Entrepreneurship :Innovation & Job News

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Biz consultant starts Vidorum consultancy in Sterling Heights

Quentin Forgues loved his work as a business consultant in the corporate world. The serial entrepreneur loves the aspects of building businesses and helping them improve so much that he wanted to do it on a bigger scale, so he started his own consulting firm, Vidorum.

"It's my passion," Forgues says. "It's like the saying of throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow."

Vidorum  is doing a lot of work with companies in the Macomb-OU INCubator in Sterling Heights where it is based. "I like to just observe for a while," Forgues says. "I can pick up on where they need to improve."

The 8-month-old company is also creating a consulting software platform called ImpACT. The web-based platform focuses on improving accountability, control, reporting and time management for businesses. Its release will include a mobile app of its platform.

Source: Quentin Forgues, president of Vidorum
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Twisted Concepts gains traction with Nutri-Twist drink

Peter Andoni has a child with Type 1 diabetes, so the owner of Shields Pizza looked on with frustration when his child played sports but couldn't enjoy the sugary drinks the other parents handed to their kids.

"I had to look for healthy alternatives and realized there weren't any," Andoni says. "They all had high-fructose corn syrup or artificial colors."

So Andoni decided to make a drink of his own that fit the health bill. Twisted Concepts' primary product is Nutri-Twist, a low-calorie drink without high-fructose corn syrup or gluten. It has been on the market for a year and recently rebranded itself from Twisted Water to Nutri-Twist.

"We wanted to incorporate the nutritional aspects of the beverage in its name so our customers could see it as they walk by," Andoni says.

The Bloomfield Hills-based company and its team of five employees are working to grow Nutri-Twists' reach beyond Michigan and into other big states, such as Texas and Minnesota.

"We're growing literally every month," Andoni says. "We started out at Hiller's Markets and it has taken off from there."

Source: Peter Andoni, founder of Twisted Concepts
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund bridges AutoBike's capital gap

The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund recently invested $250,000 in AutoBike, a hard-to-find cash infusion the bicycle start-up needed.

The Troy-based company is creating an automatic gear shift mechanism for bicycles that makes it easier to ride multi-speed bikes. It has raised $500,000, which has allowed the company to finish developing its technology and begin shipping its first products. The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund investment played a critical role.

"It meant everything to us," says Sean Simpson, CEO of AutoBike. "Because we're a hardware type of start-up and this is our first venture, it's hard to raise money. It bridges the gap of where we are and where we need to be to atract the next round of investors and really scale up and take our program national."

AutoBike is quickly selling its first shipment of bicycles, focusing on the summer riding markets in Michigan and Florida. The company currently has a staff of eight employees and two interns that is focused on expanding the market reach and achieving production efficiencies that will improve its profit margins.

"We have already sold through half of our first order of bikes," Simpson says.

Source: Sean Simpson, CEO of AutoBike
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Former Microsoft CIO to give keynote speech at Accelerate Michigan

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition has landed a keynote speaker for this year's event that is a bit more corporate, and that's what organizers were going for.

Tony Scott has served as CTO of General Motors, CIO of Disney, and just recently stepped down as the CIO of Microsoft. He will serve as the business plan's keynote speaker at its awards ceremony on Nov. 14 at Orchestra Hall in downtown Detroit.

Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, says Scott will be able to speak at length about a number of verticals, such as automotive, entertainment and technology. Scott will also be able to speak about how IT connects all of them and just about every other business market and what big corporations are looking for in the start-ups they acquire.

"He can bring a fantastic perspective on small- and medium-sized business and how Microsoft helps them grow," Bigelow says.

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition will return to downtown Detroit this year with events set to be held in the Guardian Building and the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. The deadline for companies to apply to compete is set for Aug. 14. For information, click here.

Source: Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

LinkNotes aims to make QR codes easier to use

LinkNotes is a start-up trying to make its way in the marketplace by combining one complicated thing (QR codes) and one simple thing (Sticky Notes).

The co-founders behind the Belleville-based start-up know that QR codes is a handy technology for those that understand it but also realize that public adoption is slow because the public is having a hard time wrapping its head around the concept. LinkNotes hopes to bridge that divide.

"The whole idea is to make it really simple," says Mark Crawford, founder of LinkNotes.

QR code is a matrix barcode similar to the traditional bar codes. It is often used to unlock information with a quick scan from a mobile device. LinkNote's technology provides users with a sticky note with a preprinted unique QR code that allows the user to link it to any item online, such as websites or photos. The software platform, which is accessible through the Web and mobile devices, allows users to better communicate with others through QR codes.

The 6-month-old start-up is currently testing its alpha version of the platform. The two-person team behind it is currently applying for patents for the technology and searching out local partners. It hopes to roll out its Beta version early next year.

Source: Mark Crawford, founder of LinkNotes
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Adams Fellowship launches latest class of aspiring entrepreneurs

The Adams Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program is welcoming its latest cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs, which means four talented young people are working with as many equally promising local start-ups.

The start-ups are located in a number of places throughout the region, including Warren, Troy and downtown Detroit.

"We would like to reach out to as many places as we can," says Terry Cross, managing director of the Adams Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program. "We are charged with reaching out to the entire seven-county region."

The Adams Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program places young, up-and-coming entrepreneurs with local start-ups. The year-long program also provides the entrepreneurs with a $60,000 stipend. The idea is to help grow the local entrepreneurial ecosystem by giving local start-ups affordable talent and recent college grads a foot in the door with local start-ups. Each class of fellows numbers about four people.

Among the companies taking on Adams Fellows this year are:

Stik.com brings word-of-mouth recommendations for local businesses online through Facebook. It is based in downtown Detroit.

Coliant, a start-up in Warren that makes Powerlet, an electrical accessory that allows users of things like motorcycles and ATVs to plug their gadgets into the vehicle.

- ENT Biotech Solutions, a Detroit-based company that is commercializing a device to remove adenoids through a greatly improved process that will have significant positive outcomes for patients.

TOGGLED, a subsidiary of Troy-based Altair, that is working on next-generation solidstate lighting technology.

Source: Terry Cross, managing director of Adams Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Cleaning firm Breathe Green launches Dirty Glove product line

Erecenia Friday's story is a classic tale of turning economic lemons into entrepreneurial lemonade. The Metro Detroit resident lost her job at a non-profit in early 2009, a casualty of the Great Recession. Shortly after that she started a green-cleaning business called Breathe Green.

"A friend suggested I turn my love of green cleaning into a business," Friday says. "I printed up some business cards and discovered people really like green cleaning."

Today the Oak Park-based business has three employees and an intern. It is also launching its own green-cleaning product line called "Dirty Glove." The enzyme-based product breaks down stains and smells and can be used as a multi-purpose cleaner.

"We use it in bathrooms, kitchens, on a tile floor," Friday says. "It's great on porcelain."

Breathe Green will be using Dirty Glove products in its own operations, serving as a more cost-effective option for its business. It will also be available in local Kroger stores later this summer. It will first sell an industrial-sized container (32 ounces) of its multi-purpose cleaner. Friday plans to expand its product lineup to floor, countertop and other specific-area cleaners.

Friday came up with the formula for the cleaner herself after recognizing that a lot of green cleaners are made up of simple ingredients, such as glass cleaner made of vinegar and water. She researched the recipes for other cleaners and came up with her own unique line.

"I did a lot of research online and in the library and interviewed some professors," Friday says.

Source: Erecenia Friday, owner of Breathe Green
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Luxury Updated Homes upgrades small homes into larger luxuries

James Danley hates mediocrity. So much so that the local entrepreneur started a business focused on turning ho-hum homes in Oakland County into high-end living spaces.

Luxury Updated Homes specializes in taking run-of-the-mill bungalows and ranches in Oakland County's tony municipalities and turning them into larger, luxury houses that fetch top dollar. Most of the houses are foreclosures in need of a lot of tender loving care. Danley's business acquires them, enlarges them and infuses high-end materials and finishes.

"We will spend a lot more money on materials than a lot of other contractors will," Danley says.

The 1-year-old firm now employs four people and 50 independent contractors. It has renovated 10 homes so far in Farmington Hills, Beverly Hills, Franklin and West Bloomfield. It got its start tackling houses in the $100,000 range. Its most recent renovations have hit the $500,000 price point and Danley is starting to focus on even more expensive housing stock in Birmingham.

Luxury Updated Homes will often take a bungalow or ranch, tear off the roof and add a full second story to double the square footage. Danley is also looking to get into some new construction projects where older, smaller homes will be razed to make way for bigger, more up-to-date houses.

Source: James Danley, president & owner of Luxury Updated Homes
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Accurate Surveying grows from zero to staff of 5

Chad Wehbe spent more than a decade working for someone else as a professional land surveyor. That didn't last too long. Until 2008 in fact. That's when he started his own company Accurate Surveying.

"I liked the challenge and I decided to take the risk," Wehbe says. "There is more opportunity. I don't like to be in a box."

The Livonia-based business now employs five people after hiring a new employee to handle marketing recently. The company is growing at a fast clip, notching 20 percent revenue growth over the last year. Wehbe expects to hit another 15 percent revenue growth over the next 12 months.

"We started from nothing," Wehbe says. "Every year we have grown. The more you give the more you get."

The 20-year veteran of land surveying expects his business to grow for the foreseeable future. Largely because of its performance and as it rides along with the expanding economy.

"I can feel the market coming back now," Wehbe says.

Source: Chad Wehbe, president of Accurate Surveying
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Livonia retiree launches his own biz, Simple Ram Abs

Thirty years ago, Gary Roumayah didn't invent a better mouse trap but a better way to do sit-ups. The Livonia resident created a bench with couple of strategically placed straps that helped the then-young man focus on working out his abs.

He thought about patenting the invention but decided against it once he explored the cost of doing so. Fast forward to 2009 and the now retired truck driver decided to go for the patent. It took a few years but he recently landed it and made a short run of the machine, which he is branding as Simple Ram Abs.

"The whole idea behind it is to do it more efficiently and effectively," Roumayah says, explaining how the straps help keep the user's legs and arms in place so the user's energy can be focused on their abs. "This makes sure your legs and arms don't get tired."

Roumayah sent letters to dozens of exercise equipment manufacturers once he had the patent. A handful got back to him to tell him they weren't interested. One wrote back and said it looked interesting but they needed to see sales before pursuing the matter further.

"They wanted to see if it could sell and be successful," Roumayah says.

So Roumayah made a run of 60 Simple Ram Abs he is selling for $199.99 over the Internet. He plans to launch an advertising campaign in August. He hopes to move all of his product before the end of the year.

Source: Gary Roumayah, president & owner of Simple Ram Abs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Coupon Wallet helps biz coupons transition to digital

A new start-up at the Macomb-OU INCubator aims to help businesses make the leap from paper to digital when it comes to the savings they offier.

Coupon Wallet is developing a software platform that help small businesses create digital coupons, helping them reach a larger audience. The technology includes managed marketing services and point-of-sale integration.

"It's meant to help brands transition out of the paper world and into the digital world," says Christopher Papa, chief marketing officer & partner of Coupon Wallet.

The Sterling Heights-based company was spun out of PocketCents Network, which has been advertising online for several years. The Coupon Wallet will focus on enhancing creating digital coupon but also aggregating information that will help users make more constructive business decisions.

Coupon Wallet was launched last fall and has grown to team of five employees and three interns. It recently tok up residence at the Macomb-OU INCubator to help help grow the business and leverage the business accelerators numerous assets.

"The rent is very cheap and everything is included," Papa says. "There is also being surrounded by professionals."

Source: Christopher Papa, chief marketing officer & partner of Coupon Wallet
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Former Identity VP launches own firm, Alchemy Group

Brent Eastman has made his career in marketing, spending 25 years specializing in brand management. Most recently he served as a vice president of brand strategy & creative at Identity, a Bingham Farms-based public relations and marketing agency. This summer he is starting all over by launching his own marketing firm, Alchemy Group.

The Birmingham-based creative firm plans to focus on "research, engagement and actionable plans that make a real difference in an organization, both inside and out," according to the firm's press release about its launch.

"We're really focused on understanding client backgrounds and what's going on with them," Eastman says. "We want to help them evolve their brand."

Alchemy Group
 is currently composed of Eastman and a network of independent contractors. However, Eastman expects to begin making his first hires soon.

"I'd like to have 7-9 people in the next three years, according to my business plan," Eastman says. "I would like to have a couple by the end of the year."

Source: Brent Eastman, chief brand alchemist of Alchemy Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge announces winners

Metro Detroit-based business performed well at the Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, taking home a number of the contests prizes.

The Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge is meant to help spread some seed capital around to entrepreneurial businesses and non-profits that aim to help improve life in Michigan. Prizes range from $3,000 to $25,000, which attracted 160 submissions from across the state.

"It shows that we can really put Michigan on the social innovation map," Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps, which organized the  Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, wrote in an email. "While we had so many inspiring entries, we were excited to give these top six finalists an opportunity to showcase their passion, skill and innovation at our pitch event."

Among the Metro Detroit-based firms that places are:

Fresh Corner Café, a healthy-eating start-up that helps make quality food more widely available in underserved Detroit neighborhoods. It won first place ($20,000) for the Emerging Company category.

Digital Inclusion
, which specializes in refurbishing computers, technical support and training. It aims to help incubate ideas and projects for young, entrepreneurial people. It won second place $15,000 in the Emerging Company category.

, an Ypsilanti-based start-up working to combat maternal and infant health disparities in low-income areas through the design and commercialization of appropriate, locally affordable, innovative devices. It won third place ($5,000) in the Emerging Company category.

The Java Hope Project won $5,000 for first place in the New Enterprise Idea category. The non-profit is dedicated to helping women break the cycle of poverty through business development by offering extensive small-business skills training programs.

Ecotelligent Homes
 won the Emerging Company award in the Fostering Energy Affordability category, a prize worth $10,000. The Farmington Hills-based company performs RESNET and BPI certified home energy audits and installing energy efficiency improvements on Metro Detroit homes.

ReSource Fund won $5,000 for the New Enterprise Idea in the Fostering Energy Affordability category. The fund provides financial services to low-income communities in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

, a localized crowdfunding platform, won the $3,000 Millennial Social Innovation Prize. The company works to support building vibrant communities by connecting small businesses, organizations and events with patrons and sponsors to help them grow, one project at a time.

The Community Ventures prize ($25,000) went to the Vanguard Property Preservation Enterprise in Detroit. The prize is meant for a social entrepreneur impacting structural unemployment in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac or Saginaw. Vanguard Property Preservation Enterprise provides job opportunities for unemployed Detroiters, particularly citizens returning from prison, through the cleaning and maintenance of private-owner eviction and foreclosed properties.

Detroit-based Rebel Nell L3C won The Spirit of Social Entrepreneurship Award for its embodiment of the vision, commitment and tenacity present in the best Social Entrepreneurs around the world.

Source: Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Family turns unemployment into Aunt Nee's salsa biz

There was nothing small about the Great Recession for Patrick Schwager's family in Garden City. Both of his parents lost their jobs in mid-2008. He was just graduating from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a degree in business management and marketing in 2009 and his internship wasn't going anywhere.

That's when the family rallied together and made a go of it with its Aunt Nee's salsa business.

"For a solid year we were cash-strapped and unemployed," Schwager says. "We decided to make a major push to make it successful."

Aunt Nee's had always been a hobby business for the family. They were always disappointed buying prepared salsa, often with its lack of freshness. Aunt Nee's sells the seasoning to the customers so they can add their own produce to make fresh salsa. Schwager brought on a friend as a partner, Carlos Parisi, and the business took off.

"It's the best fresh salsa you can make yourself," Schwager says.

Today you can find Aunt Nee's in a wide variety of supermarkets across Michigan, including 45 Kroger grocery stores. It now sells a little more than 50,000 packets of seasoning annually. It is gearing up to begin online sales later this year. Schwager hopes to cross into six-figures worth of unit sales within the next year.

Aunt Nee's now employs five people and is looking to add a few interns this summer. It is also working with other local small businesses to help them get off the ground.

Source: Patrick Schwager, CEO of Aunt Nee's
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Seat Side Service brings food to your side at sports events

Seat Side Service is a start-up born out of frustration. Barak Leibovitz's frustration.

The 20-something was at a baseball game trying to buy a hotdog when the idea hit him. Repeatedly. First he had to wait 30 minutes for the vendor to come by. Then he didn't have enough cash on him to buy the hotdogs. Then he couldn't pay for it with anything other than cash. The process left the aspiring entrepreneur dumbfounded.

"It just didn't make sense at the time," Leibovitz says.

Seat Side Service
 is Leibovitz answer. The 1-year-old start-up creates software that allows athletic spectators to order what they want from their smartphone, pay for it online and then have the vendors deliver the food for tips from a centralized kitchen. The system simplifies the process so vendors no longer have to carry all of their food around and can instead focus on providing quality service.

"Your tips should reflect your hustle," Leibovitz says.

The Southfield-based business, which got its start in Ann Arbor's TechArb, currently has a staff of four employees and six interns. It is working on running a pilot program with the Toledo Mud Hens this summer and wants to take it to even more stadiums and arenas next year.

"I am engaging minor league stadiums because they don't have problems with bandwidth (cellular service)," Leibovitz says.

Source: Barak Leibovitz, founder & CEO of Seat Side Service
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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