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Kellie's Consignments takes customers on the road, looks to expansion

Kellie Johnson is inviting people to get on the bus.
On March 15, the owner of Kellie's Consignments will host her first-ever Spring Shopping Bus Tour that treats shoppers to a daylong excursion to consignment stores in Southeast Michigan.
"This winter sparked me to do it," says Johnson who has owned the popular Okemos store since 2006. "People are stir-crazy. This is a way for 55 people to get on a bus and go crazy."
Johnson says the 12-hour day starts at 8 a.m. with a lightly catered breakfast at the shop. Customers then board a charter bus and enjoy snacks, drinks and prizes en route to three destinations: Trading Closets in Brighton, Smart Chics in Novi, and Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi.
"It's just perfect for spring break shopping," says Johnson of the all-inclusive $45 round-trip ticket. "We hope to do it again in the fall."
Johnson describes her consignment outlet as upscale recycling. Seventy percent of her inventory consists of items that people ask her to sell, while the remaining 30 percent are things she orders new or lightly used.
"We look for anything you have that is fashionable or decorative for the person or the home," she says. "Then we recycle items to other people who put them to good use."
Johnson works with nearly 8,000 consignees nationwide and greets about 300 shoppers a day in her 14,000-square foot shop. She added six new staff in 2013 for a total of 13 employees, and looks to add more in 2014 as she starts online sales. Her five-year plan includes opening additional brick-and-mortar stores across the state.
"I can remember once upon a day imagining if I would ever be in this building," says Johnson. "And now here I sit and say, 'well here I am. If you build it, they will come.'"
To reserve your seat on the Spring Shopping Tour contact Kellie's Consignments at 517-574-4523.
Source: Kellie Johnson, owner, Kellie's Consignments
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Aggie Mae's brings artisan baked goods, new jobs to Grand Ledge

Since changing careers in 2009, Neva Austin starts her day in the kitchen at 3 a.m.
"I was in sales and wanted to do something I had a passion for," says Austin, the owner of the growing line of Aggie Mae's bakeries in Greater Lansing. "I decided I would make breads and pastries for the farmer's market, and it just exploded from there."
Austin opened her newest bakery in Grand Ledge in mid-January after closing her shop at the Lansing City Market. The 2,100-square foot store at 914 Charlevoix Street is her second brick-and-mortar store in addition to her bakery in Lansing's Old Town.
Austin uses fresh ingredients for her breads, pastries, cakes and pies. She sources organic flour from Ferris Organic Farms in her hometown of Eaton Rapids, and Lansing's LorAnn Oils for flavorings. Downtown's Paramount Coffee supplies the beans for her frequently requested cups of brew.
Austin seems destined to knead the dough. Her grandmother, Elaine Maynard, was a restaurateur in Higgins Lake, and her great grandmother, Bertie Mae, had a bakery in Breckenridge. 
"My mother taught me how to bake from a very young age," says Austin of the store's namesake, Aggie Mae. "Some of my fondest memories are baking bread with my mom."
Austin makes her baked goods from scratch, including her 12 artisan breads, pastries, specialty cupcakes, pies and cheesecake. She also claims 15 made-to-order sandwiches, a signature granola, yogurt parfaits, and breakfast items.
Austin's Grand Ledge bakery employs seven staff. She adapted the space in the newer strip mall by painting, knocking out a wall, and replacing floor tile. She also brought in her own display cabinets, coolers and bakery equipment, and put in seating for up to 15 dine-in customers. She's held off doing a grand opening, but is planning one for late March or April, once the weather turns.
"My mother absolutely loves to come in," says Austin. "Her favorite thing, of course, is the 'Aggie Mae,' our signature chicken salad sandwich that is made in-house."
Source: Neva Austin, owner, Aggie Mae's Bakery
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

St. Johns mom opens gym to get kids out of house and moving

Like a lot of moms with kids, Casie Grams was bouncing off the walls when snow, ice and freezing temperatures kept her family confined to the great indoors.
In January, Grams decided to take that pent-up energy elsewhere and opened PowerPlay Kids Fun & Fitness in St. Johns for kids ages 10 months through fifth grade.
"I see it giving children an outlet aside from being stuck at home inside," says Grams who has three children under 12. "Everything here is designed to build confidence. It's a non-competitive environment and meant to be fun."
The 1,600-square foot gym at 701 W. State Street is set up to accommodate a variety of activities, including gymnastics, indoor soccer, hockey, basketball, tennis, relays, playground games and more. Grams herself oversaw the light remodeling of the previous sports retail store, including laying new carpet, painting and making it "kid friendly" by bringing in equipment that includes a 25-foot Air Trak, balance beam, tumbling mats, gymnastics bars and stationary bikes.
"I also have a variety of other things like hula-hoops," say Grams whose background and certification is in gymnastics. "Every week we'll have a different theme."
PowerPlay offers several five-week classes that are set up according to ages, grades and siblings. She also offers a boys-only class and open gym twice a week. Parent participation is required for children 3 ½ or under.
"Eventually, I hope to expand and offer more classes," says Grams who runs the classes with the help of her mother and her nephew. "I just wanted to start somewhere."
In addition to 20 different classes and open gym, PowerPlay offers parent's night out, birthday parties and camps.
"It's an outlet," says Grams. "It's something fun to do and can help combat obesity. My goal is to just encourage a healthy lifestyle for kids."
Source: Casie Grams, Owner, PowerPlay Kids Fun & Fitness
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Craig Mitchell Smith Glass shines in new Old Town gallery

Craig Mitchell Smith has built his career on what some might say is fragile ground.
As a nationally sought after glass artist, Mitchell Smith has perfected his own technique for cutting and kiln-firing glass to emulate a painter's brush strokes. His sculptures, he says, are designed to enhance nature, and have found their way into private and public gardens both in the U.S. and abroad.
"It's a different way of thinking about glass," says Mitchell Smith, a self-taught artist who has worked as a designer and painter. "I think like a painter, and I treat my kiln like I would a canvas. It's just something I stumbled upon and it works for me."
Mitchell Smith's success with glass artistry has taken him across the country and to studios throughout Greater Lansing. In January 2014, the Lansing native brought the Craig Mitchell Smith Glass studio home to Old Town and opened to the public on Feb. 13 after seven years at the Meridian Mall.
The 4,000-square feet of the once Estes Furniture Warehouse will provide Mitchell Smith and his staff of four with triple the amount of production space as his former studio, as well as 1,000 square feet for display or retail. He says he invested about $25,000 to overhaul the building's electrical, and to install new flooring and lighting in the gallery area.
"We greatly needed the expanded workspace," says Mitchell Smith. "I plan on offering more classes, too."
Mitchell Smith's work has been shown at the Detroit Institute of Arts, on HGTV and through numerous gallery and museum exhibits nationwide. He says he works primarily by commission, and is doing one-man shows that take him to places like the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
"We're taking the show on the road," says Mitchell Smith of his work with large public American gardens. "But this new space suits my needs beautifully. My home is on the Grand River as is this gallery, so in good weather, I plan on kayaking home."
Craig Mitchell Smith Glass will hold a grand opening on Sunday, Feb. 23, from noon to 5 p.m. The public is invited.
Source: Craig Mitchell Smith, Owner, Craig Mitchell Smith Glass
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Spartan Coney brings gourmet dogs, hearty chili to East Lansing

East Lansing is going to the dogs.
Twelve, to be exact. But maybe more.
"I have 12 kinds of gourmet hot dogs on my menu," says Derrick Austin, co-owner of the recently opened Spartan Coney in East Lansing. "One of my favorites is the Jamaican. I also make a slaw dog, a BLT dog, one with bacon strips and spicy mustard, and a mac-n-cheese dog. And, of course, I can't leave out Chicago, New York and Coney Dogs."
Austin boasts at least four more dog delicacies, with several featuring his very own Coney sauce. He also gets creative with fries, topping taters with garlic parmesan, steak seasoning, Cajun spice, BBQ sauce, and, of course, chili.
"I have several types of chili," says Austin. "I make it hearty. I use ground turkey and ground pork in a lot of my chili, and I make a meatball and club chili. I could go on and on."
Austin's dogged delights are prepped in what he describes as a "small cubby hole" adjacent to Moe's Southwest Grill, which he also manages. He says his boss asked him what he wanted to do with the space, and gave him the option of pizza or hotdogs. Of course, Austin says, he went for the dogs, and opened Spartan Coney in September 2013.
Austin plans to build the menu of his grab-and-go venue, with one idea being convenient lighter fare like fruit cups and salads. He's also playing with the idea of offering a twist on funnel cakes—a county fair staple also known as elephant ears.
Austin grew up in Lansing and went to culinary school in Atlanta, Georgia. And while he's been in the food industry for nearly 30 years, he says he learned a lot about cooking from his mom and grandma.
"I'm from a family of nine boys and one girl," he says. "I was in the kitchen all the time, and it just caught on from there."
Source: Derrick Austin, Co-owner, Spartan Coney
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

AKA Social Media moves to TIC, reaches out to small businesses

Christopher Allen talked to his wife, Melissa, and decided to start a business. They had both worked for non-profits. And they both knew the challenge of promoting a good cause with limited resources.
That's where they knew they could step in.
In August 2013, the husband-wife duo put their like-minds together and launched AKA Social Media—an online marketing firm specializing in social media and email marketing. Their goal, Allen says, is to empower small businesses and nonprofits to reach their full marketing potential through a mix of social media and other communication tools.
"Our target market is businesses with fewer than five employees," says Allen. "And there are a lot of those in Greater Lansing. We're reaching out to insurance agencies, retail locations, coffee shops, that kind-of thing. So I guess you could say we're starting small."
Working from a home office, the two began offering services in training, social media management, email marketing and website design. Within months, the Allens had built a steady clientele that prompted them to seek out the start-up expertise of East Lansing's Technology and Innovation Center. They also brought on an additional family member, Joe Rabideau, to assist with new business development.
"We were drawn to the TIC because of their support system and connections that can help us move forward," says Allen of their January 2014 move to the TIC. "It's a great group of people building that base for entrepreneurship and start-ups."
Allen says his immediate goal is to continue to build his company's services and profile, and to become a go-to resource for social media marketing.
"In the type of economy we're in, social media offers a lot of advantages to small and local businesses," says Allen. "When you're working with a small budget, you might not be able to afford billboards and radio, but you can reach your target market with social media without as much of an investment."
Source: Christopher Allen, President, AKA Social Media
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Michigan Creative moves to new co-working space, adds first full-time staff

This February, Michigan Creative will celebrate three years of business, job creation, and new digs at the Center for New Enterprise Opportunity, 934 Clark Street in Lansing. It's a move, CEO Town says, that reflects his philosophy of always being there to provide expert creative services to Michigan businesses.
"It would be silly for us to get a space and be a company all by ourselves," says Town as he reflects on the value of occupying the third floor of co-working space at the NEO Center. "We're around so many people here who have a passion for the local area. It's a perfect fit, and it feels like we've been here forever."
Town, his staff of eight part-timers, and his first-ever full-time employee, Melissa Meschke, relocated from East Lansing's Technology and Innovation Center to Clark Street on Dec. 1. A grand opening is in the works for Feb. 20, with a program chock-full of speakers and presentations that celebrate good things happening in Michigan.
As a full-service marketing company specializing in web design and video production, Michigan Creative also offers branding, social marketing, and creative strategies for leveraging the often slim- to none-marketing budgets of any Michigan business.  
"We want to be unique and not just be 'that marketing company,'" says Town. "Our goal is to be long-time partners with companies we work with. We'd even like to place employees within companies once a week as a resource to help with marketing and business decisions."
Town says he envisions Michigan Creative as a 100-person company in as little as five years, with employees who live and raise families in mid-Michigan.
"Right now, we're a marketing company, but we hope to become a business development company too," says Town. "We just want to employ a lot of people and help them to stick around."
Source: Brian Town, CEO and Owner, Michigan Creative
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Salon Savvy brings relaxing style and new jobs to East Lansing

Keeping her customers relaxed and comfortable is at the top of the list for Shirley Warren.
"We're positive. We're caring. And there's absolutely no drama," says Warren of Salon Savvy, one of East Lansing's newest salons. "We've worked hard to create the best possible atmosphere for our clients."
Despite being located at a busy intersection on East Lansing's western edge, Salon Savvy evokes a sense of calm through a soothing interior palette of blues, greens and neutrals.
A reception area with a beverage bar sets the tone, as do discreetly spaced hair, nail and pedicure stations within the 2,800 square-foot facility. The circular floor plan enables separate climate-controlled areas for most services, including shampooing, waxing and massage.
"Wendy and I always wanted to open up a modern and relaxed place where we could build clientele," says Shirley, mentioning that she and her business partner, Wendy Schram, have worked together for more than a dozen years. "This place used to be a salon, so when it became available, it all fell into place."
Warren says she, Schram and their husbands invested seven weeks of muscle and sweat to ready the salon at 1429 W. Saginaw St. for a mid-December opening. Renovations included painting, waxing floors and installing equipment for 10 hair styling and two nail stations.
"We're looking to expand fast," says Warren. "We're hopeful that we will be able to build loyal clientele."
Salon Savvy currently contracts with two stylists and a nail technician. Plans are to add up to six more stylists, a nail technician and a massage therapist in 2014.
Source: Shirley Warren, Co-Owner, Salon Savvy
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development Editor

Prime Shine Professionals puts the polish on any ride

James Phifer knows all about bringing a show room shine to every make and model of car.
Since high school, Phifer has cleaned, polished, painted and revitalized the exteriors and interiors of thousands of automobiles as a professional car detailer. He's worked at General Motors, car dealerships and detailer shops across Mid-Michigan. Now, after 35 years of professional experience, he's hanging a shingle on his own two-bay garage.
"It's been my dream to run my own business someday," says Phifer who officially "cut the ribbon" on Prime Shine Professionals in early January 2014. "I'm very thorough, and I've studied new and old techniques. I've been doing this so long I know the tricks of the trade and know what people are looking for."
Phifer's two-bay garage is located directly behind Williamston Car Wash at 1125 W. Grand River Ave. in Williamston. In August of 2013, Phifer signed a lease, moved his equipment into the 700-square foot space, added seating and modern touches in customer waiting areas, and began offering professional auto detailing and reconditioning services to the community.
Phifer's services involve full bumper-to-bumper revitalization, with the results being a superior finish and a glossy new car finish inside and out. Services may be purchased as a package or a la carte and include a full carpet extraction, paint and stain removal, headliner cleaning, scratch and scuff removal, headlight restoration and interior leather reconditioning.
Phifer welcomed two contractors to his shop and hopes to eventually serve as a training facility for high school students who want to learn the trade.
"I've detailed just about every kind of car you can imagine," says Phifer, who is fully licensed and insured. "But I'm still waiting for that Bentley to come through my doors."
Source: James Phifer, Owner, Prime Shine Professionals
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Farm Fresh Seafood makes a splash with new Okemos market

Greater Lansing might be landlocked, but that doesn't keep Russ Allen from bringing farm fresh seafood to Mid-Michigan.
As the owner of the 7-year-old Shrimp Farm Market in Meridian Township, Allen has tested the waters for raising shrimp in Michigan's climate. His innovative indoor farm system produces about 400 pounds of shrimp each month, and holds promise for making Michigan the shrimping capital of the Midwest.
Now this veteran of the shrimp farming industry is taking his vision to the street with Farm Fresh Seafood—a soon-to-be-open storefront in Okemos for farm fresh seafood.
"The customers who came to the Shrimp Farm Market seem to be excited about what we're doing," says Allen. "I'm seeing an opportunity to do the right kind of seafood market by promoting all farmer seafood."
Allen will close his previous shrimp market that he ran adjacent to his growing facility and open the 1,200-square foot storefront at 1731 W. Grand River Ave.
In addition to Allen's shrimp, Farm Fresh Seafood will sell fresh, farm-raised seafood shipped direct from farms in from Maine, Washington, Texas, Alaska, Hawaii and other parts of the U.S. Some fresh frozen seafood will also be available.
"I want to change the dialog and say that U.S. farmer seafood is still the best available," says Allen. "Our goal is to feature different farms and different species from around the country."
Allen plans to open as early as February, complete with a commercial kitchen that prepares delicacies such as shrimp cervich, shrimp salad and shrimp burgers.
"Right now, this is just a family-run operation," says Allen as he mentions the jobs created for his wife, son and his son's girlfriend. "We hope to expand in the next year and maybe add some staff. Hopefully, this store is just the first of many in Michigan and elsewhere."
Source: Russ Allen, Owner, Farm Fresh Seafood
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Cuttin Up Barber Shop to add staff, activities in 2014

Paul Trowbridge's path to business began in his hometown of Battle Creek, wound its way to Lansing, took a detour down south, and cut back to Lansing again.
"When I first got back, I noticed this area needed a barber shop," says Trowbridge, owner of Cuttin Up Barber Shop in REO Town. "There was one here years ago and I wanted to bring it back."
Since opening in November 2012, Trowbridge's business at 1135 S. Washington has steadily grown from a clientele he nurtured through a decade of Lansing barbering experiences, including his previous shop, Barber Love. And with REO Town's rebirth, Cuttin Up has experienced a mild uptick, allowing Trowbridge to lay plans for new staff and increased civic-engagement.
Beginning in 2014, Trowbridge will add at least one licensed barber to his staff of three. He's also looking to sponsor a day-of-service for military veterans, and to continue programs that benefit the Lansing Area AIDS Network.
With a modest budget and lots of muscle, Trowbridge transformed the 1,000-square foot space previously occupied by Betty's Buttons by putting in a new floor, liberating brick walls from plaster, updating lighting, and furnishing with refurbished fixtures and chairs.
"There's nothing cosmetologist about it," says Trowbridge. "It's truly a man's shop, and a place where guys can come and let their hair down."
But then he pauses.
"Of course, if a woman comes in with her son for his haircut, we're friendly," he says, adding that he might cut the mom's hair, too, if she asked. "We're building lots of ties with families and businesses in the area. We want to be here for the long haul."
Source: Paul Trowbridge, Owner, Cuttin Up Barber Shop
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development Editor

Conrad's owner opens new East Lansing catering company

As the owner of both Conrad's College Town Grill locations in East Lansing, Joe Conrad has a pretty good idea of what's going on in the city's food industry. With all of the university departments and businesses in the area, he saw room in the market for a new caterer. That led to the opening of Grand River Catering Company

"We're not a fine dining, by any means, but it's a better option than some of the corporate places where you have very limited options," says Conrad. "Everything is cooked fresh to order for each catering job, and we can be more flexible with our clientele. Whatever they want, if we can do it, we will."

After opening the second location of Conrad's on E. Grand River in 2012, Conrad realized he had 1,500 extra square feet in the rear of the business. That's where he launched the catering company. While Grand River Catering Company officially opened in Sept., a busy fall at Conrad's has allowed for a gradual ramp up of the new business. Conrad says he's looking forward to having more time to focus on catering during MSU's semester break. 

"We offer more of a personal touch," Conrad says. "Typically, I will be the one delivering the food and making sure that everything goes well."

Grand River Catering Company is currently staffed by Conrad and one other employee. He hopes his focus on servicing the university and local business community will help him grow into  the go-to catering option for East Lansing.

Source: Joe Conrad, Grand River Catering Company
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale aims to open Eastside distillery

Lansing area craft beer and whiskey fans: 2014 could be a very good year. With small breweries trickling into the region and small-scale distilling just getting its start in Michigan, brewing and distilling afficianados Matt Jason and Jeremy Sprague decided it was the perfect time to establish such a business right at the center of it all. 

"Lansing is the capital of a great beer state, and other than some small breweries, we don't have a lot of beer here yet, not like Grand Rapids," says Jason. "We want to make Lansing a destination for beer." 

Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale is their means to reaching that goal, a brewery and distillery they plan to open on Lansing's Eastside. The production facilty and pub is currently in a fundraising phase. Between seeking out individual investors and a forthcoming Kickstarter campaign, Jason and Sprague plan to raise $150,000 by spring of 2014 to begin buildout on a 3,000 to 4,000 square foot space by summer. 

"There are few places we're looking on the Eastside," says Jason. "The Eastside has the youngest demographic, highest population density, and highest percentate of expenditures on alcohol. With the Red Cedar development hopefully coming on board, the avenue has a lot of promise." 

The distillery and brewery would feature brown and white whiskey, as well as a selection of European and American-inspired beers. Plans for the pub also include a bakery, from which Sleepwalker would serve pizzas, pretzel rolls and other food items. Distribution is also a major part of the plan for Sleepwalker spirits, which Jason plans to expand internationally. 

Though funding and licensing will determine their final timeline, Jason hopes to be opening Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale by late summer or fall of 2014 with six to 10 employees. Within a few years, they hope to triple the size of their staff and become known as a destination for live musch, craft beer and local whiskey.

Source: Matt Jason, Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Science lab incubator coming to 22,000 sq ft East Lansing building

Not unlike food entrepreneurs, early stage biotech and life science entrepreneurs face pretty high startup costs in the equipment and facilities department. In the spirit of niche incubators such as those that serve the food industry, former Arialink CEO Jason Schreiber decided to give area scientists a place where they could affordably get a business off the ground. With the purchase of a 22,000 square foot building on Dawn Ave. in East Lansing, a science laboratory incubator facility is on the way into the market. 
"Right now we see companies that are spinning out of MSU and other life science companies going to Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo," says Schreiber. "We're hoping to keep them in Lansing."
Schreiber says he's already received several inquiries from potential users of the space, and renovation will depend on the types of users that sign on. He hopes the space will accommodate both single-user labs and larger companies. 
"We saw the building, and we recognized the opportunity,'" he said of the two-story building that was once used for research and development. "It's a gem of a building, it just needs some love"
Renovations are expected to begin around February of 2014. Schreiber hopes to have the facility up and running by the middle to end of next summer summer. CBRE|Martin facilitated the sale of the property.

Source: Jason Schreiber, Property Owner
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Hollow Mountain Comics and Games to open in downtown East Lansing

Aaron Solon is a games guy. Gabe Cooper is a comics guy. So both were disappointed when East Lansing's 21st Century Comics and Games closed last year - enough so that they considered buying it. Though that plan didn't come together, it got Solon and Cooper hooked on the idea of opening their own comics and games shop, and in January, that plan will come to fruition with Hollow Mountain Comics and Games
"I actually think it's lucky it turned out that way, since we've been able to do some cool stuff with our inventory and storefront, starting from scratch," says Solon. "Our atmosphere will be a lot more accessible than other game stores in the area as well, so I think we'll be able to appeal to both hardcore gamers and comic fans, as well as people who are new to the hobby, or are simply more casual about it."
The 1,000 square foot Grand River storefront will open in early January. Being close to campus was a must for the partners, who anticipate foot traffic and accessibility to be factors in the success of Hollow Mountain Comics and Games. 
Solon says he hopes the store will grow into a community hub for gamers and comic book fans, much like a store he grew up with in Ann Arbor, Get Your Game On. 
"The staff there was really great, and it provided a place for me to connect to the gaming community and get exposed to some really cool games that I might never have heard of if it wasn't for that store," he says. "My personal goal for Hollow Mountain is for it to be the kind of place that can give someone that kind of experience."
Hollow Mountain will initially be staffed by Solon and Cooper, and they hope to add an employee in a few months. Information about the store's grand opening will be posted to their Facebook page

Source: Aaron Solon, Hollow Mountain Comics and Games
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor
746 Entrepreneurship Articles | Page: | Show All
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