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3LG Tech Solutions spins out with new database technology

3Leaf Group got its start with audio books 19 years ago in a room full of tapes. This year it's spinning out a tech startup, 3LG Tech Solutions, that specializes in database management. Make sense? Trust us, it will.

The Oak Park-based firm has grown to include more comprehensive DIY education solutions, such as streaming instructional videos and training assets. That meant a bigger immersion in technology and a lot of information to manage. The next thing the company knew, it had what it took to create solutions for next-generation database technologies.

That prompted the spinout of 3LG Tech Solutuons six months ago. Today the company and its team of a dozen people are putting the finishing touches on the software platform and working to establish sales with big clients. It currently is running a pilot with a Big 4 accounting firm and installing its software at a shoe manufacturer in Florida. It is also targeting government contracts, including sales in the defense sector.

"There are so many needs," says Stuart Newman, president of 3LG Tech Solutions. "There are so many exit points. We believe there is a lot of value we can bring to the table."

3LG Tech Solutions is currently working to land a variety of customers across industries, ranging from automotive to professional services. Newman points out his firm is doing the hard work of making the long sell to big clients that take a long time to make decisions. But when he gets them to bite he expects to make a lot of sales progress quickly, as soon as next year.

"I'd like to have four signed deals by December 31st," Newman says.

Source: Stuart Newman, president of 3LG Tech Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Siren PR adds to staff as revenue more than doubles

Every year is a growth year at Siren PR, or at least so far for the young public relations firm.

The Royal Oak-based company launched a little more than two years ago handling work for Metro Detroit non-profits, such as OLHSA. The company has gone from revenues of $75,000 in 2012 to nearly $200,000 last year. It is on pace to easily surpass $200,000 in revenue this year.

"We have grown every month since we started," says Lindsey Walenga, co-founder of Siren PR.

That has meant the need for more woman power. The two co-founders hired their first employee last September. That person took another job this month but not before Siren PR made another hire. The company probably isn't done adding to its head count this year.

"We will probably be expanding to four in the near future," Walenga says.

Siren PR has made its mark so far taking on clients with a social purpose, or as Walenga put it, "A mission they can believe in." For OLHSA that’s helping local people find the help and social services they need to succeed. A recent addition is Detroit Bikes, which is working to bring manufacturing back to Detroit by becoming the largest bicycle manufacturer in the U.S.

"I'd love to be representing more for-profit companies that have a community purpose," Walenga says.

Source: Lindsey Walenga, co-founder of Siren PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HTE hits stride with PlantWatch software platform

Lots of local software companies dream of doing what HTE is doing with its PlantWatch software platform. Get it up, running, easy to use, and attract a growing list of paying customers.

"It really came to maturity about three years ago," says Dan Reed, president of HTE.

The Auburn Hills-based firm creates software for the manufacturing industry. It started off making custom platforms for companies 25 years ago. Today it sells about 20 software products. PlantWatch allows the end user to monitor production while building their own system to maximize cost reduction. HTE just sold the platform to MTD Products, which is using it to monitor and control 25 scanners for error proofing and traceability. It's one of about a dozen firms using the product.

HTE has enjoyed prolonged success with sales of PlantWatch because of its "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy. The company created the software with the idea that integrating it into the users' operations should happen seamlessly and without any problem. That allows the customer to cut out integration costs, which makes it about one-third less expensive than competing products.

"There are thousands of software products out there and every one needs integration," Reed says. "Ours doesn’t."

The "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy is a lesson learned over time for HTE. The company and its nine employees and one intern toiled for more than a decade making software for other people before creating a platform for everyone. Then it realized it needed to make it as simple to use as possible, finding its stride and hitting it.

"We've done it for other people for years," Reed says. "It probably took us 15 years for us to do it for ourselves."

Source: Dan Reed, president of HTE
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

365 Retail Markets hits 1,500-percent sales growth in 3 years

Most companies like to brag about their double-digit revenue growth. Some can even talk about triple-digits; 365 Retail Markets wants to tell you about its quadruple-digit revenue increase.

The Troy-based tech company has grown 1,500 percent in the last three years. In that time it has expanded its staff to 50 people after hiring 15 in the last year, and has become a multi-million-dollar firm.

"We work in an industry that really hasn't innovated much in the last 20 years," says Matthew Caston, chief strategy officer at 365 Retail Markets.

365 Retail Markets describes its platform as "MicroMarket technology" that serves the vending, foodservice and hospitality industries with a goal of fundamentally transforming the way employees view their break room. The company offers a 24/7 unmanned self-checkout system that serves fresh food and beverage alternatives at workplaces across the U.S.

"Higher-end customers want higher-end solutions," Caston says. "Employers want to give their employees more options. The trend of snacking healthily also adds to that."

Caston estimates that 365 Retail Markets has captured less than 1 percent of the market, giving the company a huge ceiling to strive for.

"We're on the tip of the sword here," Caston says. "We are very early in penetrating the entire market."

Source: Matthew Caston, chief strategy officer at 365 Retail Markets
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Gongos growth curve continues with 23 new hires

Gongos is one of those companies that always seems to be growing. 

The Auburn Hills-based market research firm routinely clocks revenue growth, often adding double-digit gains for most of its 20-plus years. Its revenue is up 12.9 percent since 2012. Its non-U.S. revenues are also up 6.9 percent. Gongos has achieved this by increasing its workload with some major companies like Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Chase and Fiat Chrysler.

"We're really growing a lot," says Katherine Ephlin, COO of Gongos. She adds, "there are a lot of new faces around."

The firm has hired 23 people over the last year. It now employs about 135 people and Ephlin expects to keep growing. She recently made the jump from vice president of operations to COO.

Gongos was also recently named a Gold Top 50 U.S. market research organization by Marketing News. Based on its 2013 gross revenues, Gongos ranks as the 43rd organization in the U.S., which is up one spot from the previous year. This is the seventh straight year Gongos has made the list.

"It's by continuing to serve our clients really well," Ephlin says. "Our people are really great at thinking about the business’s problem. ... Our clients really trust us and give us some of their most strategic problems."

Source: Katherine Ephlin, COO of Gongos
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Indratech turns green fiber padding into thriving biz

If you're sitting on a cushioned surface, chances are you're sitting on foam. Indratech wants to change that, and the Troy-based business is off to a good start.

The 10-year-old firm makes the Indura Performance Fiber. The patented fiber padding is marketed as "green, non-toxic, recycled and perfect for use in any bedding and furniture application."

"Anything you can sit or sleep on," says Surendra Khambete, president of Indratech.

The company currently employs about 100 people, including 10 at its headquarters. It has hired two people in Troy (a R&D engineer and an accountant) over the last year to help it keep up with its growth. Revenue has spiked by 15 percent over the last year. The company sees its product as the replacement for foam.

"The good thing about foam is it's really tough," Khambete says. "If you sit on it, it will come right back up when you get up. The bad thing about foam is it's really toxic to produce."

Indratech boasts that Indura Performance Fiber has all of the attributes of foam but without any of the environmental costs.

"We are trying to get our foothold in the crib market, the mattress market, the automotive market," Khambete says.

It is also working with appliance makers to provide Indura Performance Fiber as an insulating material.

"We can make it quieter and warmer," Khambete says.

Source: Surendra Khambete, president of Indratech
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Lathrup Village startup Telemetrio bridges tech and sports

Marco Cucco is a serial entrepreneur and a big sports fan. His latest startup, Telemetrio, is quickly becoming the place where his passions intertwine.

"Telemetrio is where my interests are most prevalant," Cucco says. "It bridges technology and sports."

The Lathrup Village-based startup is developing technology it describes as "a computer-vision sports telemetrics and broadcasting system specifically geared to youth sports." This boils down to a software platform that films youth sporting events and sorts out the highlights for the parents. It also auto-analyzes the film and extracts statistics before putting it into a web portal for easy viewing.

Telemetrio's team of five people are still refining the platform. The first pilot is now being extended to multiple installations at Ultimate Soccer Arenas.

"We are expanding the pilot to one more field," Cucco says. "We will then be opening it up so more users can give us feedback."

Telemetrio recently secured $14,000 in Business Accelerator Funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corp with the help of the Macomb-OU INCubator. Telemetrio is a client of the Sterling Heights-based business accelerator’s services.

"It (the $14,000) will be spent on securing our intellectual property," Cucco says.

Source: Marco Cucco, acting CEO of Telemetrio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

EAFocus turns 15 years old, doubles staff

Barbara Fornasiero started EAFocus, a public relations and marketing company, to help take more control of her life. The mother of a young family wanted to stay professionally active and focus on helping raise her young children. Becoming her own boss seemed like a good option to make that happen.

"I wanted the freedom to set my own schedule and pursue the clients that interested me," Fornasiero says.

That was 15 years ago. Today the Rochester-based company has recently hired its first employee and is growing its client list. EAFocus got its start serving professional companies, like consulting and law firms. It now does work for local school districts and municipalities, and a growing variety of clients.

Fornasiero hired Sara Przybylski nearly a year ago. Przybylski had worked as a social media coordinator for an automotive supplier before coming on as a public relations consultant at EAFocus.

"I wanted to expand the business and have a regular schedule," Fornasiero says. "I wanted to grow the business and still be able to take some time off."

Source: Barbara Fornasiero, owner & principal of EAFocus
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dynamic Wealth Solutions opens in downtown Farmington

A couple of lifelong friends are opening up a registered investment advisory firm, Dynamic Wealth Solutions, in downtown Farmington this week.

Timothy Hooker and Brian Smith have been friends since their days of playing hockey in high school. The two friends participated in Wayne State University's Blackstone LaunchPad program, which gives students the basics to start a business. The pair were looking at opening a branch of a major investment advisory firm and then had second thoughts.

"We decided we could do something better ourselves and went forward as an independent firm," Hooker says.

That became Dynamic Wealth Solutions, which is opening in the historic Enterprise building at 23623 Farmington Road. The pair received $3,000 in seed capital last fall from the Blackstone LaunchPad’s Warrior Fund. That money went to pay for licensing fees for the firm and computers for the co-founders.

"It (Blackstone LaunchPad) provided us with the support and mentoring that we built our network with," Hooker says.

Hooker and Smith plan to spend their first year in business building a client base and establishing the firm. They hope to one day expand it to other Metro Detroit locations.

Source: Timothy Hooker, partner & managing member of Dynamic Wealth Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Southfield-based Clayton & McKervey adds 10 jobs

Clayton & McKervey's recent growth has a bit of a foreign flavor to it.

The Southfield-based accounting and business advisory firm has grown its revenue by about 5 percent over the last year and is on target to do it again in 2014. That has allowed it to hire 10 people over the last year, including accountants, tax experts, and support staff. The firm currently employs 60 people.

Fueling that growth is rising demand for bigger companies to buy smaller ones.

"A lot more companies are looking at mergers and acquisitions these days," says Kevin McKervey, president of Clayton & McKervey. "A lot of clients are buying companies."

In many case those companies are foreign-owned corporations looking to establish a foothold in the North American market. Often the easier way to do that is to buy a locally-owned company in its space and turn it into the U.S. subsidiary for the multi-national corporation.

"There is a big interest in foreign companies establishing a presence in the U.S.," McKervey says.

Source: Kevin McKervey, president of Clayton & McKervey
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Action Wood 360 adds 6 staffers with help of new automotive work

When the automotive industry went down during the Great Recession, Action Wood 360 turned to a few other sectors to keep itself afloat. Now that the auto industry is rebounding, the Clinton Township-based company is reaping the benefits.

"Over the last year we have seen more automotive work coming," says Michael O'Connor, director of business development for Action Wood 360. "We had sustained ourselves on military contracts and we have even gotten a few more in. It's trending in the right direction."

Action Wood 360 manufactures wood-based packaging solutions for a variety of manufacturing industries, including automotive, aerospace and defense. The 30-year-old company has hired six people, expanding its staff to 25 to accommodate the increase in work. It has added 12 mostly automotive-based new customers in the last year.

One of its latest projects is helping LithFire-x, a fire-suppression company, to manufacture a specialty container designed to ship compromised lithium-ion batteries. LithFire is engineering the internal fire proofing, while Action Wood is responsible for the design of the dunnage and shipment hardware.

"We're going to be making the container for them since they're two guys in an office and we have 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space," O'Connor says.

Source: Michael O'Connor, director of business development for Action Wood 360
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Lotus Bank eyes 20% growth, plans to open new branch

Lotus Bank has its eyes on opening a new branch in Metro Detroit over the next year as it works to keep up with its recent growth.

It will be the third branch for the Novi-based bank, which also has branches in Novi and Farmington Hills. The location hasn’t been selected yet but is expected to become a reality in 2015. That would allow the 7-year-old financial institution to keep up with the growth it's been experiencing in recent years.

"2013 was an exceptional year for the bank," says Neal Searle, president & CEO of Lotus Bank. "We grew about 20 percent. We also surpassed $100 million in assets in April."

Lotus Bank is 80-percent owned by Indian-Americans and primarily serves that community in Metro Detroit. It grew by about 20 percent over the last year and is on track to repeat that number in 2014. Accordingly,  the bank has hired three people, including a credit administrator and client service professionals. It has a staff of 20 employees and one intern, and is looking to hire a commercial lender right now.

Searle points out that Lotus Bank's growth is entirely organic. He credits traditional community banking practices that stress customer service as the fuel for the bank's growth. It's why he is bullish on the bank’s expansion plans and hiring prospects.

"We intend to continue to grow our staff as the market demands," Searle says.

Source: Neal Searle, president & CEO of Lotus Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Joe Cornell Entertainment rides rebound in event business

Conventional wisdom says the economy is good. Good enough to throw a party and enjoy some success, and Joe Cornell Entertainment actually has the numbers to prove it.

"It's a time to pull out the stops and do it," says Steve Jasgur, president of Joe Cornell Entertainment. "People are more secure with their finances."

The Southfield-based event-planning firm's work has increased by 25 percent over the last year. However, the real number that demonstrates the strength of the market is how far booked out the firm is. At the height of the recession events were booked up six months beforehand. Booking times are 12-18 months in a normal economy; Joe Cornell Entertainment has hit that sweet spot.

"We have events through 2016," Jasgur says.

Joe Cornell Entertainment is looking to hire right now to accommodate that growth. The firm has hired 11 people over the last year, mostly entertainers like DJs. It is currently looking to hire 20 people and is holding auditions on August 18th. For information on the job openings and auditions, call (248) 356-6000.

Source: Steve Jasgur, president of Joe Cornell Entertainment
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Gentry Partnership opens office in Berkley

Chicago-based Gentry Partnership is opening an office in Berkley to service the Metro Detroit market.

Gentry Partnership is a self-described independent third-party provider of cost savings solutions. For instance, it pools the buying power of several businesses and organizations to leverage lower prices for things like health-care plans or temporary labor.

"We help the companies negotiate these deals with the providers," says John Syvernson, managing partner with Gentry Partnership. "Our clients come to us and buy off of these programs and instantly get savings from what they buy."

The company is targeting local automakers and their tier one suppliers. The idea is to not only help them with combined purchasing but also to look at their internal business practices to see where efficiencies can be achieved.

"We bring a fresher, more up-to-date print of the labor market," says Mike Wehby, associate partner with Gentry Partnership.

Source: John Syvernson, managing partner with Gentry Partnership, and Mike Wehby, associate partner with Gentry Partnership
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Primetime Testing Laboratory expands facility, staff

It's a good time to be Primetime Testing Laboratory. The Clinton Township-based automotive-interior testing company is experiencing double-digit growth, is hiring a handful of people, and is about to finish a facility expansion.
 
The 16-year-old business specializes in mechanical and physical testing of automotive interiors.  Its services test the durability, fatigue, load and vibration of interior parts of cars and trucks. The company has experienced an uptick in demand for its services, including landing 27 new customers over the last year.

"We're becoming much more busy and growing a lot from it," says Jim Flachsmann, director of business development for Primetime Testing Laboratory.

Primetime Testing Laboratory is on pace to grow between 25 percent and 30 percent this year. Flachsmann credits that growth to the resurgence of the automotive industry, stricter regulations on the interiors of cars and trucks, and the integration of new technology.

"I think the technology came a lot faster than anyone was prepared for," Flachsmann says.

The company has hired three people over the last year, including Flachsmann and two technicians. It is also looking to hire two more technicians. The firm's staff currently stands at 20 employees and one intern.

Primetime Testing Laboratory is also in the process of expanding its facility. It is adding 1,200 square feet of storage space and is remodeling its front office and lobby.

"We hope to wrap it up by the end of the month," Flachsmann says.

Source: Jim Flachsmann, director of business development for Primetime Testing Laboratory
Writer: Jon Zemke

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