Entrepreneurship :Innovation & Job News

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IMET technology cleans diesel exhaust, improves MPG

IMET is racking up more recognition and gearing up to start selling its clean-diesel technology next year.

The Northville-based startup's GreenPower Muffler system reduces diesel fuel emissions and helps improve MPG for heavy-duty trucks. It made the semifinals of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit last month and won a $750,000 matching grant from the Port of Los Angeles before that.

The startup's team of six people is leveraging that recognition and money to get its technology to market. It needs approval from the state of California to make that happen, and it expects to receive that early next year.

"Once we have that we can go into full production," says Nick Cherasaro, director of marketing for IMET.

IMET's technology was developed by Julius J Rim, an engineer who worked at the GM Tech Center for decades. He launched IMET after retiring and now serves as the company’s president.

"We have room to improve (diesel fuel technology)," Rim says. "That's why we're doing it."

The GreenPower Muffler System is different from traditional mufflers because it doesn’t use precious metals, like palladium and platinum, and instead uses water and carbon-silicon composite filters. It recovers muffler-waste heat to generate water vapor to be re-combusted in cylinder combustion chamber at low combustion temperature for nitrous oxide reduction without Urea-SCR.

This allows the technology to reduce particulate matter by 95 percent and cut nitrous oxide emissions by half. It is also half the cost of a regular muffler because it doesn’t use precious materials like traditional mufflers.

"It can pay for itself on an average truck within 18 months," Cherasaro says.

Source: Julius J Rim, founder & president of IMET and Nick Cherasaro, director of marketing for IMET
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

ECRS finds niche in cleaning up small disasters

Christian Fahoome had his own disaster restoration company when he noticed a hole in the market. Specifically, he didn’t see a company that helps everyday people clean up when, for instance, a kitchen fire badly damages a house.

"A lot of this market is what I call Mrs. Jones' home fire," Fahoome says. "The small fires for individual owners."

That prompted him to start ECRS (an acronym for Electronic Cleaning Restoration Services), which specializes in helping home owners and small businesses people clean up disasters that are small on the grand scale of things but are overwhelming when it comes to that individual person. The industry is largely aimed at handling large disasters that happen to big companies or organizations and are facilitated by insurance companies.

The Troy-based firm got its start 2.5 years ago. It has doubled its staff to four people over the last year, hiring two technicians. Fahoome expects to bring on one more employee before the year is out to meeting the growing demand for his company.

"It has been very well received," Fahoome says. "We're getting more and more momentum."

Source: Christian Fahoome, owner of ECRS
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Lawrence Tech scores $150K for entrepreneurship education

Students who aspire to be their own boss at Lawrence Technological University got a six-figure boost this fall.

The Southfield-based university won a $150,000 grant from the Chicago-based Coleman Foundation to promote and facilitate entrepreneurial education. The grant will be doled out over two years and it will make Lawrence Tech’s entrepreneurial education program available to students pursuing degrees in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Architecture and Design, and Management.

"We have so many students that have the skill sets and opportunities to pursue self-employment after graduation," says Karen Evans, senior lecturer in the College of Management for Lawrence Technological University. "They might not feel empowered to do that. We want to fill those gaps for them."

Part of filling those gaps will be showcasing the university's entrepreneurial endeavors to the metro area for the next two years. It will also work to increase awareness between students and staff working on entrepreneurial projects and encourage them to collaborate more.

"We want to show students what other students are doing," Evans says.

The Coleman Foundation is a private, independent grant-making organization that funds educational institutions that offer entrepreneurship training and support. Lawrence Tech's College of Engineering has an entrepreneurial education program for engineering students supported by a grant from the Kern Family Foundation. The university is an active member of the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network.

Source: Karen Evans, senior lecturer in the college of management for Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Retrofit Studio doubles business, looks for bigger space

To say Brad Goodstein is passionate about exercise might be an understatement. The personal trainer has been in the industry for 10 years and recently started his own workout business called Retrofit Studio.

The downtown Royal Oak-based business specializes in personal training because it's what Goodstein believes is the best way to help people live healthy lives by making small, manageable changes.

"I know it works," Goodstein says. "I have had clients who have lost 100 pounds. I had a guy lost 160 pounds."

It's not all about weight loss. Retrodfit Studio's clients also include people who are overcoming injuries or looking to strengthen joints so they can do everyday things with ease, such as climb stairs or get out of bed.

"It's not always about losing weight," Goodstein says. "It’s about feeling better and having more energy."

Retrofit Studio has grown to a staff of five people. It has doubled its customer base over the last year, which has led Goodstein to look for a bigger space to accommodate its new clientele, expand its service offerings and add more staff.

"I surround myself with really good people," Goodstein says. "People who are passionate about fitness."

Source: Brad Goodstein, owner of Retrofit Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Former franchisee starts mobile-repair biz, MiPhone Repair

Chad Reiss worked as a franchisee for Subway for 25 years. Then an influential relative who worked at the company retired and Reiss took it as an opportunity to take on a new challenge in life. So he opened his own mobile-device repair business, MiPhone Repair.

Reiss didn’t know much about putting smart devices back together at first. He has had a fascination with computer technology and other gadgets since high school and enjoys where technology is going. Plus, the learning curve for mobile device repair isn't known to have a lot of barriers.

"It's really easy to get involved with because there aren’t a lot of certifications," Reiss says. "I taught myself over six months before leaving Subway."

The Sterling Heights-based business launched nine months ago and currently employs two people. It specializes in fixing a broad range of Apple products (iPhone, iPod and iPad chief among them) and some Android devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy. MiPhone Repair can fix shattered touch screens, smart phones that got wet and a number of other problems that plague mobile devices.

"I want to learn about every phone I can get my hands on," Reiss says.

Source: Chad Reiss, owner of MiPhone Repair
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Peteet's Famous Cheesecakes creates following in Oak Park

The Peteet family ran its own real-estate company for decades until the recession hit and the bottom fell out of the real-estate market. To put it simply, the business lost everything. So the family decided to embark on a new venture, cheesecake.

"I looked around and said something has to change," says Patrick Peteet, owner & head baker of Peteet's Famous Cheesecakes. "That’s when we started the cheesecake bakery."

The Oak Park-based business has made a bit of a name for itself in its first three years. Its cheesecakes are all made in Michigan, from scratch, and always consist of two layers. They are certified kosher. The bakery started out with 10 flavors and now has more than 90 flavors in its portfolio.

"We have some flavors you have probably never heard of," Peteet says. He adds that the baker's best seller is Sweet Potato Cheesecake.

Peteet's Famous Cheesecake can be found in 15 restaurants across Metro Detroit. It is expanding into other sweets, such as ice cream, cookies and pushup pops. The bakery has reached the point now that 50 percent of its retail business comes from outside of Oak Park. The company also plans to open a second location next year.

Source: Patrick Peteet, owner & head baker of Peteet's Famous Cheesecakes
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Bill Proctor and Assoc. focuses on finding truth in justice system

Searching out the truth might sound a tad cliché when it's used in the mission statement of a business, but these are words that mean a lot to Bill Proctor.

The recently retired TV news reporter has launched Bill Proctor and Associates in Farmington Hills. Proctor describes himself as "an activist for truth," and his company will focus on providing communications, investigative and legal services to individuals and businesses tangled in the U.S. legal system.

"I have found that the criminal justice system makes mistakes," Proctor says. "I am being kind. These mistakes ruin the lives of people, so for me the truth is very important."

Proctor worked for nearly 40 years in broadcast journalism before retiring in May. A majority of his career was spent at WXYZ Channel 7 in Detroit. He also served as a police officer in the Federal Protective Service while attending the University of Maryland.

Bill Proctor and Associates is composed of two employees and 24 independent contractors. It is looking at adding interns in the not-too-distant future. That staff will provide communications services, such as marketing, public relations, media training, crisis management, and multimedia production. It will also provide investigative and legal services, which includes investigations, subject/video surveillance, witness location, vendor theft, and background checks.

"I literally have a courtroom under my umbrella for mock trials and trial prep," Proctor says.

Source: Bill Proctor, president & CEO of Bill Proctor and Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Engineer leaves cubicle to start Mercury Studio tech firm

Zachary Ball isn't the sort of person who works well in a cubicle for a big company. It's a big reason why he now runs his own software company, Mercury Studio.

The mechanical engineer took a job at a major local automaker out of college in the late 1990s. After a few months he helped the company create some significant savings. The thanks he received was a piece of paper expressing the automaker's gratitude. It wasn’t a check.

"The cubicle life wasn't for me," Ball says. "I wanted to create an environment for my employees that will reward them for going above and beyond."

A few months later he started his own company. That evolved into the creation of Mercury Studio, a mobile app firm that recently moved to a bigger office in downtown Royal Oak. The 4-year-old firm has worked extensively in digital advertising and is now making custom apps for advertising agencies working in the automotive industry. That client list includes the likes of Jackson Dawson Communications in Dearborn. However, Ball would like to add some variety to his company’s client list.

"We want to expand all of our relationships with more marketing agencies out there," Ball says. "We would like to focus on non-automotive to show Metro Detroit isn't all about automotive."

Mercury Studio currently employs eight people and is looking for an intern. It has hired two people over the last year and is currently looking to hire a software developer.

Source: Zachary Ball, president & owner of Mercury Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Side-job mobile app startup 3lb Games goes full-time

The married-couple team of Robin Moulder-McComb and Colin McComb named their mobile app firm 3lb Games because three pounds is the average weight of the human brain.

"We have always found that when playing a game you are using your brain," Moulder-McComb says. "You are not just sitting there passively taking in information."

3lb Games makes mobile app video games. The Grosse Pointe-based couple started the company in 2008 as a part-time gig because they have backgrounds in video game design and development.

"We have all these skills so we thought this would be a way to bring all of those skills together," Moulder-McComb says.

One of the company's biggest hits is its Numenera game, which it describes as: "If you want to explore the Earth a billion years in the future in Monte Cook’s Numenera, you’ll need to be prepared. That’s where this app comes in handy! Designed to guide you through character creation for this science-fantasy RPG, the Numenera Character Creator app also allows you to track your progress in real-time while you play!"

The couple quit their day jobs early this year to take on projects like this and they quickly realized they had made the right decision. "In March I said, 'it's a really good thing I quit my full-time job,'" Moulder-McComb says. "We have just been working, working, working."

And doing it with more and more help. Even though 3lb Games just employs Moulder-McComb and McComb, it is giving work to an increasing number of independent contractors and interns.

Source: Robin Moulder-McComb, CEO, developer & producer of 3lb Games
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Software vets find mobile app success with Five Lakes Studio

To say Ken Vadella and Tod Cunningham are veterans of the software industry might be a bit of an understatement. The pair have 50 years of experience in the industry between them, so it's little wonder they made a go with their own mobile firm and turned it into a success.

"As new things come online it’s always exciting to jump on the bandwagon and see how it works," Vadella says.

Five Lakes Studio makes mobile app video games. The New Hudson-based startup was also recently named one of the state’s largest mobile app firms by Crain's Detroit Business. One of its biggest successes is Picross HD, a picture-puzzle game similar to Sudoku.

"It was one of the first things we did," Vadella says. "It's also one of our most successful apps so far."

Five Lakes Studio focuses mainly on creating its own video game apps that are for sale directly to consumers. It only entertains the idea of doing custom app work for other companies if the price is right.

"We value our free time a lot," Vadella says. "When we do something, we want to do something that will create a constant stream of revenue."

Source: Ken Vadella, co-owner of Five Lakes Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Kidpreneur brings entrepreneurship education to tweens

Thanh Tran is of the belief that more people would pursue entrepreneurship the earlier they start making money with their own business. It’s why he's launching an entrepreneurial education company for tweens, called Kidpreneur.

“We want them to be able to start that early,” Tran says. “That’s why we pick that niche of ages between eight and 13 years old.”

Kidpreneur’s 9-week classes will provide a start-up environment for young people at the offices of Digital Roots in the historic WaterWheel Centre in Northville. Students will learn the basics of building a business through new technology, such as building their own server for Minecraft, a video game where users can placing blocks to build anything they imagine.

“We want to give them a place where they can build their business idea into a reality,” Tran says.

Tran, a serial tech entrepreneur, plans to keep the classes to about four students to one teacher. They will also be divided into skill levels, such as beginner, intermediate and expert. The company plans to start its first class on Sept. 21. It currently employs four people.

Source: Thanh Tran, founder of Kidpreneur
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Livio hires 4 in Ferndale, looks to hire 4 more

Livio is looking for a few good entrepreneurs to come to work in Ferndale.

The tech start-up has four job openings for software engineers, and it's looking for people with an entrepreneurial mindset to fill those positions. Why would someone with entrepreneurial ambitions want to go work for someone else? Jake Sigal, Livio's CEO, explains that his company is looking more for someone with "an entrepreneurial attitude about software engineering."

"We look for problem-solving skills rather than expertise," Sigal says. He adds that other qualities Livio is looking for are software developers who are so passionate about coding that they do it in their free time. The company also wants people who can thrive on finding innovative solutions and can work without a lot of direction.

Livio has already hired four software engineers over the last year, expanding its staff to 15 employees and two interns.

Sigal started the company in 2008 as Livio Radio, making radios that could play Internet music websites like Pandora. It has evolved since then to include Livio Connect, which helps stream Internet radio, and other apps, from smart phones to an automobile's sound system. The company is currently working on a new platform called Livio Car Keys that Sigal describes as a platform serving as a marketplace for automobiles and mobile apps.

Livio has continued to grow over the last year, thanks mainly to what Sigal describes as the company's ability to pivot and turn around products quickly. That sort of nimbleness is thanks to the start-up's entrepreneurial culture, which is what Sigal wants to maintain with this latest round of new hires.

Source: Jake Sigal, CEO & founder of Livio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

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

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

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.
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