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C-Net Systems leverages new IT work to create more jobs

Each year C-NET Systems hires a handful of people to keep up with its double-digit growth. It's a trend that has persisted for the Shelby Township-based IT firm for the last five years.

"We have been in a pretty good growth pattern for the last five years," says Nick Tobin, owner of C-NET Systems.

The firm has experienced 15-20-percent growth in each of those years. That has allowed it to hire two or three people each year, expanding its staff to a baker’s dozen today. Two hires (on-site service technicians) were made over the last three months.

"We're looking to hire three more people by the end of the year," Tobin says.

C-NET Systems specializes in providing IT services for small businesses in Metro Detroit. Some of its current clients include Energy Steel in Lapeer, Financial Architects in Farmington Hills, and AZA in Troy. Tobin plans to go after more medium-size and large clients this year as the company continues to grow.

"We have more than enough business to keep hiring people," Tobin says.

Source: Nick Tobin, owner of C-NET Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

SA+A Architects takes on more design work, expands client base

SA+A Architects, which is short for Stephen Auger + Associates Architects, worked its way through the lean times of the Great Recession and is now starting to reap the benefits of the recovery.

The Lake Orion-based architecture firm has hired two people over the last few weeks, including a project architect and an industrial designer. The 19-year-old company has a staff of a dozen employees and two summer interns handling a growing amount of work.

"We landed some big projects," says Steve Auger, president of SA+A Architects. "We struggled through the downturn like everyone else. We had some nice projects on the bench, and a couple of those came alive."

A lot of the new work is coming from faith-based organizations, specifically churches. SA+A Architects projects include an expansion of the Clarkston United Methodist Church and the building of a new mega church in Cincinnati called Rivers Crossing Community Church.

"That's converting a movie theater to a 1,500-seat church," Auger says.

SA+A Architects also got the green light from Oakland County to serve as one of its preferred contractors for architecture work. The approval puts the firm on the short list for architecture firms to do work on designing schools and other government buildings.

"We just won a blanket contract with Oakland County," Auger says. "We want to do some more government work. We want to be more diversified."

Source: Steve Auger, president of SA+A Architects
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Moncur branding agency opens new offices in Miami, Austin

Moncur is rebranding and expanding its presence across the U.S.

The Southfield-based branding agency has been known as Moncur Associates for its 22 years until it dropped the latter part of its name this month. Moncur is also opening satellite offices in Miami and Austin.

"There is a lot of stability that comes with geographic expansion and a lot of growth opportunity," says David Moncur, principal of Moncur. "By my estimation Austin is the next Silicon Valley."

Moncur handles the digital and social media branding for the likes of Lear, Layne, Discovery Channel, the University of Michigan, Art Van, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. It’s revenue is up 50 percent over the last year and the company is on track to do it again.

The company has hired six people over the last year, primarily in creative and technical positions. Moncur currently has a staff of 27 employees and one intern. It also has four open positions for technical and creative staffers, including a director of digital marketing.

Moncur is looking to keep going by focusing on customers in the Metro Detroit, Miami and Austin markets over the next year. However, Moncur expects most of the growth to take place at its Southfield headquarters.

"That has never happened to us in our company’s history," Moncur says. "It's an exciting ride."

Source: David Moncur, principal of Moncur
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

401K GPS brings retirement planning services online

401K GPS, an online retirement planning service, received its first outside investment this summer when it landed five figures' worth of seed capital from the state of Michigan.

The Brighton-based tech startup landed $27,000 from the state's Business Accelerator Fund with the help of the Macomb-OU INCubator. That cash will go toward the company’s marketing efforts, building a new website, and licensing its technology.

"It was a pretty big deal for us," says John Eaton, general manager of 401K GPS. "It was the first time we got any external money. We were entirely self-funded before then."

401K GPS sells a software platform that helps take the guesswork out of managing retirement plan investments. It got its start as a service so consumers could manage their own 401Ks.

"It is a technology solution to an advisory problem," Eaton says.

401K GPS and its team of two employees and two interns changed up its business model earlier this year. It went from a consumer-facing platform to one that could be leveraged by financial advisors. The move allowed the startup to double its revenue.

"That was a significant change in the business model," Eaton says. "We went where there was no  competition."

Source: John Eaton, general manager of 401K GPS
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Creative Breakthroughs hires 23, looks for new office

Creative Breakthroughs is in the process of helping to fill a number of jobs lately. The Troy-based IT risk management company has hired a couple of dozen people over the last year and is looking to fill another few dozen at a job fair early next month.

"We built a foundation for rapid growth," says Patrick Boyd, executive vice president of marketing for Creative Breakthroughs. "We are investing in systems and business relationships with our partners and expanding our base of partners."

The 23-year-old company has hired 23 people for IT positions in consulting, engineering and sales. it currently has a staff of 75 employees and a couple of summer interns. That growth has prompted the company to add temporary space and begin looking for a bigger home in Metro Detroit.

"We need more space," Boyd says.

Creative Breakthroughs will also host a career fair at its Troy headquarters (2075 W Big Beaver Road, Suite 700) on Sept. 3 between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. The company is looking to fill about 20 positions. It expects to eliminate the process of submitting a resume and hoping for an interview by meeting with each potential candidate and giving them an objective assessment on where their career can go.

"We plan to spend some time with everybody," Boyd says.

Source: Patrick Boyd, executive vice president of marketing for Creative Breakthroughs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

RBD Creative moves to larger office in Plymouth

For RBD Creative’s first seven years, it called the carriage house of one of Detroit's oldest structures home. Today the company has matured to a traditional office in a new home in the suburbs.

The marketing company made the move to Plymouth in March. The new home puts it closer to core clients, such as the University of Michigan and Genesis Genetics, which is also based in Plymouth.

"That's part of the reason we moved to Plymouth," says Dorothy Twinney, president & owner of RBD Creative.

Also necessitating the move is RBD Creative's growth making it into a different and bigger company. When it launched it had three people. Today it has a staff of a dozen employees and the occasional intern after making two hires over the last year. The new office in Plymouth is much bigger, measuring out to 2,000 square feet. It also has a conference room.

"Now we have a much bigger conference area," Twinney says.

RBD Creative is looking to add more clients in the food and academic sectors both this year and next.

"For whatever reason these two areas seem to be our thing," Twinney says.

Source: Dorothy Twinney, president & owner of RBD Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Incite Informatics adds 5 jobs as revenue spikes

Culture isn't just a catchphrase for Incite Informatics. It's something worth hiring people for.

The Farmington-based company, formerly Performant Systems Group, has all the requisites for a new tech firm, like an office full of smart young people working in comfortable jobs and periodically playing ping pong to boost productivity. It even hired a culture curator to help sharpen the company’s culture.

"Culture has always been important to us," says Matt Griffin, president & CEO of Incite Informatics. "We have always hired young people. People who have different expectations about what the workplace looks like and acts like."

Griffin and Craig Jackson launched the company four years ago, specializing in business analysis, analytics tools, data management and data visualization. They rebranded it earlier this month to better reflect the company's ability to organize, visualize, and mobilize their clients' data, giving them better visibility into operations so they can make better decisions.

"We grew up building solutions for large companies like KFC and Ingersoll-Rand," Griffin says. "But we're also working with a number of small companies."

Incite Informatics opened a new office in Seattle earlier this year. It has hired five people over the last year and is looking to bring on another three. It currently has a staff 21 employees and two interns. Its revenue spiked over the last year, going from $1.8 million to $4.8 million.

"It's a healthy jump," Griffin says. "I don't know how sustainable it is year to year but we're definitely in growth mode."

Source: Matt Griffin, president & CEO of Incite Informatics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

TrynEx expands staff with 12 hires in Madison Heights

TrynEx has some humble beginnings. The Madison Heights-based firm got its start in 1977 as a lawn care and snow removal company. It evolved into making lawn care and snow removal equipment in the mid 1990s before it was acquired by Douglas Dynamics last year.

That acquisition doesn’t mean the company stopped investing in Michigan. Since becoming a division of Douglas Dynamics the company has hired staff and improved its facility in Madison Heights.

"The strength of a bigger company helps," says Barry Truan, vice president of marketing & development for TrynEx. "We have more bench strength and ability."

TrynEx has a number of brands in the snow removal (SnowEx), landscaping (TrufEx), and janitorial (SweepEx) equipment areas. It has hired a dozen people over the last year for engineering and production positions, expanding its staff to just more than 50 employees and a couple of interns. It is also looking to hire a salesperson.

TrynEx has also invested in improving its facility in Madison Heights. It turned one of its spare spaces into more work space for its growing staff and a new training center.

"That's where we’re hosting the Salt Summit event next week," Truan says.

The company’s revenue has been propelled by the release of new products and the harsh winter the country just went through. This year is also looking up.

"2013 to 2014 has seen pretty substantial growth as well," Truan says.

Source: Barry Truan, vice president of marketing & development for TrynEx
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Capture Caddie develops technology to analyze golf swing

Lots of people play golf and nearly as many struggle to improve their swing. A new startup based in Canton believes it has come up with technology to help them.

Capture Caddie is developing technology that creates a simple way to record a player's golf swing. The four-person team behind the 1-year-old startup notes the only way to currently capture a player's golf swing and analyze it is to hire a pro, have a friend record it on a mobile device, or set up a tripod and hit record. All of these options tend to be either clumsy or not cost-effective.

"There is just no easy way to do it," says Edward Thai, co-founder & manager of Capture Caddie. "So we made an easy-to-use kiosk."

Capture Caddie provides a kiosk at golf courses that records a players swing and sends that video to the player's computer or mobile device. The kiosk also tracts data, such as carry distance and ball flight. Check out a video on it here.

"It's data most people can't get unless they go through a pro," Thai says.

Capture Caddie is nearly done with the development of this technology and is working to demo it at some local golf courses. It is also working to gamify the technology to add a competitive element between users.

"It makes you hit shots under pressure," Thai says. "That's golf."

Source: Edward Thai, co-founder & manager of Capture Caddie
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Brazilian immigrants launch pastry biz, Doce Brigadeiro

A couple of Brazilian immigrants are making a go of it in entrepreneurship, launching their own pastry business with the help of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College.

Doce Brigadeiro specializes in Brazilian handmade gourmet sweets. The main pastry is the popular treat called a brigadeiro. The main ingredients consist of condensed milk, cream and chocolate. Twenty-one flavors are on offer, including mint, toffee, lemon zest and sea salt caramel, as well as milk, dark and white chocolate.

"I love to do Brazilian desserts," says Danielle Cecconi, co-founder of Doce Brigadeiro. "It's something I would do every month."

Cecconi recently received her MBA from Walsh College where she leveraged the services of the Blackstone LaunchPad program, which teaches the basics of business to aspiring entrepreneurs. Cecconi and her friend, Marina Kapordelis, started selling brigadeiros to friends and family under the Doce Brigadeiro brand this spring.

The Royal Oak-based business is now looking for its own kitchen space to make its sweets, and eventually wants to open up a storefront in a local downtown like Ann Arbor or Birmingham in the not-too-distant future.

"We're hoping to get a lot of Christmas orders this year," Cecconi says.

Source: Danielle Cecconi, co-founder of Doce Brigadeiro
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Troy-based Seco Tools hires 20 for tech engineering group

Seco Tools is on a bit of a hiring spree as it works to fill out a new custom manufacturing space in Troy.

The Troy-based company specializes in metalcutting work in manufacturing. It recently consolidated an out-of-state facility with a new location in Troy that specializes in specialty manufacturing and testing. The firm has been staffing up the facility for the last year, making 20 hires in its technical engineering group.

"It's really just a skeleton crew. We need to add two more people to bring us up to where we need to be here," says Bob Goulding, tech engineering manager for Seco Tools. "We hope to add another shift next year."

The 35,000-square-foot space near the Automation Alley offices is the result of the company moving some work from a former location in Tennessee last fall. The new facility will do custom manufacturing and testing work when it’s all done.

"We're really just finishing it now," Goulding says.

Source: Bob Goulding, tech engineering manager for Seco Tools
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Global LT lands private equity investment, adds 15 jobs

Global LT is making a big change as it positions itself to grow exponentially over the next few years.

The Troy-based firm specializes in language services, cultural training, expatriate destination services, and workforce training courses for international locales. It recently accepted a significant investment from Growth Equity Fund, an affiliate of the private-equity firm Vicente Capital Partners.

Hortensia Albertini started the company from her kitchen table in Metro Detroit in 1979. Albertini built Global LT into a multi-million-dollar company and eventually handed over control to her daughter, Lisette Poletes, who worked out the deal with Growth Equity Fund.

"It was a necessary step to in our path to get capital resources and technology to help us scale," says Tom Hanson, president of Global LT.

Between 2010 and 2013, Global LT clocked a 31-percent compound growth rate. It is aiming to grow 15 percent annually for the next few years. To accomplish that, Global LT's leadership is looking to expand its work with its existing customer base, land more contracts with the U.S. Dept of Defense, and penetrate the Asia-Pacific markets.

To do that, Global LT has hired 15 people over the last year, creating jobs in sales, operations, recruiters, and project managers. It’s also looking to add another six people to its existing staff of 103 employees, an intern, and several thousand independent contractors.

Source: Tom Hanson, president of Global LT
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Clarkston State Bank grows off increased commercial lending

The financial crisis wasn't a crisis for everyone. For Clarkston State Bank it was an opportunity.

The Clarkston-based bank filled in the vacuum of commercial lending in recent years while larger banks ran scared from the sector. That has allowed the local bank to grow its bottom line and a few other things.

"We've been a very active lender, specifically commercial lending," says Grant Smith, president & CEO of Clarkston State Bank. "It's why we have been hiring a few people this year."

The 15-year-old community bank has hired three people over the last year, including a vice president of credit administration and a treasurer. It now employs a staff of 44 people among four branches in Clarkston, Waterford, and Independence Township. It is currently building a replacement branch near McLaren Hospital.

Clarkston State Bank has watched its revenue grow by 20-30 percent for each of the last few years. Its net income is up 20 percent while retail deposits are up $15 million. The bank also booked $30 million in new lending last year while it reviewed nearly $60 million in deals during that time. It hopes to add a few million more in lending this year.

"That's quite a bit for a small bank," Smith says.

Source: Grant Smith, president & CEO of Clarkston State Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Shelving ponders acquisition, more hiring

Long-term is an important word at Shelving.

The Auburn Hills-based company is a family owned business that aims for strong single-digit revenue growth and steady employee growth. It recently hired an e-commerce/Internet sales professional, expanding its staff to 24 employees.
 
"We have a lot of long-term employees here," says Mike Schodowski, co-owner of Shelving.

Jack Schodowski started Shelving in 1960. The company offers storage products, along with design-build and after-the-sale support services. Among its 15,000 products are wire shelving, rivet shelving, pallet racks, lockers, mezzanines, in-plant offices and security fences.

Shelving grew its revenue by 8 percent over the last year, in line with the family's aim.  Much of that came from extra work from existing clients.

"Slow and steady is our motto," Schodowski says. "You don't want to grow too fast."

With that said, the slow part might not be as slow in the next year or two as Shelving looks to keep expanding.

"We are looking at acquiring another company down the road or hiring some additional sales people," Schodowski says.

Source: Mike Schodowski, co-owner of Shelving
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

STEM aims to reinvent science-based education

Andrew B. Raupp launched a company six years ago looking to reinvent STEM education by creating synergies between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. He rebranded the company as STEM last fall after he was able to acquire the URL www.STEM.org.

"Because we got that it made a lot of sense to update the site and the logo," Raupp says.

The Southfield-based company is working to improve STEM education in the school curriculum through better intermingling of the subjects. He points out that subjects like math and science are taught in silos and don't bring things like engineering and technology into the curriculum enough, even though all four things are interdependent. Check out a video of it here.

"Very simply, we help schools, districts, and organizations do STEM better," Raupp says.

The company employs nine employees after making two hires (an education director and a partnerships director) over the last year. It also has a stable of 150 independent contractors.

STEM is also working to open a satellite office in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood this year. The firm is currently in the process of raising $700,000 to build out the space that will help local schools, teachers and students integrate STEM materials into their everyday lives.

"We want to create an incubator where schools can learn to set up AP programs, career technical education programs, and STEM programs," Raupp says.

Source: Andrew B Raupp, executive director of STEM
Writer: Jon Zemke

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