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Spartan Internet creates two new positions

New services and rising demand has kept Spartan Internet on the path toward growth. The local firm now has a staff of more than 35 and is currently hiring for two new positions. 
“We’ve added some additional services focused on our small business market segment,” says Spartan Internet President Ryan Vartoogian. “Those include some rapid web development services, as well as some additional online marketing services targeting small, growing businesses.”
Vartoogian also attributes Spartan Internet’s continued growth to growing demand as companies who may have put off investments during the economic downturn are beginning to invest in their online presence. 
“A lot of our services are designed to get people to market fast,” he says. “It’s an opportunity create some quick momentum to change the environment they’re operating in.”
Spartan Internet is also exploring additional partnership opportunities focusing on business-to-business organizations. Vartoogian says the firm’s avidly read blog is another contributing factor to the business’ continued growth. 

Supported Intelligence to help with business decisions, creates six jobs

Have a big decision on your mind? Should you open a second office? Should you hire additional employees? If you’re like many business owners facing risky decisions, you may have found that no matter what you plug into a spreadsheet, the darn thing just can’t give you enough information to really make a decision. 
East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group is launching a new company with a tool designed to do just that. Supported Intelligence has been built around a new software that incorporates what’s called Rapid RecursiveTM methodology for valuing investments and strategic options. That is, it helps businesses make better decisions. It all came about when AEG Principal and CEO Patrick Anderson began to realize that there had to be a better way to address risky choices than a spreadsheet. 
“When I looked at how people handled risky decisions in their real lives,” says Anderson, “I realized they handled them better than what was descried in the MBA books. I’ve been developing techniques that would match, mathematically, what people do themselves.” 
The result was six years of developing Supported Intelligence. The company is currently located in AEG’s East Lansing office and expects to launch their first product using the Rapid RecursiveTM methodology in September 2012. Anderson says the software will benefit a variety of businesses within an array of industries. Eventually he hopes to develop future software to even help individuals make life decisions, such as when to buy a house. 
Supported Intelligence currently employs six workers, and Anderson expects that number to double over the next year. 

East Lansing couple creates Green Kitchenware store

Amy Bibbings was just looking for a way to dispose of her old, non-stick cookware in an environmentally friendly way. Not only was she unble to find a good resource for disposal, she couldn’t find a good source for information on how to replace it with a more sustainable kind of cookware. So she and her husband made one. 
“Right now it’s a place where you can buy new stuff. We’re trying to find responsible vendors who have some commitment to the environment,” says Jason Bibbings of the couple’s new online store, Green Kitchenware. “One of our expansion plans is to create a program where, if they purchase from us, we’ll handle the disposal of their current cookware.”
Green Kitchenware launched last week and currently employs Amy and Jason Bibbings. Their future plans include expanding into new area in environmental sustainability and create their own line of green cookware. 
“We’re trying to keep Michigan beautiful by eliminating some of the waste and garbage,” says Bibbings. “We have to preserve our environment because nobody is going to do it for us.” 

Gravity Works nearly quadruples staff in two years

Old Town’s Gravity Works Design & Development has been growing at a rate that defies, well, gravity. The website and mobile application firm added  three new team members this month, and has grown from three to 11 employees in the span of two years. 
“We're really focused on making the client happy,” says Lauren Colton of Gravity Works. “Our culture is all about learning to build better web and mobile products, but the whole Gravity Worksteam is passionate about personalizing solutions to individual client needs and their target audience. That has led to a lot of returning clients, and a lot of referrals from past clients.”
Some of the clients keeping Gravity Works so busy include the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the Lansing Housing Commission, Mr. Handyman and the National Association of Career Women. The growing staff has resulted in the firm expanding into a second office space next to their original location, which was previously used for the Gravity Works’ Second Gear Coworking facility. The newest positions added to the company include senior creative designer, operations manager and mobile applications developer.

Even with a substantially larger team, Colton says Gravity Works future plans include sticking to the firm’s tradition of community outreach.

“Our whole team is really involved in the community, and we plan to help Mid-Michigan nonprofit organizations at Lansing GiveCamp, August 18,” says Colton. “Our next programming contest is also in the works, where Gravity Works invites community members to work in teams solving a puzzle, and the best solution wins a prize.”

Inspired Green adds more than 100 jobs, looks to grow even more

If anyone were to wonder how the green energy industry is going in Michigan, one would only have to look at Grand Ledge’s Inspired Green to see an example of the sector’s growth.
“In April [of 2011] we probably had about 45 to 50 employees,” says Inspired Green Vice President Jay Messner. “We ended the year at about 170. We are back in a push now, and we we need to add about 50 more positions in the next two months.”
That is some growth. Though Inspired Green has operations throughout the state, Messner says about 75 percent of their current jobs are in the Lansing area. The growth, he says, has to do with both demand and quality.
“We continue to be probably the leader in the county in delivering both utility energy efficiency program goals and in-home performance retrofits,” Messner says. “We are in high demand in the utility program front. Because of the relationships we build to help our customers, we’re very proficient at having those customers refer others to us.”
Inspired Green currently serves the markets of Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Monroe, Coldwater, Allegan and Flint, and have opened offices in Chicago and Cincinnati.
“Our growth is based on our radical commitment to our mission and core principles,” says Messner, “which are driven by the golden rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. Everything we offer legitimately benefits customers.” 

MacIntyre and Cowen REMAX adds nine jobs

Peter MacIntyre built large, commercial buildings for more than 30 years before he began selling residential ones in the Lansing area. The experience as a bricklayer must have helped. His growing team at MacIntyre and Cowen REMAX Real Estate Professionals has been named the Number One Sales Team by the Greater Lansing Board of REALTORS in 2009, 2010 and 2011. 
“I started doing short sales in 2006 when everyone else refused to do them because they were looking at the money,” says MacIntyre. “All those hundreds and hundreds of people I’ve helped over the years have come back to me in referrals.” 
Hundreds is no exaggeration. Last year, MacIntyre’s team sold 212 homes and MacIntyre plans to sell more than 300 in 2012. With all of those sales, the team has had to grow. According to MacIntyre, nine new positions have been created at the agency in the last year or so.
The agent says his success came in part because of his willingness to learn from others who have been successful. 
“I was smart enough to go out and get some real estate coaching with some of the best real estate agents,” says MacIntyre. 
While he doesn’t want to grow his team too much larger, MacIntyre plans to continue to strive to be the best real estate agency in the area.

Municipal Supply celebrates 50 years with website launch

Home businesses weren’t as common in 1961 as they are today, but that didn’t stop Howard and Verna Wohlscheid from starting Municipal Supply Company that way, and the company is now celebrating its 50th year in business with the launch of a new website. 
Municipal Supply moved to its current location on Industrial Drive in 1977. The company sells water and sewer materials to cities and contractors with an emphasis on excellent customer service.

“In starting our new website, we feel we are getting our name out there to more and more people,” says Brian Wohlscheid, President of Municipal Supply Co. “We feel that in launching this website, we are staying on top of the technology available to us.”

Municipal Supply worked with the Center for Business Innovation and Spring Arbor University on the new site. The university used the site as a teaching opportunity for students. 

“It was a positive experience for all of us,” says Wohlscheid. “We appreciated all of the input and hard work that each of the students did.”

The goal of the new website is to enhance communication with customers through announcing product promotions and news in the municipality industry.  

“We especially wanted to have a place to share our story and for customers to learn more about who we are as an organization,” Wohlscheid. 

Municipal  Supply Company has grown to six full time employees. According to Wohlscheid, the company’s goal is to continue with their practice of great customer service connecting directly with customers. 

New social media content management venture, Thearit, joins the TIC

Though the mobile and web application company Venturit is not brand new, its revolutionary new product is. Not only the social content management tool, Thearit, an exciting new web application, but it’s on track to become its own business. That’s why Prabode Weebadde, Venturit founder and CEO and Thearit co-founder Brian Collins decided East Lansing’s Technology Innovation Center was just the right place to get the new product ready to develop into its own entity. 
“Brian and I were thinking up ways to do some learning applications that were social media based, because his background is learning technology,” says Weebadde. “We developed the application to leverage social content online, and give a unique interface for your audience to interact with your social media campaign.”
Thearit allows organizations to curate online content from such sites as YouTube, Flickr and Instagram, as well as uploading other content. Users are then able to monitor and measure campaigns. The application is already being used by The Michigan State University Alumni Association, the Lansing-based non-profit Rock Star Warriors, University of Sydney, the Scottish Agricultural College, Fukuoka University, the Mother Sri Lanka and political candidates.
“The next level is to make it it’s own company,” says Weebadde. “When we looked around for a building that was available, we found the space that we needed and the coaching that we needed at the TIC. We found it was a good fit.”

iCab to add high tech taxi options, adding15 jobs to the Lansing area

Getting around the Lansing area is about to change. Beginning in July, iCab will bring the power of hailing a cab into the hands of anyone with a smartphone and someplace to go. 
“I was talking with my father,” says Valentino Hernandez, whose father John Hernandez has owned Grand Limousine in Lansing for 25 years. “I said, ‘I think this city needs something more unique for taxi services. Not in the vehicle sense, but so customers can interact with drivers through smartphones or texting. I started doing some research and started working on app development.”
Instead of calling a taxi service and waiting for an hour or more for a car to arrive with little to no information, as taxi users often do now, iCab will allow customers to be connected to a taxi via GPS as soon as they hail it. They can pick the cab that is closest or with their favorite driver, and watch as the cab moves toward them. 
“It’s a virtual hail,” Hernandez says. “The driver will know exactly where that phone is. If the client doesn’t know the address of where they’re at, or if they go from one location to the next, it will keep them live. If it’s raining and want to run inside and grab a coffee at Biggby, they can just go.”
The iCab Grand Opening will take place a Reno’s East this Friday and Saturday. Hernandez will launch iCab with four cabs and 15 employees. His goal is to grow the fleet to 10 vehicles in 18 months. 

Yoor Mom Skateboards teaches kids entrepreneurship in Grand Ledge

If you think Yoor Mom Skateboards is an unusual name for a business, that’s because there is nothing usual about the new Grand Ledge shop. While overseen by adults, the store is actually a collection of skateboarding related businesses operated by kids. 
“We’re calling it an ‘incuskater,’” says Jerry Norris, owner of Jadian Enterprises and father of Yoor Mom Skateboards founder Rain Norris. “It’s an incubator for skateboarding companies. My son, who is 11-years-old, came up with the brand and the name.”
Now 20 students ranging from 11 to 19 years old and representing nine businesses are testing out their skateboarding related business ideas in the 600 square foot Grand Ledge shop. They are not only learning about entrepreneurship, but  they are also tracking their local economic impact and raising money for the Grand Ledge Skate Club. 
“We’re calling this the Summer of Skatenomics,” Norris says. “We’re keeping track of all the money we’re spending, and we’ve spent over $3,000 in the local economy. We’re also teaching kids business things and having business training sessions. Now we’re seeing them starting to train each other.”
Norris and the Yoor Mom Skateboards team have high hopes for the growth of their project. They have created a Made in Grand Ledge brand, and are working to connect with manufacturers in Dubai and California to produce their goods. Meanwhile, students are learning welding, screenprinting and carpentry in the shop. Eventually, they’d like to create a manufacturing facility in Grand Ledge and start a microloan program.  

M3 Group adds six jobs, restructures for continued growth

To say it’s been a busy year for the Downtown Lansing-based agency Motion, Marketing & Media, or M3, would be an understatement. After rolling out their new “Special PRops team” and undertaking a statewide social media road trip under the hashtag #MeetMichigan, the firm has continued to grow, adding six new positions and undergoing an internal restructuring – all in time to celebrate M3’s 10-year anniversary in August. 
The startling growth, says The Bugler of M3, Anna Daugherty, was all a part of the plan.
“In 2011, one of Chief Conversation Starter and President Tiffany Dowling's goals was to work on expanding into new markets, not only in Michigan, but nationally,” Daugherty says. “She made it a mission for the company to take on bigger clients in new regions, and in order to accomplish this goal, she hired several new employees to grow our sales team and two creative teams.”
Those new positions follow the M3 tradition of highly descriptive, whimsical names: cruise director, video virtuoso, Account Executive, Funstructor, Social Media Coordinator and The Big (Web) Kahuna.
In order to accommodate such growth, M3’s internal restructuring included promotions and a new entertainment marketing department, which includes film, television and radio show development, product placement and special events.
“Growth and creative team development are key to achieving our strategic goals this year,” says Daugherty. “Another main goal is to beef up our sales department. We are also working on landing more state and federal contracts.”

LE&A PR group expands Lansing staff and office

The Lansing office of Lambert, Edwards and Associates (LE&A)has undergone a lot of change in the last nine years, with the most current change being staff growth and an upcoming expansion. 
The public relations office began as an office of John Bailey and Associates in 2003. When LE&A purchased the company in 2009, it changed names and became part of a statewide company with offices in Grand Rapids and Detroit. With the addition of two new staff members in the last year and another position soon to be filled, all of those changes have led to growth. 
“It’s been a good year,” says Emily Gerkin Palsrok, managing director of the public affairs practice of LE&A in Lansing. “I think the economy in Michigan has bounced back, and through that, clients are reengaging.”
The office itself, which is located above Edmund’s Pastime in Downtown Lansing, is experiencing growth as well. An additional 500 square feet will soon be added on to the office’s existing space, and the office design will be reconfigured to accommodate the company’s growth. 
Palsrok attributes the growth of LE&A in Lansing to the strength of the business company-wide.
“We have three strong, bi-partisan offices statewide,” she says. “We’re also very diversified as a company. Public affairs is just one area we focus on.”
Four to five additional new positions will soon be added to LE&A offices statewide. Should a Lansing-area candidate be a good fit for a position open in another city, they could be added to the Lansing office. 

Blended Learning Academies to bring new curriculum, 12 jobs to DeWitt

Dr. Tim Brannan teaches education at Central Michigan University, so it’s no surprise that when he and his company Brandino Properties purchased the vacant Gunnisonville Elementary Building in DeWitt, he had a vision to use the property to bring innovative new learning opportunities to students. In addition to building an assisted living facility on the site and leasing space to Little Scholars Preparatory School, the 26,000 square foot building will soon become Blended Learning Academies, a 256-student public school for sixth through eighth graders.
“We’re going t be a one-to-one school,” says Brannan. “Every student and teacher will have a learning device, that will either be an iPad or a netbook.”
The school’s digital curriculum is known as STEAM, focusing on science, technology, pre-engineering and mathematics with an added emphasis on arts and athletics.
“We’re moving toward taking [education] where the individual learning needs of each student are,” Brannan says. “We’re also extending the school year to go through the summer. There will be summer camp-like activities, so as the kids need to catch up, they can do that, and if we have some advanced kids, they can participate in some extra programs like studying alternative energy.”
Brannan intends for the Blended Learning Academies to be open for school this fall and is now taking applicants. The school will employ a staff of up to 12. Brannan also cites interaction with the on-site assisted living center as added value for students’ education. 
“We are hoping that unique blend of seniors and students will be an avenue for cross-learning and activities that will allow them to help each other,” says Brannan.

ASK adds four new positions with plans to double staff

Lansing’s ASK is growing. The provider IT hardware, software, and service solutions that got its start almost 20 years ago has grown its staff by approximately 25 percent over the last two years, including four recent new hires in the positions of office administrator, account manager, technical assistant and technical consultant.
“Our small and medium business solutions have driven our growth for the past four years,” says President of ASK Mike Maddox. “These companies rely as much on their technology, as do the large multi-national companies. The difference is that they do not have the budget, or staff to adequately manage the latest technology. That is where ASK solutions comes in.”
Maddox attributes ASK’s growth to the company’s focus on customer service.
“Our values have remained constant, and they are based on doing the right thing for the client, every time,” he says. “Our ability to provide world class IT solutions, at a price that small businesses can afford, has been the engine for our growth.”
ASK plans for that growth to continue. Now at a staff of 17, Maddox expects the firm to double its number of employees over the next five years. 

Cravings Popcorn invests in larger-than-life sign and area non-profits

Things are popping over at Cravings Gourmet Popcorn. The Old Town snackerie has recently unveiled two new significant investments – one in the business itself, and another in the community. 
“I’ve always said I had the worst sign in Old Town,” says Cravings owner Chad Jordan. “I had a specific idea in mind. I wanted to have a sign that people would stand in front and have their picture taken.”
Jordan’s vision was fulfilled by a six-foot-tall, four-foot-wide, popcorn-box-shaped sign that made its debut during Be a Tourist in Your Own Town day in June. Jordan worked with Lansing’s Young Sign & Awning on the sign and invested about $4,000 into the project. And just as he’d hoped, passersby have been stopping to take their photo with the larger-than-life sign. 
Less visible from the outside, but with perhaps an even greater impact, Cravings has recently launched its Community Popcorn Project. The program gives local non-profits the chance to apply for free popcorn for events that raise money or awareness for a community cause.
“I think it’s important that all businesses complete the cycle,” says Jordan. Customers buy from them, and they should be appreciative of how the community has helped their business to grow. They should give back to the community in a way that is possible for them.”
The Community Popcorn Project allows recipients one jumbo-sized bag (80 cups of popped popcorn) of the Three Way Mix or Theater Style flavors. Applications must be completed two weeks prior to the event.
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