proposals awards. These awards will, according to Paula Sorrel of the MEDC, go toward creating early stage technology companies and will also generate more than $15 million new investments in the state. "We are focused on creating a strong pipeline of companies," says Sorrel.

The funds are going toward entrepreneur services all across the state, and $500,000 is coming into Lansing through the Michigan State University Foundation and Spartan Innovations. The funds will be distributed over two years to help grow the GreenLight Business Model Competition. The last GreenLight Competition had nine universities compete, which according to Sorrel is an impressive number. She says it's the basis for a strong pipeline, a pipeline they hope to grow.

The MEDC tracked 30 new tech companies in the state last year, and the hope is that with these awards, that number will grow. "The tech sector is always evolving and we are trying to evolve with it," says Sorrel.

Other approved proposals came from programs such as, Invest Detroit, Ann Arbor SPARK, NextEnergy, BBC Entrepreneurial Training and Consulting, Inforum Center for Leadership, UofM Center for Entrepreneurship and the Michigan Venture Capital Association.

Source: Paula Sorrel, MEDC
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor 

The Hatching celebrates one year of supporting entrepreneurs

The Hatching, a pitch competition that allows entrepreneurs with a business idea to win money and grow their business, turns one-year-old today.

In its first year the competition has helped create 18 jobs and form 12 companies, companies that, according to Tony Willis of Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), may not have gotten their ideas heard otherwise.

The Hatching, a joint effort between Spartan Innovations and LEAP, is a monthly event and the winners of each session are given not only prize money but access to resources that can otherwise be pricey and difficult to obtain such as legal help (provided by Loomis Law) and marketing assistance (from Michigan Creative).

There have been many successes out of the Hatching, including the most televised success, Swaddle-mi-Billi, a wearable jaundice treatment for infants. The company was featured on a startup reality show on A&E and it has become a mainstream product. Other successes include, Eightfold Marketing, Go Green Trikes, Poochie Bowl, What's Mapnin' (who won the year-end Grand prize) and more. All of these companies are growing, hiring, and contributing to economic development in Lansing.  "All of these businesses saw a common problem, and solved it," says Willis, "They created a business that can revolutionize that area."

In their second year, LEAP and Spartan Innovations hope to double the numbers from the Hatching's first year. They hope to see more attendance, more submissions and more jobs.

Source: Tony Willis, Lansing Economic Area Partnership
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 
 
 

New Greater Lansing Food Bank program shares farm fresh vegetables, creates farmers

The Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB) has announced a program through the Lansing Roots farm program designed to fight hunger, create jobs, and help people provide for themselves and their community. The model, called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), is a weekly vegetable subscription that connects local farmers and food consumers. After one payment at the beginning the season, subscribers then receive a box of produce containing 10-15 different items, each week for 20 weeks.

The program also has a low income option, so that low income families have access to affordable, fresh produce. Subscriptions can also be paid for using SNAP/EBT and Double-Up Food Bucks.  According to Alex Bryan, the program manager, it's a great way to connect farmers to those that need food and cut out the middle man.

They are not only feeding families in need, but are also creating jobs by providing the tools, support and marketing components for those that want to farm but may not have the resources or funding to get started. The program provides 10 acres in Mason that was donated to charity as the land the farmers utilize. This two-fold approach is the GLFB's way of assuring there is enough food in the community. According to Bryan, "The biggest anti-hunger movement is economic development," and this program strives to contribute to that.

Source: Alex Bryan, Program Director
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovations News Editor
 

Poochie Bowl kicks off production, manufactured in Lansing

Poochie Bowl, the "eargonomically" designed food and water bowl made especially for dogs with long or furry ears, has officially kicked off production in Lansing. The dish keeps your pet's ears out of their water bowl, keeping them dry, clean and free of infection. It is being manufactured right here by the local Diamond Engineering. "We always knew we wanted to keep it in Lansing," says Vice President, Christopher Allen.

Poochie Bowl is currently on sale at Preuss Pets, Annabelle's Pet Station and at stores in Petosky and Grand Haven. They also offer online sales. They are excited to be in production after ten months and have plans to eventually expand nationally.

As they grow, and produce more bowls, they expect Diamond Engineering will have to add to their staff. Poochie Bowl themselves plans to add 2-3 jobs to their company within the next 3-6 months, most likely in the areas of shipping and office work.

You can also find Poochie Bowl on the road, traveling and promoting at events such as Lansing's 4th of July Parade. It may not be the way most companies promote, but it's working for them. "It's a unique way of doing things," says Allen, "But we're a unique company."

Source: Chris Allen, Poochie Bowl
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 

Turtle Cell, student startup, creates unique product

Michigan State University students have teamed up with students from the University of Michigan to produce a totally unique product.

Turtlecell is a cell phone case that solves the problem of constantly tangled, lost, or broken headphones by storing them right in the case. Its unique design allows the headphones to slide easily in and out for super simple storage.

Turtlecell opened for pre-orders last week and have already received hundreds of orders, even before advertising. They have already received 2 offers for retail sales and expect to be in at least 6,000 stores by Christmas.

Because of this growth, Turtlecell has recently hired an MSU Law Graduate and will be turning to the MSU Career Fair to search out more local talent. "We’ve found some really talented people," says Jeremy Lindlbauer, Director of Sales and Marketing, "and the goal is to grow. We want those really motivated students."

To get where they are, they've utilized many local resources such as The Hatch to provide help with funding, web design, packaging, and more.

With over 100,000 units expected to be produced in the next 3 months, Turtlecell's momentum is not slowing down. They also have plans to produce a case with a battery and eventually have a completely customizable, personal product.
 
Source: Jeremy Lindlbauer, Turtlecell
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 










Public relations consultant launches company, Piper & Gold Public Relations, grows team

When the demand became too much for Kate Snyder, APR to keep up with on her own doing public relations consulting work, she started working with a part-time associate and two student interns in December of last year.
 
"That growth of the team really led me to start thinking about growing a company, not a consultancy," Snyder explains. She attributes having the right people on board and amazing support for convincing her to take the entrepreneurial plunge into launching Piper & Gold Public Relations
 
Along with the new company name, identity, and office at The NEO Center,  the part-timer has now joined the company as a full-time Associate Strategist. Piper & Gold also continues to have two student interns per semester to help with pro bono projects and provide a value add for clients. 
 
Snyder has a pretty traditional background when it comes to an emphasis on research and strategy, but has really focused on using digital tools to build meaningful relationships over the past several years. "That blend of the core PR principles and the new tools is one of the things it's important to me to keep as we grow," she says.
 
Ultimately, Snyder would like to see Piper & Gold grow in a responsible and sustainable way, so they're focused on finding the right client mix for their backgrounds and personalities and creating opportunities when the perfect people come along.
 
Source: Kate Snyder, Piper & Gold Public Relations
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
 
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.
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