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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.

RIIS hires 18, moves to bigger offices in Troy

Change is afoot at RIIS, and that's an encouraging thing for the growing tech firm.

RIIS has hired 18 people so far this year, including a recruiter, sales professional, mobile developers, and software developers. It now has a staff of 54 employees and three summer interns. It plans to hire another 18 people over the next year to keep pace with its growth.

"We have had the two best revenue months we've ever had," says Godfrey Nolan, president of RIIS. "The growth is consistent, not explosive."

RIIS has done tech work (think custom software platforms and mobile apps) for the likes of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan since its start in 1998. It has since diversified its customer base, taking on larger clients like North American Bancard, Michigan First Credit Union, and DTE Energy. Often it has used its expertise in mobile to help land that new work.

"We're doing lots of mobile work and a lot more work with DTE Energy," Nolan says. "We have great salespeople and have done work there before."

RIIS also executed a move from its old office in Southfield to a newer, bigger space in Troy earlier this week. The new office has 1,500 square feet more than its previous space, adding up to a total of 5,000 square feet.

"One of the reasons we moved to Troy is for more space," Nolan says.

The new space is consolidated and open. Nolan points out that the cubicle workspace for software developers is dead and an open floor plan that encourages collaboration is what's making firms like RIIS competitive today. The company's new office not only lacks walls but has space for training and recreation for the company's growing number of employees.

"It's way better than what we had before," Nolan says.

Source: Godfrey Nolan, president of RIIS
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Livio Radio co-founders launch new tech venture, Tome

Fresh off a successful exit of tech startup Livio, co-founders Jake Sigal and Massimo Baldini are at it again, launching a new venture called Tome out of Ferndale.

"People like to say we're like an old married couple when it comes to business," Sigal says.

Sigal is shy to describe Tome in too much detail but would say its technology is focused on the "Internet of things," a newer term used to describe the movement to connect the power of the Internet with tangible objects. Specifically, Sigal says Tome’s principal product aims to merge mobile apps, devices and services.

"We're looking at the larger issues in the tech industry," Sigal says.

Sigal and Baldini launched Livio Radio in Ferndale, making physical radios that could play Internet radio stations in the late 2000s. The startup evolved to creating software that connected mobile devices with automobiles. Ford acquired the startup, later rebranded as just Livio, last year. Sigal and Baldini left the company soon after but stay connected with its staff and progress.

"We're excited about what Ford is doing with it now," Sigal says.

Tome now has a staff of three people after launching in April. Sigal says it's in "stealth mode" but he did describe it as a non-automotive play that focuses on software. The pair raised a $250,000 angel round that closed in June.

"Our mission right now is to build the right team and the right product," Sigal says.

Source: Jake Sigal, co-founder & CEO of Tome
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HIROTEC AMERICA plans to expand Auburn Hills facility, add 140 jobs

HIROTEC AMERICA is making a sizable bet on Metro Detroit, investing $26 million into an expansion of its Auburn Hills facility. It’s a move the automotive supplier expects will create 140 new jobs.

"We added 37 jobs in 2013," says Jim Toeniskoetter, president & COO of HIROTEC AMERICA. "So far this year we have added 22 jobs. We will continue to add jobs as we continue to expand."

HIROTEC AMERICA is the North American arm of HIROTEC Group. The global automotive supplier manufacturers everything from body-in-white closures to exhaust systems. It has operations in Auburn Hills, New Haven, and two facilities in Chesterfield Township. The company employs 285 people between all four facilities.

Its current facility in Auburn Hills measures out to 170,000 square feet, which includes 20,000 square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Toeniskoetter points out his firm is expanding in Auburn Hills because of its longstanding relationship with the city (it goes back to 1992), its central location in the region with easy access to I-75 and M-59, and close proximity to its existing employee base.

The first step in HIROTEC AMERICA's expansion plans in Auburn Hills included the purchase of 20 acres of land in the Oakland Technology Industrial Park earlier this month. It plans to construct a new building with 42,000 square feet of office space and 174,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The facility will also have room to expand its operations by another 125,000 square feet in the future.

"They will start moving dirt in August when we get our building permits," Toeniskoetter says.

HIROTEC AMERICA plans to keep its current facility when the new one is finished. It will have close to 400,000 square feet of commercial space when the project is completed in August of 2015. The 140 new hires are expected to take place over the next 2-3 years and will be on top of the current workforce of 285 people.

Source: Jim Toeniskoetter, president & COO of HIROTEC AMERICA
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Kimberly LED Lighting set to move into bigger facility in Clarkston

The LED lighting industry has been on an upward trajectory for years now as it becomes the go-to brand for energy-efficient lighting in the 21st century. Kimberly LED Lighting is riding that wave, expanding its sales and moving to a bigger facility this summer.

The 8-year-old company is putting the finishing touches on a new facility in Clarkston. A move-in is set for August. The new facility will be exponentially larger than its current office in Auburn Hills.

"We're going from 5,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet," says Doug Jenkins, managing partner of Kimberly LED Lighting. "It's a pretty big jump."

Kimberly LED Lighting specializes in changing out traditional incandescent bulbs for LED lighting in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Often LED lighting is up to 70-80 percent more energy efficient than traditional options.

The switch to LEDs has allowed Kimberly LED Lighting to double its sales each year, and nearly triple them in the last year. The company has also hired three people over the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen full-time employees handling everything from LED switches in houses to factories.

"The bread and butter of LEDs right now is in the commercial and industrial side," Jenkins says. "Businesses are getting payback on them within two years."

Source: Doug Jenkins, managing partner of Kimberly LED Lighting
Writer: Jon Zemke

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