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Simons Michelson Zieve moves into dynamic new space

Simons Michelson Zieve's new home is light years away from its old space in regards to openness and feel. Its old and new homes are also just a few blocks away from each other in Troy.

The 85-year-old advertising agency just moved into its new office at 1200 Kirts Boulevard, which measures out to 12,000 square feet. The space is actually a little smaller than its previous office but it doesn’t feel that way, with wraparound windows bringing in more natural light and multiple floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled meeting spaces.

"It just feels bigger," says Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve.

The new office is much more open, conforming to the modern creative class demands of connecting people by breaking them out of the physical office silos. Michelson's team worked in several individual offices at the old office but wanted a more collegial atmosphere in its new one.

"People would say you have all of these wonderful people here but I can't see them," Michelson says.

Simons Michelson Zieve has a staff of 47 employees and a couple of interns. It has hired three people over the last year and is looking to hire another three right now. The open jobs include junior-level account coordinators. More info on the openings here

Source: Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Recovery Project adds 5 jobs, plans move to larger office

To say The Recovery Project comes from humble beginnings might be a bit of an understatement.

The physical rehabilitation firm got its start in the Livonia YMCA with three people in 2003. Today the company employs 40 people between its home base in Livonia and satellite office in Macomb Township. It has hired five people over the last year, including physical therapist assistants and technicians.

"We do plan on hiring over the next year," says Charles Parkhill, co-CEO of The Recovery Project. "Probably 4-6 over the next year."

The Recovery Project specializes in high-intensity physical therapy and rehab services. It has full-service independent clinics in Livonia and Macomb. The company has watched its revenue jump 20 percent over the last year as more and more doctors refer patients.

"They only come when doctors see progress with their patients," Parkhill says.

The Recovery Project is also planning to move its Macomb Township facility to a larger space next year. The new space will be about double the square footage of its 2,700-square-foot office.

"We expect our clientele to quickly fill out the space," Parkhill says.

Source: Charles Parkhill, co-CEO of The Recovery Project
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Farmington Hills-based ReapSo launches 2.0 version of app

Mobile startup ReapSo is launching the 2.0 version of its brand-advocacy app this fall.

The Farmington Hills-based company’s platform connects fans with the brands. It encourages its users to "WIN. VOTE. SAVE." so they can win prizes, voice their opinion and save money. Check out a video on it here.

The new version is focused on making those connections on broadcast mediums.

"We have expanded the 2.0 version to go after TV and radio channels with enhanced digital strategies," says Bill Wildern, co-founder & CEO of ReapSo. He adds, "You can get audience pulse with immediate feedback. They can send that out via social media."

ReapSo has grown its staff to seven employees. It is focusing on establishing the 2.0 version of its app across the U.S. this year and next.

"We want to grow the value proposition," Wildern says.

Source: Bill Wildern, co-founder & CEO of ReapSo
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ease Living brings style to home medical equipment

Getting old isn't really fashionable in the 21st century. A new company in Beverly Hills is trying to change that.

Ease Living sells lifestyle aids for seniors and people with disabilities. The offerings are curated to help bring more fashionable items to the people who need them, such as compression socks with patterns.

"Most of the common home medical equipment doesn't work very well and it's ugly," says Alison Emerick, president of Ease Living.

Emerick is an occupational therapist who launched the company from her home a year ago. She sees making these sorts of fashionable offerings as bringing mobility and dignity to the people who need them.

"No one want their house to look like a hospital room," Emerick says.

Ease Living sells its wares from its website. Emerick is looking at adding a print catalogue to appeal to older customers. She is also looking at the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar shop in the next year.

Source: Alison Emerick, president of Ease Living
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Designers come together to launch TAKD Design

Three designers from various backgrounds have come together to launch their own design firm, TAKD Design.

Colin Tury, Sean Kilgore and Salvatore Asaro have spent the last year making everything from wooden bow ties to shipping-container architecture.

"We were always intrigued about this multi-dimensional design focus," Asaro says.

The Sterling Heights-based company helped design the shipping-container offices proposed for the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative’s offices in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. They are also creating a number of unusual consumer products from wood, such as bottle openers and bow ties.

"We just launched the website store for that," Asaro says. "It's been pretty successful."

TAKD Design is run virtually from each of the co-founder's homes in the suburbs. However, the trio would like to open their own office in Detroit next year.

"We love everything that is going on down there," Asaro says.

Source: Salvatore Asaro, co-founder & principal of TAKD Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

GreenPath credit-counseling organization hires 55 in Michigan

GreenPath is expanding by opening up new credit-counseling offices across the U.S.

The Farmington Hills-based non-profit has opened five offices over the last year, including new offices in Escanaba and Canton. It now has 60 offices across 12 states.

"Our primary growth has been opening up the new offices," says Kurt Murphy, CFO of GreenPath.

The 53-year-old non-profit has been helping people regain control of their finances through counseling and strategic planning. That means helping clients avoid foreclosure or repairing their credit scores.

GreenPath has grown to the point where it employs 470 people. A majority of them are based in Michigan (385) with 310 employees at the organization’s Farmington Hills headquarters. It has hired 65 people over the last year, including 55 in Michigan. Those jobs ranged from IT professionals to customer service reps.

GreenPath's revenue growth has been flat over the last year. Murphy attributes that to the growing economy and how hard American consumers were hit at the last recession.

"People got hit pretty hard," Murphy says. "It makes you a bit more careful before you pull that credit card out."

Source: Kurt Murphy, CFO of GreenPath
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HealthRise hires 15 people, looks to add 6 more

David Farbman knows a business opportunity when he sees one. For him and his new company, HealthRise, that opportunity is improving the healthcare industry.

Farbman says he was looking for a market with lots of churn and change taking place. That is healthcare in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. Farbman saw a big marketplace in need of improvement in many different areas.

"I believe the patient experience today has holes," Farbman says. "I believe the patient experience causes a lot of problems at hospitals."

The Southfield-based firm helps local healthcare systems create solutions by staying ahead of the curve of the latest regulatory requirements, insurance payment and denial patterns, and business processes. It also helps hospitals improve their patient-care systems. It got its start providing services to Oakwood Healthcare last year, and is now looking to expand into Botsford and Beaumont Health Systems over the next year.

"I want us to scale into at least five hospital systems," Farbman says.

HealthRise has hired 15 people over the last year, and is looking to add another six right now. It currently has 30 employees.

Source: David Farbman, founder & CEO of HealthRise
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Hopeful Harvest offers space to grow for food startups

Forgotten Harvest is going entrepreneurial with its own subsidiary that is aimed at growing the local food economy.

Hopeful Harvest, a C corporation, will provide work space, mentoring services, and a commercial kitchen to local food startups looking to grow. The idea is to use the revenue generated from Hopeful Harvest to support the operations of the Forgotten Harvest, the nation's largest fresh-food rescue operation.

"This is an additional way for us to support our operation," says Chris Nemeth, senior director of social enterprise for Forgotten Harvest. "Every penny of profit from Hopeful Harvest will be donated to Forgotten Harvest."

The Oak Park-based operation will be based out of Forgotten Harvest's main facility. It will provided space for full-service food processing, packaging, and a 750-square-foot commercial kitchen. Marketing and consulting services will also be available.

Hopeful Harvest, which is starting off with a staff of six people, has already lined up six local food startups to take advantage of its services, including McClary Bros Vinegars, Slow Jams Jam, and Beau Bien Fine Foods. Five more are also ready to join the Hopeful Harvest operations.

"Realistically, by the end of our first full year we hope to have between 25-30 clients,” Nemeth says.

Source: Chris Nemeth, senior director of social enterprise for Forgotten Harvest
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Veggie Pails delivers fresh veggies in Oakland County

Melissa Tabalno and Nicole Converse spent a lot of time in Alaska in recent years, working in the fishing industry.

The partners are back home in Metro Detroit now after getting their new business, Veggie Pails, off the ground. The Highland-based business delivers buckets (or pails) of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other locally produced foods to customers across Oakland County.

"This is a business to get us back on land," Tabalno says.

She and Converse turned Veggie Pails into their full-time jobs earlier this year. The company has now grown to the point where it is looking for its own commercial space to operate out of. Tabalno and Converse are specifically looking for a storefront/warehouse combo where they can build their core business and a retail presence.

In the meantime Veggie Pails is growing through word of mouth and on the strength of its pails full of nutritious food.

"Our pails are really pretty," Tabalno says, saying how the company is continuing to focus on the presentation of its product.

Source: Melissa Tabalno, co-owner of Veggie Pails
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PublicCity PR leverages PRConsultantsGroup for future growth

PublicCity PR recently scored membership in an organization the boutique public relations agency expects will lead to growth beyond its normal metro Detroit stomping grounds.

PRConsultantsGroup recently choose the Southfield-based firm as its Michigan representative after its previous rep folded up shop. The 14-year-old organization is composed of senior-level public relations and marketing consultants in every major market in the U.S. Members often work together on projects with each member acting as the expert for their region.

"You don't always have the time to learn a new city," says Jason Brown, co-founder of PublicCity PR. "Who are the people to speak to in St. Louis or Chicago? Now we have the resources on the ground in those places."

PRConsultantsGroup members have worked with some big corporate names, including 7-Eleven, Procter & Gamble, and Wal-Mart. PublicCity PR has grown steadily since it was launched in 2008. It now employs four people and Brown expects the firm to grow even more in the next few years as PRConsultantsGroup members look to do more work with his firm.

"The business has grown as it always has, through word of mouth," Brown says.

Now it looks like those words can travel much further and faster than ever before.

Source: Jason Brown, co-founder of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Technology Solutions hires 4 employees, looks to add 2 more

If people can get by with a little help from their friends, then Technology Solutions is getting ahead with a lot of help from its clients. The Livonia-based IT firm has grown 350 percent since 2009.

"It's another record-setting year," says Steve Futrell, CEO of Technology Solutions. "We have some great projects all around the year. We have a lot of those here."

The 19-year-old company specializes in VOIP work in the voice and data industry. It deals with a broad variety of clients ranging from global companies to local institutional organizations, like school districts.

"We have great clients," Futrell says. "Our clients have had a lot of great growth over the years."
 
Which has equated to more work for Technology Solutions. And that has meant adding more staff. Technology Solutions has hired four people over the last year, including three engineers and one customer advocate. It now has a staff of 15 employees and is looking to add two interns, along with other workers.

"We're interviewing for two more positions (a sales manager and a network engineer) right now," Futrell says.

Source: Steve Futrell, CEO of Technology Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Brogan & Partners adds 5 jobs in downtown Birmingham

New jobs and promotions have been cropping up at Brogan & Partners this year.

The advertising and digital marketing agency recently promoted three account managers (Kristin Morris, Katie Rehrauer and Morgan Eberle) to account directors. It has also hired five people over the last year, including another account director. The company currently employs 42 people, including 27 employees at its downtown Birmingham headquarters.

"We're hoping to get a really good intern that can become a permanent position," says Ellyn Davidson, managing partner of Brogan & Partners.

The 30-year-old firm has enjoyed 12-percent revenue growth over the last year. That makes for its best year since 2008. It’s also looking to increase revenue by 20 percent in 2014. The firm has more work with existing clients like HoneyBaked Ham and has attracted new clients, like ComForcare, Frankenmuth Insurance, and Michigan First Credit Union.

Brogan & Partners hopes to turn each of those new clients into a long-term business relationship. Davidson is optimistic that will happen thanks to the company’s track record of staying ahead of what’s coming up in the digital marketing world.

"We're heavily invested in research in what's new in marketing and what's next," Davidson says. "We stay on top of how communications are changing."

Source: Ellyn Davidson, managing partner of Brogan & Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dynamic Robotic Solutions aims to double in size

KMT Robotic Solutions is rebranding itself as Dynamic Robotic Solutions, and the Auburn Hills-based company has some big plans for growth over the next few years.

"Our goal is to double in size over the next 3-5 years," says Dick Johnson, director of business development and marketing for Dynamic Robotic Solutions.

The 29-year-old company has made a name for itself in robotic trimming with more than 1,500 of its systems installed around the world. Dynamic Robotic Solutions more specifically works with water jet cutting. So while the water coming out of a faucet may clock in at 20-25 psi, the water Dynamic Robotic Solutions's robots use spits out at 65,000 psi. That’s strong enough to take the flesh off your finger.

"If you add in a little bit of sand into the stream you can cut two-inch steel," Johnson says.

Robotic cutting is often used in manufacturing, such as cutting the roof liners in cars, carpet for automotive floor mats, and plastic in instrument panels.

The company had its best year in 2012 in regard to revenue growth and is on track to have another strong year. It has hired five people over the last year, expanding its staff to 60 employees. It’s also looking to hire a handful of people in software engineering and sales.

Source: Dick Johnson, director of business development and marketing for Dynamic Robotic Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sisters launch organic deodorant company, Rustic Maka

A pair of sisters in White Lake have turned making organic deodorant into their own company, Rustic Maka.

Kasia Rothe and Monica Stakvel started down this road a few years ago when Rothe was pregnant and developed a body odor she didn't like. She couldn’t do much about it with options available on store shelves.

"Nothing seemed to be working for me," Rothe says.

So she started making her own deodorant. Rothe is also a stickler for living a healthy lifestyle so she made sure she only used natural ingredients, leaving out the likes of parabens and aluminum that are often found in deodorants.

"We realized deodorant, among other things, has a ton of bad ingredients," Rothe says.

That home-made deodorant turned into the answer Rothe needed, working for her for 12-24 hours. She and Stakvel turned it into Pachy, the new odor-fighting deodorant for Rustic Maka. They launched the company in February and have been selling Pachy online and in 12 stores (primarily natural foods shops) across the state.

"We're hoping we can get some national exposure and take this to the next level," Rothe says.

Source: Kasia Rothe, co-founder of Rustic Maka
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Father & son launch car-mechanic software startup, Optus Software

Martin Waldo played around with an idea for a startup that would help create trust between automotive mechanics and motorists a few years ago.

The idea went sideways at the time, and he put it to the side. Then his son, Austin Waldo, graduated from the University of Michigan early this year, and the father-son duo became inspired.

"We decided to relaunch and try again," Austin Waldo says.

That's how Optus Software began early this year. The Northville-based startup is creating a software platform that enables mechanics to utilize visual media to help gain the trust of their clients. So when a motorist comes in to get a car fixed, the mechanic can show them pictures or video of the problem and any other problems that arise during the inspection.

"It's a whole 360 transparency experiment so the customer can feel like they can trust the dealership," Austin Waldo says.

Optus Software's team of three people is currently testing the system with a large car dealership group at two of its dealerships in Canton and Plymouth. They plan to sell it to the dealerships as software as a service.

"We're close to having a finalized product," Austin Waldo says.

Source: Austin Waldo, co-founder of Optus Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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