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Entrepreneurial trio create marketing biz with Half Human Studios

Three friends are working toward their entrepreneurial dreams with their own company, Half Human Studios.

The three young men work in the property management, food-service and printing industries for their day jobs but have been growing their Royal Oak-based creative agency for the last 18 months.

"We decided to start something creative in marketing and use it to help small businesses use marketing tools," says Brandon Nalband, principal of Half Human Studios.

That usually means helping small businesses build websites or teaching them how best to utilize social media platforms. Half Human Studios has grown beyond its first few customers and has attracted enough word-of-mouth business to bring on a College of Creative Studies graphic design graduate to the team. Nalband and his co-founder aspire to turn this into their full-time jobs within the next year.

"There is a very high demand," Nalband says. "There are a lot of new companies that need websites and social media."

Source: Brandon Nalband, principal of Half Human Studios
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

RTT USA adds 28 to payroll in Royal Oak as it expands client list

RTT USA has expanded the scope of its work while expanding the amount of business and the size of its workforce in downtown Royal Oak.

The 13-year-old company has traditionally focused on creating high-end 3-D visualization for the automotive industry. It now includes work in the transportation and manufacturing industries, along with some forays into consumer markets.

It has allowed the company to increase its sales sharply and grow its staff (99 employees and few independent contractors and intern) with 28 new hires so far this year. That's an increase from just 25 people four years ago.

"We have grown tremendously," says Erik Kornmiller, director of content creation for RTT USA. "It's a matter of increasing our business by getting more and more projects and expanding projects we already have."

Kornmiller believes that sort of strategy will allow RTT USA to continue its growth spurt for the rest of this year.

"We continue to find ways to make things better and easier for our clients," says Erik Kornmiller, director of content creation for RTT USA. "That allows us to expand our project scope."

Source: Erik Kornmiller, director of content creation for RTT USA
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Gamer Saloon hires 3 as it moves to downtown Royal Oak

Gamer Saloon recently moved its headquarters from Southfield to downtown Royal Oak, a move that should facilitate significant growth for the video-game networking company.

The six-year-old firm recently hired three people, expanding its staff to eight employees and four interns. Its new office has plenty of square footage to accommodate more new employees to meet its needs.

"We just finished our first full year of being cash-flow positive," says Ari Dolgin, chief marketing officer for Gamer Saloon. "Last year we had a net revenue of $3 million."

Gamer Saloon organizes and host online video game tournaments where participants have an opportunity to win cash prizes. It has more than 440,000 members and has hosted more than 63,000 tournaments. The company is now looking to expand its cash-prize business model to fantasy sports and even incorporating professional athletes into the gaming experience.

"You could be playing a certain athlete in Madden via webcam for a cash prize," Dolgin says.

Source: Ari Dolgin, chief marketing officer for Gamer Saloon
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Metro Detroit start-ups turn smartphones into biz apportunities

The app economy is here and growing in Metro Detroit. A broad range of start-ups and businesses are finding creative ways to boost their bottom lines by developing custom and original apps. Some are even basing their entire business plan around it and growing like crazy.

Texts From Last Night: A Q&A with Ben and Phillip Bator

Mobiata adds 10 jobs, moves to bigger space in Ann Arbor's Nickels Arcade

Future Help Designs sets up shop in downtown Pontiac

Metro Detroit start-ups dominate Accelerate Michigan

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

Innovative Learning Group snags new clients, hires

The Innovative Learning Group growth machine continues to chug along at a steady pace. The downtown Royal Oak-based company has hired two people over the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen employees and a handful of independent contractors. It expects to hire another 2-3 people in 2012.

"As we continues to grow I would be real happy with 10-15 percent growth each year,"  says Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group.

What's driving growth? The addition of new clients. The company, which creates a curriculum for firms to teach employees to be more productive and efficient, has recently added three new clients, such as Wolverine Worldwide.

Innovative Learning Group is on pace to hits its revenue growth goal of 20 percent this year. The firm has consistently hit double-digit growth goals and expects that continue as it does it again this year.

"We'll easily hit that target if not exceed it," 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.

Brain injury creates $1.4M Collegiate Bead Company

The Collegiate Bead Company got its start when David Schowalter wasn’t feeling his best, to put it nicely.

The Royal Oak resident was recovering from a brain tumor in 2008, teaching himself to walk and talk again, when a friend asked about finding sorority beads for the popular Pandora bracelets. Schowalter took it upon himself to not only find it (it didn’t exist) but to go about making the bracelets.

That turned into Collegiate Bead Company and three employees, 11 independent contractors, a few summer interns and $1.4 million in revenue. The 18-month-old company received its big break when Michigan State University and the University of Michigan decided to license out their brands so Collegiate Bead Company could make themed bracelets for them.

“That created a domino effect,” Schowalter says. “It helped us get other licenses when those two schools stepped up.”

The Royal Oak-based company has since teamed with a firm in Grand Rapids to create the collegiate-themed bracelets, ensuring they are entirely made in Michigan. Schowalter expects his firm to triple its revenue over the next year as it expands further into fashionable jewelry and starts to include pro sports teams.

Source: David Schowalter, president of Collegiate Bead Company
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Premier Communications Group focuses on startups, adds new hires

For most of its 29 years, Premier Communications Group relied on work from the automotive industry, preparing press kits for the like of General Motors and Visteon.

That dynamic changed in 2008 when the economy tanked and GM and Chrysler went bankrupt. Since then the downtown Royal Oak-based PR firm has reinvented itself through its client base, taking on more and more start-ups.

"The trend for the next year or two is going to be with new start-ups that are tapping us for our experience," says Randy Fossano, president of Premier Communications Group. "That's just the overall trend of the economy."

One of those new start-up clients is Swagger Bids, an online bidding firm based in Royal Oak. Premier Communications Group has worked to build the start-up's brand and make it more of a household name. New clients like this have allowed the firm to hire three people over the last year, expanding its staff to seven employees and the occasional independent contractor.

Fossano expects to continue to build his company through new, local start-ups for the time being as the automotive industry continues to recover. For him, it's a growing part of the economy that's strong enough to support some new jobs at his firm.

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

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

Royal Oak's SmallOfficeSearch targets mini office market

Entrepreneurs and small businesses looking for small office spaces in Metro Detroit traditionally have received the short end of the stick from commercial realtors. A start-up out of downtown Royal Oak, SmallOfficeSearch.com, believes it can change that dynamic.

"These are the people who typically get no service because we would spend the same amount of time with them as we did with people who were looking for 10,000 or 30,000 square feet," says Guy Scavone, commercial real-estate broker and president and founder of SmallOfficeSearch.com.

SmallOfficeSearch.com allows landlords with small office spaces or businesses looking to sublease a small section of their office to professionally list them on the Internet in a manner more professional than the simplicity of Craigslist. Landlords pay a $29 per month fee to list their properties on the site, knowing the audience is targeted for the niche of small spaces.

The firm lists office space, executive suites and flex space under 3,000 square feet in Metro Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint and Grand Rapids. It plans to launch into more markets across the U.S. over the next year. The four-person firm has signed half a dozen leases since it launched three months ago.

Source: Guy Scavone, president & founder of SmallOfficeSearch.com
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Pleasant Ridge's Gravy Network launches mobile billboard app MOBIBO

Brothers Zachary and Josh Ball have a vision for changing the mobile advertising game, and they're working to make that happen with their new mobile app, MOBIBO.

The brothers started Gravy Network in January, with the idea of launching MOBIBO later this year. The Pleasant Ridge-based company is made up of the Ball duo and draws upon the half-dozen employees of Zachary's other firm, web developer Mercury Studio.

MOBIBO is a free, downloadable smartphone app that serves as a mobile billboard that advertisers can rent for a small fee. Advertisers only pay for the ads consumers see. The consumer is paid 25 cents through PayPal for viewing each ad. The app alerts/ads come up when the consumer is near the advertiser's place of business, telling them to view a special discount or promotional offer at a store close-by.

"I'd like to see MOBIBO being used throughout the nation," says Zachary, president and co-owner of Gravy Network. "We think we can shift the advertising paradigm to this model."

The Ball brothers are working to establish the MOBIBO brand this year, with an aim of broad adoption within the next year. They expect to significantly add to Gravy Network's staff when that happens.

"We'd like to keep the team as lean as possible," Zachary says. "What does that mean? Hopefully, less than 25 people."

Source: Zachary Ball, president and co-owner of MOBIBO
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ignite Pages start-up aims to become Facebook for real-estate listings

Trevor Fitzgerald recently left his job as a computer programmer for Business Internet Solutions to start his own firm, Ignite Pages.

The downtown Royal Oak-based start-up has just launched a real-estate-oriented app that allows realtors and other property professionals to stand out in an Internet world dominated by Craigslist. Think of it as a Facebook for real-estate listings.

"It's a tool for real-estate agents to create their web pages for their own individual property," Fitzgerald says. "It allows them to stand out with their online presence."

Fitzgerald, 24, interned for a real-estate firm a few years ago and knows that professionals often have a hard time managing their online presence. Ignite Pages hopes to make that online presence more noticeable while making it simpler for real-estate agents to use the software.

So far Fitzgerald has signed up a number of local real-estate agents and a used-car dealership. "The pages are generic enough that they can use them for multiple projects," Fitzgerald says. He hopes to take this product national within the next year and hire an employee or two to accommodate that growth.

Source: Trevor Fitzgerald, founder of Ignite Pages
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

RTT USA adds 16 jobs in downtown Royal Oak

RTT USA is responding to the rising demand for computer graphics by creating more jobs in Metro Detroit.

The 5-year-old firm (its U.S. office is in downtown Royal Oak) has grown about 20 percent over the last year. That has allowed it to add 16 positions in areas like data management, CAD management and digital artists. It now employs 82 people in downtown Royal Oak, along with five independent contractors and five interns. The company opened the office four years ago with a staff of eight.

"We have had very, very strong growth over the last few years," says Peter Stevenson, CEO of RTT USA.

RTT USA specializes in high-end visualization technology. Three-dimensional visualization software and services are utilized in the automotive, aviation, and consumer goods industries. For instance, it allows a designer to make a virtual prototype of a vehicle, which takes much less money and time than making a physical prototype. The company is also doing this with marketing materials.

"They can virtualize their designs and save a lot of money," Stevenson says. He expects the demand for this work to continue to rise, which should allow the firm to continue its current rate of expansion over the next year.

Source: Peter Stevenson, CEO of RTT USA
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Royal Oak's PixoFactor Entertainment hires 10 smartphone app developers

PixoFactor Entertainment continues on its steady, accelerated growth plan in downtown Royal Oak, hiring 10 new people to develop smartphone applications over the last year.

"We feel mobile has enormous potential in Michigan in the near future," Hurwitz says.

The 3-year-old start-up has 30 employees, two interns and a few independent contractors. It develops digital content for both video games, mobile apps and special effects for the film industry, and has benefited handsomely from Michigan's film incentives.

PixoFactor Entertainment recently received a $78,000 digital media incentive from the state for production of the Ben Hogan Lessons Mobile Application. The project adapts the classic book, Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,  by golf icon Ben Hogan, into an instructional and interactive app for smartphones.

"We could see phases of the book coming to life in the next 60-90 days," says Sean Hurwitz, CEO of PixoFactor Entertainment. "We could have a multi-phase launch."

PixoFactor Entertainment has also been working on the Nintendo Wii and Internet adaptation of that book.

Source: Sean Hurwitz, CEO of PixoFactor Entertainment
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

323 East art print web start-up 1xRUN.com takes off in Royal Oak

The guys behind downtown Royal Oak's 323 East and the OHM Creative Group have created a start-up website that sells limited editions of art prints and is growing rapidly.

1xRUN.com got its start last November selling about 50 prints of select contemporary art to collectors. Think the same type of avant-garde work that graces the walls of the 323 East. These prints sell for $50 a pop and are coveted by collectors.

"They are signed and dated by the artist as a limited edition," says Jesse Cory, co-founder of 323 East, OHM Creative Group and 1xRUN. "They appreciate in value."

Cory, Dan Armand, and Ryan Brogran started the company and now have five employees. The original art usually sells quickly but the prints are also snapped up at art shows and similar events by people in the know. 1xRUN makes it more widely available to more consumers.

"Basically what this does is democratizing art to a certain extent," Cory says. "Now we're embarking on becoming a national art company. We're attending all of the comic cons."

Source: Jesse Cory, co-founder of 323 East, OHM Creative Group and 1xRUN
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Skidmore Studio adds 4 jobs on strength of interactive and design work

Skidmore Studio sees the economy turning, and it's going in the right direction for once. The downtown Royal Oak-based marketing agency is riding this wave nicely, expanding its staff to 22 people, with four hires over the last year.

"The uptick in the economy has helped," says Tim Smith, president & CEO of Skidmore Studio. "There are a lot of things people wanted to do and we're starting to see some of that free up."

Skidmore Studio employs a growing number of creatives, ranging from graphic designers to illustrators to interactive designers to copywriters to motion artists. The agency has specialized in design and illustration in Metro Detroit since the 1950s. Smith has noticed the company's revenue climb by a small percentage over the recent months, but he is preparing for more in the near future.

"We're on a nice comfortable trend where we are seeing business grow," Smith says. "A 10-15 percent growth in revenue is a fair expectation of what we want to do."

He says the firm expects to hire two more people over the next year to help meet the demand for interactive and design work.

Source: Tim Smith, president & CEO of Skidmore Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Innovative Learning Group adds 8 new clients on 10 percent growth

Innovative Learning Group is basing this year's growth on last year's, generating a 10-percent revenue spike in 2010 and preparing for a 20-percent jump in 2011.

The business education firm added eight new clients over the last year. The downtown Royal Oak-based firm expects to leverage that additional work for a few more hires over the next year, adding to its existing staff of 10 employees and 20-30 independent contractors.

"We pretty proud of (those new clients)," says Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group. "These new clients become opportunities for return clients. That makes for more than 50 Fortune 1000 clients. That means more stability and sustainability in the long-term."

Innovative Learning Group creates a curriculum for firms to teach employees to be more productive and efficient. It has been profitable in each of its seven years. Toenniges plans to point the company more toward mobile technology development this year. The idea is the new technology will allow its clients to more easily focus on learning and performance support.

The company has also won the Human Performance Intervention Award of Excellence from the International Society for Performance Improvement last year for a project that used performance modeling and impact mapping to drive consistent, strategic performance of Amway's distributors. It also won a Brandon Hall Silver Award for Excellence in the Best Use of Blended Learning category.

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

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
241 Royal Oak Articles | Page: | Show All
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