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GreenPath credit-counseling organization hires 55 in Michigan

GreenPath is expanding by opening up new credit-counseling offices across the U.S.

The Farmington Hills-based non-profit has opened five offices over the last year, including new offices in Escanaba and Canton. It now has 60 offices across 12 states.

"Our primary growth has been opening up the new offices," says Kurt Murphy, CFO of GreenPath.

The 53-year-old non-profit has been helping people regain control of their finances through counseling and strategic planning. That means helping clients avoid foreclosure or repairing their credit scores.

GreenPath has grown to the point where it employs 470 people. A majority of them are based in Michigan (385) with 310 employees at the organization’s Farmington Hills headquarters. It has hired 65 people over the last year, including 55 in Michigan. Those jobs ranged from IT professionals to customer service reps.

GreenPath's revenue growth has been flat over the last year. Murphy attributes that to the growing economy and how hard American consumers were hit at the last recession.

"People got hit pretty hard," Murphy says. "It makes you a bit more careful before you pull that credit card out."

Source: Kurt Murphy, CFO of GreenPath
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HealthRise hires 15 people, looks to add 6 more

David Farbman knows a business opportunity when he sees one. For him and his new company, HealthRise, that opportunity is improving the healthcare industry.

Farbman says he was looking for a market with lots of churn and change taking place. That is healthcare in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. Farbman saw a big marketplace in need of improvement in many different areas.

"I believe the patient experience today has holes," Farbman says. "I believe the patient experience causes a lot of problems at hospitals."

The Southfield-based firm helps local healthcare systems create solutions by staying ahead of the curve of the latest regulatory requirements, insurance payment and denial patterns, and business processes. It also helps hospitals improve their patient-care systems. It got its start providing services to Oakwood Healthcare last year, and is now looking to expand into Botsford and Beaumont Health Systems over the next year.

"I want us to scale into at least five hospital systems," Farbman says.

HealthRise has hired 15 people over the last year, and is looking to add another six right now. It currently has 30 employees.

Source: David Farbman, founder & CEO of HealthRise
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Hopeful Harvest offers space to grow for food startups

Forgotten Harvest is going entrepreneurial with its own subsidiary that is aimed at growing the local food economy.

Hopeful Harvest, a C corporation, will provide work space, mentoring services, and a commercial kitchen to local food startups looking to grow. The idea is to use the revenue generated from Hopeful Harvest to support the operations of the Forgotten Harvest, the nation's largest fresh-food rescue operation.

"This is an additional way for us to support our operation," says Chris Nemeth, senior director of social enterprise for Forgotten Harvest. "Every penny of profit from Hopeful Harvest will be donated to Forgotten Harvest."

The Oak Park-based operation will be based out of Forgotten Harvest's main facility. It will provided space for full-service food processing, packaging, and a 750-square-foot commercial kitchen. Marketing and consulting services will also be available.

Hopeful Harvest, which is starting off with a staff of six people, has already lined up six local food startups to take advantage of its services, including McClary Bros Vinegars, Slow Jams Jam, and Beau Bien Fine Foods. Five more are also ready to join the Hopeful Harvest operations.

"Realistically, by the end of our first full year we hope to have between 25-30 clients,” Nemeth says.

Source: Chris Nemeth, senior director of social enterprise for Forgotten Harvest
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Veggie Pails delivers fresh veggies in Oakland County

Melissa Tabalno and Nicole Converse spent a lot of time in Alaska in recent years, working in the fishing industry.

The partners are back home in Metro Detroit now after getting their new business, Veggie Pails, off the ground. The Highland-based business delivers buckets (or pails) of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other locally produced foods to customers across Oakland County.

"This is a business to get us back on land," Tabalno says.

She and Converse turned Veggie Pails into their full-time jobs earlier this year. The company has now grown to the point where it is looking for its own commercial space to operate out of. Tabalno and Converse are specifically looking for a storefront/warehouse combo where they can build their core business and a retail presence.

In the meantime Veggie Pails is growing through word of mouth and on the strength of its pails full of nutritious food.

"Our pails are really pretty," Tabalno says, saying how the company is continuing to focus on the presentation of its product.

Source: Melissa Tabalno, co-owner of Veggie Pails
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PublicCity PR leverages PRConsultantsGroup for future growth

PublicCity PR recently scored membership in an organization the boutique public relations agency expects will lead to growth beyond its normal metro Detroit stomping grounds.

PRConsultantsGroup recently choose the Southfield-based firm as its Michigan representative after its previous rep folded up shop. The 14-year-old 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.

"You don't always have the time to learn a new city," says Jason Brown, co-founder of PublicCity PR. "Who are the people to speak to in St. Louis or Chicago? Now we have the resources on the ground in those places."

PRConsultantsGroup members have worked with some big corporate names, including 7-Eleven, Procter & Gamble, and Wal-Mart. PublicCity PR has grown steadily since it was launched in 2008. It now employs four people and Brown expects the firm to grow even more in the next few years as PRConsultantsGroup members look to do more work with his firm.

"The business has grown as it always has, through word of mouth," Brown says.

Now it looks like those words can travel much further and faster than ever before.

Source: Jason Brown, co-founder of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Technology Solutions hires 4 employees, looks to add 2 more

If people can get by with a little help from their friends, then Technology Solutions is getting ahead with a lot of help from its clients. The Livonia-based IT firm has grown 350 percent since 2009.

"It's another record-setting year," says Steve Futrell, CEO of Technology Solutions. "We have some great projects all around the year. We have a lot of those here."

The 19-year-old company specializes in VOIP work in the voice and data industry. It deals with a broad variety of clients ranging from global companies to local institutional organizations, like school districts.

"We have great clients," Futrell says. "Our clients have had a lot of great growth over the years."
 
Which has equated to more work for Technology Solutions. And that has meant adding more staff. Technology Solutions has hired four people over the last year, including three engineers and one customer advocate. It now has a staff of 15 employees and is looking to add two interns, along with other workers.

"We're interviewing for two more positions (a sales manager and a network engineer) right now," Futrell says.

Source: Steve Futrell, CEO of Technology Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Brogan & Partners adds 5 jobs in downtown Birmingham

New jobs and promotions have been cropping up at Brogan & Partners this year.

The advertising and digital marketing agency recently promoted three account managers (Kristin Morris, Katie Rehrauer and Morgan Eberle) to account directors. It has also hired five people over the last year, including another account director. The company currently employs 42 people, including 27 employees at its downtown Birmingham headquarters.

"We're hoping to get a really good intern that can become a permanent position," says Ellyn Davidson, managing partner of Brogan & Partners.

The 30-year-old firm has enjoyed 12-percent revenue growth over the last year. That makes for its best year since 2008. It’s also looking to increase revenue by 20 percent in 2014. The firm has more work with existing clients like HoneyBaked Ham and has attracted new clients, like ComForcare, Frankenmuth Insurance, and Michigan First Credit Union.

Brogan & Partners hopes to turn each of those new clients into a long-term business relationship. Davidson is optimistic that will happen thanks to the company’s track record of staying ahead of what’s coming up in the digital marketing world.

"We're heavily invested in research in what's new in marketing and what's next," Davidson says. "We stay on top of how communications are changing."

Source: Ellyn Davidson, managing partner of Brogan & Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dynamic Robotic Solutions aims to double in size

KMT Robotic Solutions is rebranding itself as Dynamic Robotic Solutions, and the Auburn Hills-based company has some big plans for growth over the next few years.

"Our goal is to double in size over the next 3-5 years," says Dick Johnson, director of business development and marketing for Dynamic Robotic Solutions.

The 29-year-old company has made a name for itself in robotic trimming with more than 1,500 of its systems installed around the world. Dynamic Robotic Solutions more specifically works with water jet cutting. So while the water coming out of a faucet may clock in at 20-25 psi, the water Dynamic Robotic Solutions's robots use spits out at 65,000 psi. That’s strong enough to take the flesh off your finger.

"If you add in a little bit of sand into the stream you can cut two-inch steel," Johnson says.

Robotic cutting is often used in manufacturing, such as cutting the roof liners in cars, carpet for automotive floor mats, and plastic in instrument panels.

The company had its best year in 2012 in regard to revenue growth and is on track to have another strong year. It has hired five people over the last year, expanding its staff to 60 employees. It’s also looking to hire a handful of people in software engineering and sales.

Source: Dick Johnson, director of business development and marketing for Dynamic Robotic Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sisters launch organic deodorant company, Rustic Maka

A pair of sisters in White Lake have turned making organic deodorant into their own company, Rustic Maka.

Kasia Rothe and Monica Stakvel started down this road a few years ago when Rothe was pregnant and developed a body odor she didn't like. She couldn’t do much about it with options available on store shelves.

"Nothing seemed to be working for me," Rothe says.

So she started making her own deodorant. Rothe is also a stickler for living a healthy lifestyle so she made sure she only used natural ingredients, leaving out the likes of parabens and aluminum that are often found in deodorants.

"We realized deodorant, among other things, has a ton of bad ingredients," Rothe says.

That home-made deodorant turned into the answer Rothe needed, working for her for 12-24 hours. She and Stakvel turned it into Pachy, the new odor-fighting deodorant for Rustic Maka. They launched the company in February and have been selling Pachy online and in 12 stores (primarily natural foods shops) across the state.

"We're hoping we can get some national exposure and take this to the next level," Rothe says.

Source: Kasia Rothe, co-founder of Rustic Maka
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Father & son launch car-mechanic software startup, Optus Software

Martin Waldo played around with an idea for a startup that would help create trust between automotive mechanics and motorists a few years ago.

The idea went sideways at the time, and he put it to the side. Then his son, Austin Waldo, graduated from the University of Michigan early this year, and the father-son duo became inspired.

"We decided to relaunch and try again," Austin Waldo says.

That's how Optus Software began early this year. The Northville-based startup is creating a software platform that enables mechanics to utilize visual media to help gain the trust of their clients. So when a motorist comes in to get a car fixed, the mechanic can show them pictures or video of the problem and any other problems that arise during the inspection.

"It's a whole 360 transparency experiment so the customer can feel like they can trust the dealership," Austin Waldo says.

Optus Software's team of three people is currently testing the system with a large car dealership group at two of its dealerships in Canton and Plymouth. They plan to sell it to the dealerships as software as a service.

"We're close to having a finalized product," Austin Waldo says.

Source: Austin Waldo, co-founder of Optus Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Expetec grows for 5th straight year, adds data-sharing product

Expetec is growing the old fashioned way, through improved services to its customers and client recommendations.

The Rochester Hills-based IT company has been hiring more staff, including a position in network administration support work, and is in the process of hiring a sales person. It now has 10 employees, with an eye for adding more at its current pace of expansion.

"We're on pace to grow for the fifth straight year at 20 percent," says Michael St. John, vice president of marketing and sales for Expetec. "We have been adding new clients and looking into new products in the market place."

Expetec offers network-managed services, telecommunication systems, servers, firewalls, computers, and a 24/7 help desk. It recently added a new product called E-Lockr. Think of it as a more secure version of Dropbox that enables businesses to share and sync important data anywhere on any device with continuous, real-time backup and comprehensive usage reports. More importantly, St. John believes it’s a more secure option than rival products.

"It allows us to control what's going on with our clients in regards to the user," St. John says, adding their clients can determine who can see what documents, when, and for how long with E-Lockr.

St. John is optimistic that Expetec's current growth streak will continue, and not just because the economy is picking up speed.

"We have been consistently getting a lot of referrals from our clients," St. John says. "They trust us and the work we do."

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

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

Delphinus Medical Technologies brings on new CEO to ramp up growth

One of Metro Detroit’s most promising startups has a new leader who comes with a history of shepherding biotech companies through to acquisition.

Delphinus Medical Technologies has hired Mark Forchette as its president and CEO. Forchette served as OptiMedica Corp’s president and CEO before taking the job. The company specialized in ophthalmic medical devices. He led OptiMedica Corp. through commercialization, successfully completed multiple rounds of financing, and oversaw the company’s acquisition by Abbott Laboratories last year. He says he sees the same sort of potential with Delphinus Medical Technologies.

"I see an incredible technology that can improve women's health," Forchette says.

Delphinus Medical Technologies makes SoftVue, a "whole breast ultrasound tomography system" that helps diagnose breast cancer more effectively than traditional mammograms. The technology spun out of Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute in 2009. It has raised a $12 million Series A round in 2010 and a $11 million Series B last year. It has since hired 15 people, expanding its staff to 35 employees.

"We're in position now where we have on-boarded a lot of talent," Forchette says. "We're really excited about that."

That team will work to gain technical credibility with doctors and health systems, enabling them to thoroughly adopt the SoftVue technology.

"We have to do that clinically," Forchette says. "It's a process of incorporating physicians deeply within the company."

Source: Mark Forchette, president & CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Computing Source hires 120, moves to bigger office

Computing Source is growing so fast the firm’s founder is having a hard time describing it. He knows it has grown by a multiple of six over the last 18 months, but can't figure out how to express it succinctly.

He can tell you the company has hired 120 people since early last year, and it now employs a staff of 140. That prompted it to move from a 9,000-square-foot office in Southfield to a just under 40,000-square-foot space in Madison Heights this week.

"We were squished," says Mark St. Peter, managing director & CEO of Computing Source.

Computing Source specializes in offering all-in-one digital evidence solutions for legal professionals. It can provide electronic discovery, computer forensics, copy/scan/print services, hosted document review, contract attorney staffing, expert testimony, trial technology services, demonstrative evidence and trial boards, and paralegal on-call support.

"It's less hassle and more cost-effective to have it under one roof," St. Peter says. "We can't think of anyone else who is doing what we do as effectively under one roof."

The recent hires include electronic evidence techs, forensic examiners, trial presentation professionals, attorneys, and court reporters. The company has a number of open positions right now, so many that St. Peter can’t put his finger on the exact number.

"If you're a nerd, please call us," St. Peter says.

Computing Source just finished opening an office in Indianapolis to go with its offices in Chicago and Metro Detroit. St. Peter is considering keeping the former Southfield headquarters as a satellite office. He expects to open more offices across the Midwest over the next three years.

"Cleveland is next," St. Peter says. "Then Milwaukee and Pittsburgh."

Source: Mark St. Peter, managing director & CEO of Computing Source
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AcuMax creates new survey to match employees & employers

Many employee assessment programs judge a subject by his/her past behavior. A new company in Dearborn, AcuMax, thinks there is a lot more to people than that.

"We don't try to predict based on past behavior or personalities," says Ed Fisher, consultant with AcuMax. "Behavior and personalities change over time."

The one-year-old company provides management tools and useful information to its customers so they can improve hiring, employee placement, and engagement. Its team of five people has developed the AcuMax Index that bases its results on a statistically valid, EEOC-compliant employee assessment that measures how an individual is naturally wired in the course of a five-minute survey. The survey measures four areas, including autonomy and idea flow; communication skills; work-style preference; and how information is processed to make decisions.

"We have an over 90-percent retention rate with our clients," Fisher says.

He says that nearly 70 companies are using the AcuMax Index now, including Wayne State University and Liberty Title Co.

"We're excited about our growth rate," Fisher says. "We're at about 50 percent a year, and I don't see why it would decline."

Source: Ed Fisher, consultant with AcuMax
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

LogiCoul Solutions makes semifinals of Accelerate Michigan

If it's the little things that add up in life, then LogiCoul Solutions is well on its way to collecting more than its fair share this year.

The Sterling Heights-based startup that calls the Macomb-OU INCubator home has made a number of base hits in 2014, putting it into position to make a significant score before the end of the year. The battery-enhancement technology startup was one of the 20 presenters at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium last summer and recently made the semifinals of this fall's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. It also received the patent for its technology last July.

"That's very exciting for us," says David Stout, executive vice president of LogiCoul Solutions.

The 6-year-old company is developing technology that sends electromagnetic waves to a battery, which lowers resistance and creates more useful energy. The bottom line is a longer-lasting and more energy-efficient battery. The company started out with the idea of using it on lithium-ion batteries but switched to a lead-acid battery focus to take advantage of a much bigger market.

"We have never met a battery our process didn't like," Stout says.

The three-person startup is currently looking to hire a vice president of engineering. It also hopes to lock down a seed capital round later this year or early next year to continue the push toward developing its technology.

Source: David Stout, executive vice president of LogiCoul Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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