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Vectorform hires 20 in Royal Oak, stays ahead of tech curve

Vectorform is recovering nicely from the worst of the economic downturn, expanding its staff and experimenting with new technologies.

The Royal Oak-based tech firm has hired 20 people over the last year, expanding its employee count to 100. Those hires were made possible by 20-percent revenue growth in the last year and similar gains since 2009. It now services 20 Fortune 500 companies, among its growing clientele.

"We have doubled our staff since 2009," says Trevor Anulewicz, director of creative & content strategy for Vectorform.

Vectorform also has a half dozen interns. The company has made a habit of turning its interns into employees. An average of 80 percent of its interns are promoted to full-time employees. "That's a great opportunity," Anulewicz says. "We try to have these folks come in and make an impact and stay."

The 14-year-old company's leaders attribute the company's current growth trend to staying ahead of the tech curve. It has carved out a nice niche creating mobile apps and mastering new software platforms, such as Windows 8. It is also one of the early tech firms to get its hands on Google Glass.

"We will be procuring the device in the coming weeks and we have six great ideas we will be employing with it," says Kevin Foreman, director of product vision for Vectorform.

Source: Trevor Anulewicz, director of creative & content strategy for Vectorform and Kevin Foreman, director of product vision for Vectorform
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Wellco keeps up healthy hiring habit in Royal Oak

The challenge for Wellco these days isn't convincing companies to adopt a health-and-wellness program. It's making the ones that exist work. That makes the Royal Oak-based business more a fixer of these programs instead of an establisher of them.

"The three biggest pitfalls include a lack of employees participating, a lack of leadership support and a lack of return on investment," says Scott Foster, president of Wellco.  "Wellco achieves all three of them."

The 17-year-old business sells software and programs it has developed that allows companies to document and track the health of their employees. That has allowed it to grow to 16 employees and the occasional intern. It has hired two people over the last year and plans to add another five employees over the next 12 months.

Driving this growth is acceptance and employment of health-and-wellness programs to help lower the overall bottom line by trimming health-care costs and improving productivity. The institutions of things like Obamacare have helped make them more popular in recent years.

Wellco has watched its revenue jump by 30 percent over the last year. Foster says a majority of that business is from companies that are looking to maximize near-dormant health-and-wellness program to help improve their overall profit margins.

"We're finding a tremendous need from employers to provide dependable results," Foster says.

Source: Scott Foster, president of Wellco
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

LevelSet Solutions' staffing jumps 50% in Royal Oak

LevelSet Solutions has watched its revenue jump 30 percent over the last year, allowing the Internet marketing firm to expand its staff to 14 people and a few interns.

The 4-year-old firm based in Royal Oak has hired two people (a technical business analyst and a project manager) in recent weeks. The company has hired four people over the last year and has an opening for a software engineer right now.

LevelSet Solutions has seen its workload with existing clients grow as it has added more work from new clients. One of its biggest recent projects has been the reworking of Crittenton Hospital's website.

"We rebuilt the whole website," says Steve Swanson, president of LevelSet Solutions. "We slimmed it down from 500 pages to 250-300 pages and put it in a traditional content management system."

LevelSet Solutions won an "Outstanding Website" award for that project from the Interactive Advertising Competition. Those awards are produced by the Web Marketing Association to "honor excellence in online advertising as well as recognize the individuals and organizations responsible."

Source: Steve Swanson, president of LevelSet Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MIT grad returns home to launch Vitamin start-up, SunDaily

When local leaders talk about retaining talent, they probably have someone like Adam Leeb in mind.

The Metro Detroit native graduated from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering and went to work for a private equity firm in New York City in the late 2000s. After watching a number of his colleagues lose their jobs in the economic downturn and a few other not-so-flattering things about the finance industry, he decided he wanted to move back home.

"I knew it wasn't something I wanted to make my career," Leeb says.

That was last year, roughly the same time he started working on his own company, SunDaily. The Royal Oak-based start-up is working to create a premium brand of vitamins and supplements. It's a hole in what Leeb sees as a crowded market.

"I saw a lot of different formulas and a lot of confusion on the consumers' end," Leeb says.

SunDaily and its team of four people began its soft Beta launch earlier this month and plans to go public with it this week. The new brand of vitamins offers traditional staples like a multi-vitamin, Vitamin D and a fish oil supplement. As many as a dozen different products are expected to be launched this year. Leeb plans to create some market separation with high-quality products that are easy to understand and come in aesthetically pleasing packaging.

Source: Adam Leeb, founder of SunDaily
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Cosmetology school L'esprit Academy adds Royal Oak location

L’esprit Academy, a cosmetology school, is opening a second education center in downtown Royal Oak, a move that helped the company double its workforce over the last year.

The 9-year-old business now employs 20 people after hiring 10 over the last year. It also has about half a dozen open positions now, mostly for administrative areas. It currently has six people working in downtown Royal Oak and expects to double that staff there by the end of the year.

The Livonia-based business choose downtown Royal Oak because of its location in Oakland County and because its urban setting is a nice contrast to its suburban-style headquarters. Plus, downtown Royal Oak is attractive because it has lots of energy, is a trendsetter and is home to a large concentration of creatives.

"It seemed like a natural fit on an aesthetic level," says Stacy Wells, CEO of L’esprit Academy.

L'espirit Academy has enjoyed high growth in recent years because of the staying power of the industry (hair stylist jobs can't be outsourced to India) and the flexibility it provides to its workforce (working moms can do this part-time on their schedule). Wells also points out cosmetology can be a more cost-effective career compared to getting a professional degree at a traditional university.

"People are getting four-year degrees and $150,000 in debt and still don't have a job," Wells says. "We find a lot of people who have either done a year or two of college or have graduated and can't find a job."

Source: Stacy Wells, CEO of L’esprit Academy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Promoshop hires 3 in Royal Oak, looks to add intern

Promoshop is expanding its presence in Metro Detroit and Windsor with new hires on both sides of the Detroit River.

The Los Angeles-based company specializes in merchandising and marketing services for small and large businesses. It opened its office in Royal Oak five years ago and has grown it to five people after making three hires over the last year. It is also looking for an intern. Its Windsor office also stands at five people.

"We're in pretty strong growth phases, not only in this area but across the country," says Jennifer Lindsey Cooper, account manager for Promoshop.

Promoshop has some well-known local name brands on its client list, including the likes of Chrysler and Faygo. Lindsey Cooper expects that sort of local representation to continue to expand in 2013 as customers look to leverage the firm's expertise and other assets.

"We're also a minority-owned company," Lindsey Cooper says. "There has been a lot of strong growth in that area, too."

Source: Jennifer Lindsey Cooper, account manager for Promoshop
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Siren PR keeps up with new business in Royal Oak

Adela Piper and Lindsey Walenda knew they were going to be choosy when they launched their public relations firm Siren PR. Those sorts of high standards are a cornerstone of their business plan.

The friend had worked for years in communications for OLHSA, one of Oakland County's largest non-profits. They struck out on their own last year and now OLSHA is one of their top clients. The core missions of their small business/non-profit clients motivate Piper and Walenda.

"We get exceptionally invested in our clients," Piper says. "We take care to make sure we work with clients that do very good work. What we choose to get behind is something we have been very careful when choosing."

The two person-company works virtually from the co-founders' homes in Royal Oak. Piper and Walenda are looking to grow their client base, carefully of course, this year and find the right live-work balance.

"We want to have clients that get us motivated to work everyday but still give us time to live our lives," Piper says.

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

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

Spencer Management quadruples staff in Royal Oak

Aimee Spencer spent a decade working in the radio industry. She held a number of different positions, ranging from marketing director to event organization to creative director.

A few years ago she noticed radio was heading in a different direction and knew she wanted to do something else. That led to the creation of Spencer Management Group, a downtown Royal Oak-based public relations agency. What sets the 2-year-old company apart is it leverages both traditional public relations and working that into events to help build client brands.

"I appreciate people who do traditional PR in Metro Detroit," Spencer says. "I am definitely not traditional."

That approach has allowed Spencer to expand her company from just herself to four people within the last year. That new team is helping Spencer Management Group do more public relations work that focuses on not only telling stories but doing so through visual, music and video experiences.

Source: Aimee Spencer, president of Spencer Management Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

App start-up Brilliant Chemistry tackles bullying, Twinkies

The folks behind Brilliant Chemistry are so creative that they not only came up with a clever name for their tech-based marketing agency but they came up with an original way of describing it.

"We don't like to be called an agency," says Carl Rundell, partner with Brilliant Chemistry. "We liked to be called an ideation studio."

The downtown Royal Oak-based firm more accurately bills itself as a "creative technology and ideation studio." And it has been living up to that billing it its first year of doing business. The company has been creating awareness for its crowdfunding app, eRaise, through a campaign to purchase the Hostess brands (think Twinkies and Ding Dongs) with crowd-funded capital called "Dough for Hostess."

It also recently created an anti-bullying app for Defeat the Label, which is non-profit organization with the mission to make an impact against bullying. The app will help students report bullying anonymously, engage the bullying through a national call center and analyze data collected from it.

"We wanted to create a ubiquitous application that can fit across any organization," Rundell says.

Brilliant Chemistry employs six people and the occasional intern.

Source: Carl Rundell, partner with Brilliant Chemistry
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Premier Communications Group hires 3 in Royal Oak

Premier Communications Group looks at where it has been, where it is now and where it's going and attributes that growth to customer service. A 30-year track record has helped reinforce that notion for the downtown Royal Oak-based business.

"It really comes down to service," says Randy Fossano, president of Premier Communications Group. "That's what sets us apart."

Premier Communications Group
specializes in public relations and marketing. It got its start in manufacturing, handling press kits for automotive companies. It diversified in recent years as the automotive industry contracted and more start-ups appeared in Metro Detroit entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Over the last year it has grown its revenue by nearly 20 percent, thanks to expanded work with existing clients. For instance, it is doing full-service marketing for Metro West Appraisal, a Northville-based company.

"That has driven it more than anything else," Fossano says.

Which has allowed the firm to hire three people over the last year, including two project managers and an office manager. It now employs seven people and handful of independent contractors.

Source: Randy Fossano, president of Premier Communications Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Innovative Learning Group signs 7 big clients, hires 3

Innovative Learning Group watched its revenue jump 35 percent in 2011 and the downtown Royal Oak-based company is on track for similar gains this year.

That growth for the education company is coming on the heels of it signing seven new clients in a number of new industries, including the financial and manufacturing sectors. "They are all very large," says Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group. "Fortune 500 companies."

That growth has allowed Innovative Learning Group to hire three new people over the last year, expanding its staff to 14 people. Toenniges expects to hire more people over the next year on continued growth prospects. That would prompt her to look for a newer, bigger space in the area.

She attributes this growth to her 8-year-old company cementing its reputation with larger firms in recent years by allowing them to use and test her company's products.

"They can see firsthand that they're top-notch," Toenniges says. "They can see our reputation growing."

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

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

Royal Oaker goes from corporate to start-up with BuyMichLocal

Michael Sacha spent the start of his career working in corporatelandia, learning the ropes of big business marketing over four years. He saw a lot of customers needs go unmet and knew he had to do something about it, launch BuyMichLocal.

"I left the corporate word to start doing this full-time and promoting Michigan brands," Sacha says.

The downtown Royal Oak-based business specializes in Internet marketing solutions for Michigan-based companies. His company's website serves as a platform for connecting businesses from the Great Lakes State with local customers who want to patronize local businesses.

The BuyMichLocal website features a comprehensive real time news feed and numerous daily articles targeting Michigan's small- to medium-sized business class. It also offers a value-added loyalty card that can be found on the CardStar app through your mobile device. This allows consumers to redeem active deals on the go at their favorite businesses, while offering businesses to engage with their customers.

"There is a lot of opportunity to establish a business now," Sacha says. "There is a lot of opportunity here and to grow a company in Michigan."

Source: Michael Sacha, founder & CEO of BuyMichLocal
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Formcode Design Group adds 4 jobs as it diversifies client base

Formcode Design Group got its start in 2000 like so many other businesses in Metro Detroit, working primarily in the automotive sector. The Royal Oak-based web-design firm did a lot of work with General Motors and its Saturn brand.

Then the automotive industry began to falter a few years later and Formcode Design Group's co-founders, Jim and Nicole Worth, moved into doing more work for homebuilders. Then the real-estate market collapsed and the husband-and-wife duo decided they needed a broader range of clients for stability.

"After that we diversified a lot," Nicole Worth says. "We still work with homebuilders and medical and automotive and retail. We have our hands in a bunch of different things."

It has also taken on work from non-profits, like Challenge Detroit. That diversified customer-base philosophy has allowed Formcode Design Group to enjoy two straight years of growth. It has expanded to eight employees and an intern after making four hires over the last year. Those new jobs include a graphic designer and web developers.

Formcode Design Group plans to continue diversifying its client list and continue expanding into new areas, such as mobile media development and social media marketing.

"We would love to continue to grow and add a few more people," Nicole Worth says.

Source: Jim and Nicole Worth, co-founders of Formcode Design Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Royal Oak-based app firm Coil Group goes after mid-size biz

The people at the Coil Group see a unique opportunity in the market when it comes to mobile app development.

The six-month-old firm sees its niche in providing both mobile apps and traditional marketing services to mid-size businesses, which are often flush enough to pay for both services but not familiar enough with the mobile app market. The Coil Group thinks it sets itself apart from the competition because many small mobile app firms are run by people who have more expertise in technology than marketing.

"It's kids who don't understand strategy but they know how to build an app," says Jonathan Pielak, co-founder and vice president of strategy for the Coil Group.

The Rochester-based firm is offering both. So far it has three people and a few dozen independent contractors to draw upon. The company, which is looking to move to either Royal Oak or Detroit, is looking to hire people in software development, design and marketing strategy.

The goal is to be in a permanent home with a staff of 20-25 people within the next two years.

"We want to keep it small," Pielak says "We want to keep it nimble."

Source: Jonathan Pielak, co-founder & vice president of strategy for the Coil Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Marketing firm Growth Works Ventures launches out of Royal Oak

During his career Jon Moises has gone smaller in order to grow his bottom line. That path led him to start his own company recently, Growth Works Ventures.

"I was progressively moving from a large company to smaller and smaller companies," says Moises, managing partner of Growth Works Ventures. "I said, 'It's great working for a start-up but it's better to work for yourself.'"

So he and a friend, Chris Meerschaert, started Growth Works Ventures a little more than a year ago. The digital marketing company now employs three people and is based out of Royal Oak. It specializes in everything from creating websites to search-engine-optimization to social media. It is also looking to create its own software platforms to diversity the company's offerings to services and products.

Growth Works Ventures is also open to partnering with other entrepreneurs that are looking to capitalize on new ideas but might be short on actual capital. It has already partnered with one of it customers trading marketing and software services for a share of the company.

"We found that a lot of start-ups had a hard time generating revenue or coming up with capital," Moises says.

Source: Jon Moises, managing partner of Growth Works Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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