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McClure's Pickles fills out production space with new sales

McClure's Pickles had more than enough elbow room in its new production facility on the Detroit/Hamtramck border two years ago. Today the slow-food business can barely squeeze its operations into the place.

"We have it filled," says Joe McClure, co-owner of McClure’s Pickles, who adds that the firm is looking to add an auxiliary warehouse within the next year or two. "It's filled to the gills. The whole warehouse and production areas are jam packed."

It makes sense. The 7-year-old pickle company has grown its revenue an average of 30 percent over the last few years. It’s aiming to hit 50 percent revenue growth in 2014. The firm hired a new production person over the last year, expanding its staff to 22 people.

One reason behind the growth is the company's distribution footprint. McClure's Pickles expanded into the Denver metro market and a few new markets in Ohio over the last year. It's also adding to its production portfolio, bringing in a sweet-and-spicy pickle and more potato chip flavors. McClure’s Pickles is also aiming to become licensed to sell its own alcoholic drinks (a combination of its blood mary mix and a high-end alcohol) by the end of this summer.

"We're going to start with a white whiskey," McClure says. "We want to be a little bit different."

Source: Joe McClure, co-owner of McClure's Pickles
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Savorfull's products makes gains into grocery store market

The team behind Savorfull was thinking big last year when it struck a deal with Sherwood Food Distributors.

Detroit-based Sherwood Food Distributors got its start distributing meats, but now distributes a variety of foods for supermarkets. As part its deal with Sherwood Food Distributors, Savorfull will serve as a nutritional matchmaker, consulting with Sherwood to help it decide which healthy foods it should distribute.

"We knew we had to move into bigger industries, like the grocery industry," says Stacy Goldberg, founder & CEO of Savorfull.

The New Center-based startup helps connect businesses with healthy eating options, ranging from locally sourced foods to identifying which foods work best for people with food allergies. Savorfull had been working with a number of arenas, stadiums, and cafeterias before landing the contract with Sherwood Food Distributors.

"We're focused on volume," Goldberg says. "That's why we partnered with Sherwood Food Distributors."

Savorfull now has a staff of six employees after hiring four new workers in the last year. It also is bringing on six interns this summer.

Source: Stacy Goldberg, founder & CEO of Savorfull
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

City Commons CSA gains footing with growing membership

A group of six young people got jobs working in urban agriculture for the Greening of Detroit via the Americorps program a few years ago. Today that group has launched the first CSA (community supported agriculture) in Detroit and turned their urban farms and City Commons CSA into their jobs.

"We were all interested in agriculture," says Minehaha Forman, co-founder of City Commons CSA. "We all had backgrounds in agriculture. We thought if we compiled our land and our resources we could make more money. If we did a CSA model we would have more time to farm."

Community supported agriculture, also known as community shared agriculture, programs are a confederation of local farmers who support each other by assuming the risks and benefits of combined food production. City Commons CSA consists of Buffalo Street Farm, Singing Tree Garden, Food Field, Vinewood Knoll, Farnsworth, and Fields of Plenty.

City Commons CSA has added a new farm and co-owner in the last year, growing its team to seven people. It also expanded the number of shareholders who buy produce from the CSA to about 50 full members.

"Last year we made more money than we ever had," Forman says. "Some of us are focused on expanding our farms and some of us are focused on growing the CSA."

Source: Minehaha Forman, co-founder of City Commons CSA
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Girls With Guts creates following, gains traction

The three young women behind Girls With Guts showed they have what it takes to get a business off the ground in its first year.

The Midtown-based business serves as platform for women battling Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

"We have grown significantly," says Jackie Zimmerman, president of Girls With Guts. "We have a fanbase of more than 7,000 people on Facebook now. A year ago we had 2,000."

Zimmerman, a recent Wayne State University graduate, launched the 1-year-old business with the help of Blackstone Launch Pad. The idea was to create a safe place for women suffering from the disease to find help, information, and new ideas on how to live a healthier life.

Girls With Guts and its team of five people accomplishes that with its online presence and by leading retreats. It held its first retreat last fall in Michigan. It’s planning one to Texas for 70 attendees later this year.

"We are hoping to get as many people down there as possible and help change some lives," Zimmerman says. She adds, "We would like to do two retreats a year."

Girls With Guts now has support groups in five major metro areas, including Detroit, Philadelphia, Nashville, Dallas, and Chicago. Zimmerman and her co-founders hope to add more cities to their network as this year goes on.

Source: Jackie Zimmerman, president of Girls With Guts
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

UpTo relaunches calendar app with richer content offerings

UpTo is relaunching its mobile calendar app with more built-in content that won't drown users.

UpTo's team is working to turn its new mobile app into a replacement for smartphone calendars. The app combines a users existing calendar and adds in extra information about things they like based on their location, such as concerts, friends' parties, and athletic events.

"It's truly innovative," says Greg Schwartz, co-founder & CEO of UpTo. "It's never been done before. We feel calendars will be the next place for disruption and we want to be that disruptor."

The top-layer of the app is filled with a user's normal calendar. The user can pinch or tap a time block and another layer of upcoming events will appear. Users can also connect privately with friends to share upcoming events to the back layer of a friend’s UpTo calendar. Check out a video about the app here.

UpTo got its start two years ago by launching a software platform that opens up its users' calendars to social media. The idea was to connect the user with friends and family by alerting them where the user expects to be in the near future. The 3-year-old startup abandoned that concept to go with its current version this spring.

"This is the first time UpTo is a total calendar replacement," Schwartz says. He adds that "it's really hard to grow with one foot in both (social and calendar) worlds."

UpTo has raised $3 million in venture capital since its launch in 2011. It has grown its team to 15 employees after hiring five people in the last year. Those new hires include software developers and one marketing professional. UpT also plans to add three interns this summer.

Source: Greg Schwartz, co-founder & CEO of UpTo
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Detroit Creative Corridor Center looks for new cohort of fellows

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center is taking applications for its next cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs in theMotor City. This year's opportunity comes with some significant changes.

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center’s Creative Ventures Residency program helps people who want to launch their own creative-type business (everything from design agencies to tech startups) learn the ropes of running a business, generating revenue, and attracting customers. The program ran for 12 months for the last three years, but is being shortened this year in order to be more accommodating to participants.

"We condensed the residence to six months, so they can apply twice a year," says Matthew Clayson, executive director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center. "That way we can reach more startups at the times that make more sense for them. It will also keep the class sizes small."

Clayson expects to serve between 12 and 20 companies this year at the Detroit Creative Corridor Center’s home in New Center. It will also offer night workshops for those interested in learning about managing clients and generating more revenue.

"That way we can cultivate that next generation of ventures," Clayson says.

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center is about to graduate its current class of fellows, 45 people in total. Over its first three years, the Center graduated 41 firms that have generated $2 million revenue and created 90 jobs. For information about applying for the Detroit Creative Corridor Center’s Creative Ventures Residency program, click here.

Source: Matthew Clayson, executive director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Detroit Farm and Garden grows in time for spring planting season

Detroit Farm and Garden is entering its third planting season this spring, and the Southwest Detroit-based business is still figuring out what it wants to be.

"We're still a young business," says Jeff Klein, co-founder of Detroit Farm and Garden. "We still have a lot of growing to do to get to where we want to be as a business. We're still figuring out the permanent products for our business."

And that's a good thing. The landscaping supply company has adjusted its stock to fit its customers needs since it opened at a former police station on West Vernor Highway in the shadow of the Michigan Central Station.

Detroit Farm and Garden
still offers staples like topsoil, gravel, and 50-50 mix of topsoil and compost for urban gardening. It also has a broad range of gardening and landscaping tools, including planters made of reclaimed wood. This year it's going to offer more classes on everything from landscape design to urban gardening. It will offer warm composting and worms for vermicompost. And there will be a wider selection of seeds for bulk purchase.

"Those are organic as well, of course," Klein says.

Detroit Farm and Garden recently hired a new person for the warm season, bringing its staff to six people. The company plans to do more outreach into the local Hispanic community with ads on Spanish-language radio.

"We find that for as many people who know about us, there are people two blocks away who don't know about us," Klein says.

Source: Jeff Klein, co-founder of Detroit Farm and Garden
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Beautifully Wrapped aims to link cultures across the region

One Detroiter sees head wrapping (think turbans and African-style head wraps) as a way to build bridges between cultures and an opportunity to start a business.

"I have always been fascinated with the global art of head wrapping," says Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, founder of Beautifully Wrapped.

Naeem has taught head wrapping for several years now. She created a head wrapping calendar to raise money for 10,000 Girls, a non-profit that promotes education and employment opportunities for 10,000 girls in rural Senegal.

That inspired Naeem, a D:hive BUILD program graduate, to start Beautifully Wrapped from her Cody-Rouge home. Beautifully Wrapped promotes education, classes, and events around the art of head wrapping. It also hosts the annual Headwrap Expo on June 8th at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn dedicated to head wrapping styles from cultures around the world, such as Sikh, Pakistani, and West African, among many others.

"My goal is to have 1,000 people at this expo this year," Naeem says. "Last year we had 350 during a day when we had a tornado warning."

She adds Metro Detroit has such a diverse population that it's pretty easy to find head wrapping enthusiasts of all colors and creeds. The challenge that Beautifully Wrapped tackles is bridging those cultures through a shared art form.

"Metro Detroit is very diverse but very segregated," Naeem says.

Source: Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, founder of Beautifully Wrapped
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

YumVillage streamlines startup process for aspiring chefs

The sharing economy is creeping into another facet of Detroit’s everyday life: pop-up retail.

YumVillage is working to make it easier for aspiring chefs to find a temporary space to open a pop-up restaurant and create a following.

"We would like to be the AirBnB for the food industry," says Godwin Ihentuge, chief villager at YumVillage.

The mortgage banker at Quicken Loans ran his own pop-up restaurant last year, specializing in gluten-free and vegan foods. He worked a number of events in Detroit, such as Dally in the Alley in Midtown.

The challenge for Ihentuge, who recently graduated from D:hive's BUILD program, wasn’t finding customers. It was finding space to temporarily set up shop. There was no beaten path that aspiring foodpreneurs could follow to find space for their pop-up besides word of mouth and more than a little luck.

"YumVillage was the brainchild to streamline the process," Ihentuge says.

He and a team of four other people launched YumVillage out of Bamboo Detroit last October. It is now working with 25 chefs and 10 locations lined up with easy steps for pop-ups to set up shop. One of the locations is a rotating pop-up restaurant at the Junction440 co-working space in TechTown that is open between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Source: Godwin Ihentuge, chief villager at YumVillage
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

C/D/H moves from Royal Oak to downtown Detroit

Tech-consulting firm C/D/H’s Metro Detroit office has become increasingly urban in recent years, capping the journey with a move to downtown Detroit this spring.

The Grand Rapids-based company opened its Metro Detroit office in Southfield in 2005. Not long after that it made the move to downtown Royal Oak, and now it’s moving to the Wright Kay building in downtown Detroit. The reason: to be closer to more clients in the region’s emerging tech hub.

"We like being in the middle of the action," says Sarah Woodruff, sales and marketing manager with C/D/H.

C/D/H provides consulting services that specialize in collaboration, infrastructure, unified communications, mobility, and project management in the software sector. It is a Microsoft-certified Gold Partner, a VMware Professional Partner, and has earned top certification with Novell, Citrix, and Cisco Systems.

C/D/H's move to downtown Detroit puts it closer to about 40 percent of its clients, 20 percent of which are also based in the Motor City’s Central Business District. The move will bring 10 more employees to downtown Detroit. The firm employs 30 people and the occasional intern. It has hired two people for the downtown Detroit office in the last week and it currently has four open positions in sales, user interface, sharepoint, and infrastructure.

C/D/H will occupy 3,200 square feet on the fourth floor of the Wright Kay building, which is located at 1500 Woodward Ave. (a block south of Grand Circus Park). The six-story structure, built in 1891, was originally known as the Schwankovsky Temple of Music, but was renamed for the Wright-Kay jewelry company, which occupied it for most of the 20th century. The building exhibits both Queen Anne- and Romanesque-style architecture, typical of the late 19th century. Its corner turret overlooks Woodward and John R.

"People know where the Wright Kay building is," Woodruff says. "We do a lot of events, so it's nice to have a landmark building."

Source: Sarah Woodruff, sales & marketing manager with C/D/H
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Floyd Leg leverages $256K in crowdfunding to start biz

We all encounter ideas that are so simple and intuitive we can't help but say, 'Why didn't I think of that?' The Floyd Leg has come up with one of those ideas.

The Floyd Leg's namesake product consists of four steel table legs that can attach to just about any flat surface of the user’s desire. Each leg, which is fabricated in Metro Detroit at a local manufacturer, comes with a clamp that allows it to firmly attach to a flat surface and form a table for light-to-medium use -- think makeshift coffee tables, end tables, desks, and the like. Check out a video on it here.

"It allows you to go out and find the surface you want, whether it’s an old door or reclaimed wood," says Kyle Hoff, who co-founded The Floyd Leg with Alex O’Dell.

A wildly successful crowdfunding campaign has helped this accelerate the start of this 3-month-old company. Hoff and O’Dell launched the campaign with a goal of raising $18,000. They raised $256,273 from 1,395 backers.

"It was amazing," Hoff says. "We were blown away."

The Floyd Leg is based in North Corktown at Practice Space (2801 14th Street). It is working with Reclaim Detroit and Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit to help pair reclaimed materials with its table legs. The partners behind The Floyd Leg plan to spend this spring and summer working on new products and filling orders.

"We're looking to produce more inventory so people can purchase it online and we can ship it that day," Hoff says.

Source: Kyle Hoff, co-founder of The Floyd Leg
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Slows aims to fill up to 50 jobs at hiring fair

The Slows empire wants you to come work for it, and it's hoping you take the first step by coming to its hiring fair on Monday, April 7.

The Corktown-based restaurant and its Midtown-based catering service, Slows To Go, are looking to fill up to 50 positions. The leadership team behind Slows hopes the hiring fair will serve as the right kickoff to fill those positions this spring/summer as the company enters catering season.

"It's more the season we're entering that necessitates it," says Terry Perrone, managing partner of Slows and Slows To Go. "Plus we need the occasional labor for banquet and festival work."

The hiring fair will start at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 7 at Slows' main restaurant, 2138 Michigan Ave., in the shadow of the Michigan Central Station. Types of open jobs include line cook, server, bartender, social media coordinator and catering operator, among others. You can check out the whole list for Slows here and for Slows To Go here.

Slows and Slows To Go currently employ more than 200 people. "I could see an increase of 50-60 people over the summer, including occasional workers," Perrone says.

Source: Terry Perrone, managing partner of Slows and Slows To Go
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DetroitFlags turns city of Detroit flags into growing biz

Necessity is the mother of invention. It's also often the inspiration for new businesses. That's the case with DetroitFlags.

Woodbridge resident and IT professional Jon Franchi started the company a year ago when he noticed how difficult it was to find a copy of the official flag of the city of Detroit.

"You really didn't see it anywhere," Franchi says. "It was really prevalent (on downtown buildings and hotels) and I kept looking and looking (for a company that sold them). I got fed up and thought, 'I will go ahead and make these myself.'"

This proved to be about as difficult as finding a seller. The city's flag is detailed and has several colors. It’s far more intricate than the flags of other cities, such as Chicago’s, which features two stripes and four stars.

Franchi did eventually find a local source for the flags, but they were expensive, costing close to $100. Franchi commissioned a flag maker to produce a cheaper nylon version that would work as a simple porch flag. Users can now order a 18-inch-by-30-inch nylon flag for $20 or a 3-foot-by-5-foot nylon flag for $35. Franchi even offers bicycle delivery to local customers, weather permitting.

"I cancel the shipping fees and just take it over there on my bike," Franchi says.

Franchi says much of his clientele is based outside of the city limits. He often gets orders from the suburbs. About a third of his orders come from former Detroiters living out of state.

"There are a lot of ex-patriots who want to have a piece of Detroit history," Franchi says.

Source: Jon Franchi, owner of DetroitFlags
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Canvas Watch Co launches crowdfunding campaign

Shaun Reinhold found himself working as a buyer of interior parts for Tesla Motors as his second job out of college. He was ready for a different challenge, which turned into Canvas Watch Co.

"I wanted to move back to Michigan and start a business," Reinhold says. "That was the start of it."

Canvas Watch Co
is now one of the startups working out of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center’s Creative Ventures program in New Center. The firm uses premium components to create watches with unique aesthetics. Each watch is illustrated by an independent designer and made-to-order in the U.S.

"There isn't one right watch for everyone," Reinhold says. "I was fascinated by the idea that I wouldn’t have to make one right watch to sell to everyone."

Canvas Watch Co is launching a 30-day crowdfunding campaign this week with the hopes of raising $40,000 in startup funds. Check out the crowdfunding campaign here.

Source: Shaun Reinhold, founder of Canvas Watch Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Detroit Labs adds a dozen people for apprentice program

Hiring software developers, especially those that specialize in mobile apps, is such a competitive task that Detroit Labs is looking to fill its talent needs in a new way. It's going to make its own mobile app developers.

The downtown Detroit-based mobile app firm has launched an apprentice program that will train new mobile app developers over a three-month period. During that time the apprentices will serve as full-time employees of the company and have the opportunity to become full-fledged members of the firm at the end of the program. Detroit Labs has a dozen members in its first class right now.

"At the end of three months, I expect most of them to be ready to be promoted and attached to a client team," says Nathan Hughes, co-founder of Detroit Labs.

The first month of the program is spent on classroom learning about writing software and mobile app development. The second month allows the apprentices to focus on internal projects. The last month pairs the apprentice with an mobile app developer at the firm immersed in the developer’s day-to-day.

The Detroit Labs' apprentice program aims to give real-world experience to its participants. It also will become a talent pipeline for the company. The program is open to anyone interested in pursuing mobile app development as a career.

"We have a lawyer who wants to drastically change his career," Hughes says. "We have folks right out of school."

The Detroit Labs' apprentice program will focus on iPhone mobile development this spring and focus on Android mobile development during the fall session. The training will take place at Grand Circus' space in the Broderick Tower overlooking Grand Circus Park. The program is funded by a grant from Automation Alley. For information, click here.

Detroit Labs launched out of the M@dison Building three years ago in May as the first investment of Detroit Venture Partners. It has grown to 54 people and established its own offices a few doors down on Woodward Avenue in what is now being branded as the M@dison Block. Detroit Labs has hired 18 people over the last year, not including the 12 people in its apprentice program.

Source: Nathan Hughes, co-founder of Detroit Labs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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