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Prestigious fellowship for founder of Building Hugger demonstrates the firm's growth


Amy Swift is going on vacation soon. It may not be a full-on vacation, but she'll take it. That's because it will be the first time Swift has been away from her fledgling business, Building Hugger, for an extended-period of time.

"I have never left this work for this long since I started," Swift says. "Frankly, it scares me. But I'm not going to pass on this opportunity."

Building Hugger is a preservation-focused construction firm that does a lot of work in the lost trades of historic preservation like woodworking, but specializes in window restoration.

It's also growing quickly. Building Hugger currently employs 11 people with a goal of hitting 15 by the end of the year, up from four a year ago.

"It's not like there is a trade school for windows," Swift says. "We have to train everyone in-house."

This is not the time to take the hand off of the tiller of a fast-growing business. But the opportunity, a fellowship with the Tory Burch Foundation, is too good to pass up. 

The New York-based foundation helps women entrepreneurs grow their businesses by providing access to capital, entrepreneurial education, mentoring and networking opportunities. The year-long fellowship comes with a three-day workshop, a $10,000 grant for business education, and the chance to pitch for a $100,000 investment.

Building Hugger is no stranger to finding clever ways to raise seed capital. It won a $10,000 challenge grant from NEIdeas last year and has raised thousands of dollars from Kiva Zip loan drives. Building Hugger also received a Motor City Match design grant to build out a specialty hardware store.

That money helped Building Hugger grow and create jobs over the last year. It recently moved into a bigger shop, which included its new hardware store, on Chene near Eastern Market. 

Building Hugger has taken on a number of window restoration projects that have helped it double its revenue over the past year. Those projects include work on the Henry Ford Fair Lane Estate, the George Ladve House in Brush Park, and the Michigan State Capitol dome.

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

Read more articles by Jon Zemke.

Jon Zemke is a news editor with Model D and its sister publications, Metromode and Concentrate. He's also a small-scale real-estate developer and landlord in the greater downtown Detroit area.
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