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Grosse Pointe : Innovation & Job News

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Inter-Lingua grows on bump in translation work

Randi Lou Franklin started her own business for lots of usual reasons. She was tired of working long hours to advance other people’s companies and wanted to share in the fruits of her ideas to make money.

So one day, 25 years ago, she decided her daily grind of working for someone else was "ridiculous" and launched her own firm, Inter-Lingua. The Grosse Pointe-based language and cultural services firm chugged along nicely for its first two decades. Then the double-whammy of the Great Recession and a sick mother hit Franklin and nearly ended her business.

Franklin and her core team of two stuck it out and have rebuilt Inter-Lingua over the last two years. It has watched its workload increase thanks to the likes of MDOT, the Oakland County Circuit Court and local universities, such as Wayne State and Michigan State.

"We're doing a lot more translation work," Franklin says.

Inter-Lingua now employs three people and regularly gives work to a stable of 500 independent contractors. It has recently expanded its team to include more Arabic speakers to meet the growing demand for Arabic language services.

"Our pulse in the Arabic community has gotten stronger," Franklin says. "We have added three Arabic translators that we call on quite frequently."

Source: Randi Lou Franklin, CEO of Inter-Lingua
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.

Grosse Pointer turns memories into Detroit Scroll biz

Patti Kay is turning nostalgia into moolah with her art-based business, Detroit Scroll.

The Grosse Pointe-based company got its start when Kay was traveling and saw prints of bus stops stacked on one another. It inspired her to start Detroit Scroll and create the Detroit version of that.

"They were really cool but I didn't want one from another city," Kay says. "I wanted one from Detroit."

Those scrolls show the streets from Detroit-based bus routes in the 20th Century. Street names only Detroiters would recognize, like Fenkell, Fort and Fullerton, are listed in black and white and framed as wall art.

"The resonate with everybody because of Detroit pride," Kay says. "Everybody recognizes their street or their bus route."

The 2-year-old business became Kay's full-time job in December. She just hired an administrative assistant and steadily gives work to an independent contractor. Detroit Scroll's business has steadily grown to the point that it is now offering t-shirts, glassware, stationary and apparel.

"I have been told if you do something you love you will never work another day in your life," Kay says. "That's so true for me."

Source: Patti Kay, owner of Detroit Scroll
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Slow food firm Slow Jams adds 5 employees in first year

If you frequent high-end groceries and eateries, there is a decent chance you have seen the little jars of Slow Jams jelly. The Grosse Pointe-based slow food firm has gone from household project to emerging household name in Metro Detroit in its first year.

"We knew we could make a high-quality Michigan jam,"says Shannon Byrne, owner of Slow Jams. "We use Michigan ingredients and products, and it's all made in our state."

Slow Jams now employs five Michiganders to make its jams, along with a couple of interns. The newly licensed wholesale producer supplies its jams and jellies at marquee places, like Avalon International Breads, Mudgies Deli, and the kitchen at The Henry Ford. Its products are also in a number of local grocery stores and restaurants, and those numbers are growing as the company continues to gain traction in the slow food market.

"We want to keep that growth curve," Byrne says. "We're adding a couple of new stores each week."

Source: Shannon Byrne, owner of Slow Jams
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Former Identity partner launches own firm, LV8 Communications

Tom Nixon had entrepreneurial scratch fever, and he decided to treat it by starting his own business, LV8 Communications.

"For the last several months the entrepreneurial itch has been itching," says Nixon, president of LV8 Communications. "The only way you can satisfy that itch is by scratching it. I wanted to create my own business with my own vision.

Nixon served as a co-managing partner with Identity Public Relations in Bingham Farms for 13 years before leaving to start his own PR and marketing firm this summer. Its first clients include a wide range of companies, including an architectural firm in Baltimore and Illuminating Concepts in Farmington Hills.

Nixon's vision for his Grosse Pointe-based business is to create a full-spectrum agency that can find a problem with a client's brand and find the most comprehensive solution to solving it. That could mean more public relations or perhaps a better online marketing campaign.

LV8 Communications is still in its first month of existence and only employs Nixon and a few independent contractors. He expects to grow his staff to 5-10 people in its first year.

Source: Tom Nixon, president of LV8 Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Green Flag Credit grows out of the start-up gate in Grosse Pointe

To Charles Wood, selling a car always comes down to the questions a car buying asks. Wood has been selling cars since he was 18 in the early 1980s and is now heading up a start-up that streamlines the online car-buying experience called Green Flag Credit. The start-up is based on answering a few core, hot button, buying questions.

"People always had a set of questions," Wood says. "If we could answer them the chances of us selling a car go up dramatically."

Green Flag Credit is developing online digital marketing capabilities that build these buying questions into an auto dealer's website. Those questions range from "Can I get pre-approved" and "What's my payment?" The Grosse Pointe-based start-up has put together software than immediately answers those questions and feeds the sale lead to the dealership.

"People go all over the Internet searching for those answers," Wood says.

The 5-month-old start-up is working on a Beta version of its product with five dealers, which should conclude later this summer. It recently received a microloan from the Michigan Microloan Fund, which is is using to finish development of its software and expand its team of four people.

Source: Charles Wood, president of Green Flag Credit
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Harrington Communications expands staff in Grosse Pointe

Harrington Communications has watched both its client list and staff grow in tandem over the last year.

The Grosse Pointe-based marketing agency has added close to 20 new clients over the last year. In that same time it has hired two new people (a graphic designer and an account manager) and is looking to hire another graphic designer right now. The company currently employs six people and three independent contractors.

Spurring this growth has been Harrington Communications switch to more digital-oriented work. The company got its start seven years ago doing print design and general marketing work. It now has narrowed its client list to mainly professional service firms and is focusing on Internet marketing and digital design work, which now composes 50 percent of the firm's work.

"These are the two principal areas where we have grown or evolved," says Jay Harrington, CEO & co-owner of Harrington Communications.

Harrington Communications now specializes in branding, website design and development, email marketing and content creation for law, accounting, consulting and other professional services firms.

Source: Jay Harrington, CEO & co-owner of Harrington Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MomsTwoMoms.com launches maternal eBay platform in Grosse Pointe

Anthony Majewski is a children's book author who has a lot of interaction with mothers. One of the things he noticed is that a lot of these mothers had need for maternal items and wanted an option to acquire them without paying a premium. That's when the CFL went off over Majewski's head and he began working on MomsTwoMoms.com.

"There is a void in the market place to sell specific mom-to-mom items," says Anthony Majewski, founder of MomsTwoMoms.com. "Why don't we have a moms-to-moms online store?"

The Grosse Pointe-based start-up provides an online platform for mothers to sell gently used items to other mothers. Those items could range from baby clothes to maternity clothes to children's books.

"It basically prepares that new mom for the experience," Majewski says. "This way they don't have to pay premium prices at stores."

MomsTwoMoms.com has grown from just Majewski a year ago to three people today. It plans to add an intern or two this summer. It recently redesigned its website and is planning to open up a brick-and-mortar retail store. Franchising the business in the future is also an option.

Source: Anthony Majewski, founder of MomsTwoMoms.com
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Hard Luck Candy flavored vodka goes west

Hard Luck Candy has conquered Michigan with its flavored vodka and is looking west. The Grosse Pointe-based liquor company has recently entered the California market and has its sights set on Chicago and other major U.S. markets.

"I'd like to be in six more states by the end of the year," says Chris George, vice president of Hard Luck Candy.

Hard Luck Candy has come a long way since it was born in the Hard Luck Lounge in Grosse Pointe a few years ago. In a little less than two years, it has become a common sight on the shelves of liquor stores and bars across Michigan. It is now in Michigan's Kroger, Meijer and Hollywood Market stores.

"We're in between 900 and 1,000 locations in Michigan," George says. "Six months ago we were in 600-700 locations in Michigan."

Hard Luck Candy's team of eight people is working with both local and national public relations firms to spread the word about its vodka. Its products primarily consist of Red Fish (a berry flavor), Root Beer Barrel, Orange Dream (orange and vanilla) and Lemon Drop (sweet and sour).

Source: Chris George, vice president of Hard Luck Candy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Hard Luck Candy establishes vodka distillery in St. Clair Shores

A small group of friends began selling flavor-infused vodka at their Grosse Pointe-based bar, the Hard Luck Lounge, a few years ago. That little experiment proved profitable with patrons asking to buy their own bottles of flavored vodka, giving birth to Hard Luck Candy.

"We saw such a demand for it that we started thinking, how can we get this into other bars and stores?" says Chris George, vice president of Hard Luck Candy. He co-founded the craft-liquor firm based in St. Clair Shores with Mike Mouyianis and Rob Nicholl.

Today the 3-year-old company produces 50 cases of flavored vodka a week for hundreds of locations across Michigan. Its products primarily consist of Red Fish (a berry flavor) and Root Beer Barrel. It will premiere two more flavors called Orange Dream (orange and vanilla) and Lemon Drop (sweet and sour) in May.

"We've had really good growth and really good support for our Michigan-made products," George says.

Hard Luck Candy vodka is distilled in Temperance, a 45-minute drive south from Detroit. It's sold at 700 locations (liquor stores, bars and restaurants) across Michigan. George and his partners plan to expand into six other states and Canada over the next year. That should prompt them to add two more employees to their team of five people and a couple of independent contractors.

Source: Chris George, vice president of Hard Luck Candy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

BELLE Capital targets women-led biz for VC investment, plans $25M fund

Venture capital is hard enough to come by these days, but it's even harder for women-led start-ups trying to get off the ground.

Enter
BELLE Capital, a new venture capital firm that aims to invest in women-led companies or firms that plan to add those without Y chromosomes to their leadership team. Lauren Flanagan, co-founder and managing director of BELLE Capital, states this sort of targeting is necessary in today's entrepreneurial ecosystem, where women-led companies are being formed at a faster rate than anything else.

"We're bringing a solution to the problem," Flanagan says.

The VC firm plans to take advantage of the lack of seed capital in the Midwest by establishing offices near Holland and in Metro Detroit. Right now it is located in Grosse Pointe Farms but is looking at office space in downtown Detroit.

BELLE Capital plans to raise a $25 million fund primarily from Midwestern-based investors. It plans to make 3-5 investments this year and an average of 2-4 annually. It's focusing on finding firms that specialize in the IT, technology-enabled services, life sciences, cleantech and advanced manufacturing sectors.

Source: Lauren Flanagan, co-founder and managing director of BELLE Capital
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Healthcare providers team up on blood clot prevention

A group of prominent healthcare organizations are partnering to cut the occurrence of blood clots by as much as 50 percent over the next two years in a coordinated effort to improve patient care and reduce medical costs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, and the University of Michigan Medical Center are leading the effort with 16 hospitals from across the state, including Beaumont and Oakwood healthcare systems. The idea is that this collaboration, part of Value Partnerships, will expand its focus.

"The expectation is the collaboration will take on other things as the years go by," says Tom Leyden, manager of clinical program development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

For now, the new initiative will focus on getting the state's major hospitals to reduce the risk of blood clots, a common problem that causes further sickness or even death. The new consortium will work in unison to study, benchmark, and implement best practices to eliminate preventable blood clots.

Just about all patients who are hospitalized are at risk of suffering adverse effects from clotting, some of which are often as serious as death. A double-digit reduction would be a seen as a big step forward.

"It's not perfect," says Scott Flanders, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center and the project director for this initiative. "We're never going to be able to get rid of these things."

Sources: Scott Flanders, professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center; Tom Leyden, manager of clinical program development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

EcoV electric car debuts at Maker Faire

Last weekend's Maker Faire at The Henry Ford was all about showcasing the inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs who are constantly creating new things. It was a perfect fit for Grosse Pointe Woods-based EnVironmental Transportation Solutions to showcase its invention – the EcoV.

The EcoV is a street-legal automobile that comfortably reaches 25 mph on surface streets. The all-electric vehicle has a range of 40 miles when fully charged and can run on 50 cents' worth of electricity for eight hours each day while producing zero emissions. It has a payload capacity of 1,000-1,500 pounds and retails for about $12,000.

"We've seen such a tremendous interest in the product that it's amazing to me," says Richard Marks, president of EnVironmental Transportation Solutions.

The six-person company has revamped its prototype vehicle so it looks "so much more finished and polished," according to Marks. It comes in both electric-only and electricity-generating propane versions. He has manufacturing lined up and is working to secure up to $4 million in seed capital to get the project into the market.

"We're looking to start production early next year," Marks says.

Source: Richard Marks, president of EnVironmental Transportation Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Yoga Shelter plans to expand into Ann Arbor, Macomb County

Yoga is not exclusive. That's the idea Steve Feldman and his partners had in mind when they started the Yoga Shelter in West Bloomfield in 2004.

They deemed
a lot of yoga houses unfriendly to the neophyte. Places that read directions only in Sanskrit or practiced in ways only yoga snobs appreciated. The partners did the opposite, including offering the first week free to make newcomers feel comfortable.

"It was really about making yoga accessible to all," Feldman says.

It has worked. The company welcomes about 650 new students each month. That has allowed it to expand to five studios, including Royal Oak, Grosse Pointe, Birmingham, and Studio City, California, where one of the partners is expanding the brand. There are also plans to open new locations in Ann Arbor and a yet-to-be-determined place in Macomb County later this year.

After starting with a crew of eight, the West Bloomfield-based firm now employs about 50 people. It expects to expand its staff to 65-70 when the new locations open by the end of the year.

Source: Steve Feldman, co-founder of the Yoga Shelter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit's Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes targets new shops

One of downtown Detroit's favorite small businesses is spreading its wings not only across the Metro Detroit region but across the Midwest.

Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes is opening up a new location in Toledo and building out a new space in Grosse Pointe. The Detroit-based creperie is also looking at opening in a few other spots in southeast Michigan and even other major metro areas in the Midwest, such as Chicago. This latest burst of expansion is expected to grow the company's payroll from eight people today to 24 by the end of the year.

Expanding in today's tight credit market is no easy feat for small businesses. Torya Blanchard, Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes' founder and owner, says she is accomplishing this by taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to her. For instance, Blanchard says the Toledo location, which is near the University of Toledo, was formerly a café, making the expansion inexpensive.

"It's a lot of hard work and good luck," Blanchard says. "You need to keep your nose to the grindstone and make rational decisions."

She adds that she is expanding the creperie in the Park Shelton building (next to the DIA) in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood from 900 to 1,700 square feet. The original small stand in downtown Detroit next to Oslo is closed for good while Blanchard focuses her business on sit-down spaces.

"I feel very nostalgic for that location. It's my baby," Blanchard says. "But it takes as much work as a sit-down location. I hope someone else can use that location as a place to get their start now."

Source: Torya Blanchard, owner of Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes
Writer: Jon Zemke
100 Grosse Pointe Articles | Page: | Show All
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