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Painting entrepreneur automates paperwork for general contracting

Michael Henry learned how to scrape by, cut-in and get maximum coverage while in college. Today he's making a business of it.
 
Last May, Henry launched a full-service interior and exterior painting service with four staff—about a year after earning his degree in psychology from Michigan State University. He projects he will have completed about 50 jobs through MDH Painting by the end of the year, and estimates he will more than double his business in 2015.
 
"For the most part, I never saw myself having a 9 to 5 job," says Henry. "I knew the way I felt and operated before then."
 
Henry also owns and operates a second related business from the Lansing NEO Center. CorkCRM provides software expressly designed for construction contracting. Released by Henry and a team of computer scientists in November 2013, CorkCRM streamlines processes like estimating and preparing proposals, scheduling appointments, prospecting and tracking leads, generating contracts, processing time cards and expenses, and other traditional paperwork.
 
Henry's goal, he says, is to make it easier for contractors to do their work by leveraging technology for administrative functions. His company services about 10 contracting companies across the U.S., including Michigan, Florida, Arizona, California and Oregon. He also uses CorkCRM software when he estimates and coordinates jobs for MDH Painting.
 
"When I was working as a college painter, what I saw lacking was an all-in-one software system to run the business," says Henry who supervised crews for East Lansing's College Pro Painters. "We were doing a lot of things on paper and written documents, and it didn't enable the use of technology very well."
 
Henry says he hopes to eventually move from the NEO Center and into a larger office that can accommodate his growing staff. In addition to his four painters who work offsite through MDH Painting, Henry plans to hire an assistant for CorkCRM in the coming year.
 
Source: Michael Henry, Owner, MDH Painting and CorkCRM
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Piper & Gold expands and moves to Old Town

Moving to Lansing's Old Town was never out-of-the-question for Kate Snyder and her evolving public relations company, Piper & Gold.
 
"Coming out of a business incubator, you have that sense of community and that sense of support that surrounds you," says Snyder, principal strategist. "To me, that was important to have in a stand-alone office space. I knew I could get that in Old Town."
 
In mid-July, Snyder moved operations from the NEO Center on Clark Street to a space that used to be the city's "comfort station" near the railroad tracks. Historic and newly renovated, the two narrow rooms on the first floor of 313 ½ E. Grand River are just the right size, she says, for her small, outwardly-focused team.
 
"The move was a big step for us," says Snyder. "It gives us the infrastructure to continue to serve our clients and to enhance the way we do that. I'm very much about sustainable and controlled growth."
 
Snyder started the business in 2012 with the goal of providing traditional public relations with a digital twist. With an emphasis on non-partisan government organizations, nonprofits, associations and small business, Piper & Gold assists clients with communication strategy and planning, media relations, social media and serves as an extension of the clients' teams.
 
"I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur," says Snyder who did some consulting while working a traditional full-time gig. "It continued to grow, and I really enjoyed it. I decided to take the plunge, and am trying to create an environment that I've always wanted to work in."
 
Piper & Gold recently added a new team member, bringing the staff of the boutique PR firm to three full-time and two part-time employees.
 
Source: Kate Snyder, Principal Strategist, Piper & Gold
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

MLBA returns to downtown roots with new office

Scott Ellis is taking his association back nearly 70 years. But that's OK. It's where, he says, they belong.
 
Partly to celebrate their 75th anniversary, and partly to pick up efficiencies, the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association moved to a new downtown Lansing location in early July. The association moved from its former office on N. Fairview Avenue to an 8th floor suite at 101 S. Washington Square, providing what Executive Director Scott Ellis says is a room with a view.
 
"We have a wonderful view of the Capitol now," says Ellis. "And we have a nice facility for fundraising and hosting meetings."
 
Although smaller than the previous location, Ellis says the new 3,200 square-foot office is just the right size for his seven-member staff.
 
"The other space was just way too big," he admits. "And being down here with all the energy of downtown and having a beautiful view has really motivated everyone."
 
Ellis says that the MLBA was founded in 1939 and started out with a desk at the Michigan Beverage News Office in the Fox Theater Building in Detroit. In 1946, the MLBA moved to 111½ downtown Lansing, into an inauspicious space above the once Jean's Bar. After a series of moves around town, the association landed on N. Fairview Street in 1994, where Ellis says they stayed until realizing their destiny was in the city center.
 
"This is where we should be," says Ellis. "We needed to get back to our roots, be close to the legislature, and be close to where the action is to be a strong presence for the state of Michigan."
 
Ellis added that proximity to other associations that deal in hospitality and small business is also a plus. He says the MLBA hopes to have an open house sometime in September to connect with constituents.
 
"It's nice to be among all the places and people we work with on a regular basis," he says. "My staff loves being down here, too, and not having to drive everyplace. It's exciting to see the continued growth of downtown Lansing."
 
Source: Scott Ellis, Executive Director, Michigan Licensed Beverage Association
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Bloom Coffee Roasters stokes Lansing's caffeine craving from REO Town warehouse

Jared Field is building a business based on nostalgia as well as the future.
 
In the early summer, Field and his business partner Cameron Russell spilled the beans about Bloom Coffee Roasters and moved into a 2,000-square foot storage space in Lansing's REO Town. Along with an entrepreneurial spirit, they brought a small batch coffee roaster, some basic office equipment, and pounds of beans ready to roast into Lansing's newest line of craft coffees.
 
Field says his desire to introduce residents to the best coffee dates back to the love of the brew he acquired growing up in Michigan.
 
"For me, the coffee nostalgia goes back to when I was a kid and I'd spend time at my grandparents' cottage up north," he says. "It's that waking up to the smell of a freshly cooked breakfast and an overwhelming coffee aroma on a beautiful morning. It got me hooked."
 
Field didn't always set out to roast beans or to start his own business. As a new journalism graduate from Western Michigan University, Field took a job with a Kalamazoo coffee roaster. And while journalism jobs were sparse, the love for specialty coffee wasn't.
 
"I started roasting and fell in love with it," says Field who began roasting three years ago. "I told people I got the coffee buzz."
 
Field brought his knowledge of coffee to mid-Michigan after his father acquainted him with the start-up culture and coffee enthusiasm in Lansing.
 
After devising a strategy with the Michigan Small Business Development Center, Field partnered with Russell to build a small batch coffee retailer and wholesaler. The two roast about 20 pounds of beans a day and get their five varieties of coffee through the Minnesota based Café Imports.
 
Coffees are available online for purchase and delivery, and brewed cups can be found at Spotted Dog Café and the Waterfront Restaurant in the Lansing City Market.  Field says he is working to line up additional venues, and plans to add up to five staff as business grows. He also wants to set up community-based programs to benefit particular non-profits. 
 
"We strongly believe in Lansing and intend to be active in the community," says Field. "If we focus on roasting quality coffee and succeed, our business and the community around us will thrive."
 
Source: Jared Field, Owner, Bloom Coffee Roasters
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Michigan Creative brings designs to The Runway

Ever since he first heard of Lansing becoming the home of a premier fashion incubator, Brian Town has had designs on stitching together a clothing line. And as the founder and CEO of Michigan Creative, Town is well acquainted with start-ups and the entrepreneurial culture of Lansing.
 
"It's been a while in the making," says Town of fashion line he's launching through his marketing company. "We'd been thinking how cool it would be to have a shirt or a piece of clothing that was made right here in Lansing that you could wear anywhere."
 
Beginning in August, Town's Freshwater Apparel will be part of the inaugural class of The Runway—Lansing's fashion incubator, retail and production space in the renovated Knapp's Centre. Town will run business operations and some retail through a 200-or-so square foot office, while design, production and manufacturing of Freshwater Apparel will take place off-site through Lansing's Fashion Proto.
 
Town says Freshwater Apparel will offer high-end T-shirts and other casual clothing items and will float two shirts for starters.  The shirts, Town says, will be comfortable, stylish, and made with cotton and bamboo. The idea, he says, is to create T-shirts that are suitable for wear about town or on a casual workday.
 
"It's a fancy T-shirt, and not your typical 'I love such-and-such' kind of thing," says Town. "We'll work with Fashion Proto to make a couple 100 for starters."
 
Town says he plans to add other clothing items to Freshwater Apparel once they are up and running. Customers will be able to purchase shirts through the Knapp's Centre location or on-line. Town's hopes are that Freshwater Apparel will grow and become a stand-alone company with up to 10 employees.
 
"My first thought always comes to jobs," says Town, an avid supporter of the buy and make local movement. "Lansing has been known for manufacturing for years. So whether it's fashion or something else, the more we can make it here, there's no reason why we shouldn't."
 
Source: Brian Town, Owner, Freshwater Apparel
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

WDA creates modern workspaces with homey flair in new East Lansing facility

Efficiency and comfort are at the top of the list for long-time entrepreneur Konny Zsigo. And you'll see that when Zsigo moves his staff and base of operations this fall to a new headquarters in north East Lasing.
 
In early September, Zsigo will open the doors to the new headquarters of WDA at 4050 Hunsaker Drive. The interior of the nearly 12,400 square foot building owned by CRBE was custom designed for the mobile marketing company and as Zsigo says, will be like a second home to his 53 employees.
 
The company's new headquarters will be roughly 3,000 square feet larger than the current location on Northwind Drive. While the company was well served by the previous space, WDA's steady growth led Zsigo to seek larger, friendly spaces to call home.
 
"A big part of this move is to create a comfortable place for our employees," says the WDA president who hopes to add 15 to 20 more staff in 2015. "We've installed a much larger kitchen where we serve free lunch to all employees. We'll also have a coffee room with coffee and chocolate."
 
The Hunsaker Drive facility makes innovative use of space through custom-made environments that encourage communication among all employees. Zsigo says cubicles are non-existent and adds that no workspace or work surface is commercially made.
 
"Every desk is made to fit," says Zsigo. "A local vendor made the cabinetry, and we had designers create rooms, workspaces and traditional offices. There's a workspace for every personality type."
 
Zsigo founded WDA in 2001 and focuses on products that help brands reach their objectives in mobile media. He says the company has grown over the years by responding to the evolving needs of marketers in a high-tech environment.
 
"When I walk through this building and no one is around, it's overwhelming," says Zsigo. "The place is huge, with giant conference rooms and meeting spaces. It makes me feel proud to say I've been able to do this and to provide for some 50 or more employees. It feels really good as an owner of a small business."
 
Source: Konny Zsigo, President, WDA
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

DeWitt CrossFit gym rebrands, grows in popularity

While they recently rebranded their year-old gym, Brad and Bailey Hillard have remained true to their commitment to build community through functional, athletic training.
 
In mid-July, the Hillards opened the doors to Lake State CrossFit—a new, expanded version of CrossFit Malleus. The new gym, they say, provides space to "stretch out," as well as a memorable, easy-to-remember name for those interested in tackling the CrossFit phenomenon.
 
Located just a few doors down from their original facility in Clark Corners, Lake State CrossFit will continue to offer a certified training curriculum that provides an all-inclusive workout and fitness program for customers of any fitness level.
 
"My wife and I have always been athletes," says Brad who wrestled and played football throughout high school, and went on to coach. "It's in our nature. Once we started training in CrossFit, we believed in the concept and wanted to share it with others."
 
CrossFit, Brad explains, is an all-around, varied strength and conditioning program that pushes participants to perform at their highest possible level. Developed in the late 1990s, CrossFit workouts include interval training, weightlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, plyometrics, running and other exercises.
 
"You're not a specialist in anything," says Brad. "Your goal is to be an all-around good athlete."
 
The Hillards say they build community at their 6,100-square foot gym through instructor-led training and social events related to gym activities. Since originally opening in June 2013, the gym has grown from just a handful of members to more than 80 strong.
 
"We're excited to see what the future brings," says Brad. "We're going to bring a kids program here eventually, as well as specialty courses. We want to offer a boot camp, too, that provides an on-ramp to people who might be feeling a little intimidated."
 
The Hillards invite anyone to give the intro course a try and to join the no-contract gym at 1161 E. Clark Lake Road, Suite 260. Lake State CrossFit employs two staff in addition to Brad and Bailey, with plans to add more as the gym grows in popularity.
 
Source: Brad Hillard, Owner, Lake State CrossFit
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Jersey Giant expands to downtown Lansing, hires six employees

When he was six or seven, Luke Slocum loved going into his dad's sub shop and watching sandwich makers layer slices of premium meats and cheese on fresh breads and top with crisp vegetables, oil and vinegar and condiments.
 
"I also remember wanting to go in and help wash dishes," says the 24-year-old Slocum of growing up in the family-owned Jersey Giant restaurant business. "I didn't eat as many sandwiches as people always think I might have, though."
 
In mid-July, Slocum took 10 years of experience working in family restaurants and opened one of his own in downtown Lansing. The new Jersey Giant at 220 S. Washington Square is the eighth location in the growing array of family-owned and operated stores in Lansing, Lansing Township, Williamston, Grand Ledge, Portage and the Detroit suburb of Woodhaven.
 
Slocum set up shop in the vacated Cup of Dessert that closed in May. The 1,800-square foot space, Slocum said, was the perfect location and fulfilled his dream for opening his first restaurant in downtown Lansing.
 
"I just love downtown," says Slocum who says Jersey Giant has had their eye on a downtown Lansing location for about four years. "I love that the area is on the way up and doesn't look like it's stopping anytime soon."
 
Slocum repainted, redecorated and brought in a three-door refrigerator. Aside from that, he says he got pretty lucky with a space that provides an ideal ambience and set-up for a sandwich shop.
 
The downtown sub shop will offer the standard 16 selections featured at other locations, including the signature Jersey Giant, Beasty and Jersey Devil. Customers can enjoy a touch of the Jersey shore through the menu and selections his father Britt originally built after moving to the area in 1979.
 
Slocum says he might add one or two warm subs to the menu come winter but hasn't decided yet. He has hired a staff of six and plans to be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. He says he'll also be open extended hours from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday to catch the bar crowd.
 
"Being downtown at night, you tend to get a little hungry after the bar," Slocum says. "I'm young enough to uphold these hours and old enough at heart not to be out."
 
Source: Luke Slocum, Owner, Jersey Giants Sub
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Little Green Branches grows eco-conscious product lines for new families

As a mother of four children under 9, Missie Baldwin appreciates the ease and convenience of disposable diapers. At the same time, she hates the idea of trading green space for landfills every time she changes a diaper.
 
Baldwin switched to cloth diapers when her third child was born. Her friend, Stephanie White, owned Z-Bear—a store that specialized in eco-conscious baby products, including 21st century cloth diapers.
 
"Cloth diapers are a lot simpler than they seem," says Baldwin. "They're just as easy to use as disposables, and the only thing that it will add to your routine is one extra load of laundry a day."
 
Baldwin became such an expert that she bought Z-Bear from her friend and launched her career in retail. In June, she re-opened the 900-square foot boutique at 4976 Northwind Drive under the name Little Green Branches. She expanded the scope of the store to carry eco-conscious products for infants through pre-schoolers, and added a special section for moms.
 
"I'm looking to take the store to the next level," says Baldwin who recently hired three part-time people. "We'll even be providing a registry for new and expectant moms."
 
Little Green Braches sells cloth diapers and offers a cloth diaper rental program for newborns. Packages include fitted diapers and covers, a pail liner, and a special deep cleaning detergent. Customers rent and use diapers for a limited time and return them. Diapers are then washed and hygienically cleaned for use by the next family.
 
"Cloth diapers are extremely economical," says Baldwin. "It may seem like an upfront investment, but if you add up the cost of disposables, it will run you almost $3,000. You can get enough cloth diapers for about $200."
 
Aside from diapering systems, Baldwin carries baby wearing and breast feeding products, non-toxic toys, up cycled furniture, and a line of natural teas, herbs and soaps—some even made by Baldwin from products grown on her small organic farm. 
 
"I plan on having a dad department, too," says Baldwin. "I'm working on the products to put in there. It's coming soon."
 
Source: Missie Baldwin, Owner, Little Green Branches
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Outdoor events flourish at East Lansing downtown plaza

Reconstruction of public area that replaced parking with outdoor seating, an enclosed fire pit, and a protected stage has encouraged both patronage and performance in downtown East Lansing.
 
Since 2010, the new Ann Street Plaza has provided outdoor space for residents and visitors to enjoy a meal, browse merchants, and to enjoy weekend concerts, festivals and most recently, the inaugural season of the city's Open Mic at the Plaza.
 
"Open Mic has been in the back of our minds for a while," says Ami Van Antwerp, communications coordinator for the City of East Lansing. "We've held off until we have just the right space. Now that we have that, it's a great opportunity for people to participate and for people to watch, too."
 
Van Antwerp says East Lansing's Open Mic night is the only outdoor event of its type in Greater Lansing. Local singer-songwriter Jen Sygit hosts the once-a-week event that kicked off July 16 and runs Wednesday evenings through August 27.
 
The event, Van Antwerp explains, offers the opportunity for anyone interested in making music to perform two to three songs before a live audience. Signup begins at 6:30 p.m. with basic sound equipment provided.
 
The Ann Street Plaza was previously a combination plaza and parking lot. When construction began in 2010 on The Residences and St. Anne Lofts projects, city leaders worked with developers and contractors to make a more useful public plaza.
 
"This is the heart of our downtown where our clock tower is," says Lori Mullins, East Lansing community and economic development administrator. "It's a place where people can meet up and be together. It helps create a sense of place and defines character."
 
The plaza can accommodate about 250 people for an outdoor event—complete with bring-your-own chair, blanket or plaza wall seating. The 16,000-square foot plaza serves as a gateway for visitors to drop in to adjacent merchants before or after enjoying a meal, outdoor ambiance or a performance.
 
"We like to think that people have a new thing to do during the week and on weekends now," says Van Antwerp. "It's just another reason to come downtown in the summer."
 
Source: Ami Van Antwerp, Communications Coordinator, City of East Lansing
Lori Mullins, Community and Economic Development Administrator City of East Lansing

Sleepwalker one step closer to opening taproom in Allen Market Place

Approvals: Check. Painting: Check. Equipment: Check.
 
And by late summer or early fall, thirsty customers can check out a variety of brews at the Allen Market Place through a temporary "to-go" taproom of Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale.
 
"Our intent is to emulate 'pop-up' bars and restaurants that have appeared in large cities across the U.S.," says CEO Matt Jason of the work-in-progress. "These typically open for several months at a time, often to bring attention to a larger, already established business or to promote a future bar or restaurant."
 
In Sleepwalker's case, the 200-square foot taproom at 1629 E. Kalamazoo St. will preview plans for a full-sized brewery and distillery that Jason and his business partner Jeremy Sprague hope to open in the coming year.
 
Jason believes Sleepwalker's taproom will be the first of its kind in Michigan. He says while not technically part of the Allen Street Farmer's market, the market place location will attract customers for take-out craft beers in growlers, howlers and kegs. Customers will also be able to pair their beer and market finds with savory selections from Red's Smokehouse—a local barbecue establishment that shares kitchen space with Sleepwalker's.
 
"It will be good synergy with beer and barbecue to go," says Jason. "And like things at the market, our brews will include local ingredients and reflect seasonal changes."
 
While the exact timeline is pending federal approval, Jason says once open, the taproom will brew and distribute limited quantities of European and American-inspired craft beers. Plans for open hours include farmer's market Wednesdays, Friday afternoons, and to-be-determined weekend times.
 
"We've gone through all the hoops and are just waiting to hear back," says Jason who has received local and state approvals for the establishment. "The situation at the market is really unique. We're excited."
 
Since December 2013, Jason and Sprague have focused on fundraising and development for the community-owned business. The two have sought out and attracted 30 individual investors, and are more than halfway toward their $150,000 Kickstarter goal. Eventually, Jason and Sprague would like to build out a 3,000-square foot brick-and-mortar space on the East side or within Lansing's urban core.
 
"This is a great opportunity and fit for us," says Jason of the Allen Market Place location. "We'll be needing more time to finish our capitalization, so in the meantime, this spot gives us some more exposure and chance to grow."
 
Source: Matt Jason, CEO, Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Red Fox Comics brings comic books and merchandise to Delta Township

Daniel Rust wants to foster the personal connection people often feel toward comic book characters. And he wants to do so through a retail environment that's bright, casual and fun.
 
In early to mid-August, the lifelong fan of comics will open a 1,600-square foot store in Delta Township that caters to the casual fan as well as the aficionado. And the location at 723 Brookside Mall, Rust says, makes Red Fox Comics an easy stop for people en route to popular restaurants, retailers or home.
 
"A lot of people feel intimidated when they go into comic books stores for fear they might say something wrong or be corrected," says Rust. "My store will be a casual place for people of all ages."
 
Red Fox Comics will carry all new comics from trusted names like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and IDW, as well as graphic novels and trade paper backs from the same or similar publishers. Customers will also find casual apparel like T-shirts, hoodies and caps, and merchandise and memorabilia like key chains, magnets, pins, mugs and other pop novelty items.
 
Rust devised his business plan with the Michigan Small Business Development Center, then worked with his father-in-law to deck-out the store with customized shelves and fixtures. Walls and trim will be decorated with a color scheme of green, black and white, or as Rust calls it "Green Lantern Green." 
 
Rust says he's loved comics since middle school. Like many people, the Haslett native says he was drawn to comics for their storylines, and often sympathized with the strengths or weaknesses of particular characters.
 
"My favorite character is Aquaman," Rust says. "As a kid, I always related to him. I have red hair and was always singled out, and I felt Aquaman was too. I thought, 'Hey, he's a cool guy. So why not?' I was always swimming in the summertime, so that was that."
 
Source: Daniel Rust, Owner, Red Fox Comics
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Mert's Meats expands to Eastside with second location

Grocers and markets are making their way back to Michigan Avenue, including a specialty meat store that began serving Eastsiders and the downtown community right before the summer solstice.
 
Mert's Specialty Meats on the Avenue opened in mid-June, offering a full line of fresh cut meat, seafood, dairy and cheeses, and a variety of Michigan-made products. The family-owned market run by Shirley Decker Prescott, her husband Mert Prescott and son Brandon Decker, is within a 10-minute drive of the original Okemos location that also opened in June three years ago.
 
"We know the neighborhood and the community," says Prescott who lives three blocks from the new store at 1629 E. Michigan Ave. "We think there's a need here for the fresh products and service we can give."
 
Mert's Meats on the Avenue will source beef and pork from the Midwest, including top choice products from the Iowa distributor Chairman's Reserve. Selections include grass-fed ground beef and steaks, free-range chicken and duck. The Eastside store will also carry salmon, crab and shrimp. Specialty and Michigan-made products include salsas and tortilla chips; barbecue sauces; spices, rubs and marinades; side dishes like pasta and rice; and some fresh produce.
 
"We also have unique selections like venison and elk and alligator and snake," says Prescott. "And we make our own sausages, including chicken, that are preservative and MSG free."
 
Both stores also offer recipe cards and can advise customers on how to best prepare what they are buying. Prescott says she can carry more frozen and specialty items in her new 1,800-square foot market since the space in the mixed-used development is slightly bigger than her Okemos location.
 
"We listen to our customers," says Prescott. "If they tell us they want something, we do what we can to bring it in."
 
Mert's employs 15 people between the two stores, including manager Jordan Eustace of the Lansing store, and a new-hire from Goodrich's Shop-Rite, Jessica Wilson.
 
"We know that Goodrich closing is a great loss to the community," says Prescott. "I shop there, and we are encouraging customers to bring us ideas from Goodrich's. They carried a lot of unique items that we would like to add to our inventory."
 
Source: Shirley Decker Prescott, Owner, Mert's Meats on the Avenue
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Web-based consignment shop curates upscale kids clothing

Two life events pushed Amy Mills to start her own business. The first was fostering and adopting an infant. The second was breast cancer.
 
"We had just started fostering Jeremy when we found out," says Mills, who has been cancer-free for six months. "The two things really pushed me to do something I had always wanted to do, and everyone was confident I could."
 
In March, Mills launched Molly & Oliver's Children's Upscale Resale with the guidance of the Capital Region Small Business Development Center. With local partners in Lansing and Portland, the web-based consignment shop curates children's clothing for newborns through tweens.
 
"When you're home taking care of kids you don't have time to go shopping," says Mills, who came up with the tag line 'live well, dress well' after reflecting on the challenges of building a wardrobe for her son. "Plus, it's hard to find nice clothes without having to spend a fortune."
 
Mills leveraged her professional photography skills to create the boutique website that showcases name brand and designer clothing like Baby Gap, Abercrombie Kids, Carter's, Jumping Beans, Ralph Lauren and Polo. Consignees can drop-off items at Mother & Earth Baby Boutique at 4601 W. Saginaw St. in Lansing, or at Distinctive Occasions at 160 Kent St. in Portland. Consignees receive 40 percent of the sales, and anything that doesn't sell is donated to A New Beginning Pregnancy Center in Charlotte.
 
Mills says if her business continues to grow, she may consider setting up a brick-and-mortar shop or moving into a space in one of her partner stores. For now, her base of operations is her home in Mulliken.
 
"Currently, my husband's man-cave has been turned into Molly & Oliver's," she says. "And as much as he'd like his man-cave back, he's been very supportive."
 
Source: Amy Mills, Owner, Molly & Oliver's Children's Upscale Resale
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Dewitt newly-weds open JJ Frozen Yogurt, create jobs

Tham Doan and John Nichols devised plans for launching their own business shortly after getting married two years ago.
 
"We thought about it, started planning, and got the location in January," says Doan. "It seemed like a good idea and we decided to do it."
 
In late June, Doan and Nichols opened JJ Frozen Yogurt in DeWitt. The shop brings a fresh and delicious twist to the strip mall at 13070 Old U.S. 27, and offers a rotation of 100 flavors and varieties of the satisfying and healthy snack.
 
As a nurse at Sparrow Hospital, Doan is attuned to making healthy dietary choices that take food allergies into account. Nichols, too, understands the challenges of food sensitivities, having grown up with family members with severe allergies to dairy.
 
JJ Frozen Yogurt, Doan says, will carry traditional frozen yogurts as well non-dairy, sugar-free, fat-free and low-fat varieties. Customers can review posted nutrition and ingredient information for each yogurt and dozens of topping in the self-serve shop. Doan says, too, she is exploring ways to dispense peanuts and chocolates separately for the benefit of allergy-sensitive customers.
 
"We can tell you how the yogurt is made and what the ingredients are," says Doan. "We focus on customer service and have a very nice setting with free Wi-Fi."
 
Doan and Nichols completely rehabbed the small space that seats up to 35 customers. Contractors redid plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and heating, and installed equipment for storing and dispensing foods. The husband-wife team also rolled up their sleeves and contributed to the top-to-bottom overhaul that included fresh paint, new floors and a new ceiling. The couple also received help with business planning from the Michigan Small Business Development Center, housed at Lansing Community College.
 
Doan says she plans to offer coffee in the next few months and to expand the hours to accommodate early-risers. More immediately, she will add smoothies and tea to the summer line-up.
 
Doan works occasionally in between her nursing shifts, while Nichols runs the shop. JJ Frozen Yogurt employs three staff with plans to add a couple more once coffee services are up and running in the fall.
 
Source: Tham Doan, Owner, JJ Frozen Yogurt
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor
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