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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.

LookInTheAttic moves into new Romulus facility

Ypsilanti-based LookInTheAttic has moved the bulk of its operations to a new facility in Romulus, creating jobs with plans to hire more.

LookInTheAttic sells antique reproduction hardware and housewares and also owns Silver & Gold, an online jewelry store. The 15-year-old firm has traditionally sold its products both at its downtown Ypsilanti storefront and online. However, the company's recent rapid growth forced it to find a bigger home close to its original home.

That's when LookInTheAttic CEO John Coleman found the new facility in Romulus. The 13,000 square-foot building has enough spare room to accommodate LookInTheAttic's expected growth for the next few years. It also features a large warehouse, conference space and a training room.

"It's really nice," Coleman says.

For now, LookInTheAttic has moved its 14 employees to the new space in Romulus, including four recent hires. The company is also in the process of hiring eight more sales people. The workforce will remained centered in Romulus while the firm renovates its downtown Ypsilanti space into a design center.

Source: John Coleman, CEO of LookInTheAttic
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DTE's 500 summer jobs for youth hitting region's suburbs

DTE Energy Foundation has been helping young people in the city of Detroit find jobs for several years now through its summer jobs initiative. The effort normally means several hundred quality positions, often first jobs, for young people in places where work is an uncommon commodity.

The downtown Detroit-based charitable organization is looking to spread the working wealth. The youth summer employment initiative plans to fund up to 500 jobs this summer in both Detroit and some of its economically challenged suburbs.

"We are looking to grow beyond Detroit to some other communities that are vulnerable, like Ypsialnti, Muskegeon and Pontiac," says Karla Hill, vice president of DTE Energy Foundation.

DTE Energy Foundation made a $750,000 commitment, which includes a $500,000 grant to the Grow Detroit's Young Talent program. That is the largest private donation toward its fundraising goal of $2 million. The additional $250,000 from the DTE Energy Foundation will be used to enhance Detroit's program and expand to other communities across the state.

DTE Energy Foundation plans to work with about 50 community partners to place teens and young adults in jobs. The foundation's $500,000 grant to Grow Detroit will fund nearly 350 jobs in the non-profit's Young Talent program. The summer jobs program begins in July and runs for six weeks. For information, click here.

Source: Karla Hill, vice president of DTE Energy Foundation
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MEDC makes connection between start-ups and seed capital funds

The number of seed capital options for early entrepreneurs in Metro Detroit have risen significantly in recent years, prompting the Michigan Economic Development Corp to increase efforts to connect these entrepreneurs with cash funds.

The MEDC will host a series of events showcasing the seed-funding and business-building options available to Michigan's growing class of entrepreneurs. These free events, which kickoff next week, are designed to help entrepreneurs and start-ups find growth opportunities through the business services and financial support made available through MEDC-supported business incubators and accelerators across the Great Lakes State.

"Michigan is different than any other state because we truly fund an ecosystem," says Paula Sorrell, managing director of entrepreneurship for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The Metro Detroit meetings will take advantage of programs at Detroit-based Next Energy, along with Ann Arbor-based programs and seed capital funds like Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, Biotechnology Business Consultants, Michigan Angel Fund, Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, Michigan Venture Capital Association.

"It's not unusual for a company to take advantage of 4-8 programs from the state to further their businesses," Sorrell says.

The 70-minute presentations based in Metro Detroit will be held on Monday and Tuesday at places like the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, Next Energy, the Macomb-OU INCubator and Automation Alley. For information, click here.

Source: Paula Sorrell, managing director of entrepreneurship for the Michigan Economic Development Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Craft alcohol goes mainstream in Metro Detroit

Michigan is cementing its reputation as the Great Beer State but Metro Detroit is expanding that reputation with growing companies that make vodka and meade. Ferndale-based B. Nektar Meadery and Valentine Vodka are expanding their distribution across the U.S. Arbor Brewing Company (from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti) is spreading its brand to India and craft brewing continues to grow exponentially. Cheers!

Making The Jump: A Q&A with Brad Dahlhofer and Paul Zimmerman of B. Nektar Meadery

What Does It Mean To Be Business Friendly? A Conversation with Valentine Vodka's Rifino Valentine

Beer's Better Half

Strange Brew: A Q&A with Rene and Matt Greff

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

Metro Detroit start-ups turn smartphones into biz apportunities

The app economy is here and growing in Metro Detroit. A broad range of start-ups and businesses are finding creative ways to boost their bottom lines by developing custom and original apps. Some are even basing their entire business plan around it and growing like crazy.

Texts From Last Night: A Q&A with Ben and Phillip Bator

Mobiata adds 10 jobs, moves to bigger space in Ann Arbor's Nickels Arcade

Future Help Designs sets up shop in downtown Pontiac

Metro Detroit start-ups dominate Accelerate Michigan

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

Metro Detroit start-ups dominate Accelerate Michigan

Metro Detroit firms swept into the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and ran away with most of the $1 million in awards last month.

After a Kalamazoo-based business, Arume BioSciences, took first place last year, Metro Detroit-based firms took the top two prizes and most of the industry awards in the competition's second year. Life Sciences start-up DeNovo Sciences (founded in Ypsilanti and moving to Plymouth) won the $500,000 first prize while green tech firm Fusion Coolant Systems (based in Ypsilanti and opening a tech center in Detroit) took second place and the $150,000 that comes with it.

"If I can take anything back to Washington, D.C., it's that it should focus on Michigan," Peter Perez, deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing for the U.S. Depart­ment of Commerce, said during his keynote address at the Accelerate Michigan awards gala. "They are working on and doing great things."

Companies based in or with strong ties to Ann Arbor led the way with many winning $25,000 awards. The winners were i3D Technologies in the IT area, OcuSciences in life sciences, LLamasoft in product and services, Advanced Cooling Therapy in medical devices, ePack for next generation manufacturing. NEXTGEN Metabolomics took the AARP Encore Award and Are You a Human won the student competition.

Other Metro Detroit firms to pull down $25,000 awards were Bloomfield Hills-based ENRG Power Systems in the advanced transportation division and InfiChem Polymers of Sterling Heights in the advanced materials category.

Source: Peter Perez, deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing for the U.S. Depart­ment of Commerce
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Procter & Gamble inks research deal with Michigan's public universities

Many big corporations have master research agreements with the public universities in Michigan. However, a new deal with Procter & Gamble could provide a platform for expanded master agreements and encompass all of Michigan's public universities.

This type of far-reaching agreement is the first of its kind and modeled off a similar agreement Procter & Gamble brokered with Ohio (its home state) last year.

"The biggest opportunity we see is to develop a relationship with a Fortune 500 company to build better research with it," says Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor. "We want to do that not only with our research universities but with the rest of the universities in the state."

The idea is to simplify and streamline the process of commercializing research. This new deal is expected to create an environment that will accelerate turning research from universities into new businesses by having one simple, broad-reaching agreement.

"Hopefully, we'll see results sooner than we would without this," Mason says.

Source: Jeff Mason, executive director of University Research Corridor
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MEDC's $45 million worth of auto, manufacturing deals add up to 450 jobs

Automotive and manufacturing outside of the Big 3 were also big winners on Tuesday when the Michigan Economic Development Corp announced billions of dollars in new investments.

Six state tax credit deals totaling $45.2 million worth of investment that will create 450 new jobs across Metro Detroit were announced. Those cities include Ypsilanti, Madison Heights, Plymouth, Harrison Township, Auburn Hills, Fenton, and Troy.

Among the most promising for Michigan's new economy is Powertrain Integration's $2 million investment in New Eagle for its development of fuel-efficient technology for automobiles. Madison Heights-based Powertrain Integration is an automotive supplier for niche vehicles. Its investment in New Eagle is prompted in part by a $300,000 state technology collaboration tax credit, a unique software code for use in an automotive engine control module that will help make cars more fuel efficient. Plus it will create 42 new jobs.

"What it does is enables existing Michigan companies to invest in startups," says Elizabeth Parkinson, vice-president of marketing & communications for Ann Arbor SPARK.

Among the other deals are:

- Cequent Performance Products is investing $3.4 million to broaden its research and development and sales operations in Plymouth. Cequent designs, manufactures, and markets a broad range of aftermarket accessories for the transportation industry. The state tax credit of $896,963 over six years is expected to create 60 new jobs.

- Creative Foam, a designer and manufacturer of foams and plastics for the automotive and medical industries, plans to invest $1.5 million to expand its Fenton facility so it can manufacture parts for wind turbine blades. The MEDC gave the company a $362,386 tax incentive over five years that should create 63 jobs.

- Dokka Fasteners received a $1.5 million state tax credit for its investment in a new Auburn Hills operations. The manufacturer of hot-formed bolts primarily for the wind industry plans to invest $21 million and create 90 jobs over the next seven years.

- Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems is sinking $17 million into expanding its Harrison Township facilities, a move expected to create 131 new jobs. The China-based company received a $1.1 million state tax credit over seven years.  

- Troy-based P3 North America, a professional management services and engineering firm, will invest $332,000 into its operations for electric device technology and laboratory testing for infotainment systems and other connected vehicle technologies. The new investment is expected to create 65 new jobs over the next five years, thanks to a $485,958 state tax credit.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corp and Elizabeth Parkinson, vice president of marketing & communications for Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Jon Zemke and Kristin Lukowski

Detroit Electric car brand scores microloan

The future of the automobile got a little boost earlier this week when Detroit Electric received financing from the Michigan Microloan Fund Program.

The Brighton-based start-up joined Ypsilanti's Ergun Technology and Ann Arbor-based Local Orbit in splitting $140,000 in microloans. The microloans help new economy-based start-ups push forward product development and commercialization.

Detroit Electric is the oldest electric car brand in the U.S., getting its start in the early 20th Century. It went dormant until a few years ago, when it was revived by a Chinese firm to make electric cars. This microloan will help Detroit Electric's efforts to establish and grow its current two-man office into a world headquarters and technical center that employs hundreds of people.

"We're trying to get started here in the U.S.," says Don Graunstadt, CEO of Detroit Electric's North American operations. "Cash is really important, but more important is the endorsement. The government did three months worth of due diligence on us."

Own is the principal product for Ergun Technology. Own connects cash registers to the Internet, providing store owners real-time remote access to their transactions. The 4-person firm plans to use its loans to complete Beta testing of its product and begin marketing it to coffee shops across the state.

Local Orbit is creating a web platform that simplifies the process of buying food directly from local farmers for restaurants, institutions, and consumers.

The state-created Michigan Microloan Fund Program provides seed capital to growing new economy start-ups. The $1.4 million program, which is run by Ann Arbor SPARK, became instantly popular because of the lack of financing available in the wake of the financial crisis.

Ann Arbor SPARK and Don Graunstadt, CEO of Detroit Electric's North American Operations
Writer: Jon Zemke

D.Troit creates biz around investing in other start-ups

The two people behind D.Troit are taking an old idea and turning it into a method for funding new economy start-ups. Good news for Metro Detroit's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The downtown Ferndale-based firm designs and sells unique, Detroit-themed t-shirts. The revenue generated is then invested in up-and-coming start-ups in southeast Michigan. Think everything from alternative energy-based companies to firms that do business only on the Internet.

"I did it out of my passion that I want to see Detroit change," says Brian Bandemer, president and founder of D.Troit. "The more I can invest in the city the more I can help it change."

Bandemer and Michael Savoni started the company in May as a side project for their day jobs. Savoni works in public relations while Bandemer, a graduate of Eastern Michigan University's Center for Entrepreneurship, works for the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center. The pair hope to eventually develop 5-6 Detroit-themed t-shirt lines and spread into other cities. They can see business increasing to where the company could grow to 5-10 people within the next year or two.

Source: Brian Bandemer, president and co-founder of D.Troit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County opens $500K microloan fund

Microloan funds are spreading through Metro Detroit faster than the flu, with the latest outbreak taking place in Oakland County.

The Oakland County Microloan Program will provide loans of $500 to $35,000 to small businesses. It is modeled after the highly successful Michigan Microloan Fund run by Ann Arbor SPARK. The idea of the microloans is to help fill the capital void for small businesses that want to grow and create jobs but are being hampered by the nearly frozen credit lines of the financial industry.

"We expect the demand will be high for these loans because traditional lending channels are all but dried up for small businesses," says Maureen Krauss, director of Economic Development and Community Affairs for Oakland County. "There are a lot of people who want to start their own businesses."

Eligible businesses must be based out of Oakland County, pay a $75 application fee, have a business plan if they are under three years old, and at least two letters of denial from traditional lending sources. Owners must be current on child support, student loans, and income taxes.

Oakland County, in partnership with the Center for Empowerment & Economic Development and the U.S. Small Business Administration, is giving $100,000 towards creating the fund, as well as a $500,000 pool to start with.

The Michigan Microloan Fund draws from a $1.5 million pool and also from other six-figure funds provided by Washtenaw County and the city of Ann Arbor that are geared toward businesses in those respective communities. It
expects to make 24-48 loans this year. Detroit's TechTown has also formed its own fund and Oakland University's OU INCubator is taking steps to set up its own program.

Maureen Krauss, director of Economic Development and Community Affairs for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

VC Wed Design graduates from Ypsilanti's SPARK East, hires 5

Start-ups rooted in Michigan's new economy are flourishing in downtown Ypsilanti. The latest success story is also a product of Ann Arbor SPARK's East Incubator in downtown Ypsilanti.


Meet VC Web Design, the first graduate of Ann Arbor SPARK's East Incubator in downtown Ypsilanti.

The web design firm was one of the first tenants in the business incubator when it opened last spring. Then it was a two-person start-up looking for a little direction. Today it employs seven people and an intern and is moving into its own commercial space a few doors down from the incubator in downtown Ypsilanti on Washington Street.

"We wanted to be around people in a downtown area," says Vince Chmielewski, president of VC Wed Design. "We couldn't fit at SPARK anymore because we kept adding people. Plus, we wanted our own storefront for higher visibility."

Read the rest of the story here.

Birmingham goes for Google Fiber Community project

A handful of Michigan cities are lining up to become one of Google's first fiber communities, and now Birmingham is throwing its hat into the ring for a chance at free ultra-fast broadband access to the Internet.

"We're always looking for ways to enhance our services for our residents," says Tara Maguire, GIS coordinator for the city of Birmingham. "This is a good opportunity for them. It also offers some economic development opportunities."

Google plans to provide ultra high-speed broadband internet to area residents and businesses in one or more cities of its choosing. The Google Fiber program will provide technology that can pump up Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today. Think 1 gigabit per second Internet speeds for between 50,000 and 500,000 people.

Birmingham officials see this as not only a way of enhancing local creative and high-tech businesses, but also attracting more that want to take advantage of this new technology. Google is letting people nominate their cities to become part of the experimental program. Birmingham has already created a Facebook page to help rally local support.

Other Michigan municipalities are making a go at the Google Fiber program, including Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and East Lansing. Ann Arbor was one of the first cities to announce its candidacy for the program and has since garnered the support of the University of Michigan and neighboring Ypsilanti.

Source: Tara Maguire, GIS coordinator for the city of Birmingham
Writer: Jon Zemke

Building Performance by Design expands into Metro Detroit

Green building is taking root so strongly in Detroit that even some out-state companies are moving in to take advantage of it. That's what Building Performance by Design is doing, now that it has opened a Metro Detroit office.

The firm, which is based in Kawkawlin, just north of Bay City, specializes in doing energy audits for residential, commercial, and industrial structures. It will now do even more from its new office in downtown Ypsilanti.

"We have been doing a number of homes in this area, and it's a long ways from Bay City," says Gary Kade, a consultant for Building Performance by Design's Ypsilanti office. "Plus, this is one of the most green-conscious areas of the state."

The company specializes in giving energy audits and also follows up on those audits. The point is to check up on a contractor's work to make sure it achieves the intended sustainability result.

There are two people working out of the Ypsilanti office, which is the Ann Arbor SPARK East incubator. Kade hopes to hire a few more and establish the firm's own storefront within the next year.

"We hope to expand as rapidly as the work permits," Kade says.

Source: Gary Kade, a consultant for Building Performance by Design's Ypsilanti office
Writer: Jon Zemke
103 Ypsilanti Articles | Page: | Show All
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