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Breast cancer survivor launches bio-tech startup, re-Contour

Julie Hyde-Edwards is a breast cancer survivor and an entrepreneur, and those two things are joined at the hip for her.

The Royal Oak resident was working as a graphic designer for a financial services firm when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lost her job midway through fighting her illness, and ended up going through a double mastectomy, which required removing large amounts of tissue from each breast.

But she survived. She innovated a new technology. And now she is working on commercializing it with her own startup, re-Contour.

"I was learning that there were stages of this that were problematic, so I tried to fix it myself," Hyde-Edwards says.

Re-Contour's technology is a type of surgical dressing that improves the aesthetic look of the breast and nipple, helping it avoid flattening and encourages healing after a mastectomy. The re-Contour dressing cover the breast mound, with no contact on the nipple area – providing a safe space around the newly created nipple and preventing clothes from applying pressure to it.

Mastectomies routinely leave large scars on the survivor, and nipple loss after the procedure is not uncommon. Many women struggle with the physical changes that occur after a mastectomy.

"It looks like someone took a machete and tried to cut you in half," Hyde-Edwards says. "It's pretty hard to look at."

Hyde-Edwards is currently working with Dr. Kenneth Shaheen, section head of plastic surgery at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, on commercializing the technology. Re-Contour received a patent for its dressing in April and it recently took first place in the Growth category (worth $13,900) at the Entrepreneur-YOU business and pitch plan competition at Walsh College in Troy.

Re-Contour has been working with a variety of local economic accelerators, such as TechTown in Detroit and the Macomb-OU INCubator in Sterling Heights, but isn't directly enrolled in any specific incubator program.

"We're hoping to produce this product within a year," Hyde-Edwards says.

Source: Julie Hyde-Edwards, founder & CEO of re-Contour
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Women-owned startups win big at Entrepreneur-YOU

More than $50,000 in seed capital and business-development services was awarded to nine local businesses as part of the Entrepreneur-YOU Business plan competition. The common denominator in all these ventures is they are all owned by women.

Walsh College hosted the Entrepreneur-YOU business plan and pitch competition with the help of the Michigan Women's Foundation, Inforum Michigan, and Fifth Third Bank. The annual competition, which dates to 2012, helps female entrepreneurs develop their business plans and firm the elevator pitches for their ventures. Each competition offers $50,000 to $75,000 in seed capital to the winners.

This year's winners in the Lifestyle category include: Tatiana Grant of Flash Delivery (1st place for $13,900), Shannon Byrne of Slow Jams Jam (2nd place for $9,400), and Yvette Rock of Live Coal Gallery (3rd place for $5,900). The Growth category winners include 1st place to Julie Hyde-Edwards of re-Contour (which is developing a nipple guard and mastectomy dressing), 2nd place to Julie Andreae of Secure Beginnings (developing a breathable crib mattress), and 3rd place to Adrienne Minerick for developing a blood-typing microdevice.

Grant, of Flash Delivery, plans to use the prize money to help improve the customer experience of its online grocery delivery service in Detroit. That includes making it more mobile friendly and building out a better online cart in time for the holiday season.

"We will be doing a big holiday push," Grant says.

Grant and her partner also picked up some important business lessons at the competition by running it past other succesful business women and practicing their elevator pitches.

"Less is more," Grant says about one of the lessons she learned at the competition. "And really know your stuff."

Source: Tatiana Grant, co-owner of Flash Delivery
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Siren PR doubles staffing on record revenue increase

Siren PR, the little public relations firm that could, is doing exactly that these days. And by that we mean adding staff.

The Royal Oak-based PR agency is looking to hire an account executive. More info on the opening here. That hire will mean the boutique public relations agency will have doubled the size of its staff over the last year with two new hires.

"We feel that this is the time for us to grow," says Adela Piper, co-founder of Siren PR. "We are growing. We have clients in the pipeline and we need more personnel to better serve them."

Piper and Lindsey Walenga launched Siren PR two years ago from their homes in Oakland County. Their first clients consisted mainly of nonprofits, such as OLSHA. Today the firm handles work for a broader range of organizations, businesses like Detroit Bikes, and schools like Pontiac Academy for Excellence. The company is projecting 36-percent revenue growth this year.

"We have already made more (revenue) this year than we did last year," Piper says. "We're right on track."

Source: Adela Piper, co-founder of Siren PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AutoBike sells out of bikes, aims to take shifting product national

AutoBike made some significant sales of its first bicycle and automatic shifter this year.

The Troy-based bike startup sold out all 150 of its bicycles and is now looking at the possibility of selling its automatic shifting technology as a retrofit to a couple of large bike distributors. The idea is to find another way to get its shifting technology onto more bikes in 2015.

"We have prototypes with a couple of different companies," says Sean Simpson, president & CEO of AutoBike.

AutoBike got its start three years ago making an automatic shifter for bicycles. The idea is to create a smoother, more enjoyable ride for casual bicyclists who love the idea of a leisurely ride but don’t commute on a bike often.

"We're trying to sell it to your friend who hasn't ridden a bike in 30 years," Simpson says.

The 4-person startup raised $610,000 in seed capital last year, including the $25,000 prize at the 2013 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. It also helped install one of its automatic shifter retrokits on a bike for a veteran. The recipient is a double-arm amputee working with Project Mobility, one of the 19 programs of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Source: Sean Simpson, president & CEO of AutoBike
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Axis CrossMedia revenue growth prompts studio expansion

AxisCross Media got its start 15 years ago when another firm (C3 Communications) went under. Today the company has grown its staff and its space as it sprints to keep up with the rapidly changing digital landscape.

"Evolution is constant," says Matt Madill, director of web development for Axis CrossMedia. "We are constantly changing. ... Over the last three years we have done a lot more video work and incorporated it with e-publications."

Madill started working at the company a dozen years ago. He became a full partner in the company in 2009. He helped lead its current evolution to digital video production and e-publication work. As a result, the company grew nearly 10 percent over the last year.

"We have become more diverse in our customer base," Madill says, adding it has been doing more work with advertising agencies; before, its workload was dominated by manufacturing and automotive firms.

That prompted the Troy-based company to double the size of its photo studio. It is now 1,500 square feet, which is helping the company facilitate an increased workload more efficiently.

"It makes doing a lot of the stuff more convenient," Madill says.

Source: Matt Madill, director of web development for Axis CrossMedia
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Community Choice Credit Union creates 50 jobs, set to open new branch

Community Choice Credit Union is experiencing a significant bump in just about everything these days. The Farmington Hills financial institution is adding members, deposits, staff, and new branches.

"We're in the process of opening one right now," says Philip Cooper, COO of Community Choice Credit Union. "It should be ready in late November, early December."

The 79-year-old credit union likes to call its branches member centers. The newest one will open in Northville near Six Mile and Haggerty roads. It will employ seven full-time people.

Community Choice Credit Union is focused on serving the metro Detroit area. It has hired 30 people for a broad range of jobs over the last year, expanding its staff to 189 employees. It also has 20 open positions, some of which can be found here.

The credit union has also grown its assets, which now total $17.3 million, up 3.5 percent since the beginning of the year. Cooper credits the increase in assets to his organization's additional membership.

"It was growth in membership and what the members have brought to us in deposits," Cooper says.

Community Choice Credit Union has eight branches across metro Detroit. The new branch in Northville will be its ninth location. The credit union plans to open a handful of branches each year for the next five years to keep up with its expansion plans and better serve its membership in the region.

"Our growth is really centered on the tri-county area," Cooper says.

Source: Philip Cooper, COO of Community Choice Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Billhighway adds 10 jobs, focuses on staff development, culture

Every time Billhighway makes a new hire, a press release gets its wings and flies off into the world. More specifically, the Troy-based tech firm likes to announce each new hire with a press release. The company’s public relations team has been busy in 2014 sending out in excess of half a dozen new announcements about new hires.

The 14-year-old firm has hired 10 people over the last year and is looking to hire another three in project management and software development. The firm currently employs 50 people and seven interns. One of its former interns from earlier this year was also hired into a full-time position.

"Our turnover is really low, like 1-2 percent (quarterly)," says Brenda Gallick, director of team member success for Billhighway.

A big reason for that is Billhighway works to grow its employees. About 30 percent of its open positions are filled by candidates from within looking to take the next step up in their careers.

"We spend a lot of time on career development," Gallick says.

Billhighway launched as a software platform that helps people divvy up expenses, such as dues or dinner costs, in 1999. It has grown and evolved to the point that it specializes in helping non-profits and other organizations deal with their finances. It has experienced significantly higher demand for its software as it makes a bid to reach second-stage status, prompting the hiring spree. The company's leadership doesn’t expect that trend to lessen anytime soon.

"We have quite a bit of growth planned going forward," Gallick says.

Source: Brenda Gallick, director of team member success for Billhighway
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Core3 IT merges with Enlighten Technologies to form Detroit IT

Core3 IT is merging with Enlighten Technologies and forming a new company called Detroit IT.

Troy-based Core3 IT has specialized in providing hands-on work, such as a help desk. Enlighten Technologies, which was based in Birmingham, has carved out a niche for itself for IT consulting work. The two firms merged because their products complemented each other and enabled them to offer a more comprehensive package to their customers under the Detroit IT brand.

"Both teams bring a lot to the table," says Paul Chambers, CEO of Detroit IT.

Core3 Solutions also offered digital marketing and web development services. It is spinning out that side of the company into its own entity called Element5 Digital, which will employ nine people after the split.

Detroit IT will have a staff of eight people, including three from Enlighten. Chambers plans to continue expanding the range of  services and products the new company can offer.

"We're going to continue to grow our team and enhance our offerings," Chambers says. "It will really be unmatched not only in the Detroit area but in the Midwest."

Source: Paul Chambers, CEO of Detroit IT
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Stay-at-home moms become entrepreneurs with Clever Container

Karen Eschebach and Jennifer Weaver were both working as stay-at-home moms nearly a decade ago when entrepreneurial inspiration hit them. Eschebach was working as a professional organizer and the two friends were at a direct-sales party hosted by another friend when the CFL went off over their heads.

"We thought, why couldn't we do that with organizing products," Eschebach says.

That was 2006, which is also the same time they launched Clever Container. The St. Clair Shores-based company employs sales reps that host buying parties where they offer organizing tips, techniques and products for everything from kitchens to closets.

The company is now the full-time jobs of Eschebach and Weaver and it employs another dozen people beyond that. Four people have been hired over the last year. Those new jobs include customer service reps, graphic designers and a national sales director.

Clever Container has steadily grown over the years. It now offers private label products and is creating its own line of products. Sales hit $2 million in 2013.

"This year we expect to exceed that," Eschebach says.

Source: Karen Eschebach, co-founder & president of Clever Container
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Mom Biz Coach founder debuts DIY biz coaching book

About a decade ago, Lara Galloway was a stay-at-home mom aiming to become a work-at-home mom by starting her own business. The trained life coach found that she needed the help of a business coach and then came to the realization that starting a businesses is not something someone does on the side.

"There was no way I was going to work 60 hours a week to get it off the ground," Galloway says. "That's why I left corporate America."

Instead the Bloomfield Hills resident launched Mom Biz Coach, a consulting firm that helps other women blend work and family. She says she often helps women who are building businesses that have grown quickly.

"They are growing beyond themselves and they need teams," Galloway says.

And mentors. Galloway is a firm believer in the idea that mentorship makes everyone better. It's also why she is launching her own book this month, Moms Mean Business: A Guide to Creating a Successful Company and Happy Life as a Mom Entrepreneur. Galloway describes the tome as a DIY coaching tool.

"We know that everybody in businesses can benefit from a mentor or a coach," Galloway says. "But not everybody can afford to hire one."

Source: Lara Galloway, founder of Mom Biz Coach
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Simons Michelson Zieve moves into dynamic new space

Simons Michelson Zieve's new home is light years away from its old space in regards to openness and feel. Its old and new homes are also just a few blocks away from each other in Troy.

The 85-year-old advertising agency just moved into its new office at 1200 Kirts Boulevard, which measures out to 12,000 square feet. The space is actually a little smaller than its previous office but it doesn’t feel that way, with wraparound windows bringing in more natural light and multiple floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled meeting spaces.

"It just feels bigger," says Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve.

The new office is much more open, conforming to the modern creative class demands of connecting people by breaking them out of the physical office silos. Michelson's team worked in several individual offices at the old office but wanted a more collegial atmosphere in its new one.

"People would say you have all of these wonderful people here but I can't see them," Michelson says.

Simons Michelson Zieve has a staff of 47 employees and a couple of interns. It has hired three people over the last year and is looking to hire another three right now. The open jobs include junior-level account coordinators. More info on the openings here

Source: Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Recovery Project adds 5 jobs, plans move to larger office

To say The Recovery Project comes from humble beginnings might be a bit of an understatement.

The physical rehabilitation firm got its start in the Livonia YMCA with three people in 2003. Today the company employs 40 people between its home base in Livonia and satellite office in Macomb Township. It has hired five people over the last year, including physical therapist assistants and technicians.

"We do plan on hiring over the next year," says Charles Parkhill, co-CEO of The Recovery Project. "Probably 4-6 over the next year."

The Recovery Project specializes in high-intensity physical therapy and rehab services. It has full-service independent clinics in Livonia and Macomb. The company has watched its revenue jump 20 percent over the last year as more and more doctors refer patients.

"They only come when doctors see progress with their patients," Parkhill says.

The Recovery Project is also planning to move its Macomb Township facility to a larger space next year. The new space will be about double the square footage of its 2,700-square-foot office.

"We expect our clientele to quickly fill out the space," Parkhill says.

Source: Charles Parkhill, co-CEO of The Recovery Project
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Farmington Hills-based ReapSo launches 2.0 version of app

Mobile startup ReapSo is launching the 2.0 version of its brand-advocacy app this fall.

The Farmington Hills-based company’s platform connects fans with the brands. It encourages its users to "WIN. VOTE. SAVE." so they can win prizes, voice their opinion and save money. Check out a video on it here.

The new version is focused on making those connections on broadcast mediums.

"We have expanded the 2.0 version to go after TV and radio channels with enhanced digital strategies," says Bill Wildern, co-founder & CEO of ReapSo. He adds, "You can get audience pulse with immediate feedback. They can send that out via social media."

ReapSo has grown its staff to seven employees. It is focusing on establishing the 2.0 version of its app across the U.S. this year and next.

"We want to grow the value proposition," Wildern says.

Source: Bill Wildern, co-founder & CEO of ReapSo
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ease Living brings style to home medical equipment

Getting old isn't really fashionable in the 21st century. A new company in Beverly Hills is trying to change that.

Ease Living sells lifestyle aids for seniors and people with disabilities. The offerings are curated to help bring more fashionable items to the people who need them, such as compression socks with patterns.

"Most of the common home medical equipment doesn't work very well and it's ugly," says Alison Emerick, president of Ease Living.

Emerick is an occupational therapist who launched the company from her home a year ago. She sees making these sorts of fashionable offerings as bringing mobility and dignity to the people who need them.

"No one want their house to look like a hospital room," Emerick says.

Ease Living sells its wares from its website. Emerick is looking at adding a print catalogue to appeal to older customers. She is also looking at the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar shop in the next year.

Source: Alison Emerick, president of Ease Living
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Designers come together to launch TAKD Design

Three designers from various backgrounds have come together to launch their own design firm, TAKD Design.

Colin Tury, Sean Kilgore and Salvatore Asaro have spent the last year making everything from wooden bow ties to shipping-container architecture.

"We were always intrigued about this multi-dimensional design focus," Asaro says.

The Sterling Heights-based company helped design the shipping-container offices proposed for the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative’s offices in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. They are also creating a number of unusual consumer products from wood, such as bottle openers and bow ties.

"We just launched the website store for that," Asaro says. "It's been pretty successful."

TAKD Design is run virtually from each of the co-founder's homes in the suburbs. However, the trio would like to open their own office in Detroit next year.

"We love everything that is going on down there," Asaro says.

Source: Salvatore Asaro, co-founder & principal of TAKD Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

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