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Hacienda Mexican Foods lands big partnership with Meijer

Hacienda Mexican Foods has signed a new deal with Meijer to produce a new line of products that will be sold exclusively through the big-box retailer.

The Mexicantown-based food manufacturer will make flour tortillas, corn tortillas, and tortilla chips for Meijer under the Hacienda Mexican Foods label. The new line is set to launch this summer.

"The products will have no preservatives," says Lydia Gutierrez, president of Hacienda Mexican Foods. "It's pretty true to what a true tortilla is."

Hacienda Mexican Foods has hired nine people over the last month to prepare for this bump in business. The new hires are for positions in production, customer service, and administration. The company also is looking to make five more hires to its current staff of 60 employees and a few summer interns.

"We're still hiring," Gutierrez says.

The 25-year-old business expects this new deal with Meijer to significantly grow its bottom line. In fact, Gutierrez believes it could double its revenue this year, and enable it to do more work with local firms. Hacienda Mexican Foods makes an effort to source as much of its work as close to home as possible.

"It becomes an economic driver for us and our community," Gutierrez says.

Source: Lydia Gutierrez, president of Hacienda Mexican Foods
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Edibles Rex hires 20 as it builds out new home in Eastern Market

In 2014, Edibles Rex was all about growing its revenue and food manufacturing business. This year, it's aiming to finish building out its new home near Eastern Market.

The 22-year-old firm has called the Warren-Connor neighborhood on Detroit's east side home for years. There it has provided catering and wholesale food preparation services, such as making the meals for school and corporate cafeterias. It won a $250,000 Mission Main Street grant last year that helped it expand its business by adding things like more delivery trucks.

"We added three more trucks last year," says Tammy Tedesco, CEO of Edibles Rex.

Edibles Rex has increased its revenues by about 10 percent over the last year, enabling it to hire about 20 people in kitchen prep, school lunch service, and clerical work. It currently employs about 110 people and is looking to add a few more jobs as it grows.

Edibles Rex has just entered Phase 1 of building out its new home in Eastern Market to help house that growing workforce. The first phase will build out half of the 50,000-square-foot building. Edibles Rex plans to use part of its own work and also lease out other sections of it for smaller food companies that want access to things like a 24-hour access to a licensed kitchen and office space.

"We are making a space for other food manufacturers who want to be in Eastern Market," Tedesco says.

Source: Tammy Tedesco, CEO of Edibles Rex
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Tech startup Amber Engine sees opportunity in home furnishings market

Home furnishings and decor isn’t a conventional space in which to launch a tech startup, but one group of entrepreneurs in Detroit thinks it has a lot of potential.

Amber Engine has created a software platform that streamlines the sales process for home furnishings and decor. The idea is to capitalize on the inefficiencies in the market, which is worth $275 billion.

"It's unusually under-penetrated online," says Morgan Woodruff, president and CEO of Amber Engine. "There is a lot of headway for growth."

Rock Ventures, the umbrella entity for Dan Gilbert's business and real estate portfolio, launched the company in January. The business-to-business, cloud-based platform provides an online portal for manufacturers and online retailers that handles data management and keeps the availability of product offerings up to date.

"If you're looking for bar stools we want to show you every sort of bar stool available around the world," Woodruff says.

Amber Engine, which is based in the basement of the Chrysler House in downtown Detroit, currently employs a team of 15 people. It currently has a handful of openings, which Woodruff doesn’t expect to go away anytime soon.

"We expect to hire a person every other month for the rest of the year," Woodruff says.

Source: Morgan Woodruff, president & CEO of Amber Engine
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Berg Muirhead adds new clients in legal, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors

Berg Muirhead and Associaties is gearing up to take a significant step forward this year, adding a handful of large clients and some new hires to go with them.

The New Center-based public relations and marketing firm has made a name for itself since 1998 handling a number of high-profile clients both in Detroit (Strategic Staffing Solutions) and outside of it (the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and The Somerset Collection in Troy). Those clients aren't going anywhere.

"We have a great set of longterm clients and clients who come in and out with projects," says Peter Van Dyke, partner with Berg Muirhead and Associates.

This year, the firm is adding some larger clients. Berg Muirhead and Associates is now handling work with Metro Detroit’s new Regional Transit Authority and the Varnum law firm, which is opening a new office in downtown Detroit. Berg Muirhead and Associates is also helping a second-stage manufacturing firm in metro Detroit (Van Dyke declined to name it) re-brand and is about sign a contract with a major local health-care provider.

Berg Muirhead and Associates made two replacement hires last year, but Van Dyke expects to add some new hires on top of his staff of eight employees and two interns soon.

"We are looking to expand the team," Van Dyke says.

Source: Peter Van Dyke, partner with Berg Muirhead and Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Mega Tiny Corp reinvents iPhone case in downtown Detroit

Mega Tiny Corp. has something more going for it than just a cool name. Its co-founders believe they have the next cool product for iPhones.

The 4-month-old startup is developing an iPhone case with suction technology built into it, enabling users to stick it against just about any flat surface. Check out a video showcasing it here.

"This is the first case to offer nano-suction material built into the case," says Carl Winans, co-founder of Mega Tiny Corp. "You can do hands-free selfies."

Most of the 10 people working on Mega Tiny Corp. are based in southeast Michigan and the company is about to sign a lease on an office in downtown Detroit. In the meantime, the team is finishing off a crowdfunding campaign to finance the manufacturing of its Zero Gravity iPhone case. Mega Tiny Corp. has raised $44,369 as of Monday night, by far exceeding its original $25,000 goal with 16 days left in the campaign.

"We met the goal in about four days," Winans says. "We're getting ready to add some stretch goals."

You can check out its crowdfunding campaign here.

Source: Carl Winans, co-founder of Mega Tiny Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Urban Aging families find resources for elderly loved ones

Patricia Rencher is all too familiar with the challenges of getting old. The downtown Detroit resident supported her parents through their final years when they were in their 80s and 90s.

"I discovered how disjointed and fragmented aging services were," Rencher says.

That inspired Rencher to start Urban Aging, a low-profit limited liability company that specializes in helping people navigate the aging process. Rencher recently graduated from the BUILD Social program, which teaches the basics of business to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Urban Aging will help its customer figure out what services, resources, programs, and products are available so they can maximize the comfort level of their loved ones' final years. The company also plans to host conferences and launch a tabloid newspaper to help guide people through the aging process.

"People need to know what services are available for home healthcare," Rencher says.

Urban Aging plans to host its first conference on May 16 in the Wayne County Community College District's Northwest Campus at 8200 W. Outer Drive in Detroit.

Source: Patricia Rencher, owner of Urban Aging
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Canine to Five buys new building in Ferndale, plans to expand Detroit home


Next month, Canine to Five will celebrate 10 years of providing dog boarding and grooming services on Cass Avenue just south of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Since its launch, the dog daycare has become one of Midtown Detroit's name-brand businesses.

Today it's building the same reputation in Ferndale, where it has acquired its own building on East 9 Mile Road between Hilton and I-75. Canine To Five opened its first satellite location in Ferndale two years ago in a rented building. Its new home in Ferndale is nearly four times as large.

"We're going from a 6,000-square-foot building to a 22,000-square-foot building," says Liz Blondy, owner of Canine to Five.

The extra space is needed to keep up with Canine to Five's growth. Business at the company's Detroit home is up 14 percent in the last year and its business in Ferndale doubled by the end of its second year. Today Canine to Five has 18 employees working in Ferndale and 25 in Detroit. Fifteen of those employees were hired over the last year.

"We grew much quicker than anticipated," Blondy says. "The reception we got in Ferndale was outstanding."

Blondy expects to execute the move to the new building this spring, but Ferndale isn't here sole focus. Canine to Five is currently working with an architect to add 6,500 square feet to its Detroit home, which will double the size of its flagship location later this year.

Canine to Five is also partnering with Ferndale-based Treat Dreams Ice Cream & Desserts, which will provide Pooch Pops (an ice cream treat to dogs) at Canine To Five’s two locations this summer.

"It's important to me to use as many products as possible from Michigan for my business," Blondy says.

Source: Liz Blondy, owner of Canine to Five
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Quizzle set to move into larger downtown office after being acquired by Bankrate

Quizzle is celebrating an acquisition this month and is getting ready to enjoy some extra elbow room later this spring.

Bankrate acquired the credit-monitoring company last week, making it the first Quicken Loans-built startup to exit through acquisition. It's common for acquired startups to be absorbed into their new parent companies. In this case that could mean downtown Detroit-based Quizzle folding into Bankrate's New York operation.

But Quizzle isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's getting ready to move into a bigger office in the 5th floor of the office building at 1274 Library (the former L.B. King and Company Building) next to the Boll Family YMCA.

"They are literally demoing the space right now," says Todd Albery, CEO of Quizzle. "It has room for growth. We have 19 people now and we will be able to hold 30."

Quizzle launched in 2008 as a side project within Quicken Loans. Today it provides free credit scores and reports, as well as credit monitoring and identity protection services. It currently has a staff of 19 employees and the occasional intern. The 20th employee is set to start work later this month. Quizzle has hired eight of its interns into full-time positions. Albery expects that growth to continue in downtown Detroit for the foreseeable future.

"When (Bankrate) acquires companies, it typically leaves them where they are," Albery says.

Source: Todd Albery, CEO of Quizzle
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Social entrepreneur turns old houses into new furniture business, Owen & Abbey

Kimberly Watts' new business does a lot to make its customers feel good about their purchases. The Detroit-based business utilizes reclaimed wood and provides jobs to disadvantaged women.

Owen & Abbey makes tables and an assortment of home furnishings from wood reclaimed from deconstructed homes in Detroit and Pontiac. Watts was inspired to start this business last year when she first came across products made from reclaimed building materials.

"I thought there was a business here, but I wasn't sure about it yet," Watts says.

While Watts had an extensive background in fundraising, she did not have much of a history as a maker. But the idea of turning reclaimed building materials into a business stuck in her head, so she wrote a business plan and entered it into the Michigan Social Entrepreneur Challenge. She won the Jaffe Right Start Prize.

"Then I knew I was onto something," she says.

Today Watts is splitting time between her day job and Owen & Abbey. She hopes to grow the company to the point where she can start to hire people, specifically local women battling through economic adversity. To help make that happen, she has been filling orders from referrals and Etsy listings. Watts also graduated from the Build Institute's entrepreneurship program earlier this year, which is also helping steer work her way.

"It does a great job of supporting its graduates," Watts says.

Source: Kimberly Watts, owner of Owen & Abbey
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Creative agency The Work adds staff as it expands workload

There is no shortage of work at The Work, a creative agency based on Detroit's east riverfront.

The 5-year-old boutique firm has so much work that it has hired three people over the last year, expanding its staff to 11 people. The new hires include editorial personnel and producers.

"The last year has been very busy," says Jesse Ford, managing director of The Work. "We have been taking on a diverse set of assignments."

Major clients include Team Detroit, for whom The Work produced a Speed Dating video in a Mustang. The firm has also been contracting with advertising agencies like Commonwealth, Leo Burnett, and Lowe Campbell Ewald. The Work also recently signed a partnership with Native of Los Angeles for creative consulting, commercial video production, and post-production services in LA and New York.

"Our goal is to continue to support the Detroit agencies and support the automotive industry," Ford says. "We're also looking to work with some agencies in LA and New York."

The Work got its start when five people working in local advertising circles banded together. The idea that their expertise in videography, photography, editing, production, and other creative outlets was worth more together as one company than as individual 1099s. All five co-founders are still working with the company on a full-time basis in the Elevator Building.

Source: Jesse Ford, managing director of The Work
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Global Alliance Solutions turns life's lemons into new business

Nichole B. Pardo has experienced workplace discrimination on two fronts. She has both helped organizations avoid discriminatory practices and has filed a grievance for discriminatory practices.

Both experiences inspired her to start her own diversity training and crisis management company, Global Alliance Solutions, in Detroit.

"It was a classic situation of when life gives you lemons," Pardo says.

Global Alliance Solutions provides comprehensive diversity training to employees and members of management on unconscious bias as it relates to employment decisions. It is currently working with the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, Congress of Communities, Vardar Soccer Club, Mariners Inn, and Oakland Community College.

Pardo has an extensive history in diversity training. She worked as an investigator with Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the office of the president for Blue Cross Blue Shield. Before starting Global Alliance Solutions last fall, Pardo worked at another employer where she claimed to have been discriminated against because of her age (she is older than 40) and her race (she identifies as African-American), prompting her to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. The resulting settlement inspired her to start Global Alliance Solutions.

"I created the company so I could help prevent companies from violating discrimination laws and to help create more diversity," Pardo says.

Source: Nichole B. Pardo, owner of Global Alliance Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Christman Co opens stunning office in the Fisher Building, a structure it helped build

The Christman Co is back in Detroit, working once again on the famous skyline it helped build nearly a century ago.

The Lansing-based construction firm moved its metro Detroit office from Livonia to New Center earlier this month, taking space in the Fisher Building. The Christman Co helped build some of Detroit's most iconic buildings like the Masonic Temple. It served as the general contractor for the Fisher Building's construction in the 1920s.

That firm's history with the skyscraper made the decision to move easy, but other factors like cheaper rent and more convenient parking than what can be found downtown also played a role. When the Christman Group found out that it could have one of the penthouse floors in the building it helped build, however, the decision was made even easier.

"When we saw the 26th floor, we thought this was too good of an opportunity to pass up," says Ron Staley, senior vice president for The Christman Co.

The 26th floor is one of the three floors originally built out for the Fisher brothers of the Fisher Body Corp. It was decked out with walnut walls, ornate plaster, and bronzed doors. Some of those details were left when The Christman Co returned this month, which the company did its best to carefully restore.

"It was modified in the 1960s in a less than desirable way," Staley says.

The 26th floor measures 6,000 square feet, which the Christman Co built out to accommodate up to 25 people. Those workers have been busy with a number of projects in Detroit, such as Bedrock's work in downtown Detroit for the Quicken Loans portfolio of properties and Blue Cross Blue Shield's campus upgrades in Greektown.

"For numerous business reasons it made more sense to move closer to downtown," Staley says.

Source: Ron Staley, senior vice president for The Christman Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Attorneys chase literary dreams with Publishing313

Mark Rossman and Brian Saxe are two attorneys who like to joke that they gave up their dream of a creative career to pursue law. That’s changing now that they are launching Publishing313.

"We have been writing together for a number of years," Rossman says. "We wanted a vehicle to publish. I was talking to Brian and said, 'Why don't we create our own?'"

The venture not only aims to publish the work of Rossman and Saxe, but other local authors across Detroit. Publishing313 will be accepting submissions from local writers of poetry and short stories this spring. The founders hope to print those works and make them available in local bookstores by the summer.

"I am envisioning a journal of 75 to 100 pieces of short stories and poetry," Rossman says.

The partners are inspired by the reinvention of Detroit and believe the work being done to improve the Motor City will produce some classic contemporary literature.

Source: Mark Rossman and Brian Saxe, co-founders of Publishing313
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Tomo Coffee Co brings cold-brew coffee via tricycle cart


A group of young entrepreneurs are working to bring cold brew coffee to Detroit via tricycle this summer with a new company, Tomo Coffee Co.

Husband-and-wife-duo Kara and Wesley Eggebrecht moved back to metro Detroit earlier this year from the East Coast. While away they developed a taste for cold brew coffee and and were disappointed when they couldn’t find it here.

"We decided to make our own at home," Kara Eggebrecht says.

They brought in a friend, Alex MacKenzie, to help perfect their product and come up with a delivery system. Today they raising $7,000 with a crowdfunding campaign to build a custom tricycle from which they will sell their cold, caffeinated beverages. They have already raised more than $4,000 toward their goal as of Monday evening. Check out the crowdfunding site here.

Wesley Eggebrecht is an illustrator and a graduate of the College of Creative Studies. He is helping direct the art for the tricycle from his studio in the Russell Industrial Center. The tricycle is designed by Motorless City Bicycles in Eastern Market.

"We want to distribute coffee a little bit differently than the way it is being done lately," Kara Eggebrecht says.

The trio hopes to have the trike built and running by May. They are looking to sell their cold-brew coffees from it at farmers markets across the region.

"Eastern Market is our primary target," Kara Eggebrecht says.

Source: Kara Eggebrecht, co-founder of Tomo Coffee Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Singlethreadís software connects dealership mechanics with customers

Mechanics specialize in fixing cars. Motorists excel at breaking them. More times than not, neither party is good at communication. Singlethread believes it can bridge that divide.

The 1-year-old startup makes a software platform that helps mechanics at car dealerships and their customers better communicate via text messages. That way mechanics can send status updates to customers and car owners can quickly give approval to fixes.

"One of the biggest problems in automotive dealerships is poor communication between the mechanics and their customers while the car is being fixed," says Will Mapes, founder of Singlethread. "They end up being ships that pass in the night."

Singlethread's team of five people developed the technology with Atomic Object's downtown Detroit office, splitting time between the central business district and Royal Oak. They launched the platform six months ago and now has deployed it in 10 automotive dealerships in Michigan, Florida, and Texas. Singlethread is now looking to expand to more dealerships across North America.

"We will be growing as fast as possible," Mapes says. "Our mandate is to just meet demand right now."

Source: Will Mapes, founder of Singlethread
Writer: Jon Zemke

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