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Perich Advertising & Design adds 5 in Ann Arbor

Perich Advertising & Design has developed a couple of strong revenue streams in recent years.

It's a development that has allowed the downtown Ann Arbor-based company to hire five people over the last year. Those new hires have been mostly in client services and creative. The 26-year-old business now has a staff of 30 employees and two interns and expects to continue to keep up with its growth.

"For us it has been two things," says Ernie Perich, president/creative director of Perich Advertising & Design. "It's steady as she goes with our existing customers. We have also branched out to some business-to-business work."

Some of Perich's existing customers include Bank of Ann Arbor, Walsh College and the Detroit Institute of Arts. It has also taken on some new business-to-business work from Plex Systems, Summit Health and Altair, among others.

"It has been a good run for us," Perich says.

He credits that run partly to the longevity of the company's staff. It has 12 employees who have been with the company for at least a dozen years. It also has eight or nine that have been here for 20 years or more.

"We have a solid team of people who have been working here for a long time," Perich says. He adds that his company is also looking for creative talent, and that hiring the next graphic designer or art director is at the top of his to-do list.

"Hiring the next creative people here is the most important thing I do," Perich says.

Source: Ernie Perich, president/creative director of Perich Advertising & Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Wisely aims to leverage purchasing data

Wisely is looking for a few good consumers to help test out the Beta version of its new software that puts people reviews where their wallets are.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up takes data accumulated from purchases and uses that to show the popularity of a retail business. The idea is that fake reviews (both positive and negative) are posted all the time online on websites like Yelp. Wisely reveals the popularity of businesses and the items they sell by how often they are purchased creating a collection of reviews that are much harder to fake.

"We always thought purchasing data was interesting but it has never been democratized," says Mike Vichich, co-founder & CEO of Wisely. "Every other piece of information has been put under a microscope."

The 4-month-old start-up and its core team of five people take transaction data from consumers, which provides the basic ingredient for its secret software sauce. "We call it the first credible search engine for the physical world powered by transaction data," Vichich says. "Think credit card swipes."

Wisely is launching its public beta this week. It is looking for consumers to sign up to test out the software in Ann Arbor and New York City. For information on the beta test, click here. Vichich hopes to have 10,000 users in the Ann Arbor area by the end of the year. That would enable Wisely and his team to build out a merchant services program to help businesses maximize their sales.

"It's a better way for consumers and merchants to connect and establish relationships," Vichich says.

Source: Mike Vichich, co-founder & CEO of Wisely
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

YouKnowWatt brings tech to home energy audits

Ann Arbor-based YouKnowWatt is working on technology that helps bring real-time information to home energy audits and eventually make more houses energy efficient.

"We know that energy efficiency is something the U.S. can do now to improve our energy infrastructure and lessen our dependance on fossil fuels," says Steven Sherman, co-founder of YouKnowWatt.

The 6-month-old company is creating a digital portal that allows the people giving home energy audits more information so they can better engage and educate the homeowners. The portal will provide real-time energy consumption data, prior energy usage, and break down the numbers so homeowners can see where there energy dollars are going.

"It gives people more insight," Sherman says.

He also hopes it will enable them to make more informed decisions about what are the best options to making a building more energy efficient. It could potentially lay out a battle plan to retrofit a structure with better energy efficient features, such as when to install insulation or add alternative energy sources or simply replace an incandescent lightbulb with a CFL.

"It's a way to show how a home is performing and how a home audit can help it," Sherman says.

YouKnowWatt's team of four people (two full-time and two part-time) is preparing to launch a private beta with local contractors later this fall.

Source: Steven Sherman, co-founder of YouKnowWatt
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

All Out Fitness doubles staff at Avis Farms

Star Smith is always striving for self-improvement, which made sense because the owner of All Out Fitness has been a personal trainer for eight years.

That sort of drive got him started in physical fitness, led him to open his own business three years ago and double All Out Fitness’s staff over the last year. The Ann Arbor-based firm, it calls Avis Farms home, hired a personal trainer this year and has expanded its services to broad range of exercises, such as weight loss, strength training and sports performance.

"I try to stay well-rounded in most things," Smith says. "That helps me be the best all-around trainer I can be."

Smith started the business from scratch with just himself and few piece of work-out equipment. Now he has much more equipment, an employee and a growing client base that averages anywhere from 10-20 people a class. He says it's mostly from word-of-mouth referrals from clients and is quite proud of it.

"I would like to be locally known as one of the best studios in the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Metro Detroit area," Smith says.

Source: Star Smith, owner of All Out Fitness
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Cayman Chemical grows in Ann Arbor with new hires

Cayman Chemical took a recent hit or two, but not of its own creation. Still, the Ann Arbor-based company has continued to grow and add to its staff.

The 33-year-old bio-tech firm provides researchers with bio-chemical tools. It has hired 19 people over the last year, including the creation of 11 new positions. Those hires include a broad range of professionals, such as IT workers, scientists and marketeers. The company now employs 218 people and had 21 interns this summer.

"We continue to invest in our facility and employees as we grow," says Christine Booher, vice president of human resources for Cayman Chemical.

That growth comes despite some hits from governmental tribulations, such as the sequester. That means Cayman Chemical has not been hiring as fast as it was last year, when it added 30 people. Recently it began filling out its newly acquired office buildings on the south side of Ann Arbor. Booher expects the two new buildings -Cayman Chemical controls four facilities- to accommodate the company’s growth for the next few years as they look to capitalize on 2014 growth prospects.

"We have seen a rebound slowly from some governmental issues," Booher says. "We are very optimistic and optimistic for our global growth."

Source: Christine Booher, vice president of human resources for Cayman Chemical
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Universal Marketing Group plans to hire 150 in Ann Arbor

Universal Marketing Group is opening a new call center in Ann Arbor this month, an investment that is expected to created 150 new jobs much sooner rather than later.

"We're planning to have that staffed with 150 people by the end of the year," says Jason Birch, partner & CFO of Universal Marketing Group.

The 10-year-old company has grown at its Toledo headquarters each time it has needed to expand. This time it the company decided it needed a second location to help supplement its growth. Its founders spend a lot of time in Ann Arbor. They like its proximity to the company's headquarters and the depth of Tree Town's talent pool.

"We needed scalability and a community of Ann Arbor's size and diversity gives us that option," Birch says. He adds that all 150 jobs are open now and that they range from call center operators to supervisors to administrative. Interviewing for these jobs is expected to begin before the end of the month.

Universal Marketing Group will occupy the former Borders headquarters in a deal brokered with the help of Ann Arbor SPARK. It received $600,000 in incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp to make the $575,000 investment to create the call center. The project could expand to 400 new jobs by 2016.

Source: Jason Birch, partner & CFO of Universal Marketing Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor's re:group hires 4, looks to add 6 more

Digital marketing agency re:group is quickly reaching the point where it needs to make a decision. Add more office space or start thinking of innovative ways to accommodate its new employees, like stacking desks on top of each other.

Actually, that last option probably isn't feasible. Look for re:group to handle its growth in a more traditional manner.

"We're looking at adding space because we're running out of places to put people," Carey Jernigan, vice president of development for re:group.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company has hired four people over the last year, expanding its staff to 25 people. It is also looking to make six hires, specifically for positions in computer programming, account executive and social media, among others. It is also looking for an intern.

Behind re:group's growth is a jump in its overall workload. The 10-year-old company has kept its existing clients, like DTE Energy and Health Plus, while also adding a number of new customers. Its new clients include Tutor Doctor and Community Bank & Trust of Florida.

"We tripled our revenue last year," Jernigan says. "It's a combination of hard work and bringing in new clients."

Jernigan expect this growth curve to continue through as re:group keeps focusing on grow its business in the normal sectors it serves, such as bio-tech, financial services and franchising.

"This is where we continue to grow and attract clients," Jernigan says.

Source: Carey Jernigan, vice president of development for re:group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Human Element expands office space (twice) to grow

Ben Lorenz and his partners started Human Element a decade ago with the idea of working for themselves and doing less work overall. Their tech company didn't exactly provide for a leisurely work week but the co-founders are more than happy with the bottom line.

"We started this company so we didn’t have to work 80 hours a week," says Ben Lorenz, managing partner with Human Element. "It started off as a lifestyle-change decision. People really liked our company so we ended up working even more."

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company specializes in tech services and e-commerce platforms, specifically the Magento e-commerce platform. It has grown its sales 50 percent each year over the last few years and Lorenz is optimistic his firm will surpass that mark again.

"We will eclipse that by the end of this year," Lorenz says.

That growth has allowed Human Element to make three hires, including software engineers and project managers. It is also looking to hire a software engineer. The company currently employs a dozen employees and six independent contractors. Human Element has had to expand its office space twice in the last two years to accommodate its employee growth.

Source: Ben Lorenz, managing partner with Human Element
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arborlight creates LED lights that mimic natural light

Miss sunshine on a cloudy day? Or perhaps in a room with no windows and wish you had a sunbeam? Arborlight thinks it has an solution for you.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up is creating a "daylight emulation systems," which is basically an LED light that does a convincing impression of a skylight. The light it emits mimics the color, a and temperature of natural sunlight, along with other subtle details. For instance, the technology has an algorithm that is connected to a weather forecast, allowing the LED to behave in the same way as the outside lighting.

"It looks, acts and feels like a real skylight," says Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight.

The start-up has developed a prototype at the University of Michigan North Campus Research Complex and is currently working on its first demonstration units. Arborlight has also assembled a team of five people and is in the process of bringing No. 6 onboard. The company has raised its first $500,000 in seed capital and is looking to raise a Series A next year.

"We expect to begin making sales in early 2014," Forbis says.

Source: Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Avegant works on next generation of night-vision gear

Avegant believe it is building a better night-vision goggle, which the downtown Ann Arbor start-up hopes to begin selling next year.

The 1-year-old firm got its start when it co-founders were approached by military contractors while working in a government lab. The need was for a better night-vision equipment for military drivers during wartime. Soldiers were experiencing better results using thermal night vision while driving. The problem was the display was in their vehicle’s dash instead of over their eyes.

"It's fairly difficult to drive a car like that, staring down at a monitor in the center dash while driving through a combat zone," says Edward Tang, CEO of Avegant.

So Avegant has created a head-mounted virtual retina display, so it can give its users the same sort of freedom of movement when using it. The company and its team of half a dozen people are currently “heavily engaged in product development” while working on prototypes, according to Tang. Tang hopes to begin making sales of the technology on the consumer market in early 2014.

"It's a pretty interesting technology and a pretty interesting idea," Tang says.

Source: Edward Tang, CEO of Avegant
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

BizeeBox creates more sustainable to-go box

Rich Grousset and Raphael Meyer enjoyed eating out while going to college at the University of Michigan. However, the recent grads didn’t feel right about the disposable take-home containers that their food came in. That's what turned on the CFL above their heads.

"We both really liked going out to restaurants but we both really disliked the waste," Grousset says.

The partners started BizeeBox last summer with the idea of supplying reusable plastic container to local restaurants for take-out meals. The idea is the eateries would supply it to their customers who would then send it back, for a small fee, and eliminate more landfill waste. The customers can drop off the empty containers at a central location for cleaning within a certain time period.

"As long as you get it back to us within 30 days we won’t charge you," Grousset says.

The business started as Go Blue Box at the tail end of their college careers and has taken off as they begin their professional careers as entrepreneurs.

"After graduating we decided we wanted to do this after school," says Rich Grousset, co-founder of BizeeBox.

The partners are now ironing out the wrinkles in their business plan, such specifically what reusable container to use or how to set up a rewards program to coincide with restaurant patronage. The company plans to running a crowd-funding campaign to launch a small pilot program in Ann Arbor early next year.

Source: Rich Grousset, co-founder of BizeeBox
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Liberty Title hires 25 as it grows into new markets

Liberty Title hasn't wasted any time over the last year expanding into new markets and adding a couple dozen new employees.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company entered into the Lansing area last summer. It also moved its Troy office to Birmingham and doubled it in size and relocated its Rochester office to a larger space. The company recently opened a new office in Novi, too. It all adds up 25 new hires, expanding the company's staff to 114 employees and one intern.

"We have been having a very good year as the housing market has been rebounding across the region," says Tom Richardson, general counsel for Liberty Title.

That has allowed the company to increase its revenue by 16 percent over the last year. It's revenue is up 63 percent since 2011. Part of that is thanks to new construction starting to peak its head out of the woodchuck hole in the last year. Richardson also credits new regulations that are coming down the pike that should help bump up the business of medium-to-large title companies.

"We're going to be pretty busy," Richardson says.

Source: Tom Richardson, general counsel for Liberty Title
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor software start-up Coherix adds 5 new employees

Coherix is finding its niche in Asia, helping more manufacturers on that side of the world streamline their production capability.

The Ann Arbor-based business is a supplier of high-speed, high-definition 3D measurement and inspection solutions. It creates software designed to improve the management of manufacturing processes. Its high-tech optical-based measurement and inspection products help find efficiencies in the automotive and semiconductor industries.

The 9-year-old company is finding a lot of demand for its technology with manufacturers of semi-conductors and other electronics. It has also recently inked a deal to do a joint venture in China, which the company expects to become the its biggest geographic market in the near future.

This growth has allowed the company to hire five more people in Ann Arbor. It now employs 50 people worldwide and expects to keep growing.

"Next year will be huge," says Dwight Carlson, chairman & CEO of Coherix. "We have a big customer we just finished a three-year production contract with."

Carlson explains that the client, whom he declined to name, has part of Coherix's technology imbedded in its product. That will produce a handsome royalty for Coherix when its begins making sales next year.

Source: Dwight Carlson, chairman & CEO of Coherix
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Control Gaging begins work on new HQ in Ann Arbor

Ground has broken for the new headquarters for Control Gaging in Ann Arbor. The investment is expected to help the 41-year-old company take advantage of the growing manufacturing sector.

The Ann Arbor-based company engineer, design and manufacture precision gauges for machine tools. It got hit hard in the recent recession but found a way to survive while many of its peers went under. Since then Control Gaging's revenue is up 250 percent.

"There was a lot of demand pent up when that ended," says David Hayes, president of Control Gaging.

The new facility will measure in at 24,500 square feet. It will allow for more flexibility in the manufacturing process. "Our principal facility isn’t set up for lean manufacturing," Hayes says.

The new production plant will also have a number of green features, including green space for employees to relax in, a bike path around the facility and more than 200 trees on site. Hayes expects Control Gaging to move into its new home on July 1st of next year.

Control Gaging currently employs 33 people. It has hired two more employees in the last year that specializes in machining and shipping & receiving.

Source: David Hayes, president of Control Gaging
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Renovo Power Technology develops new electrical inverters

Renovo Power Technology has started to gain some traction with its alternative energy technology and is aiming to pick up speed next year.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company makes advanced inverters that help transition energy from solar panels to the electric grid. Its transformerless inverter technology gets rid of the copper coils of traditional transformers and replaces them with electronics that are both more efficient and cheaper to manufacture. Normal five kilowatt inverters weigh 150 pounds. Renovo Power Technology's inverters are less than 60 pounds.

"This is like going from your old tube TV to the your flat panel LCD, an analog device to a digital device," says Shane LaHousse, vice president of operations for Renovo Power Technology.

The company currently has a staff of four employees, three independent contractors and one intern. One-hundred-and-twenty-five projects across North America have used Renovo Power Technolgy's inverters over the last year.

"We expect that in 2014 to at least triple if not quadruple that number," LaHousse says.

Source: Shane LaHousse, vice president of operations for Renovo Power Technology
Writer: Jon Zemke

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