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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.

DIIME
, 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.

Patronicity
, 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.

Blackstone LaunchPad pushes new thinking at Make It Better

The cliche, "Get 'em while they're young" applies when it comes to the Walsh College Blackstone LaunchPad's Make It Better competition.

The event challenges Michigan-based high school students to think outside of the proverbial box and redesign an existing product or service or develop a new one. The end goal is to create something that helps improve the quality of life and improves their community or the Great Lakes State. The competition's goal is to foster critical thinking skills and encourage more young people to consider a life in entrepreneurship.

"They have no barriers in their thinking," says Carol Glynn, director of Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College in Troy. "We want them to start down a path of innovation. The older we get the more barriers we put for ourselves."

Among the winners are Kirsten Gendron, who took first place ($500) for her idea of a chewing gum that filters harmful toxins of second-hand smoke. Second place ($250) went to Rebecca List for her entry of a Wi-Fi Lifesaver Wristband. Hannah Beller won third place ($250) for her "Wake Me Up Blanket", an electric blanket that gradually circulates chilling temperatures as encouragement to get sleepy owners out of bed.

A grant from the Charles M. Bauervic Foundation funded the competition. It is open to all high school and college students in Michigan. This year's Make It Better competition was the second. Glynn says plans are in the making for a third installment next year.

"We definitely intend on doing it again next year," Glynn says. "We will probably do it earlier."

Source: Carol Glynn, director of Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Advanced Amputee Solutions start-up tackles prosthetic pain

Prosthetics have come a long way since the days of The Fugitive with Dr. Richard Kimble trying to track down a one-armed man. Ask Gordon Maniere and he will tell you there is still a long way to go, even with a man racing with prosthetic legs in the Olympics.

So the certified prosthetist is turning that journey into a start-up, Advanced Amputee Solutions.

"No one has really tackled the problem of where the bone meets the prosthetic," Maniere says. "That's the biggest problem because the amputee won't wear the prosthetic if it causes pain."

Advanced Amputee Solutions is developing its I.E.P. technology, specifically a polymer that cushions the cut bone of the amputee. It applies exoskeletal principles endoskeletally, killing the pain problem at the point of contact. I.E.P. is applied during the amputation surgery so it protects the amputated bone and seals the bone marrow.

This eliminates the problem of trying to make a rigid tool (the prosthetic) comfortably fit with a human body that is never the same two days in a row. "The tissue is constantly changing shape everyday," Maniere says. "Eating salt can cause a wide variety of size in the tissue."

Maniere and his co-founder, Jack Wheeler, are working to build their start-up team and raise a $500,000 angel round of seed capital. Maniere will present his company's technology at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium next week to help further its fundraising.

"It's really kind of a coming out party," Maniere says.

Source: Gordon Maniere, CEO of Advanced Amputee Solutions
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.

Working mom finds traction for Dashing Elements site

Mary Miodowski knows the difficulties of juggling motherhood and a job at the same time. So much so that she decided to create a business out of it, Dashing Elements.

The Fraser resident works in accounts payable and has two young daughters. Between her normal 9-5 and doing everything she can to help her kids succeed, she came to realize "we're never home. We're always busy."

Dashing Elements helps make that juggling easier by providing an Internet platform to crowd source creative ways to save time, money and stress. It tries to serve as both a resource for parents looking to maximize their time and a digital gathering place to share ideas.

Miodowski launched this site a little more than a year ago but initially struggled to gain an audience. She enlisted the help of the Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurial program at Walsh College in Troy, which helped her boost her website traffic and social media following through better search engine optimization.

"It has been great," Miodowski says. "It has been really helpful to me."

Miodowski is currently working the equivalent of two full-time positions now between her day job and running Dashing Elements. She would like to turn her side business into her main focus and thinks it possible now because of the help Blackstone LaunchPad provided.

"It would be nice to have a job where it didn't matter where I was but could still work," Miodowski says.

Source: Mary Miodowski, founder of Dashing Elements
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MIT grad returns home to launch Vitamin start-up, SunDaily

When local leaders talk about retaining talent, they probably have someone like Adam Leeb in mind.

The Metro Detroit native graduated from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering and went to work for a private equity firm in New York City in the late 2000s. After watching a number of his colleagues lose their jobs in the economic downturn and a few other not-so-flattering things about the finance industry, he decided he wanted to move back home.

"I knew it wasn't something I wanted to make my career," Leeb says.

That was last year, roughly the same time he started working on his own company, SunDaily. The Royal Oak-based start-up is working to create a premium brand of vitamins and supplements. It's a hole in what Leeb sees as a crowded market.

"I saw a lot of different formulas and a lot of confusion on the consumers' end," Leeb says.

SunDaily and its team of four people began its soft Beta launch earlier this month and plans to go public with it this week. The new brand of vitamins offers traditional staples like a multi-vitamin, Vitamin D and a fish oil supplement. As many as a dozen different products are expected to be launched this year. Leeb plans to create some market separation with high-quality products that are easy to understand and come in aesthetically pleasing packaging.

Source: Adam Leeb, founder of SunDaily
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Patriot Services grows safety biz, helps war vet start own venture

Patriot Services isn't just about growing its own business. The founders of the homeland security firm, who are active members of the U.S. military who recently served tours in Afghanistan, are also helping improve the economic prospects of fellow veterans.

The Commerce Township-based firm recently brought an unemployed Iraq War veteran onto its staff. That opportunity led to the veteran starting his own security and self-defense business called Sol-Tac, thanks to Patriot Services mentorship.

"I am continuing to mentor him to this day," says Stephen Potter, president and co-founder of Patriot Services and a colonel with the U.S. Army.

Patriot Services has also been growing its own safety consulting business, hiring four people in 2011. It recently landed a statewide contract to provide security assessments for schools in West Virginia, and is looking at adding to its client base of schools in Michigan. Potter expects that sort of growth to continue for small businesses like his in 2013.

"There is an increased focus on connecting small businesses and government contracts," Potter says. "That's going to help businesses like Patriot Services."

Source: Stephen Potter, president of Patriot Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program taking applicants

Interested in start-ups? How about becoming a serial entrepreneur? Does mentoring from some of Metro Detroit's top business people sound good? Does a $60,000 annual stipend pique your interest?

If so then you will want to check out the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program, an initiative serviced through Automation Alley to place up-and-coming business people (think recent college grads) with local start-ups and established entrepreneurs and investors. It is currently taking applications for the 2013-14 class, which will consist of four people, through April 1.

"The mission is to place these Adams Fellows in an intensive entrepreneurial environment with a lot of mentoring," says Terry Cross, managing director of Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program.

Adams Fellows will have daily job responsibilities and will be encouraged to participate in local entrepreneurial, business development and leadership events. Participants will be given opportunities to network with one another and with other young emerging leaders in the region.

For information, click here.

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

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