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LJPR expands staff by 6 on double-digit revenue gains

LJPR is not one of those financial adviser firms that sits idly by and waits for things to turn its way. It goes out and gets what it wants. At least that is what it has done with hiring lately.

The Troy-based firm has hired six people over the last year, including five in the last 100 days. Those new hires include tax professionals, financial advisers, support staff, and marketing professionals. It now has a staff of 23 employees and a handful of interns. It’s also looking to hire a financial adviser or two.

"We are always looking for good people," says Leon LaBrecque, founder & chief strategist of LJPR. "Always. We will warehouse a good person if we can find them."

The 26-year-old firm is centered around independent wealth management and is 100 percent employee owned. It specializes in individual retirement planning, investment management, executive financial counseling, nonprofit investment services, estate planning, and tax planning. The firm is currently managing $691 million in assets.

"A lot of the time when there is turmoil in the market some financial advisers stick their heads in the sand," LaBrecque says. "We look for opportunities."

Which would explain its most recent growth streak. LJPR's revenue is up 14 percent over the last year. It was also up 20 percent the year before that. This year it is shooting for a 15 percent gain.

"We have had record earnings seven years in a row," LaBrecque says.

Source: Leon LaBrecque, founder & chief strategist of LJPR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PublicCity PR adds to clientele as company grows

PublicCity PR has come a long ways in its first six years. The boutique public relations firm has literally gone from kitchen table to some of the larger boardrooms in Metro Detroit.

The Southfield-based company has recently expanded its client list with some big names, including the likes of Gardner White, Belle Tire, Affinity Tool, InstaBOOST, Michigan Women’s Foundation, and TVStoreOnline.com.

"I never imagined six years ago that we would be in this position to win business from such big establishments," says Jason Brown, founder & principal of PublicCity PR. "It's all from a lot of hard work."

PublicCity PR started on Brown's kitchen table in Oakland County. At the time he was just a former reporter who had been working in PR for a decade, looking to scratch out a living in the communications world. Now he oversees a growing staff of four employees and an intern in the company's own office.

Part of those gains have come from PublicCity PR joining the PRConsultantsGroup as the new Michigan representative. The nationwide organization is composed of senior-level public relations and marketing consultants in every major market in the U.S. Members often work together on projects with each member acting as the expert for their region. PublicCity PR recently work as part of that conglomerate on campaign for Travelocity where the company’s mascot (a gnome) made appearances across Metro Detroit.

"That was an easy project but there is more work to come," Brown says.

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

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

Reliance One hires 15 as it expands across Midwest

Reliance One has become a staple in the staffing business in Michigan over its 16 years.

The Auburn Hills-based company is now working toward expanding that reputation, opening a new office in Chicago this winter.

"We have clients in that market and clients we currently have locally have offices in Chicago," says Jim Beath, co-founder & chairman of Reliance One. "We need to continue that relationship with our clients."

The company has grown significantly over the last few years, notching a double-digit revenue gain in 2014. It’s on pace to do it again this year. That growth has allowed the company to hire 15 people over the last year, including recruiters, administrative, and back office support staff. It now has a staff of 65 employees and an intern. It is also looking to hire four more recruiters and promote more people internally.

"We added a lot of great people that have learned a lot about our company and our industry," Beath says.

Source: Jim Beath, co-founder & chairman of Reliance One
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

App firm jacapps adds voice-recognition technology to arsenal

Bingham Farm-based jacapps recently signed a deal to partner XAPPmedia to bring new voice recognition technology to its line of mobile apps.

Radio stations have been leveraging jacapps mobile apps for years, giving the company enough credibility to expand its client base into other industries, such as automotive. XAPPmedia provides an interactive audio advertising service, utilizing voice recognition technology. That way people listening to an ad on the radio can respond to a cue on the advertisement to make an order with just their voice. No buttons needed.

"We think this is a huge leap forward," says Bob Kernen, COO of jacapps. "You can see how it can be a big driver with ads."

The 6-year-old company also recently launched a new product platform that allows it to streamline the creation of its apps.

"It allows us to work in a much more efficient way," Kernen says. "We don't need to build each app from scratch. We can configure them to our clients needs."

Which has allowed the company to grow its revenue by 20 percent over the last year. That in turn has prompted jacapps to hire two people (software developers), rounding its staff out to 10 employees and an intern.

"We have had really strong revenue growth over the last few years," Kernen says.

Source: Bob Kernen, COO of jacapps
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IPS Technology Services adds 5 new staffers, looks to hire 3 more

Revenue increases have become par for the course for IPS Technology Services since its launch in 2009.

Back then the Troy-based tech firm had revenues in the five figures. Those have risen sharply each year since. Revenues crossed into six figures within three years and into seven figures within four years.
 
"Now the challenge is to maintain it," says Pradip Sengupta, president of IPS Technology Services.

IPS Technology Services works primarily in technology spaces, such as software, IT and staffing. It has made significant gains in sending new employees to other companies in the IT and engineering fields. That has allowed the company to hire five people over the last year in IT, business analysts, and software development. It currently has a staff of 30 employees and is looking to hire three more in software development right now.

"We try to hire the best," Sengupta says.

Sengupta credits the company's rise to its ability to deliver on its services and please its customers. He expects that philosophy to carry the company's growth trajection this year.

"We would love to cross the $2 million mark," Sengupta says. "Our goal is $2.5 million. We want to hit $20 million in 2020."

Source: Pradip Sengupta, president of IPS Technology Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Clicktivated Video turns watching videos into revenue events

Chris Roebuck started a company out of frustration while trying to relax. The founder & CEO of Clicktivated Video wanted more when he was watching a video on a small, mobile screen, so his Metro Detroit-based company is tackling it.

"There was no way of satisfying the urge to dive deeper into the online video while you’re watching it," Roebuck says.

Clicktivated Video, which has offices in Birmingham and downtown Detroit, has developed a software platform that allows viewers to click on items in a video. The click creates a small bookmark that allows the viewer to make an online purchase or find out more information on it. The company's team of six people is still working on enhancing the technology.

The 1-year-old startup launched its service midway through las year. It has signed on a couple of mid-sized players in video, such as the Home Shopping Networking.

"We are starting to work with a few major networks," Roebuck says.

Source: Chris Roebuck, founder & CEO of Clicktivated Video and Ben Hatala, director of operations for Clicktivated Video
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Innovative Learning Group set to move to bigger office in Troy

Innovative Learning Group has been a staple of downtown Royal Oak for years, and now it’s going to become a staple of Troy.

The 10-year-old business consultancy purchased a new building in Troy last December with plans to execute a move later this year. The new office is more than twice as large coming in at 10,100 square feet.

"We will be spending the year remodeling the building and moving just before the end of this calendar year," says Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group.

Innovation Learning Group specializes in training and human performance improvement for businesses. It has grown 40 percent over the last year and is looking to add another 15 percent this year. Most of that growth comes from its mobile work.

"Using your tablet or smartphone for learning or doing your job better," Toenniges says.

That increase in work has led to more hiring at Innovative Learning Group. It has hired six people over the last year, including project managers, graphic designers and office managers. It is also looking to hire another three (a consultant, project manager, and sales professional) to add to its current staff of 17 employees.

"We are full up (on space for employees) here in Royal Oak," 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.

IT firms Expetec Technology Services, BCL Computing merge into Expetec of Michigan

A couple of IT firms are merging together to form a bigger company with services that complement one another.

Expetec Technology Services of Rochester Hills and BCL Computing are combining to become of Expetec of Michigan. The new company will remain an Expetec franchise, expanding staff to 12 people and hiring six over the last year.

"We're probably going to add 2-3 more in the next 1-2 months," says Michael St. John, vice president of sales & marketing for Expetec of Michigan.

The newly formed company will offer a larger variety of IT services, such as managed IT, network development, , IT hardware, telecommunications, and IT security. St. John says the the companies focused on different areas, such as BCL Computing in IT hardware work and Expetec more in IT services. He adds that the new company is looking to launch a training program later this winter.

"We're going to kick off a new (military) veterans training program for IT and business management," St. John says.

Source: Michael St. John, vice president of sales & marketing for Expetec of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Aras Corp grows new Metro Detroit office to 4 people

Aras Corp opened its first Metro Detroit office in Troy last spring with an idea of leveraging more automotive industry work. Why here instead of anywhere else in the world?

"If you want to be in automotive you need an office in Detroit," says Bill Bone, CTO of Automotive Solutions for Aras Corp. "It's that simple."

The Maryland-based tech firm makes product lifecycle management software. Its Troy office now employs four people and is looking to hire three more right now. Those new job openings include a consultant and marketing manager.

"We're actually in an expansion mode right now," Bone says. "We're integrating the adjoining suite with us."

Aras Corp is also working to host its first industry conference at the Renaissance Center early this spring. The company plans to use it to help integrate it further into the region and with its customers.

"It's focused on our products, our services, and what our customers are doing," Bone says. "It's a community-based event. We are an open-sourced company."

Source: Bill Bone, CTO of Automotive Solutions for Aras Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ink Detroit aims to take t-shirt/garment business national

T-shirt companies are a dime a dozen when it comes new business starts. There are low-barriers of entry and lots of people with ideas for clever garment designs.

Ink Detroit is the exception to that rule. The 10-year-old company has its t-shirt designs, such as its trademark "I Love Detroit" brand, in a stores across Michigan. It employs four people after hiring a sales manager last year. And now the company plans to hire a few more people later this year as it looks to take its business national.

So what's the secret to success in such a competitive industry? Experience, according to Ink Detroit's president & owner Steve Mansour. He and his partner have years of experience in fashion and garment industries, and Manour's family has been in the business for a long time. It's the type of inside track that often leaves newcomers in the dust.

"They don't have the network capabilities to get their product into distribution," Mansour says.

So the Royal Oak-based company has grown. Its revenue is up 30 percent over the last year after adding a few new retailers in 2014.

"We're curated in 25 stores locally," Mansour says.

One of those new stores is one in Metro Airport. Its parent company has 145 locations across the country. Mansour hopes to leverage those connections to launch his new Ink City brand later this year in major metro areas such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami. The new brand will be locally specific much like I Love Detroit is today.

"It's pretty much city themed merchandise geared toward those cities," Mansour says.

Ink Detroit is also looking at expanding locally, too. The company is aiming to open a retail location in downtown Detroit later this year.

"We'd like to have a full-time operation there," Mansour says.

Source: Steve Mansour, president & owner of Ink Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Reach Influence scores $5M in VC, aims to add staff

Reach Influence has scored $5 million in seed capital to start off the new year, scoring investments from Detroit Venture Partners and Vineyard Capital Group to lead the round.

The downtown Royal Oak-based startup specializes in helping retailers maximize their sales through analytics gathered from its software. It had previously received an investment from Vineyard Capital Group in 2012, and plans to spend much of 2015 using its newfound seed capital to build on that initial investment's foundation.

"We are leveraging that mainly in people and technology," says Susan Dettloff, marketing director of Reach Influence. "We plan to grow our team this year."

The 5-year-old startup has hired four people over the last year, including analysts and program managers. It currently has a staff of 22 employees and the occasional intern.

Reach Influence provides technical and design services, such as data capture and analysis, to retailers and wholesalers. The startup’s software platform helps its clients measure marketing efficacy, engage shoppers, and provide an outlet to deliver digital offers by collecting daily transaction data.

After Vineyard Capital Group made its initial investment in 2012, Reach Influence’s team spend its time improving its software platform and installing better processes in the business. It rebranded to Reach Influence in 2013 and has been growing the company ever since.

"We have grown our sales quite a bit," Dettloff says. "Every year has been a building year in one way or another."

Source: Susan Dettloff, marketing director of Reach Influence
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Youngsoft adds new hires, clients, shoots for 20 percent growth

Youngsoft is a software firm but it has found itself in the addition business as of late. The Wixom-based company is adding new clients, new hires, and new revenue.

Youngsoft specializes in IT, software and consulting services, such as staffing, application development, and niche software practices. It services a number of different industries and has 400 employees in offices in North America and India.

"We have been in a hiring mode," says Amy Courter, senior vice president of sales & marketing for Youngsoft.

Courter is one of those new hires. She has served in executive positions at Valassis and most recently at VisionIT as its CIO. The 20-year-old company has hired a dozen people over the last year. It currently employs 200 in the U.S., including 73 in Michigan.

Courter expects that sort of growth to continue in 2015. Youngsoft grew its revenue by 20 percent in 2014 and expects to hit that number again in 2015. It achieved that by adding a dozen new customers over the last year. Today eight of the company's 20 largest customers are newly acquired.

"We're always adding more customers," Courter says.

Source: Amy Courter, senior vice president of sales & marketing for Youngsoft
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Rockstar Digital expands staff, work into LED signs

Ever want to use your big-screen TV as a tablet computer? Surf for information with a touch of a fingertip on a screen with plenty of space for information? A Sterling Heights-based company is making that happen.

Rockstar Digital is turning large, flatscreen TVs into interactive displays. That includes everything from use one to help customers navigate the car-buying maze in an automotive dealership or finding their favorite store in their mall.

"We're creating a 70-inch, 3-D map of the mall," says Robby Dhillon, president of Rockstar Digital.

Dhillon is a recent graduate of Kettering University in electrical and computer engineering. He saw the rise of LED technology in 2007 and worked to created a software point of sale platform for Lady Jane. A little more than a year ago he launched Rockstar Digital with the idea of combing different sectors of cutting-edge technology.

"I wanted to do something that wasn't just software but software and hardware," Dhillon says.

Today the company has a staff of 12 employees and an intern. That team is working on turning 70-inch flatscreen panel into way-finding machines for everything from businesses to city streetscapes. Check out a video of how it works here.

Source: Robby Dhillon, president of Rockstar Digital
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

LOC Performance Products hires 25, preps to add 95 more

LOC Performance Products is working on expanding its home in Plymouth, hiring a couple dozen people last year and planning to hire dozens more this year and the next.

The 44-year-old company specializes in manufacturing, getting its start as an automotive supplier. Not it works in driveline and suspension systems for heavy-truck, heavy-equipment, agriculture, rail, and oil-and-gas industries. However, it’s biggest gains are coming from its defense work.

"We have won a lot of new business," says Wayne Dula, director of business development for LOC Performance Products. "The largest contract to date is the Bradley ECP1. That is a $161 million contract over four years. We’re working on the first delivery order now."

LOC Performance Products' defense contract is working to restore lost mobility to the U.S. Army’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle, specifically Engineering Change Proposal (ECP-1) vehicle modifications. LOC Performance Products is installing track kits, vehicle suspension support system kits, shock absorber kits, and heavy weight torsion bar kits.

The Plymouth-based company is expanding its facility to meet the demands of that contract, investing $12.1 million in new equipment and machinery. The state of Michigan is giving it a $600,000 grant to make the investment here. LOC Performance Products plans to hire 95 people as part of that expansion. It currently employs 205 after hiring 25 over the last year. Dula expects that hiring to continue over this year as it works to fill up those 95 positions and attract more business.

"We're always working on new business opportunities," Dula says.

Source: Wayne Dula, director of business development for LOC Performance Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Level One Bank aims for big 2015 after acquiring Lotus Bank

Level One Bank made headlines last fall after acquiring fellow Oakland County-based Lotus Bank. Look for the newly merged banks (the acquisition should be completed in March) to make more news as they integrate together this year.

"This will be our third transaction," says Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank, referring to his bank's acquisitions of Paramount Bank in 2010 and Michigan Heritage Bank in 2009. "We're focused on completing the acquisition of Lotus Bank and folding it into Level One Bank."

The Farmington Hills-based bank got its start seven years ago. It has since grown to $825 million in assets, including the $110 million it added with the Lotus Bank acquisition. The bank has grown organically, too, locking down 18 percent growth in 2014 and projecting another 15 percent gain this year.

Level One Bank has hired 15 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 150 people. It’s also looking to hire another five people now. While those new jobs are largely across the board many of them are in the bank's newly beefed-up commercial banking and residential lending departments.

"We're pretty bullish on the local economy," Fehring says. "It seems southeast Michigan is fairing pretty well right now."

Source: Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

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