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

Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale attracts more investors, continues to innovate

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

Modern Cut Apparel frees designers from production side of business

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

Bubble soccer bounces into Lansing

Sometimes, being in a bubble isn't all that bad. Damon Grace will tell you.
 
Grace is the guy behind bringing bubble soccer to Mid-Michigan. The European phenomena popularized by the Internet has bounced, rolled and settled in East Lansing, offering the soccer-inclined at any level the chance to knock around on the playing field.
 
Bubble Soccer Detroit opened a branch at 210 Abbot in East Lansing after the West Bloomfield native and MSU student launched his business from the Hatch. Grace says the office rents out all the equipment anyone would need to play the high-energy, hilarious sport with friends or coworkers.
 
"It's basically contact soccer with a twist," says Grace. "You can do flips and hit the ball super hard. It brings in a huge crowd all the time and everyone wants to play."
 
Grace says he and his business partner Luke Andrews supply the bubble soccer balls, referees and all the setup and teardown for birthday parties, graduation events, corporate meetings, bachelor or bachelorette parties, fundraisers, and other occasions suitable for the rousing, camaraderie-building sport. Plastic bubbles are inflated onsite, and worn by players like a circular backpack of bubble wrap.
 
"It can get a little hot when you're inside the bubble, but there's a hole at the top so it's not too bad," says Grace. "It's really fun and exciting and seems safer than regular soccer."
 
Since coming to Lansing in December 2014, the two-person company has coordinated more than 20 bubble soccer events. Customers play the event on basketball courts, in gyms, on soccer fields or in backyards. Grace says one group even held a competition on a stage. Leagues and other partnerships are in the works with the Hope Sports Complex and Lansing Soccerzone.
 
"Our goal is to go national," says Grace. "We want to have events across America, and tournaments and leagues everywhere. We've found that few people have ever seen it before and once they do, everyone wants to play."
 
Sources: Damon Grace, Owner, Bubble Soccer Detroit
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.

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.

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.

Lansing-based target marketing firm rebrands and increases outreach

A targeted media firm in Lansing recently rebranded as it reinvigorates its mission to harness the power of data to drive sales, growth, and donations for businesses and organizations.
 
Shortly after the calendar turned over to 2015, Change Media Group transformed from the previous Michigan Blueprint Strategies, and set out to expand its reach and track record to a broad base of clientele.
 
"We wanted to communicate that we're a targeted media firm that can help clients adapt to the changing media landscape," says CEO Amanda Stitt. "Our rebranding shows who we are, and communicates that we are working with clients outside of Michigan, too."
 
Stitt says that Change Media integrates sophisticated data and targeting with the most up-to-date tools and technology to help organizations adapt to a dynamic media landscape. The way people consume news, information, and media is ever-changing, she adds, and can leave organizations with more limited resources outside the communication loop.
 
"We saw there wasn't a lot of help out there for non-profits and small- and mid-sized businesses," says Stitt. "We see ourselves as strategists, designers, writers, data scientists and storytellers that can help you find your audience in an incredibly targeted way."
 
Stitt and her husband, Ryan Irvin, launched Change Media in 2012 under its original name. In three years of business, the company has grown from a handful of clients to about 60. Services include research, data analysis, custom audience modeling, targeting, digital advertising, website and video creation, direct mail, graphic design, data visualization, and general consulting.
 
Change Media relocated from a smaller downtown office to the NEO Center at 934 Clark St. in the summer of 2014. The move, says Stitt, helped accommodate the addition of two new staff members. Stitt projects the small company will grow from six employees to about 10 staff by the end of 2015.
 
Source: Amanda Stitt, CEO, Change Media
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.

Training for fledging farmers finds support through USDA grant

A recent grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will enable Michigan State University to continue helping small farmers get their start through a variety of training programs.
 
As part of the $750,000 grant, the MSU Student Organic Farm will expand its Organic Famer Training Program in partnership with the Michigan Food and Farming Systems and the Center for Regional Food Systems.
 
With roots dating back to the early 2000s, the MSU Organic Farm has trained 112 new farmers, with participants ranging in age from 18 to 63 years old.
 
"There's really no typical student anymore," says Denae Friedheim, recruitment coordinator and instructor for the farm. "We have people who have worked on farms and are pretty sure they want a career in agriculture. We also have career shifters who are craving a connection to the land."
 
The 15-acre certified organic farm is home to the first year-round Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Michigan, and offers an intensive training program that prepares the next generation of organic farmers. Programs start in March and run through mid-November. Up to around 17 students are accepted each year, with applications still open for the 2015 season.
 
Friedheim says the farm grows produce year-round through hoop houses. The program also added livestock to the mix, allowing students to participate in the lifecycle of pigs, turkeys, geese, chickens and cattle. Some animals, too, "assist" with the annual cropping system, cleaning up residue and rooting the field once a crop is spent.
 
Students in the program learn through hands-on management and decision-making, and are given the opportunity to use and operate farming equipment. Experienced teaching staff and faculty guide students through the creation of a business plan that can be the basis of a real world farm once the student graduates.
 
"Everything we do on this farm serves as a model for our students," says Friedheim. "We try to do things as close to a regular farming business as possible."
 
The MSU Organic Farm has six full-time teaching staff as well as about a dozen part-time staff, primarily students.
 
Source: Denae Friedheim, Recruitment Coordinator and Instructor, MSU Organic Farm
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.
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