| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Vimeo RSS Feed

Startup News

934 Articles | Page: | Show All

Artesian Farms' produce production ramps up as temps drop

October is the month urban farming in Detroit starts to wind down in earnest. The falling temperatures mean there are only a limited number of harvest days left as the growing season wraps up.

The exact opposite is happening at Artesian Farms Detroit in Brightmoor.

"We're just now getting to the point where we are getting these growing controls right," says Jeff Adams, owner of Artesian Farms Detroit. "We will be scaling up in the next couple of months."

Artesian Farms Detroit is a vertical farm that grows its crops indoors year-round. It uses a hydroponic system that uses significantly less water than traditional forms of farming.

Artesian Farms Detroit took over an old industrial building at 12843 Artesian last year and turned it into a facility that could support vertical farming. Adams and one worker are currently using 1,500 square feet of the 7,500-square-foot space. Adams hopes to expand to using 5,200 square feet by next year as he continues to scale production. Artesian Farms Detroit is currently growing a couple of small crops, including basil, kale, and a mix of three kinds of lettuces it's calling Motown Mix.

"It's lettuce you normally don't see in a grocery store," Adams says. "It has a unique color and flavor."

Artesian Farms Detroit currently harvests about 16 pounds of kale per week, 12 pounds of basil per week, and 70 pounds of Motown Mix every three weeks. It sells its crops at the Northwest Detroit Farmers Market and a couple of local restaurants. It is also making its first delivery to three Busch's supermarkets this week.

"We are harvesting that today," Adams says. "It should be on store shelves tomorrow."

Source: Jeff Adams, owner of Artesian Farms Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Building Hugger: woman builder, home preserver, job creator

People who spot Amy Swift on a construction site are just as likely to see her wearing a pearl necklace as holding a hammer and nails.

The owner of Building Hugger, a preservation-focused construction firm, is hands-on with her work. She puts in long hours in clothes that are more likely dirty than not. Like most construction workers, these sorts of days mean that showering isn’t an everyday occurrence. The pearls help her strike a balance between maintaining her femininity and working in construction.

"It's been a challenge and a half on some days," Swift says about being a woman in construction. "Other days it’s really rewarding."

The pearls are part of her identity -- a subtle reminder that she is a woman making her way in a male-dominated industry not known for its political correctness. The reminder is more for everyone else. A statement that Building Hugger is growing quickly because of its quality work while a woman is running the show.

"Once you prove yourself in the field you are accepted in the field," Swift says. "But there are still some social dogmas that make it hard to feel comfortable."

Comfort is becoming less and less of an issue for Swift, mainly because Building Hugger's business model is blowing up. Swift hired her first employee in January. She now has five full-time people, along with two part-timers.

"It would be more but I lost two people this month to other opportunities," Swift says. "We are starting our biggest month yet (for workload) and I need to add more people."

Which is quite the change for Swift. She had a bachelor's in architecture from Lawrence Technological University, a master's in historic preservation from Columbia University, and no job when she launched Building Hugger in 2012 in Detroit during the Great Recession. She initially hustled a variety of part-time jobs in the local built environment to make her way, such as teaching architecture at Lawrence Tech, writing for Curbed Detroit, and giving tours for The Detroit Bus Co entitled, "Paradise Paved: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Detroit Land Development."

Swift found a niche with window restoration in the last year or so. It led to more work in the lost arts of construction, like plaster repair and wood working. Window preservation, however, has turned into Building Hugger’s cash cow. Today it accounts for 90 percent of the firm's revenue. The company works across the city in neighborhoods like Rosedale Park, Woodbridge, Palmer Park, Boston-Edison, and Indian Village.

"We just pulled 22 sashes out of a house in Midtown," Swift says. "We used the whole crew and brought them back to the shop."

That shop is Building Hugger’s new home, which Swift affectionately calls the Hug Factory, in Islandview Village by Belle Isle. Swift moved Building Hugger into the 2,000-square-foot space this summer. The shop is big enough to help the business keep growing and allow Swift to perfect her business model. She wants her window restoration work to be competitive with other local window options like Wallside Windows.

"I am focusing on the process," Swift says. "I want us to be very good at what we do."

Souce: Amy Swift, founder & principal of Building Hugger
Writer: Jon Zemke

- Photo of Amy Swift courtesy of Francis' Fotos.

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

Reclaimed blight powers End Grain Woodworking Co's growth

Chris Behm entered a contest in early 2012 that led him to launch a business and changed his life.

Behm won the Detroit Renailed competition, which challenged participants to make a consumer good out of materials reclaimed from blighted buildings in the Motor City. The $500 prize provided the seed funding for Behm and his friend Sam Constantine to start End Grain Woodworking Co.

"We bought some more wood and some tools," Behm says. "People seemed to like what we were doing."

End Grain Woodworking Co. makes a variety of different products from reclaimed wood, including picture frames, tables, lamps, and chess sets. They can be purchased over the Internet and at independent arts retailers across the region like Pewabic Pottery. One of End Grain Woodworking Co.'s latest ventures is making beer tap handles for Atwater Brewery from reclaimed materials.

Demand for these products has spiked over the last year, so much so that Behm and Constantine quit their day jobs and moved into their own maker space to do this full-time. They are looking to make their first hire this fall to make sure production keeps up with demand.

Behm and Constantine know they aren't alone in this industry, but they aren't intimidated by the growing number of businesses turning reclaimed wood into consumer products in Detroit.

"We welcome it because it finds uses for the wood," Behm says. "We don't want it to end up in a landfill."

Souce: Chris Behm, co-owner of End Grain Woodworking Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

OST fills out downtown office as it launches IT staffing services

OST has come quite a ways since it opened a satellite office in downtown Detroit.

In two years, the Grand Rapids-based tech firm has doubled its staff in the Motor City to 15 people. That includes four hires (sales people and technical staff) over the last year. The firm now employs 190 people in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Ann Arbor. Most of its staff is based in Michigan.

The staff growth is accompanied by a significant expansion in services for OST. The new IT recruiting division, OST Recruiting Solutions, will focus on helping other companies find IT talent.

"It's a huge area of growth for us in Detroit and elsewhere," Mike Lomonaco, marketing manager for OST. "Southeast Michigan is where we see our greatest growth opportunity."

OST has made a name for itself providing tech services, such as IT, database security, and software development. It has also provided tech staffing services for its customers on a project-basis. The growing demand for the services got OST to expand even more.

"Our clients have been asking for it," says Beth VanSlyke, recruiting practice manager for OST. "We have been doing contract staffing for years, but after a lot of requests from our clients we are making a practice out of it."

Source: Mike Lomonaco, marketing manager for OST; and Beth VanSlyke, recruiting practice manager for OST
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Detroit Venture Partners investment brings sneaker startup to Detroit

Camping is sort of a right of passage for sneaker collectors. These footwear fanatics, commonly known as sneakerheads, are known for camping out in front of stores to make sure they get the latest and the greatest in collectable shoes.

Sneakerheads are known to spends hours, even days, camping out in line in front of shoe stores to get the newest Jordans or Yeezyes. A new startup, Campless, wants to minimize the time sneakerheads camp out on sidewalks, and it's moving to Detroit.

"Our motto is 'know more, camp less,'" says Josh Luber, CEO of Campless. "The more information you have the less time you can spend camping outside of a store."

The 3-year-old startup's software platform serves as a Kelly Blue Book for the secondary sneaker market. It collects, analyzes and distributes data about the industry. It launched in Philadelphia while Luber worked for IBM and built up a following of consumers, businesses, and financial experts. Its current customer base includes the likes of Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank.

And Luber built that up while working full-time for IBM. He attracted attention from a variety of major corporate partners who wanted to help him scale the Campless business model. He choose to take an investment from Detroit Venture Partners, the venture capital arm of the Quicken Loans family of companies, this summer.

The investment prompted Luber to move Campless to the former Compuware Building in downtown Detroit. Today all of Campless’s eight employees have made the move and Luber has left his job at IBM to lead the company full-time.

"At some point it was obvious that we have something here and I needed to do this full-time," Luber says. "It all just really worked out well. It just made a lot of sense."

Source: Josh Luber, CEO of Campless
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Urban Science acquires AutoHook, moves staff from Ann Arbor to Ren Cen

Urban Science has added staff in downtown Detroit through organic growth. This fall it's adding some through acquisition.

The automotive retail consulting firm acquired AutoHook, a digital marketing division of New York City-based HookLogic. The division called downtown Ann Arbor home until the acquisition, when its 17 employees relocated to Urban Science's offices in the Renaissance Center.

"They are already here," says Jim Anderson, CEO of Urban Science. "We didn't waste any time."

Urban Science provides analytical and software solutions for automotive OEMs and their dealers. It got its start in 1977 with a few thousand square feet of newly built Ren Cen. Today is occupies several floors of the skyscraper. Urban Science has a staff of 870 people, about 370 of whom are based in its Detroit headquarters, which is up about percent over the last year.

AutoHook provides digital marketing solutions, specifically focused on driving in-market shoppers directly to dealerships. This sort of sales lead generation is meant to help move Urban Science's business model to a more digital orientation.

"It's part of the evolution of our product," Anderson says. "It's one more step that leads to a more robust solution for us."

Source: Jim Anderson, CEO of Urban Science
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Detroiter turns passion for cities into business, Human Scale Studio

Chad Rochkind has an interest in big cities, how they work, and what can be done to improve them. It's what motivated the Detroiter to launch his own company.

Human Scale Studio works with businesses, nonprofits, local governments, and community groups, providing consulting services that help them make community plans and conduct research. The common denominator is all of this work makes big cities better places to live.

"My passion is cities and making cities more livable for people," Rochkind says.

The 1-year-old company has worked with a variety of Detroit organizations, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Corktown Business Association. One of its projects included putting a temporary parklet in front of Astro Coffee in Corktown. The idea was to put the excessive width of Michigan Avenue into a human context.

Human Scale Studio is looking to expand its clientele across a variety of sectors. The idea is that spreading its work around will mean a greater impact on raising the quality of life in Detroit.

"I'd like to take on another government entity, like the city of Detroit," Rochkind says. "I think I have a lot to add."

Source: Chad Rochkind, founder & CEO of Human Scale Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Flyball aims to grow staff, clientele with move to Midtown

Flyball is moving its headquarters from Ferndale to Midtown, a place where the IT firm hopes to grow. That's why the 10-year-old company is taking over a space that is larger than what it currently needs.

"We want to have a presence here and grow it out," says Courtney Griffith, manager of Detroit affairs for Flyball. "We can fit another 10 people in this space comfortably. That’s our goal."

Flyball specializes in offering managed IT services for businesses. Over its decade in business, the company has expanded to 10 employees after hiring two people in systems administration. It is also looking to hire another systems administrator.

Flyball, which established itself in Ferndale, is now moving its headquarters to Midtown, where it will take up 1,000 square feet of 4160 Cass, the small retail building at the corner of Cass and Willis. Flyball still plans to maintain a presence in Ferndale.

The company made the move to be closer to some of its core clients, even though most of its clients are based outside of Michigan. The firm is working to change that, aiming to grow its client base in Michigan now that the state's economy is growing stronger. It's also looking to hire more people who are firmly planted in Detroit.

"We want to find people who want to work and live in Midtown," Griffith says. "We feel we will get a better performance out of them."

Source: Courtney Griffith, manager of Detroit affairs for Flyball
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Work Department grows with purpose in Corktown

The Work Department has been making complex information more accessible for six years, but the Corktown-based consultancy didn’t end up where it is today by accident.

"We have grown quite organically," says Libby Cole, partner at The Work Department. "It's a slow but steady growth. It's quite purposeful."

Cole and Nina Bianchi launched The Work Department as a studio that specializes in design, communications, and strategy, using human-centered and participatory design processes. The idea is to give clients the tools to make a more effective impact.

The Work Department has collaborated with 35 organizations since its founding, including the Allied Media Projects (a longtime client) and Detroit Future City (a new client). It now employs a team of six people after hiring a new designer over the last year thanks to nearly 300 percent growth since its founding.

"The relationships we form are typically longterm," Bianchi says. "We stay away from transactional relationships. We grow with our clients."

Source: Libby Cole and Nina Bianchi, partners at The Work Department
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Afterhouse turns blighted buildings into urban agriculture hot spots

When most people talk about urban agriculture in Detroit, they say it with the idea of putting vacant land to use. Afterhouse, however, wants to grow the city's urban agriculture sector by putting vacant buildings to use.

The Detroit-based company, which calls the Banglatown neighborhood just north of Hamtramck home, is working to take the worst of the worst when it comes to blight and turn them into new urban farming hotspots. The idea is to raze the building and turn the leftover basement into a subterranean greenhouse.

Steven Mankouche and Abigal Murray are partnering to get Afterhouse off the ground -- or under it, really. Murray was inspired to launch the venture after seeing subterranean hoop houses in South America.

"She thought it would be cool to revive the basement of an old house in Detroit instead of digging another new hole," Mankouche says.

Afterhouse received a $135,000 Kresge Innovation Grant to bring its vision to life. They are starting by taking over a burned-out hulk of an abandoned home and installing a 25-foot by 25-foot hoop house that is four feet below grade.

"We'd like to start planing our first crop in the house by this fall," Mankouche says.

Source: Steven Mankouche, co-founder of Afterhouse
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Detroit Food Academy starts selling student-made products through Small Batch Detroit

The Detroit Food Academy has always been about helping aspiring young Detroiters launch their own craft food business. Now the Midtown-based nonprofit has the means to make that possible.

The DFA recently launched Small Batch Detroit, a subsidiary company that will feature a line of products created by academy students. The idea is to provide a proven avenue for these young people to test their products in a real market, and to help raise some funds for the nonprofit. Small Batch Detroit's first featured product is Mitten Bite, a sweet snack that will be sold in local Whole Foods markets and online.

"They are soft, chewy chunks of all-natural goodness," says Noam Kimelman, co-founder and board president of Detroit Food Academy. "They come in chocolate peanut butter and cranberry."

Mitten Bite was designed by a Cody High School student a couple of years ago when he was one of DFA's earliest enrolees. He is now a high school graduate and the newest addition to the DFA's staff, where he is charged with helping build the fledgling organization. The DFA currently has a team of 10 people, including four recent additions, who are figuring out how to get their products in front of more consumers.

"We will be in 10 to 15, maybe 20, grocery stores (by the end of the year)," Kimelman says. "We are figuring out how to wholesale to grocery stores."

Source: Noam Kimelman, co-founder & board president of Detroit Food Academy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Foodjunky expands across U.S. with help of $750K seed round

Foodjunky launched as a small startup with grand ambitions. Now it's starting to realize them.

The downtown Detroit-based company, a product of the Bizdom accelerator, helps simplify the food ordering system online. It landed a $750,000 seed round earlier this year and is using that money to help grow its presence across the U.S. Last year it was in nine states. Today it's in 100 cities across 20 states, and growing.

"We are adding 50 restaurants a day," says Travis O Johnson, co-founder & CEO of foodjunky. "Most of them are independents, but there are chains as well."

The nearly 2-year-old company's platform helps large groups place restaurant orders with a simple process that eliminates errors and streamlines food delivery. Watch a video where Foodjunky aptly describes its service here.

Foodjunky doesn't charge restaurants for its service, which is why Johnson expects to be in all 50 states by next year while also launching a new version of the startup’s platform.

"We are imminently releasing Verison 3.0 in the next 4-6 weeks," Johnson says. "It will have more functionality and a whole new look."

Foodjunky currently employs a team of 10 employees. It has hired three people in customer service and marketing over the last year and is looking to hire another three. That team is also working to raise a seven-figure Series A by next year.

Source: Travis O Johnson, co-founder & CEO of foodjunky
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

1xRUN grows globally through mural festivals, brings one to Detroit

It may sound like an odd thing to say but mural festivals around the world are playing a key role in powering the growth of one of Detroit's most promising startups.

1xRUN, a firm that sells artwork online, watched its revenue jump by 98 percent in 2014, and it's on track to grow by 35 percent this year. The startup has also hired seven people over the last year, expanding its staff at its Eastern Market headquarters (which it moved to from Royal Oak two years ago) to 24 people. The driving force behind that growth can be summed up with one word: frequency.

"It's the product and the frequency of product releases," says Jesse Cory, CEO of 1xRUN. "We release a new product five times a week."

1xRUN sells limited-edition prints and other pieces by contemporary artists online. This system creates scarcity for its artwork, yet its pieces are easily accessible and affordable. A couple of years ago it was selling two or three new releases each week. That number is now at five a week and still growing.

1xRUN has also carved out a niche for itself by timing some of its releases around mural festivals. The 4-year-old company partners with mural festivals around the world from places as close as the U.S. and as far away as Taiwan and Israel.

"We will release a series of prints around a mural festival," Cory says. "We will also run a popup at the mural festival to attract new customers."

That success over the last year has inspired Cory and his team to launch Detroit's own mural festival this summer. Murals in the Market is 9-day event that will bring in muralists from near and far to create murals in Eastern Market. Cory hopes Murals in the Market will help boost local tourism and the art community.

"It's pretty ambitious," Cory says. "We're flying in 25 artists and some international media. We're also pairing the international artists with local artists."

Source: Jesse Cory, CEO of 1xRUN
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ribbon Farm Hops hopes to fill niche in Michigan's booming craft beer industry

Ribbon Farm Hops is cultivating its own niche within Michigan's rapidly growing craft brewing industry. The southwest Detroit-based firm specializes not only in hop production, but also in developing trellis systems used to grow hops.

The new business is growing hops at the Detroit Tube Products facility at Junction and Harvey streets a few blocks from Fort Wayne. It is also developing a trellis system that it hopes will help spread hop production across Michigan.

"We're going to stay small for small batch brewers and home brewers," says Susan McCabe, president and head farmer of Ribbon Farm Hops. "We're also going to sell trellises to people who want to grow hops on their own."

Hops have experienced increasing demand as the craft brewing industry has grown. More and more farms across Michigan are starting to grow the crop again to help meet demand from local brewers. Michigan is one the largest craft brewing states in the U.S.

This is Ribbon Farm Hops' third growing season and the first when its plants are starting to produce some significant yield. McCabe currently has 14 people working on her farm in a variety of capacities.

McCabe worked in museum industry for 30 years (most recently working as the curator of the Henry Ford Estate) before starting Ribbon Farm Hops. She is a longtime gardener who became interested in craft brewing and started home brewing.

"I was always fascinated by the plants," McCabe says. "It seemed like a really good adventure to begin."

Source: Susan McCabe, president & head farmer of Ribbon Farm Hops
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

GOLFLER launches concierge service app for golfers

Jason Pearsall has spent more than his fair share of time around golf courses. He grew up on a golf course where his father worked as a general manager.

"I am very familiar wit the golf industry and the problems golf courses have," Pearsall says. "I also play a lot of golf myself."

Which makes sense why he would start a business based around golf. GOLFLER is launching mobile app that features an all-inclusive, on-course concierge service for golf courses and players.

GOLFLER's app aims to speed up course play, help golf courses generate more revenue, and make golf more enjoyable for its players. The app offers players on-demand access to course menus, equipment, and cart delivery during rounds. It also features a 3D rangefinder, live weather updates, digital scorecards and real-time direct messaging.

GOLFLER launched last March and is currently made up of a team of 35 people. It has information for 12,800 golf courses across the U.S. and is working directly with 20 courses in Michigan, Florida and Arizona. GOLFLER aims to sign up another 5-10 golf courses each month for the rest of this year.

"We're trying to grow at a pace that is realistic," Pearsall says.

Source: Jason Pearsall, president & chief legal officer for GOLFLER
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
934 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts