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Urban farmers create community supported kitchen at The Avenue Cafe

Some say it's all in a name. That's certainly the case for a new venture between an herbal tea start-up and a popular entertainment venue on Lansing's East Side.
 
Beginning in late May, HerBlends of Plenty will begin running the kitchen at the Avenue Café at 2021 E. Michigan Ave. Branded Abundance at the Avenue Café, the new culinary operation will offer farm-to-table dining through a community-supported kitchen. Co-founders Kirk Green and Patti Akley also plan to expand The Avenue's hours to accommodate a teahouse with a breakfast and lunch menu.
 
"We love this location and are invested in the East Side through our urban farms," says Green who cultivates herbs in the Urbandale neighborhood. "There's lots of potential to support farm-to-table fare, and there's a need for a tea house in Greater Lansing, too."
 
Green says The Avenue will continue to offer craft beers and host shows in the evening. The only difference will be the availability of food prepared by HerBlends of Plenty Executive Chef Jason Jones from locally-source ingredients.
 
Green and Akley are working to partner with local producers fresh produce, eggs and humanely-raised meats. The two plan to meet with farmers in advance of their growing and production seasons to establish baselines for supplying goods.
 
"It's part of the community supported kitchen model that we haven't seen a lot in this area," says Green. "Our goal is to keep costs low and provide meals at a more affordable rate."
 
The community kitchen allows customers to buy shares at the beginning of the summer and receive a set number of seasonal meals per week. Members can opt for dine-in or takeout. Non-members can purchase meals, too, but at a slightly higher rate. A mini-farmers market outside The Avenue is also being planned.
 
HerBlends of Plenty recently launched a crowd funding campaign through Indiegogo that will run through April 29.  The goal is to facilitate pre-orders and to raise fund to help the transition to The Avenue.
 
Abundance at The Avenue Café will occupy about 1,000 square feet of the 7,000-square foot facility, and will be run by six staff from HerBlends of Plenty. 
 
"We may redesign things a little up front to make things more restaurant friendly," says Akley. "Our hope is to make for a more mixed clientele while retaining the space as amazing venue for musicians."
 
Sources: Kirk Green and Patti Akley, Co-founders, HerBlends of Plenty and Abundance at the Avenue Cafe
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Prima Civitas and MEDC join forces to boost Michigan's economy

Prima Civitas and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation have formalized their longstanding working relationship through a cooperative agreement aimed at promoting economic development throughout Michigan.
 
Signed earlier this spring, the agreement sets the stage for broader collaboration on ongoing projects or those in the works.
 
"We felt it was important to formalize our relationship and work to continue to improve Michigan's economy," says Arnold Weinfeld, CEO and board chair of Prima Civitas. "The more formal relationship will allow us to expand our services across the state and work with more partners involved in the same type of work."
 
The two organizations will continue to collaborate on worker recruitment and training, as well as projects that support businesses in creating and retaining jobs. Other key efforts will encourage the export of Michigan products and services, and foster private sector involvement and support for the state's economic development.
 
Prima Civitas and MEDC are currently coordinating the Michigan Supply Chain Innovation Summit slated for this August. The conference provides a forum for thought leaders to explore innovative business solutions within the supply chain, and to showcase Michigan's logistical assets and resources.
 
Other ongoing collaborations include rebuilding the cut and sew industry; assisting, retraining, and securing employment for displaced professionals; and building and maintaining a statewide internship initiative.
 
Prima Civitas is a nonprofit community and economic development organization supported by Michigan State University, the C.S. Mott Foundation, and other partners. The organization promotes collaborative relationships across government agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector to promote the state's economic growth.
 
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state's marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, talent and jobs, tourism, film and digital media incentives, arts and cultural grants, and overall economic growth. The MEDC offers a number of business assistance services and capital programs for business attraction and acceleration, entrepreneurship, strategic partnerships, talent enhancement, and urban and community development.
 
Sources: Arnold Weinfeld, CEO and Board Chair, Prima Civitas
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Move In Move Out saves left-behind items from the landfill

That sofa, chair or other furnishing left behind when clearing out from a college apartment or dorm doesn't have to be destined for the dumpster thanks to an innovative moving and charitable giving service founded by students.
 
Move In Move Out provides free pickup services for unwanted furnishings and household items that are still useable and in good repair. Donated items are then cleaned and stored in an area warehouse, and resold to incoming students or residents in the fall. All proceeds go to support local charities, or to provide basic operational support for the company.
 
"We're not out to make a profit," says Rachel McCloskey, president of MIMO. "Our goal is to make our community a better place by reducing waste."
 
Founded two years ago by students at Northwestern University, MIMO opened an East Lansing branch in May 2014. Kevin Ye, an entrepreneur working through the Hatch, became acquainted with Northwestern MIMO founder Steven To through a mutual friend, and set things in motion to bring the concept to the MSU campus.
 
McCloskey says the company grew from two to six staff in 12 months, with dozens of volunteers who assist during the moving and sales period that runs from May through August. About 1,200 tons of potential waste was hauled or transformed into reusable goods during the first year.
 
"We welcome anyone who wants to donate or buy anything," says President Rachel McCloskey. "If you donate, we provide the pickup. If you purchase items in our warehouse, you provide the hauling or we can arrange to have it hauled for you for a small delivery charge."
 
Move In Move Out services can be requested online. Items for sale can be viewed and purchased at warehouse and storage facilities on Abbot Road near Chandler Crossings. Most items for sale are between $15 to $20 with prices topping out at $50. In the first year at MSU, MIMO sold about 200 items with about 100 remaining household items donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.
 
Sources: Rachel McCloskey, President, Move In Move Out
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Sparrow, Volunteers of America applaud first year of practice, add dental care

The Sparrow Medical Group Volunteers of America practice recently marked its first anniversary of providing care to the area's homeless.
 
Since March 2014, the innovative practice has logged more than 3,100 patient visits and helped individuals regain control of their health. Many of the patients are physically disabled, suffer from mental illness, and unable to access government health benefits to which they are entitled.
 
Located onsite at the VOAMI, 430 N. Larch St., the clinic is believed to be the first practice in Michigan based in a homeless service center.
 
"This is a common sense and compassionate option that makes our community better," says Darin Estep, director of community engagement for the VOA. "When people are feeling better and are healthier, they are better equipped to work on other things in their lives."
 
Estep says that fragile health is the main reason many people end up homeless. Before the clinic, the majority of homeless would tolerate a medical condition until it became an emergency. An ambulance or 911 was often their only option.
 
The clinic operates five days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and consists of six exam rooms, a lab and a room for doing simple procedures like stitches. Financial assistants are also onsite to assist with applications to health insurance and Sparrow's financial aid program.
 
"It looks like any other Sparrow medical practice and is beautifully appointed," says Estep. "It's a measure of respect that our clients can sit on a nice exam table and be treated like you or I would if we went to see a doctor."
 
Plans are underway to build and open a four-chair dental clinic next door to the practice in partnership with Delta Dental. Sparrow is among the groups helping to plan the clinic.
 
"Dental care is a huge part of health care and is sorely lacking among the homeless," says Estep. "The clinic is all part of our interdisciplinary approach."
 
The VOA also opened a legal clinic in December that advocates for the homeless and walks them through the disability process when appropriate. Part of that process, Estep says, involves securing medical confirmation of their disability, often through the in-house clinic.
 
"With the addition of a dental and law clinic, we have a full spectrum of options," says Estep "Our interdisciplinary team can now look at the most urgent homeless cases in the community and determine what may be keeping them from recovery."
 
Sources: Darin Estep, Director of Community Engagement, Volunteers of America Michigan
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Moonsail North charts course to Okemos MARC

Two seasoned storytellers with a mindset toward community have set sail to help businesses and organizations build effective and budget-conscious communications.
 
In November, Rose Tantraphol and Scott Swanson marshaled their combined experiences as journalists and public relations professionals to launch Moonsail North: a community-minded communications consulting company.
 
After landing their operations in the Meridian Asset Resource Center (also known as The MARC) this spring, the two-member company will continue to assist clientele in educational, business and nonprofit circles, steadily building their presence as multi-disciplinary storytellers on a state and national level.
 
"Storytelling is at the heart of everything we've ever done," says Tantraphol. "Both neuroscientists and poets agrees that our brains crave stories. So whether it's through social media, earned media or otherwise, we're excited to work with people to share stories and connect us all to one another."
 
Specializing as writers, strategic communicators, and social media and digital specialists, the husband-wife team approaches every communication campaign from the point-of-view of discovering the best way to tell a client's story.
 
"We wanted a name that spoke to our inspirations and influences," says Tantraphol. "We both have a love for the arts and sciences, and we're big Radiohead fans. So we took our name from their beautiful song 'Sail to the Moon,' and combined it with the idea of a compass direction. It's all about viewing our work as a journey with our clients and helping them achieve what seems impossible."
 
Moonsail North's clientele includes the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, U.S. Green Building Council, and the International Business Center Global Business Club at Michigan State University. The company donates a portion of their proceeds to local charities, and plans to hire an intern come summer.
 
Source: Rose Tantraphol, Co-Founder, Moonsail North
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

New academy for high schoolers peaks interest in insurance careers

High school students in Ingham County can prepare for careers in the growing insurance industry and earn college credit through a new one-year program unveiled by the Ingham Intermediate School District, Lansing School District, Accident Fund Insurance of America, and the Insuring MI Future Coalition.
 
Available to high school juniors and seniors, the Insurance Leadership Academy provides students the chance to learn about the insurance industry by attending classes three days a week at the Capital Area Career Center or Lansing Eastern High School. Students will also spend two days a week at Accident Fund Insurance where they will job shadow, participate in presentations, and learn job skills.
 
"The insurance industry is facing a future crisis since nearly 40 percent of our workforce in Michigan is 55 or older," says Lori Conartan, communications director for the Insurance Institute of Michigan. "We see a big need to attract young people to our industry."
 
One of the bigger challenges in building that future workforce, Conartan says, is changing the perception of insurance careers as boring or "last resort."
 
"But when they're able to look at it closer, they see the challenges and opportunities," says Conartan. "Jobs in insurance are rewarding because you're helping people. There are a wide variety of jobs, too, likes sales, accounting, IT and marketing."
 
Attorneys, fraud investigators and web masters also find employment within the industry. Mid-Michigan boasts about 6,800 jobs in insurance, as well as a 17 percent job growth in Eaton, Clinton and Ingham counties from 2010 to 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7.4 percent growth for insurance-related jobs in Greater Lansing from 2010 to 2020, while Michigan Labor Market Information reports an average annual wage of $55,000 for the tri-country area.
 
Conartan says the new Insurance Leadership Academy is a win all the way around.
 
"It's a win for students who are exposed to a great career," she says. "It's a win for the industry since students at a younger age are getting to know about careers in insurance. And it's a win for parents since the program provides nine free credits toward college."
 
The program is modeled after an Eaton County collaboration between Eaton RESA and Farm Bureau insurance. The Insuring MI Future Coalition members are the Insurance Institute of Michigan, Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, Michigan Association of Health Plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Life Insurance Association of Michigan, and Department of Insurance and Financial Services.
 
Sources: Lori Conarton, Communications Director, Insurance Institute of America
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

LEAP reconfigures, receives MEDC and city support

The Lansing Economic Area Partnership is springing forward with new directions that promise to take the region's entrepreneurial and business startup initiatives to a national level of prominence.
 
Tony Willis will serve as the director of the recently reconfigured New Economy Division, moving from his previous post as manager. Willis will run RING—the Lansing region's entrepreneurial system—while Quin Stinchfield will oversee the TIC and Runway as the new manager of business incubation. Stinchfield will also be responsible for continuing the expansion of incubators throughout the Lansing region.
 
The reconfiguration of the division enables LEAP to introduce an aggressive series of programs designed to increase the likelihood of startup businesses and entrepreneurial culture. Among those programs are FundLansing—a tri-county loan program with an entrepreneurial focus. Two others include the rebranding of 3D Lansing to Lansing Proto, and new curriculums for the TIC and Runway.
 
"The reorg will allow LEAP to better handle the needs of our entrepreneurial community," says Willis. "We have laid a great foundation over the past few years, but with this new structure and development of great programs, we can really begin to accelerate the growth of new companies."
 
In other restructuring news, Karl Dorshimer was promoted to director of business development. LEAP COO Steve Willobee will also assume more day-to-day management responsibilities for the New Economy Division in addition to providing leadership in the business development arena.
 
Continuing to garner strong support from MEDC, LEAP will use the $100,000 annual incubator grant to contract a high-tech startup specialist to run the Lansing Regional SmartZone and target the growth of high-tech, startup businesses. Additional MEDC grants include $65,000 to support The Runway as well as $70,000 for development of an "accelerator region" surrounding the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University.
 
"The funding and support from MEDC only continues to affirm our region is not only posed for success but is a leader in innovation for the state," says Willis.
 
The City of Lansing also proposed additional funding for LEAP that would be applied toward adding one staff person at LEAP to work on City of Lansing projects.
 
Sources: Tony Willis, Director, LEAP New Economy Division
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Life as a Zebra supports groundbreaking research at University of Toledo Medical Center

The Life as a Zebra Foundation is adding some different stripes to their ways of raising funds, increasing awareness and advocating for the prevention, treatment and research of hard-to-diagnose invisible illnesses.
 
In April, LAAZF will welcome world-recognized expert Dr. Blair Grubb and his associates from the University of Toledo Medical Center as speakers and special guests at the 4th Annual Benefit Concert for Invisible Awareness and Research. Grubb's visit, says co-founder Katie Dama Jaskolski, represents a new partnership that supports the medical center's groundbreaking research into postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome—or POTS.
 
"This research project has the potential to improve the lives of so many who suffer from the often debilitating and life-altering disease," says Jaskolski. "It's a dream come true to have the chance to work with Dr. Grubb in order to make a difference in the lives of so many."
 
Jaskolski says that most of the proceeds from this year's gala will be allocated to Grubb's research only—a departure from previous LAAZF galas that supported multiple foundations. Anything beyond the targeted goal of $10,000 will be applied toward funding general operations for LAAZF—a non-profit supported by volunteers and charitable donations.
 
Grubb is considered a leader in the discovery and use of new approaches for the treatment of POTS—a debilitating disease that causes dizziness, sudden fainting, and an inability to carry on the basic functions of daily life. In 2015, Grubb was named one of the America's Top Doctors by Castle Connolly.
 
Jaskolski and her sister Allie Dama founded the Life as a Zebra Foundation in 2012. Each had lived with debilitating symptoms while searching for correct medical diagnoses. Dama Jaskolski has been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and POTS, while Dama was diagnosed with polyarteritis nodosa vasculitis.
 
The 4th annual gala will be held April 11 from 6-11 p.m. at the MSU Kellogg Center. The evening includes cocktails, appetizers, a silent auction, presentations and headliner acts including pop/Americana artist Noah Guthrie from Glee and Boston-based singer-songwriter Chris Trapper of the band The Push Stars. For tickets or more information, click here.  
 
Sources: Katie Dama Jaskolski, Co-founder, Life as a Zebra Foundation
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Alchemy Detroit brings timeless tailoring to The Runway

Shelley Van Riper spent years looking for the perfect blazer. Now she's bringing her finds to The Runway.
 
As the owner and founder of Alchemy Detroit, Van Riper was invited to hang her entire collection at The Runway starting this spring. Her line of classic and professional chic includes blazers, scarves and tees—all designed for women with an eye for timeless tailoring.
 
"I have people from age 20 to 65 wearing my pieces," says the Detroit-based designer. "It's classic, and timeless and versatile, and for the professional career woman, stay-at-home mom or the matriarch."
 
Van Riper spent 20 years building a career in the corporate world before leaving to found her women's wear label. Alchemy Detroit, she says, draws inspiration from men's wear with sophisticated, subtle touches that provide feminine appeal.
 
"I wore suits to work every day before corporate casual," says Van Riper. "Even then, I would wear a blazer even if it was with jeans."
 
Van Riper says she struggled with finding simple, classic pieces with clean lines and timeless quality. Sometimes, she says, she even went to men's departments at high-end stores to have them tailor a suit with the same details and craftsmanship she saw in men's suits.
 
While Van Riper eventually found a way to dress for success, she found herself constantly yearning to return to the creative discipline she had first pursued in college: fashion design.
 
"Fashion design never left me," says Van Riper who had switched her major and chose a business track. "It was my core."
 
Last year, Van Riper resigned from her desk job and put together the elements she needed to launch Alchemy Detroit. She devised a business plan, traveled to the garment district in New York, and made the connections she needed to create patterns, source materials, and tailor and produce her first products.
 
Van Riper says working with Lansing's Runway will enable her to make similar connections in Michigan, and provides a creative environment where she can mix with other fashion designers.
 
"I'm really honored to be hanging there with other Michigan designers," says Van Riper. "The Runway is a really exciting opportunity to bring people together to share resources, information and ideas."
 
Sources: Shelley Van Riper, Owner, Alchemy Detroit
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale attracts more investors, continues to innovate

Matthew Jason has had little rest since he and Jeremy Sprague opened up their Lansing-based micro-brewery in the Allen Market Place.
 
Since October, Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale has operated a pop-up taproom on Wednesdays and Fridays, offering craft beer for take-out sale in 32-ounce howlers and 64-ounce growlers.
 
The community-owned operation, says Jason, has grown significantly in the six months at the market. More people have become investors, and more beer festivals have invited Jason and Sprague to share their Lansing-made brews this summer and fall. Beer aficionados can also enjoy Sleepwalker ales at local places like Taps 25 and the REO Town Pub, as well as select bars in Kalamazoo and Chicago.
 
"We're hoping to move into a brick and mortar facility by the end of the year," says Jason. "We've been looking at some locations, but a lot depends on what's ready and when we're ready to commit."
 
So far, Jason and Sprague say that are two-thirds of the way toward their minimum goal of the $125,000 they need to make the move—thanks to the generosity of community investors.
 
For now, Sleepwalker continues to create unique beers that feature local ingredients, particularly those from farms in the Urbandale district. Several signature beers feature locally-sourced honey and lavender, and Lansing roasters Craft and Mason and Bloom have provided specialty coffees for a double-edged brew.
 
"We value these types of collaborations because it makes for a better product and supports local businesses," says Jason. "It's a win-win, and reflects our philosophy on community-ownership."
 
Sleepwalker enjoys pushing the boundaries of beer styles by conjuring up a Belgian-style beer with raisins and prunes, brewing an IPA with Japanese hops, and reviving a historic Polish beer that's 100 years old. Piwo Grodziskie, Jason explains, is made from smoked malt wheat, and comes from a region where his ancestors had lived.
 
"We like to innovate, draw upon European traditions, and do different things," says Jason. "That's a hallmark of American craft beer. We take our dream-play motto to heart, and like to inspire and inspire others."
 
Sources: Matthew Jason, Co-owner, Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Inaugural leadership program looks to attract and retain Lansing talent

A new leadership initiative through the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce will help the Greater Lansing region identify, develop and retain the next generation of community leaders.
 
Leadership Lansing will offer both established and emerging leaders the opportunity to receive extensive training in leadership skills as well as to gain a greater understanding of how community institutions shape the region's quality of life.
 
The eight-month initiative begins in October 2015 and is currently enrolling up to 30 participants for the inaugural year.
 
"We really wish to encourage a wide range of participation that is reflective of our diverse economy in Greater Lansing," says Kristin Beltzer, LRCC executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "Leadership Lansing offers terrific opportunity for large and small businesses to develop their talent."
 
Participants will engage in seven workshops over the course of the program. An overnight retreat will acquaint them with key institutions, industry sectors and business leaders that make up the fabric of the Greater Lansing region. Workshop themes include leadership influence, education, healthcare, home-grown entrepreneurship, engagement and quality of life, and creating a vision for the future. Training on specific leadership skills will be part of each workshop.
 
Certified and credential leadership instructors Ross Woodstock of Kolt Communications and Susan Combs of Susan Combs Coaching and Consulting will facilitate Leadership Lansing. 
 
Combs says the new Lansing program will draw from the best practices of leadership programs across the state, and build an appreciation of the resources that are unique to Greater Lansing—including state government, associations, and Michigan State University.
 
"Our hopes are that participants will walk away with a broader understanding of our community, as well as specific leadership skills that they can put into practice in their organizations," says Combs. "Programs like these help people see the big picture and make connections across sectors."
 
Sources: Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce; Susan Combs, Owner, Susan Combs Coaching and Consulting
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Williamston Theatre purchases building, secures home in community

They asked. The community responded. Now they have a permanent home.
 
In late 2014, the Williamston Theatre became the official owner of the building at 122 N. Putnam Street. Previous owner Steve Zynda was ready to sell, and gave the group an offer they couldn't refuse.
 
"Steve offered it to us for far less than what it was worth," says Development Director Emily Sutton-Smith. "He also said he would match anything we raised from donors to make the sale possible."
 
In just two months, a solid handful of donors and supporters stepped forward to help cover the $150,000 sale price. It's a move, says Sutton-Smith, that will take the theatre to the next level while affirming the place of theatre in the community of about 3,800 residents.
 
"Owning the building puts us on firmer footing and makes us realize that we are well-established and respected," says Sutton-Smith. "We have amazing supporters and donors. They inspire us to continue doing the work we're doing."
 
While the group had rented the building from Zynda since 2006 for just $1 a year, Sutton-Smith says having the building as an asset opens up new venues for capital improvements and grants.
 
"We have some large projects coming up in our five-year plan," she says. "They're things that aren't very sexy but are important to fix, including brick work, windows and roofs. But we're balancing it with smaller projects, too, that will make our theatre space better."
 
The Williamston Theatre occupies 7,542 square feet, including a basement, first floor performance area, and second floor offices. The theatre seats 100 patrons with performances taking place on a 15-by-15 foot black box stage. The first floor also features two lobbies, with the back lobby serving as an art gallery with works by local artists.
 
The Williamston Theatre was recently awarded grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) and the Capital Region Community Foundation. The theater was also recognized by the American Theatre Wing as one of the most promising young theatre companies in the country.
 
Each season, the Williamston Theatre provides dozens of job opportunities to Michigan theatre professionals, both on stage and off, including apprenticeship opportunities to recent college graduates.
 
Sources: Emily Sutton-Smith, Development Director, Williamston Theatre
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Mason Farmer's Market expands vendors, hours and season

Mason's Farmers Market will start its 11th season doing what it does best. They'll just do it with more.
 
From July through October, the market will bring more vendors, more entertainment and events, and a longer schedule to Maple Street in downtown Mason. And the hope? To attract even more shoppers interested in fresh food, produce, and the farmers who bring it to market.
 
"It's a great way to spend the morning," says Jeff Collar, the new market master. "You learn a lot. Get to talk to farmers. And get excellent produce. It gives you a chance to get out and meet other people, too."'
 
Collar is applying ideas and making connections from what he learned by attending training for market masters put on by the Michigan Farmers Market Association. He volunteered to manage the Mason Farmer's Market after long-time market master Elaine Ferris retired. As a vendor and recent retiree from a food service career, Collar is well equipped to oversee operations and explore new ways of doing things.
 
"We're looking to feature a farmer or grower every week," says Collar. "They'll be able to showcase what they're doing and who they area. We want our customers to get to know the farmers at the market, and we want to make sure farmers get to know their customers, too."
 
To date, the Mason Farmer's Market has 12 to 15 vendors slated to participate—up from seven vendors in previous years. Collar says the major emphasis will be on produce, with some vendors also offering crafts and baked goods.
 
"It's a farmer's market after all," laughs Collar. "We want it to be a combination of foods."
 
The Mason Farmer's Market will kick off July 11 and run through the second or third week of October. Hours of operation are Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
 
Sources: Jeff Collar, Market Master, Mason Farmer's Market
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Modern Cut Apparel frees designers from production side of business

Two friends with an inclination for entrepreneurship are helping fashion designers stick to the drawing board by providing production and fulfillment services that can cut into a designer's creative energies and time.
 
Founded in January by Jonathan Arias and Joe Abanto, Modern Cut Apparel sources production for brands and merchandise lines. With business operations in East Lansing and production capabilities in Peru, the end-to-end fulfillment house can deliver most any article of clothing or textile-based merchandise based on specifications set by the artist or brand.
 
"We want to reach out to designers and artists in the Mid-Michigan community who have an idea, but are constrained by the realities of production," says Arias. "We want to help take the limits off and allow artists to be as crazy and creative as they want to."
 
Modern Cut Apparel works with brands that have a solid, growing customer base, and that create products they would feel comfortable buying or wearing themselves. The company has produced lines of T-shirts and caps, including several Peruvian brands and an American brand named Population Dynamo. Items are crafted and manufactured from the company's facility in Lima, Peru, and shipped back to the U.S.
 
Arias and Abanto grew up together in Miami. Arias moved to Lansing a year or two ago to pursue his law degree at Michigan State University. Abanto moved to the Lima, Peru, to open a shop in the fashion and textile district. The two friends kept in close contact, and as their studies and careers evolved, they began to see a natural fit for a business that combined their talents and ingenuity.
 
"Brands are plentiful," says Arias. "Most of us can name a dozen. But what most of us can't do is to name the fulfillment houses that get the products done. Our goal is to be one of those sources and fulfillment houses."
 
Arias runs the company's business operations from his home office while Abanto manages production and fulfillment in Peru. The company received initial support and consultation from the Hatch—East Lansing's student-oriented business incubator.
 
"Our immediate goal is to establish a presence in Mid-Michigan," says Arias. "The business community is amazing here. The entrepreneurial culture is so robust." 
 
Sources: Jonathan Arias, Co-founder and Owner, Modern Cut Apparel
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

New film studies degree program premieres at MSU

The legacy of film and a growing presence of blockbuster filmmakers in Michigan spurred Michigan State University to premiere a new bachelor's degree program in film studies.
 
Housed in the College of Arts and Letters, the program welcomed its first 11 students in January 2015. Sites are set on ramping up to 80 to 100 degree candidates in the next few years.
 
Courses will be taught by seven core MSU faculty who are also award-winning filmmakers, and will provide students with training in production, history, theory and criticism of the cinema. The program will also equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to give back culturally and artistically to their communities.
 
"We're committed to growing the program and making it a vibrant component of MSU and East Lansing," says Program Director and Assistant Professor Josh Yumibe. "We want to contribute to expanding culture and the arts in East Lansing and to bring cinema back to downtown."
 
Yumibe adds that the new film studies program comes at a time when the accessibility of affordable digital filmmaking tools continues to push filmmaking beyond the boundaries of Hollywood. Targeted occupations for graduates will include film production, film criticism, arts management, advertising, public relations, software development and educational programming.
 
Film studies have a rich tradition at MSU, producing alumni like Sam Raimi of "Evil Dead" and "Spiderman" fame. The program, says Yumibe, will distinguish itself through its broad global dimension and opportunity for students to pursue screenwriting and film production in conjunction with the study of film.
 
"We're committed to thinking globally in terms of film and technology," says Yumibe. "And we're training students to think on their feet by teaching them to write, read and speak thoughtfully about what they're working on."
 
Yumibe says MSU is formalizing internships with several film festivals and film offices. The program also recently welcomed the Toronto-based experimental filmmaker Mike Hoobloom as part of the program's filmmakers in residence series.
 
In addition to the new bachelor's degree program, students can earn minors in film studies, fiction filmmaking and documentary production, and pursue concentrated studies in TV, cinema and radio.
 
Sources: Josh Yumibe, Director, MSU Film Studies Program
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.
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