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JVS social services non-profit continues growth streak in Southfield

JVS has been serving Metro Detroit for 72 years, getting its start by working with unemployment issues in Detroit. Today the Southfield-based not-for-profit has expanded its reach geographically and in the services it provides, covering the Metro Detroit region and helping a number of disadvantaged subsets of the region’s residents.

The not-for-profit now provides services for workforce development, youth services, affordable housing and financial education. It has also seen an uptick in demand for its foreclosure prevention services and elder care, specifically helping senior citizens age in place.

"The areas we are focused on are areas of great need in southeast Michigan," says Barbara Nurenberg, president & CEO of JVS.

The not-for-profit has watched its staff rise steadily in recent years. Nurenberg estimates that JVS has hired 25 new people in the last year, bringing its staff to 350 people. Those new hires are for everything from helping train people for tech jobs to helping developmentally disabled people work at its janitorial service, which recently landed the state of Michigan as a client.

"In the last 20 years we have gone from a $6.5-million (budget size) organization to a $20 million organization," Nurenberg says.

Source: Barbara Nurenberg, president & CEO of JVS
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Creative Breakthroughs, Inc. aims for 50 hires by end of year

Creative Breakthroughs, Inc. is looking for a few good techies, a few dozen good techies.

The Troy-based company will host a one-day career fair on Oct. 9 at its headquarters, 2075 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 700. The 22-year-old company will be looking for dozens of new employees in project management, IT consulting and engineering, administration and sales.

“We are really looking to hire 50 new employees by the end of the year,” says Kristen Sarbu, human resources manager for Creative Breakthroughs, Inc. “To achieve our goal we have to be really aggressive in our hiring.”

The IT firm specializes in providing advisory services, network security, integration and infrastructure management strategies. It has hired 43 people over the last year, expanding its workforce to 67 employees. It had nine summer interns, four of which it has hired on this fall.

“We have been having career fairs quarterly this year,” Sarbu says. “We have been going to other career fairs. We have been going out aggressively to find the talent we need.”

Source: Kristen Sarbu, human resources manager for Creative Breakthroughs, Inc.
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Total Security Solutions adds 6 staffers as client base diversifies

Total Security Solutions has grown its business while adding to its client base over the last year.

The Fowlerville-based company makes bullet-proof glass installations for businesses, among other similar security systems. The company has hired six people over the last year, including sales professionals, engineers and manufacturing professionals. It’s currently looking to hire another sales representative.

“This past year we have seen a significant amount of growth,” says Jim Richards, vice president of Total Security Solutions.

The 9-year-old company has grown its business by 20 percent over the last year, thanks to streamlining its business processes by integrating more technology with the help of Ann Arbor-based The Whole Brain Group. Total Security Solutions has also increased the number of customers it serves in a variety of industries, including pharmacies, higher education, and retail outlets like gas stations.

“It’s just more people knowing about us,” Richards says. “We’re just touching more people right now. The more people we touch, the more people are buying from us.”

Source: Jim Richards, vice president of Total Security Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Assets International finds growth niche in oil & gas industry

Assets International has made a name for itself in its first decade helping regular people find and claim property that rightly belongs to them, such as inheritances. Now the Southfield-based company is starting to nail down new business in the oil-and-gas industry.

When energy companies drill for oil, they have to set aside a sort of royalty for the people who own property in the drilling area. Often many of those owners can’t be found so the money is put aside in an escrow account. Assets International has created a new revenue stream for itself by helping find the people who are entitled to the money in those escrow accounts.

“There is no empirical evidence on how much money is out there, but according to an attorney who is an expert in the oil-and-gas industry there are hundreds of millions of dollars out there,” says Michael Zwick, president & co-owner of Assets International. “That doesn’t count all of the new drilling that is occurring down south and in North Dakota.”

Assets International’s background is in tracking down people who are entitled to a piece of unclaimed property, such as an inheritance. It takes a percentage of the value of the unclaimed property as compensation. It has been working on the oil-and-gas escrow accounts over the last couple of years, and that now makes up nearly a quarter of the company’s revenue.

“Locating the people is a natural fit for our skill set,” Zwick says.

Assets International employs 15 people, including two hires over the last year. The hires are an attorney and a secretary.

Source: Michael Zwick, president & co-owner of Assets International
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ex-auto worker transitions to app economy with Marvel Apps

Michael Antaran has succeeded where so many local leaders would like former auto workers to succeed -- at moving on from working for the Big 3 and setting up his own tech firm, Marvel Apps.

Antaran worked for Chrysler and started experimenting with making mobile apps on the side in 2007. He took a buyout in 2008 and then took a year off, launching Marvel Apps as a side project. He then worked for GM for three years before making the downtown Royal Oak-based start-up his full-time job last year.

“I have always had a passion for Apple products,” Antaran says. “That’s why the mobile app movement encapsulated me.”

Marvel Apps does both custom app work for other businesses and makes its own apps for sale in the Apple App Store. Among its customers are Coleman (think lanterns and camping gear) and a few of the major local automakers.

It also makes its own apps, including those for fantasy football. One of them has even made the Top 5 in downloads for fantasy football apps in the App Store. Selling to consumers has become a growing part of the business, which now brings in 15 percent of the company’s revenue. Marvel Apps’ revenue is now up by 25 percent overall.

The company now has a staff of four employees. It is looking to add two interns this fall and hire one full-time graphic artist.

Source: Michael Antaran, founder of Marvel Apps
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Breeze Design Studio stays ahead of tech curve in Birmingham

Breeze Design Studio has executed a pivot in its business plan that has allowed the Birmingham-based tech firm to grow.

The 5-year-old company has made a name for itself with software and mobile app development. Now it is working to stay ahead of the tech curve entirely and sell that expertise to adverting agencies looking for help executing the tech part of their visions.

“We are now strictly a production company for adverting agencies,” says Rukmal “Rocky” Fernando, president & founder of Breeze Design Studio.

This pivot has allowed Breeze Design Studio to sign an additional nine clients over the last year. It has also added two people to its staff of five (a project manager and business development professional) and Fernando hopes to hire another 3-4 people before the end of the year as it aims to establish a foothold in new markets.

“We are also looking at expanding to the East Coast,” Fernando says.

Source: Rukmal “Rocky” Fernando, president & founder of Breeze Design Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Start-up myNutratek focuses on youth health education

A new startup called myNutratek is working to help make health education available and accessible for kids.

The Brighton-based company has launched a program that helps students become better educated about how to make healthy choices and live a healthy lifestyle.

“There is nothing out there for kids,” says Tim Codd, parent of myNutratek. “There is a brochure and some billboards but there weren’t any options or programs for kids.”

Codd started the company when his then 8-year-old daughter was bullied at school for being overweight. He resolved to spend more time with her and help her overcome her obstacles to living a healthy lifestyle. He quickly learned there were limited options for doing that and started myNutratek.

The company is currently working with 1,000 kids at Howell Public Schools and a doctors group at Oakwood Health System to help spread its healthy-living gospel. The firm has also had 300 parents of students using its services sign up for the program to keep up with their children.

“The kids have become the wellness directors for their families,” Codd says.

MyNutratek and its team of five employees and one intern is working with downtown Detroit-based Marketing Associates to refine its growth strategy and prepare for scaling its message to a bigger audience. The firm hopes to expand regionally and across Michigan at first, then set its sights on bigger expansions around the world.

Source: Tim Codd, parent of myNutratek
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Nuspire Networks hires 12, looks to add 10 more

Nuspire Networks is on a bit of a hiring spree. The Commerce Township-based IT firm has expanded internationally and made a dozen hires over the last year.

The 13-year-old company now has a staff of 90 employees and 2 interns. Its recent hires have included engineers, network security professionals, project managers, business development professionals and mobile app developers. It also has 10 open positions right now for those same sorts of positions, along with a few accounting and human resources professionals.

“As we bring on more clients we need to bring on more people,” says Saylor Frase, president & CEO of Nuspire Networks. “As we go more international we need to bring on more 24/7 people.”

Nuspire Networks specializes in providing managed IT network security services. It monitors more than 100 million security events daily. All of the company’s growth has come organically from expanded work from its existing clients and recruiting new customers. Frase says Nuspire Networks has reinvested all of its profits into the company to grow it.

Source: Saylor Frase, president & CEO of Nuspire Networks
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Delphinus Medical Technologies scores $11M in Series B funding round

Delphinus Medical Technologies has raised a Series B round of seed capital worth $11 million in equity and debt financing as it prepares to commercialize its SoftVue platform next year.

The 4-year-old start-up describes SoftVue as a “whole breast ultrasound tomography system” that will help diagnose breast cancer. Delphinus Medical Technologies filed for clearance for the technology with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which should be one of the final steps it needs to take before it begins making its first sales.

“We hope to get the clearance by the end of the year,” says Bill Greenway, CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies. He adds that will open the door to start sales through a dealer-distribution network in early- to mid-2014.

SoftVue originated in the labs of Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute. It spun out of those institutions in 2009 and moved to Plymouth. It raised $12 million in a Series A round in the spring of 2010. The Series B round was co-led by Arboretum Ventures in Ann Arbor and Beringea in Farmington Hills. North Coast Technology Investors also participated in the Series B.

Delphinus Medical Technologies
has hired three people over the last year. Those hires included an electronics technician, a sales professional and a vice president of marketing. It currently has a staff of 20 employees and the occasional intern. The company is also looking to hire three people right now, primarily scientists and engineers.

Source: Bill Greenway, CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Revolution Lighting acquires Oxford-based Relume Technologies

Revolution Lighting Technologies has acquired Relume Technologies and plans to keep the Oxford-based firm’s facilities in Oxford.

Relume Technologies makes LED lights and smart-grid control systems. Think LED streetlights and the control systems that help maximize electricity usage. LED lights are seen as the next generation in energy efficient lights, and use exponentially less electricity than traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Relume Technologies is a portfolio company of Beringea, Michigan’s largest venture capital firm. Revolution Lighting Technologies, a Connecticut-based company listed on the NASDAQ, agreed to pay $15 million to acquire Relume Technologies with $5 million in cash and $10 million worth of its common stock.

“We thought there was a strong partnership with Revolution Lighting,” says Michael Gross, managing director of Beringea. He adds, “we thought it was a better path for growth than just keeping Relume as a stand-alone company.”

Relume Technologies’
acquisition is Beringea’s fourth exit in the last five months. It is also Beringea’s second exit of a Michigan-based company this year. Pioneer Surgical Technology, which is based in Marquette, was acquired in June.

Source: Michael Gross, managing director of Beringea
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Steady growth is recipe for success for PublicCity PR

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race for Jason Brown, but steady growth is the preferred way he wants to grow his business, PublicCity PR.

The Southfield-based company has recorded double-digit revenue gains in the last year, allowing it to hire one person. It now has a staff of four employees and the occasional intern.

“It has been steady growth,” Brown says. “It’s up 15-20 percent. It’s been great.”

Brown started PublicCity PR five years ago in October. The veteran journalist and Michigan State University graduate has grown the business from his kitchen table to big enough for its own office last year. The firm has mainly worked with small businesses from Metro Detroit, taking on more clients through word-of-mouth referrals.

However, PublicCity PR is starting to grow outside of that norm. For instance, Dan Clark (Nitro from American Gladiators) reached out to PublicCity PR earlier this summer to promote his Gladiator Rock n’ Run in Metro Detroit earlier this summer.

“This random guy in California does his own research and finds us,” Brown says. “There are dozens of PR companies in Metro Detroit and he chose us.”

Source: Jason Brown, principal of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Innovative Learning Group leverages diverse client base for growth

Innovative Learning Group has added 12 new clients over the last year, but the value in that news comes from when you take a deep look at the list of customers.

The new customers include the likes of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Ford. The business consultancy’s client list spans a number of different industries, ranging from IT to medical devices to healthcare to pharmaceutical.

“We have always had quite a mix,” says Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group. “It’s great from a diversification standpoint. It’s also interesting for our consultants. It’s also nice to share things across industries and it’s not a competitive problem.”

That growth has allowed Innovative Learning Group to hire one person over the last year, a business development executive. It now employs 13 people. The 10-year-old company, which is based in downtown Royal Oak, has been doing more work in mobile strategic projects, such as how best to streamline mobile apps into the everyday work routine of a sales professional.

“How does it integrate into the way they do their jobs?” Toenniges says.

Source: Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Kidpreneur brings entrepreneurship education to tweens

Thanh Tran is of the belief that more people would pursue entrepreneurship the earlier they start making money with their own business. It’s why he's launching an entrepreneurial education company for tweens, called Kidpreneur.

“We want them to be able to start that early,” Tran says. “That’s why we pick that niche of ages between eight and 13 years old.”

Kidpreneur’s 9-week classes will provide a start-up environment for young people at the offices of Digital Roots in the historic WaterWheel Centre in Northville. Students will learn the basics of building a business through new technology, such as building their own server for Minecraft, a video game where users can placing blocks to build anything they imagine.

“We want to give them a place where they can build their business idea into a reality,” Tran says.

Tran, a serial tech entrepreneur, plans to keep the classes to about four students to one teacher. They will also be divided into skill levels, such as beginner, intermediate and expert. The company plans to start its first class on Sept. 21. It currently employs four people.

Source: Thanh Tran, founder of Kidpreneur
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

WorkForce Software creates 40 more jobs in Livonia

WorkForce Software is growing, adding dozens of jobs at its headquarters in Livonia as it extends the reach of its software around the world.

The tech firm, which makes management software for large employers, has hired 100 people over the last year. It now has a staff of 380 employees and eight interns. The company's revenue is up 50 percent and its software is deployed in almost 1,000 locations around the world.

"By year's end, we will be in 100 countries," says Kevin Choksi, co-founder & CEO of WorkForce Software.

Livonia has been the beneficiary of most of those hires, taking in 40 new employees over the last year. It has also added six people to its new downtown Ann Arbor office. Those positions have been predominantly software engineers but have also included technical support and sales and marketing professionals. It also has between 30 and 40 open positions, ranging from software engineering to project management.

"There is a wide range of people we are looking for," Choksi says.

Driving this growth is the company's expansion overseas. It has done a lot of work in Australia and Europe.

"It's part of a concerted effort to grow overseas," Choksi says. "It's hard work but there it a lot of potential."

Source: Kevin Choksi, co-founder & CEO of WorkForce Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Livio hires 4 in Ferndale, looks to hire 4 more

Livio is looking for a few good entrepreneurs to come to work in Ferndale.

The tech start-up has four job openings for software engineers, and it's looking for people with an entrepreneurial mindset to fill those positions. Why would someone with entrepreneurial ambitions want to go work for someone else? Jake Sigal, Livio's CEO, explains that his company is looking more for someone with "an entrepreneurial attitude about software engineering."

"We look for problem-solving skills rather than expertise," Sigal says. He adds that other qualities Livio is looking for are software developers who are so passionate about coding that they do it in their free time. The company also wants people who can thrive on finding innovative solutions and can work without a lot of direction.

Livio has already hired four software engineers over the last year, expanding its staff to 15 employees and two interns.

Sigal started the company in 2008 as Livio Radio, making radios that could play Internet music websites like Pandora. It has evolved since then to include Livio Connect, which helps stream Internet radio, and other apps, from smart phones to an automobile's sound system. The company is currently working on a new platform called Livio Car Keys that Sigal describes as a platform serving as a marketplace for automobiles and mobile apps.

Livio has continued to grow over the last year, thanks mainly to what Sigal describes as the company's ability to pivot and turn around products quickly. That sort of nimbleness is thanks to the start-up's entrepreneurial culture, which is what Sigal wants to maintain with this latest round of new hires.

Source: Jake Sigal, CEO & founder of Livio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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