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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 sheik 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.

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.

Cuts and Convos provides haircuts and hope to Lansing homeless

When you look good you feel good. Most everyone has heard that. Jonathan Arias took it to heart.
 
In November, Arias founded Cuts and Convos, a Lansing nonprofit that offers beauty and barber services to low-income residents. Arias also provides legal, health and spiritual information to the people he serves—all during or immediately following their hair cut and styling.
 
In just four months, Arias and a cadre of volunteers have cut and styled hair for nearly 70 people through the Lansing City Rescue Mission, Cristo Rey Community Center, Haven House and Homeless Angels. Services are scheduled every-other-week or once a month. On occasion, speakers from local nonprofits or pastors provide the "convos."
 
"Many of the people we meet haven't received any tender loving care in a while," says Arias. "That's the beauty of what we do."
 
Arias says he came up with the idea for Cuts and Convos by combining his passion for justice with his long-time hobby of cutting and styling hair. After discussing the project with classmates and instructors through the MSU College of Law, Arias realized the value his blended service could bring to both individuals and the community.
 
"Sometimes the biggest barrier to employment is not being clean-cut and well-groomed," says Arias. "Our services can help give someone a shot at getting their foot in the door."
 
Arias says his greatest reward is hearing how the services of Cuts and Convos have changed someone's life or perceptions. A high school student, for instance, received compliments instead of taunts after Arias and other volunteers cut and styled her hair. And two men told him how their job interviews had led to employment after Cuts and Convos helped them prep with a shave, hair cut and coaching.
 
"We cut people's hair and we listen to their stories," says Arias. "We feel it gives them hope to know that regardless of where you've been, someone cares about you and wants you to feel good about yourself."
 
Sources: Jonathan Arias, Founder, Cuts and Convos
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Bootcamps hit the ground running for Lansing startups

Bootcamps aren't just for the military or fitness industry anymore. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are putting people to the test with rigorous curriculums or programs designed to build skills and acumen quickly.
 
Lansing's entrepreneurial sector joins the mix. In February, The RING—Lansing's Innovation Network powered by LEAP—partnered with a handful of organizations to host a second year of bootcamps for startups. Seeking to build on the effectiveness of the inaugural year, bootcamp organizers restructured the format from two weeklong sessions to a series of six, one-day bootcamps in 2015.
 
Tony Willis, manager of business acceleration at LEAP, says the bootcamps are a product of like-minded organizations on a mission to nurture Lansing's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Those organizations include the Small Business Development CenterMichigan Creative, MSU Innovation CenterRough Draft Solutions, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
 
"We just threw out the sketch paper and asked ourselves what would make sense for our demographics here in Lansing," says Willis. "By working together we identified subjects that are important for entrepreneurs to master for success."
 
The first educational bootcamp for 2015 focused on branding and marketing, and featured presentations from industry leaders that ranged from connecting key small business development resources, techniques, trends, social media and video marketing, public relations and content creation. Nearly 40 people attended the event held in the 300 Room, located between the Technology Innovation Center and The Hatch incubators in East Lansing. Participants included new startups, established companies, and future entrepreneurs.
 
"Our overall outcome for all our bootcamps is to enhance and increase the knowledge base of our entrepreneurs," says Willis. "At the end of the year, we want participants to be able to say they've increased their business, they've identified things to improve on, and they've taken action that will help move them ahead."
 
Topics covered in upcoming bootcamps include creating business plans, legal issues, investment strategies, contracts and proposals, and attracting and working with lenders. A full slate of workshops and topics can be found here. 
 
Sources: Tony Willis, Manager of Business Acceleration, LEAP
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Ashlee Willis Floral takes the sneeze out of flowers with quality artificial arrangements

Sometimes when you say it with flowers, you also say it with a sneeze, watery eyes or an occasional prick of a rose's thorn.
 
Ashlee Willis has a solution: artificial flowers.
 
Two years ago, Willis transformed her hobby of creating floral decor using artificial flowers into a blooming business. And while some may immediately think dollar store when they think artificial flowers, Ashlee Willis Floral Decor looks as fresh and natural as real petals and greenery without the pollen.
 
"Everyone tells me they just love the look and design," says Willis. "Most people can't believe that they're not fresh flower arrangements."
 
Willis is on a quest to remove the stigma surrounding artificial flowers, as well as to bring affordable, maintenance free beauty to any home, office or special event. Her arrangements can be as small or large or as varied as most any bouquet ordered from a florist, and include roses, daisies, tulips, orchids and various accents and greenery.
 
Flowers are available primarily for rental, with some customers renting new arrangements each month for a "pick-me-up" for their home or office. Organizers and hosts of special events and parties also can enjoy the carefree setup and maintenance of Willis' arrangements, with no wilting, falling petals or drooping stems to detract from the ambiance.
 
"I just love the mood and memories flowers can create," says Willis. "I did a wedding recently where I surprised the bride with a bouquet that featured a charm of her mother who had recently passed away. The bride told me it was the best thing she ever had since she got to walk down the aisle with her mom and could keep the arrangement forever."
 
Willis runs her online business from home, and sometimes receives expert advice on arranging and color selection from her two toddlers. She hopes to move to a storefront once her kids are in school. Until then, she's planning to hire an intern or two to help out with her growing calendar of spring and summer events.
 
"I'm really into entrepreneurship," says Willis. "It's my passion."
 
Source: Ashlee Willis, Owner, Ashlee Willis Floral Decor
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
     
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Promotional video targets international visitors, helps build Lansing tourism

Numbers tell the story when it comes to the impact of tourism in Greater Lansing. And tourism watchers with the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau say those numbers will continue to grow as more organizations and individuals pick Lansing as their destination for events, attractions, or just plain R&R.
 
"Associations and sports are our bread and butter," says Tracy Padot of the organizations and travelers who chose Lansing for conventions, meetings and events. "But we're looking to attract more leisurely visitors to the community—including Chinese travelers."
 
Chinese and other international visitors, Padot points out, can be a unique source of tourism given that nearly 8,000 international students attend Michigan State University—with more than 6,000 being Chinese.
 
In early 2015, the GLCVB released a three-minute video that encourages Chinese viewers to consider visiting Greater Lansing. Produced through a partnership with Brand USA, the video features an on-camera host speaking in Chinese and sharing Greater Lansing visitor information in his own cultural style. Shots were taken across the region including the Michigan Historical Museum, Lansing City Market, the Lansing River Trail, the Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, and other landmarks.
 
The videos are pat of an initiative by Brand USA to encourage international travel to the U.S., and were produced in cooperation with Travel Michigan. The piece is also being used for international market promotion in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and China.
 
Other recent information campaigns by the GLCVM included "Tourism Counts," revealing the 4.7 million annual visitors to the region, creating a $472 million economic impact, and supporting 6,400 local jobs.
 
"We have a lot of great conventions, meetings and sports tournaments coming to town this year, with some being new," says Padot. "It's should be a great year of events."
 
The GLCVM employs 25 full- and part-time staff, with two part-time positions going to full-time in the past year.
 
Sources: Tracy Padot, VP, Marketing Communications, Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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

UZoom Media unites with Michigan Creative to create premier agency

The merger of two small Lansing-based companies promises to make a big impact in helping other businesses meet marketing goals.
 
On March 5, Michigan Creative and UZoom Media will become one, with a focus on being a leading provider of creative and marketing services that include web, video branding and strategy.
 
"The merger will really help us speak to our message of being a company's marketing department," says Melissa Meschke, COO of Michigan Creative. "We can step in now and offer more diversified and enhanced services to all our clients."
 
Operating under the brand of Michigan Creative, the merged company will add additional expertise and services including complex marketing strategies, targeted social media campaigns, inbound marketing, buyer persona research, advanced search engine optimization, and search engine marketing.
 
Anne Craft founded UZoom media five years ago, and began working with Michigan Creative in 2014. The more projects she worked on with Michigan Creative, the more she said it made sense for the two to join forces and offer combined, client-centered services.
 
"I knew I had found a good fit," says Craft. "We're both about fostering entrepreneurship and the local economy, and believe we can do things collaboratively to get the job done for the client."
 
Michigan Creative was founded more than three years ago and operates out of the NEO Center at 934 Clark St. The newly-merged company has 11 staff that includes full-time, part-time and interns. By year's end, Michigan Creative hopes to transition at least three-part time employees to full-time.
 
To celebrate the merger, Michigan Creative and UZoom will host a 'Waiting for Spring' open house, Thursday, March 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the NEO Center. The open house will include live music, light refreshments and drinks. To RSVP click here. 
 
Sources: Melissa Meschke, COO, and Anne Craft, Chief Strategist, Michigan Creative
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

YMCA of Lansing receives grant from Consumers Energy Foundation

A $30,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation will help fund facility improvements to two branches of the YMCA of Lansing, and enable the nonprofit to continue expanding services that focus on health, wellness, and special needs of children, teens and adults.
 
 "Youth development, social responsibility and healthy living are part of our mission," says Cheri Schimmel, development director of the YMCA of Lansing. "We're grateful for support of the Consumer Energy Foundation in helping us reach our goals through our ongoing Capital Campaign."
 
Renovations to the Oak Park branch in South Lansing will include improvements to the childcare center and kids' gym. The Consumers Energy Foundation grant will also be used toward the creation of a recreational outdoor sports park on the branch's backgrounds.
 
The Oak Park YMCA opened in 1982 and provides childcare and recreational programs for the community. Estimates are that 82 children each week will be served by the branch's improved childcare center. About 250 children a week currently use the kids' gym, and will continue to use the improved facilities. The YMCA projects that about 3,000 youth will find a safe, controlled place to play through the new recreational outdoor sports park each year. 
 
At the Parkwood branch, funds will be applied toward extensive renovations to the wellness center and improvements of the indoor track. The Parkwood YMCA was established in 1961 and serves 13,000 people each month. About 750 scholarships are awarded each year to enable qualifying families and individuals to participate in programs and activities.
 
"The Lansing Y has been here for 137 years," says Schimmel. "We reflect the needs of the community and work to serve those needs."
 
The YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing has six operating units, including Mystic Lake Camp near Clare, and branches downtown, on Lansing's west side, in the Oak Park area to the south, in East Lansing, and DeWitt. The YMCA employs nearly 500 individuals, and serves nearly 16,000 memberships throughout the community.
 
Sources: Cheri Schimmel, Development Director, YMCA of Lansing
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Collaborative design project celebrates Lansing, raises funds for art education

From T-shirts, to stickers, to tongue-in-cheek humor, Lansing's grittiest, grassroots, art-driven promo company has ventured into fundraising—forever empowered by the #LoveLansing movement.
 
JiveOne5even—a collaborative art project started by Paul Vetne and Marcus Cottom—recently held it's very first fundraiser in the form of a #LoveLansing party at the Green Door. The event was organized to raise dollars for elementary art programs in the Lansing School District. After an afternoon of live music and activities involving local vendors, Cottom says the event pulled in about $3,600 to purchase art materials and fund scholarships for places like REACH and MSU SmART.
 
"We're going to try to do this on an annual basis," says Cottom, a Lansing native. "Both Paul and I are artists, so it was something we felt strongly about."
 
Cottom and Vetne launched JiveOne5even in the spring of 2014. The two came up with a handful of original designs, printed them on T-shirts, and ventured out to test the appeal through local festivals. The T-shirts caught hold, leading them to branch into stickers, buttons and other items that pay homage to the city.
 
While not Versace or Nike, Cottom says the JiveOne5even label projects a certain cache, and celebrates Lansing through an ironic, urban and respectful sensibility. Designs are created using elements from existing concepts—similar to how a rapper or DJ would build music from samples.
 
"Sometimes I think Lansing has a bad reputation," says Cottom. "You can look at it from the outside and say one thing, but when you live here, you see there's a lot of good going on. It's not just potholes and a big cement parking lot where GM used to be. It's a place full of people starting businesses and making music and art—all kinds of things."
 
JiveOne5even currently has eight designs that can be printed on T-shirts, stickers, buttons, and other small novelty items. Most are available through local stores on the East Side, East Lansing and near downtown.
 
Source: Marcus Cottom, Co-Owner, JiveOne5seven
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

SBAM connects businesses with job seekers through cutting-edge recruitment platform

A new cutting-edge job-matching technology recently introduced by the Small Business Association of Michigan through a partnership with WorkFountain can help businesses streamline the recruitment process by connecting them with prospective employees.
 
The SBAM Talent Exchange uses sophisticated matching algorithms to connect employers to candidates based on skills, interests and requirements. Employers who join the exchange create an account and are walked through a series of questions that help them identify the type of employees needed for a particular job or jobs. The system then searches through a pool of job seekers and presents seven candidates for each position specified by the employer.
 
"It's basically a match.com for employer and employees," says Sarah Miller, director of marketing for SBAM. "Candidates are presented to you based on specific job titles to education to skill set—whatever you specify."
 
SBAM says that the talent exchange focuses on small- to mid-sized businesses since companies with 500 or fewer employees are responsible for a sizeable amount of hiring. Just over half of the private sector jobs, and nearly two-thirds of the nation's net new jobs in the past decade-and-a-half, have been created by businesses that range from 1 to 500 employees, according to figures reported by SBAM.
 
"We know that finding qualified talent is one of the most significant challenges for businesses," says Miller. "This technology is a good resource for finding the talent, and can save businesses time, money and resources."
 
Members of SBAM can join the talent exchange for $35, while job seekers can register and post their credentials for free. About 53,000 potential employees have already joined the talent exchange which is available to SBAM members state-wide.
 
SBAM serves about 23,000 small businesses that range from accountants to appliance stores, manufacturers to medical, and restaurants to retailers, in all 83 Michigan counties. Approximately 1,300 businesses of SBAM's membership are in Ingham County.
 
Source: Sarah Miller, Director of Marketing, Small Business Association of Michigan
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

The Errand Man helps busy professionals reclaim leisure time

While everyone talks about the secret to work-life balance, it can sometimes be the little everyday tasks that threaten to tip the scales.
 
Enter The Errand Man—a man with a mission to help people reclaim and transform otherwise hectic hours into sensible leisure time.
 
"I know what's it like to be juggling so many things that you feel there's just not enough hours in the day," says Skip Lare, a retired career Coast Guard officer and human resource executive. "I used to feel that way, but now I'm here to help people with those everyday tasks that can eat up all your spare time."
 
Lare started his personal concierge service in August. His goal? To be the extra hands people sometimes need to keep up with the pace of modern life. He's there to pick up that bike at the repair shop, deliver garden mulch, and do weekly grocery shopping. No task or errand is too small or too large. He'll find a way, he says, to make it work.
 
"Wouldn't it be nice to be able to shoot me a text asking me to pick up eggs, bread and milk so you can avoid yet another trip to the store on your way home?" Lare asks. "I can do that."
 
Lare got the idea for The Errand Man from his daughter, and set out to model his business after concierge services he had seen in metropolitan areas like Detroit, St. Louis and D.C. He runs errands, shops, and provides pick-up and delivery services for both individuals and businesses. He's also there to help transport or do everyday things for the elderly. Lare is licensed, insured and bonded, and a mobile notary. Above all, he says, he's among one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs: senior citizens.
 
"I like helping people out because now I have the time to do that," says Lare. "I can do things last minute or at a scheduled time. If you need something done, I can help."
 
Source: Skip Lare, Owner, The Errand Man
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Lettuce Live Well weighs in with free nutritional programs

Kelly Zielinski has a losing proposition that promises to be a winner for Greater Lansing.
 
As the co-founder and president of Lettuce Live Well, Zielinski and her business partner Ashley Logan got Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero to "weigh in" and launch Lansing Loses a Million at his recent State of the City address.
 
The free initiative, Zielinski explains, is modeled after a program in Oklahoma City in which city residents pledge to lose a combined 1 million pounds. Participants can log into a website to track food and calorie intake, fitness, blood pressure, body measurements and other wellness indicators. The Lansing program also offers participants the chance join online groups or community activities for additional support.
 
"We're looking to get as many people signed up as possible," says Zielinski, mentioning that more than 400 people are already on board. "It's ongoing, so there's no end date. We figure it will take a few years at least to lose a million."
 
Lansing Loses a Million is just one part of Zielinski's efforts to provide free community resources focused on nutrition and wellness. She and Logan founded Lettuce Live Well in July 2014 to provide nutritional and fitness coaching to groups and individuals through pre-arranged sessions at community centers, businesses and other public sites.
 
Lettuce Live Well also holds educational grocery store tours that provide advice on how to buy healthy foods on a budget. Each participant receives a $10 gift card to spend toward a meal that includes all five food groups. The program is supported through the national Cooking Matters at the Store Program, with tours conducted at local ValuLand, Meijer, Wal-Mart and Aldi stores.
 
"I'm just incredibly passionate about nutrition and want to help people," says Zielinski who learned about nutrition from volunteering at food banks and interning with dieticians. "There's not a lot of free nutritional resources out there. But more important, eating is the most important thing we do every day, and sometimes no one shows us how to do it properly."
 
Lettuce Live Well is a volunteer organization supported by sponsors. As programs and initiatives grow, Zielinski hopes to move into a brick-and-mortar location by late spring, and to add to her roster of more than a dozen volunteers and business interns.
 
Source: Kelly Zielinski, Co-founder and President, Lettuce Live Well
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

The Runway receives MEDC grant to develop cutting-edge curriculum

The state's first and only fashion business incubator will begin offering cutting-edge training and educational activities to fashion start-ups thanks to a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
 
The $65,000 grant to the Lansing Economic Development Corporation will enable the development of strategic and sustainable curriculum for The Runway—curriculum that LEAP says will nurture the growing fashion industry across the state.
 
"The Runway is the catalyst to start the conversation about the fashion industry in Lansing as well as state-wide," says Quin Stinchfield, manager of business incubation for LEAP. "It's a way to help people coming out of our various fashion programs stay in the area and build a business."
 
Curriculum and training, Stinchfield says, is key to the success of The Runway, located inside the renovated Knapp's Centre in downtown Lansing. Potential partners in curriculum development and delivery include fashion programs through Lansing Community College and Michigan State University, Michigan Fashion Proto, the MSU Alumni Association, Detroit Garment Guild Group, Michigan Garment Industry Council, and other fashion-focused organizations across the state.
 
Workshops under construction include pattern making, draping basics, fashion sketching and various studio sessions that help people refine and learn garment-making skills.
 
"We're working to put a curriculum in place that no matter what stage you're at, there's a offering or piece that you can gain knowledge from," says Stinchfield.
 
Other educational and knowledge-based activities supported through the grant include a web-based library, a monthly speaker series, an international fashion exchange program, and quarterly trainings on equipment. Some activities will be open to the public. In addition, Foster, Swift, Collins, and Smith PC—one of The Runway's key sponsors—will be on site twice a week to provide legal services to members of The Runway.
 
"We want to be able to provide a full package to help someone launch a company," says Stinchfield. "When we say we want to bring retail back to Lansing, this is among the great ways and methods to do it."
 
Source: Quin Stinchfield, Manager of Business Incubation, LEAP
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Swim Lively has legs as fashion-minded athletic and leisurewear

Thoughts of spring break or summer fun can be warming but also chilling when thoughts of pulling on a swimsuit come to mind.
 
Fine artist and sculpture Mary Gillis set out to take the edge off that shared anxiety by creating a swimsuit she felt comfortable wearing. Her design ended up being much more than a swimsuit, and became the platform for Swim Lively—her new Lansing-based business located in The Runway in downtown Lansing.
 
"I frequently travel and loved everything about it except putting on a swimsuit," says Gillis of her sojourns to sunny climes. "It seemed logical that a lot of women wouldn't want to wear a bikini or a typical swimsuit. I thought someone would design a comfortable suit, but no one did."
 
Gillis went to the drawing board combined elements of athletic and leisure wears and created a suit that can be worn for swim, yoga, sports, recreation or leisure. Made from high-tech fabric, the retro-styling provides more coverage in the hips and thighs with a chic, slimming silhouette. Side-zippered legs open to hips for lounging by the pool or beach, while options for bodice and back styles add to the figure flattering fits.
 
"I wanted to create something that was both athletic and chic," says Gillis. "I also wanted the structure of the suit to accommodate different body types by offering what I call the perfect fit equation."
 
Gillis made her first prototype suit in January 2014 and took it on a test run to Cabo. She said that so many women asked about her suit and where they could get one that she decided to take the plunge and launch the brand.
 
Gillis was among the inaugural members of The Runway in the renovated Knapp's Centre. She makes her own digitized patterns, sources materials, and works with a Michigan manufacturer who cuts and sews the suits. Swim Lively maintains a small inventory of suits in simple sizing from S, M, L and XL at the Runway store, with most sales directed online.
 
"Swim Lively is a sculptural art form I didn't anticipate getting into," says Gillis, whose work has been exhibited internationally through public, private and corporate collections, including Lansing's Accident Fund and the Board of Water and Light. "But I'm a visual problem solver. It goes with my DNA."
 
Source: Mary Gillis, Owner, Swim Lively
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
 Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Contest gives Greater Lansing residents a chance to show their love

Lansing residents have a chance to share their affection for the capital region by entering a video contest designed to show why it's so easy to fall in love with the area.
 
The Love Letters to Lansing Video Contest will award cash prizes for the best short videos that showcase the ways the Lansing area is a great place to live, work and play. The contest, say organizers, presents opportunity for residents to show off their artistic sides while also telling the region's story.
 
"Love Letters to Lansing is a way for our citizens to talk about why they love Lansing and win some prize money in the process," says Dominic Cochran, director of Lansing's Public Media Center. "In the end, we'll also have some great videos to help promote our area to others."
 
The contest is supported by the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitor's Bureau in cooperation with the Lansing Public Media Center—which also coordinates the Capital City Film Festival. Winning videos will join other user-generated content on the CVB website that shows everyday people talking about why they stay and what they love about the region.
 
The CVB provided funding for $4,000 in cash prizes to be divided among the top four winners, with other potential prizes from local merchants. The best-of-the-best entry will also be played before feature films, providing the chance for the winner and other contest participants to see works on the big screen.
 
"Lansing is full of passionate, energetic residents who take pride in where they live," says Tracy Padot, vice president of marketing communications for the Greater Lansing CVB. "This contest is a perfect opportunity for those who just can't contain themselves to tell the world why Lansing is the place to be."
 
The deadline for entry is March 16, 2015, at noon. The contest entry fee is $10 per entry, and videos must be no longer than three-minutes in length. Entries must be emailed here or physically delivered to Lansing Public Media Center, 2500 S. Washington Ave., Lansing. Full contest rules and more information can be found here.
 
Source: Dominic Cochran, director, Lansing Public Media Center
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.
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