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Inventive family opens We Love Kids N Dogs in Meridian Mall

Artists, writers and filmmakers have long recognized the nearly symbiotic relationship between kids and dogs. And while Chris Allen's creativity leans toward business, the bond between fidos and children inspired his family's newest venture in the Meridian Mall.
 
Allen and his spouse Melissa opened We Love Kids N Dogs about a month before the start of the holiday season. The unique boutique and gift store features products for kids that encourage creativity and entrepreneurship, and curates a variety of pet products from small businesses not typically found in larger pet stores.
 
Allen says he got the idea for We Love Kids N Dogs after traveling to pet industry product expos. He and Melissa had taken to the road to promote the Poochie Bowl—a uniquely designed water and food bowl made in Lansing and invented by the Allen family.
 
"We met the creators of so many unique products, and realized we were all small business owners that didn't have the cache to get into a big box store yet," says Allen. "At that point, we decided we needed to do something to bring all these products back to Lansing."
 
After his travels, Allen mapped out a concept and took it to the Meridian Mall. A few months later, Allen found himself contacting folks he had met through expos, and bringing in products that include custom doggy coats, organic dog cookies, hand made leashes, ribbons and bows, and other one-of-a-kind pet accessories.
 
The 1,000-square foot space in the Macy's wing also features kids products and toys rooted in STEM curriculum. The goal, Allen says, is to offer products that can support a child's curiosity and natural play, while encouraging them to build, innovate and create.
 
"We want to help cultivate that mindset of building and engineering and being creative," says Allen. "That's where we got our start—by inventing a product—so we want to inspire kids to see where they can take things, too."
 
We Love Kids N Dogs carries about 35 product lines. The Allens staff the store with help from family members. After the holidays, Allen says he plans to create three to five jobs, and assess the possibility of opening a second store in Greater Lansing. 
 
Source: Christopher Allen, Owner, We Love Kids and Dogs
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Kick It Out Dance Studio relocates to bigger space, continues to add staff

Denise Krumm knew her dance business had kicked into high gear when her customers lined the hallways, waiting for the next class.
 
"I looked at my husband and said, 'we're packed in here like sardines,'" she says. "I knew we needed to expand."
 
In October, Krumm unveiled the new, expanded location for Kick It Out Dance Studio at 1760 E. Grand River Ave., in East Lansing. Just a mile or so from her original studio on Haslett Road, the new space more than doubles the studio's square footage from 1,000 to 2,200, and enables Krumm to continue offering dance and fitness programs to students of all ages and abilities.
 
Krumm launched Kick It Out Dance in July 2012. Starting her own studio was a natural progression in her life-long pursuit of dance and allowed her to coach, teach and educate others in the art of dance.
 
Kick It Out started with 14 students. In the second year Krumm counted  35. In 2014, 63 students came to Krumm's studio for courses in jazz, hip hop, tap, lyrical, contemporary and ballet, as well as fitness courses and workouts in Zumba, Zumba Toning, pound fit, and PiYo. Courses are tailored for students ages 2 through adult, and can follow both recreational and competitive pathways.
 
"Everybody has something to offer and to bring to the program," says Krumm. "That's part of our philosophy. I came from a very family-oriented studio and try to carry that through with my own business."
 
Krumm painted her new studio in her signature colors of dark purple and neon green. The bright, airy space includes two studio rooms with custom-built sprung dance sub floors, additional studios with Harlequin Cascade Marley floors, a spacious lobby, and rooms for students to do homework and store their personal items. Visitors and waiting parents can enjoy music, television and WiFi in the lobby.
 
"People just love the new studio," says Krumm. "It's a nice feeling to hear people say 'wow, this is nice.'"
 
The studio has added six employees since opening two years ago. The current staff of 13 includes six dance instructors, two assistant dance instructors and five fitness instructors.
 
Source: Denise Krumm, Owner and Director, Kick It Out Dance Studio
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Long-time dance studio moves to new South Lansing location

Sixty-three years and three generations later, Patsy Watson is still dancing.
 
She just leaves the management of her dance studio to her daughter.
 
"My mom said that God gave her the gift to dance and teach," says Rhonda Mitchell, owner of Patsy Watson School of Dance. "And she's still doing it at the age of 83."
 
After six decades, the south Lansing dance studio still produces some of the area's finest dancers and provides instruction to people of all skills and abilities, ages 3 to 103. In early October, the studio underwent a major change by opening the doors on a new location just a mile or so from its original home. The 3,980-square-foot building at 3808 S. Cedar Street is about 600 square feet bigger than their old location, and features three rooms, waiting areas, and two-way mirrors so parents can watch their kids during class.
 
Mitchell says the new space allows the studio to continue to flourish and to offer classes like ballet, tap, modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballroom, Zumba and turbo kick. The studio also teaches cheer, acrobatics, mini-gymnastics, and provides after school care for neighborhood kids. About 180 students are enrolled.
 
"I'm investing in my children and grandchildren by purchasing a building for our studio," says Mitchell. "It's a family business, through and through."
 
Mitchell says her mother opened the Patsy Watson School of Dance in Lansing in 1951 with $500 and passion for teaching dance. Her mom, she says, was born in Lansing, but her grandfather moved the family to England when Patsy was just 5. Although her family endured the challenges of living in Europe during World War II, Patsy still received a solid dance education that she brought back to the U.S. when she turned 18.
 
"My mom started all this," says Mitchell. "We're just following in her footsteps."
 
Like her mother, Mitchell grew up dancing. Her daughter Vanessa did too. And now, Mitchell's infant grandchild, Lola, will more than likely dance as soon as she learns to walk.
 
"We're using the gift that God gave us," says Mitchell. "We don't charge a lot because we want children to have the chance to dance."
 
Source: Rhonda Mitchell, Owner, Patsy Watson School of Dance
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Mother & Earth Baby Boutique offers pop-up space to local mompreneur

Lynn Ross is coming up on the second year of a brick-and-mortar location for an on-line business she started during her first pregnancy. And like her two children, Mother & Earth Baby Boutique continues to grow with every passing week.
 
While many of the changes for the retailer of eco-friendly merchandise for expectant moms, infants and toddlers involve new products, some also involve promoting fellow "mompreneurs" through her 1,000 square-foot store at 4601 W. Saginaw Highway.
 
"We just got to talking about how we both wanted to do more mom-to-mom sales," says Ross of her friend and fellow Lansing business owner Amy Mills. "I told her she could set up and bring her products in a couple times of month, and we decided we could both advertise and promote each other."
 
Beginning in early summer, Ross set aside "pop-up" space for Mills to display the gently used, up-scale clothing she vends through Molly & Oliver's—an on-line resale business. It was a way, Ross says, that she could support another business-minded mom and continue to grow a network of entrepreneurs serving Greater Lansing families.
 
In addition to providing pop-up space for Molly & Oliver's, Ross also provides instructional space for low- or no-cost classes. Local professionals facilitate sessions on cloth diapering and the use of other eco-friendly products, while parenting groups occasionally reserve the space for meetings or events.
 
In keeping with her community focus, Ross is hosting a Family Fun Fest on Sunday, Sept. 14, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate the second anniversary of her storefront. It's also a chance, she says, to say thanks to her more than 2,000 customers, and to help promote other businesses and services through family-focused activities.
 
"I want to be a pillar in the community for natural items so people don't have to worry that what they get here could be a problem for them," says Ross. "Coming in here is definitely not like walking into a big box store."
 
Ross owns and operates Mother & Earth Baby Boutique with her sister-in-law Tammy Ross.
 
Source: Lynn Ross, Owner, Mother & Earth Baby Boutique
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

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

New patio duals as gathering space and fundraising venue for Fenner Conservancy

A gift by two Lansing philanthropists has paved the way for community members to support programs of Fenner Nature Center and Conservancy brick-by-brick.
 
Dedicated April 19, the Davis Patio enables visitors to contribute to Fenner by purchasing paver bricks that can be engraved with personal messages and re-laid in the structure.
 
"One hundred percent of the proceeds go right to Fenner to deliver high quality education and park stewardship programs," says Katie Woodhams, program manager of Fenner Nature Center. "We have the potential to raise half a million dollars if we sell every brick."
 
Fenner supporters Susan and Jack Davis donated funds to build the patio that overlooks the center's pond and butterfly garden. The patio features a campfire ring as the centerpiece, and provides a gathering spot for school-aged children, day-campers, community members or families or friends to enjoy educational, recreational or other organized social activities. 
 
"It's a great place to sit back and relax and see all the wildlife," says Woodhams. "We are forever grateful to Susan and Jack for making this possible."
 
The Fenner Nature Center and Conservancy at 2020 E. Mount Hope Ave. consists of 134 acres with four miles of trails. Located in the heart of the city, Fenner's mission is to connect people to nature through conservation, education and stewardship.
 
"Every one who comes out here experiences a calming feeling," says Woodhams. "It's all about reconnecting with the natural world. It's hard to find time to do that, but when we do, it makes a difference in our day."
 
Among the projects supported by the Davis Patio and associated fundraising is the restoration of 19 acres of land as native Michigan prairie. Admission to the park is free, with summer camp registration underway for school-age children.
 
Source: Katie Woodhams, Program Manager, Fenner Nature Center
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

Veteran pediatrician founds first-of-its-kind ADHD center in Lansing

Now that he has cut back to working part-time, Dr. Lewis D. Resnick has time to devote full attention to serving a population with special needs.
 
In August 2013, the semi-retired pediatrician opened the Great Lakes ADHD Center within Great Lakes Pediatric Associates at 3400 Pine Tree Road in Lansing. It's a center, Resnick says, that focuses solely on diagnostics, care and education related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—a condition that can apply to children and adults who have difficulty paying attention, whether they are hyperactive or not. Resnick's ADHD center is the first resource of its type in Greater Lansing.
 
"There is a drastic shortage across the country for specialists or child psychiatrists, and a waiting list of months even for people with strong insurance," says Resnick. "That's one reason why I didn't retire. I felt there were a lot of people and families out there who need help."
 
Resnick has practiced pediatrics since the 1970s, and has lived in Michigan since 1977. He joined Great Lakes Pediatrics in 2012 after working at Blue Care Network and in private practice in Mason.
 
Throughout his career, Resnick has kept a watchful eye on ADHD treatment and trends. What he's discovered, he says, is how well some kids respond to specific care, and how some go from struggling or failing in school to being very successful.
 
"What that said to me is that these kids were doing better than anyone thought," he says. "Once they got help, they could demonstrate that they had been learning and could learn well."
 
Resnick's goal is to erase misunderstandings about ADHD, and to help families address individual needs within particular situations, particularly school. As part of his practice, Resnick regularly works with Greater Lansing school districts to help educators reorient their techniques for students who exhibit ADHD traits, and to help teachers devise strategies that build on a student's strengths.
 
"Cutting back from practicing general pediatrics has allowed me the time to talk with schools and to correspond with people about their ADHD concerns," Resnick says. "That's something I couldn't do with my regular practice."
 
The Great Lakes ADHD Center is currently taking new patients and is available for consultation.
 
Source: Dr. Lewis D. Resnick, founder, Great Lakes ADHD Center
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor

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

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

Eye Level Learning Center focuses on after school enrichment

Parents looking to reinforce what their kids learn in school will find an additional resource for unlocking academic potential through the new Eye Level Learning Center in Okemos.
 
"As our motto says, we are the key to supporting the educational needs of your kids," says Dr. Prashanti Boinapally, center director. "Our curriculum is unique and kids enjoy doing it."
 
Eye Level Learning is a leading provider of supplemental educational programs in math and English. The self-directed coursework matches national curriculum standards for students ages 3 through 16, and is completed after school in classrooms with low student-to-instructor ratios. Students progress at their own pace in classes with a mixture of ages and grades.
 
The 1,200-square foot facility includes three brightly colored classrooms, a kitchen, office space and a waiting area for parents. One-hour classes run after school on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Saturday mornings. Most students attend classes once a week and do homework on the days in between.
 
Prashanti and her husband decided to bring the national educational franchise to Okemos to broaden the area's options for challenging, after school programs. Her two children, ages 12 and 6, currently take courses through Eye Level.
 
"Eye Level supplements what kids learn in school," says Prashanti. "The curriculum emphasizes critical thinking, so students are taught how to apply what they learn."
 
The Okemos Eye Level Learning Center at 3536 Meridian Crossings, Suite 210,  officially opened in November, with a grand opening scheduled February. The center employs five teachers and looks to add up to five more in 2014.
 
Source: Dr. Prashanti Boinapally, Center Director, Eye Level Learning
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor


Teen center double size, adds skatepark in new Mason location

Mason-area teens now have more room to explore their interests in a safe environment now that the non-profit Building Twentyone has expanded to a new location. The teen center includes drop-in space, tutoring, and now, a skate park. 
 
"We have a whole lot more room," says Benjamin Schartow, who founded Building Twentyone a few years ago. "It's just two miles down the street, but it's a great location, right on a lake."
 
The original Building Twentyone shared a 3,000 square foot space with other tenants, but the new, N. Cedar St. location is 7,000 square feet in size and is dedicated just to the teen center. The new skate park inside not only adds a new attraction to the center, but also creates a revenue source for the non-profit. 
 
"The students really love it," Schartow says of the 30 to 40 students who regularly come to the teen center. "We just opened the skatepark in November, and we've had a lot of positive feedback."
 
The new location opened in Sept., and also includes a new computer lab, stocked with computers donated by Delta Dental. Remodeling work was made possible through a grant from the Capital Region Community Foundation. While Building Twentyone is a non-religious organization, they have partnered with Journey Life Church, which is their new landlord.
 
Schartow is looking forward to expanding Building Twentyone's programming in the new location, including arts, poetry and DJ workshops. 
 

Source: Benjamin Schartow, Building Twentyone
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Haslett enrichment center to bring afterschool activites to area families

As anyone with kids active in extra curricular activities knows, weekday evenings can be hectic. In helping with her six grandchildren, Debra Ellis experienced the hustle from school to practices to recitals firsthand, and felt that something should be done to make life easier on parents and to create more opportunities for family time. 

"I thought there has to be a better way," says Ellis. "So we started to write this curriculum for this program a few years ago. It was all to give family time back."

The result was the Children's Enrichment Center in Haslett, a place where children can enroll in classes and activities immediately after school, so parents can pick them up after work with their activities and homework completed. 

The 4,000 square foot facility is accessibly to both local elementary schools and will offer dance, martial arts, music and art classes, as well as rotating activities. Classes will begin in January, and enrollment for up to 50 students has begun. A grand opening will take place for the public this friday. 

Initially, Ellis will work with six contracted instructors and three employees at the Children's Enrichment Center. As the organization, which has applied for non-profit status, take up only two-thirds of the building, Ellis hopes to see their presence there grow. She also plans to add one new Children's Enrichment Center per year in new communities in the future. 

Source: Debra Ellis, The Children's Enrichment Center
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Children's Therapy Corner brings kid-focused therapy to Okemos

Children may look like little adults, but when it comes to physical, occupational and speech therapy, their needs are very different. That's the foundation upon which Midland-based Children's Therapy Corner has been built, and it's what families can expect to find in the company's third location, which recently opened in Okemos. 
 
"We specialize, we train, and we send our therapists to conferences on children's therapy," says Matthew Bartels, Children's Therapy Corner's Lansing director and speech and language pathologist. "Our therapists do nothing but kids, so they're really good at it." 
 
Kids have different therapy needs, says Bartels, because unlike adults, they are both healing and growing. Though an adult may need to re-learn how to walk after an injury, a child may be learning to walk for the first time. 
 
"It's a whole different approach," Bartels says. "It's about getting down on the floor with the kids and having fun."
 
The Children's Therapy Corner in Okemos opened in a 3,000 square foot Woodlake Dr. space on Aug. 19. The large space appealed to the business because of its high ceilings and ability to house climbing ropes, crashpads, swings and other equipment that offers children both fun and therapeutic benefits. 
 
The office currently employs a staff of five. Bartels says he hopes the offices will continue to grow, offer families in the Lansing areas a kind of therapy experience, and eventually expand into a new, custom-built facility, similar to their Traverse City and Midland locations. 
 

Source: Matthew Bartels, Children's Therapy Corner's Lansing 
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

New Teen Zone gives Ele's Place teens a place to interact and heal

As anyone who knows a teenager knows, teens like to have their own space to hang out. Thanks to four years of hard work and $75,000 worth of donations and volunteer labor, Ele's Place can now offer their teens exactly that. 
 
"It's very exciting. Our teens are thrilled," says Managing Director of Lansing's Ele's Place Lori Bosch, "They can't wait to get in there and get going on some hands on the activities."
 
Ele's Place celebrated a ribbon cutting on their new Teen Zone yesterday, unveiling a renovated space in the lower level of their W. Oakland Ave. facility where teens can interact, role play, use technology-based communications and express themselves through art and music. 
 
"All of those physical experiences, gives them a way to express themselves with other teens who understand what they're going through," says Bosch. "They form strong relationships and trust while they're interacting together."
 
Though space for these types of activities had been previously available for younger children, the healing center for grieving kids has been working for years to create the same environment for teens. Bosch says the renovation was a true community effort with donated labor and a generous cash donation from Celink. 
 
Ele's Place is always looking for more volunteers, and those interested may contact the organization for information on volunteer training. 

Source: Lori Bosch, Ele's Place
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor

Buttons and Beanstalks brings kiddie chic to Williamston

As a stay-at-home mom, Danielle Mackay loved to shop for her kids at children's boutiques, but kept running into the same problem: there just weren't enough options for boys. As both of Mackay's children are boys, this posed a problem for a boutique shopper like herself that she was determined to solve. Her answer was opening Buttons and Beanstalks.
 
"I do everything one-for-one between girls and boys," says Mackay. "I carry a lot of accessories that are really hard to find. I hand-make a lot of the hair ties and ties for little boys."
 
The children's boutique began online about a year ago, and has now expanded into a physical shop in Williamston's Keller Plaza. The new Buttons and Beanstalks opened on April 13 in a 220 square foot shop.
 
"I like that it is all indoors," Mackay says. "The size of the space is perfect."
 
Mackay now operates the shop on limited hours, but hopes to soon expand into full retail hours. She anticipates hiring up to three employees once Button and Beanstalks has expanded its hours. 

Source: Danielle Mackay, Buttons and Beanstalks
Writer: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor
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