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Entrepreneurship : Development News

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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

Massage Bliss opening in 3,000 sq ft Okemos location

Mother and daughter team Shannon Sawnick and Karen Smith were looking for a small business idea that would promote healthy and natural living, and upon finding a lack of massage salons in Okemos, they found their opportunity. The forthcoming business, Massage Bliss will open near the end of January on Grand River next to Dusty's Cellar
"We're excited tot be opening in Okemos," says Sawnick. "We don't think there is anything like this there. Our prices are going set us apart. We're hoping to appeal to everybody."
In addition to affordability, Sawnick plans to attract customers with stunning ambiance. Massage Bliss will offer an infrared sauna, a sitting room with a water fountain and fireplace, as well as a retail area and coffee bar. In addition to massage, the business will offer waxing and facial services. 
"We've already had a lot of positive feedback," says Sawnick. "We're already starting to sell gift cards." 
Massage Bliss will employ eight massage therapists and three receptionists. The 3,000 square foot storefront is currently under renovation."

Source: Shannon Sawnick, Massage Bliss
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

The Institution fitness studio to celebrate downtown grand opening

When Paul Nagel retired from military service, he thought he could leave his exercising day behind him. It didn't take long before he found himself unhappy with the results of that idea, and his change in habits changed the rest of his life. Now a certified trainer and new resident of Lansing, Nagel and he his partner Jennifer Battle own The Institution Fitness Studio, which will celebrate the grand opening of its new location on Dec.13.
"We like to have fun, but we want results too," says Nagel. "We take a personal interest in our customers. We're not here to make a million dollars overnight; we're here to give people their lives back."
The class-based fitness studio offers a variety of classes, and Nagel and Battle have a particular interest in children's fitness. They offer free weekly classes for kids between six and 12 on Saturdays. 
"For the first time in history our children will not outlive us," says Nagel. "We want to be part of the solution. Every single child is invited, and they can come and workout and have fun."
The new 1,000 square foot studio is on S. Washington Sq. Nagel says he and Battle hope to continue to grow The Institution to multiple locations and possibly franchise the business in the future. Currently, they're working to grow into their new space, and they plan to work with four to five contract instructors to help teach their courses. 

Source: Paul Nagel, The Instution
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

TLC Memory Keepers moves into new Williamston location

When Terie Clover started scrapbooking, it was just a hobby. But when she started to offer to help some of her friends and family who were too busy to finish their own projects, everyone quickly realized she had a knack for the art. After opening TLC Memory Keepers in Williamston two year ago, it became her job. 

"I decided this coul be a way I could share what I do with othe rpoepl. I have why I call a scrapbook club where epeople cn join and come any time during my open hours. 

The business has been growing ever since. Last year, Clover added scrapbooking materials to her shop, and this year, she moved from Keller's Plaza into a new location in the Miller Photography Studio. 

"It was difficult to have craft sessions upstairs and the owner of Miller Studios thought it would be great if we got together, " she says. "It’s a little bit  larger, and I do have more supplies and more space to hold classes."

Clover moved TLC Memory into the new location in Nov. She says she doesn't plan to become a millionaire with her business, but to simply continue to share her skills and supplies with her customers. 

Source: Terie Clover, TLC Memory Keepers
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Hair & Company on Ash supports stylists' education, community art in Mason

Opening her own salon has been on Tricia Singh's to-do list for years. After nearly two decades in the business, she has reached her goal with the opening of  Hair & Company on Ash in Mason in Oct.  
"It has always been a dream of mine to open a full service, upscale salon that caters to the creative soul," she says. "It's difficult to work in an environment with rules and stipulations."
Rather than setting restrictions on her team of stylists, Singh infuses her staff with education. As the hair business is always changing, she said continual education is the best way to ensure ongoing quality for her customers and enrichment for her stylist. 
The 1,600 square foot salon offers massage therapy, nail services and facials along with hair services, but Singh doesn't stop there. With an eye on supporting all kinds of creatives in the Mason community, she carries locally made honey, soaps, lotions, candles, maple syrup, fine art and more. 
"It's about supporting all of our local people," she says.
Hair & Company on Ash currently employs a staff of seven. So far, Singh says her chairs have been full, and she couldn't be happier with the community's reception of the new salon.

Source: Tricia Singh, Hair & Company on Ash 
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

A new Asian cuisine option opens on Michigan Ave.

Restauranteur Frank Lin knows an opportunity when he sees one. When he recognized the lack of a neighborhood Chinese restaurant on Lansing's east side, he decided to become the solution. His new Asian Gourmet Chinese Restaurant opened about a month ago on Michigan Ave. 
"The response has been good, and we haven't even done any advertising yet," says Lin. "Many people are coming right from this neighborhood. It's a very nice neighborhood here."
Location was key in Lin's decision to open Asian Gourmet. With large employers in close proximity, such as Michigan State University and Sparrow, he plans to attract a good lunch crowd. While Chinese fare is at the heart of the restaurant's offerings, Lin says Thai and other Asian cuisine is offered as well.
"We don't use MSG, and we mostly use fresh vegetables," says Lin. "It's very healthy with no extra fat or oils." 
The 1,500 square foot restaurant currently seats about 15 diners and has relied on carry out for much of their business. In the future Lin hopes to expand his in-house dining. Currently, Asian Gourmet Chinese Restaurant employs a staff of three. 

Source: Frank Lin, Asian Gourmet Chinese Restaurant 
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor
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