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Old Town firms merge to create Spoke 8 Marketing, create three jobs

Two familiar names in the Old Town creative services scene have joined forces. Lisa Smith of Donovan & Smith Marketing and Media and Ann Siegle of Tria Marketing and Design have merged their companies to create Spoke 8 Marketing
“We have both been on each other’s radar for a long time,” says Siegle. After the women began partnering on projects early in 2012, working together more permanently just made sense. 
“We both kind of looked out there and said, ‘this is a good thing,’” Siegle says. “We have very complementary skill sets.”
The focus of the new company is on what Siegle calls “open source marketing,” that is, applying the concept of open source software to their work to allow their clients to be as involved as they’d like. 
“The marketing industry is very protective of their products,” says Siegle. “We want the clients to own this from the beginning.”
The merger took place in July. Spoke 8 now employs a staff of eight. One new employee has been added since the two companies joined, and Siegle expects another two jobs to be added soon. 

Frandor store expands with new home brew supplies shop

For all the popularity home brewing beer has garnered in the Lansing area over the last several years, many might be surprised to learn that there weren’t many local places to buy home brewing supplies.
“Other than the Red Salamander in Grand Ledge, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of resources in the area,” says Brian Devries of the new home brewing shop in Frandor, That’s How We Brew. “We thought we could fill that vacuum.”
The shop itself was not brand new. Also known as That’s How We Roll, the store used to specialize in cigarette rolling supplies. When new regulations prevented the sale of their most popular item, Devries says they decided to expand the scope of their venture. 
“We thought it would be nice to hve a brew shop closer to town. There was a brew hopin . Some of use were brewers and we decided it would be nice to have something more local.
The move has been a good one since the store-within-a-store opened in early August. That’s How We Brew has added a new publicity employee and is working with a few professional local brewers as consultants. Devries says they hope to add an additional employee with brewing experience in the future. 
“One thing that we’re about to start is our brew club,” says Devries, “which will offer brewing customers some exclusive deals. We’ll also be having classes with some very knowledgeable people. We’re still coming up with ideas for other things that will benefit our customers.” 
Devries says their inventory is continuing to grow and change based on the needs and requests of their new customers. 

State of Fitness grows staff, renovates workout space

State of Fitness brought a new kind of workout to East Lansing when they opened their doors more than two years ago. The training-focused facility has been growing ever since, and has recently completed a major renovation. 
“When we first moved into the facility it was beautiful, and it was already built out really well for a gym,” says State of Fitness Trainer Justin Grinnell. “But the way we train our folks is different than your traditional gym.”
A 2,000 square foot space in State of Fitness has been transformed into a field turf area, where a variety of training and exercise can take place. Grinnell also swapped out some of the facility’s more traditional cardio equipment for newer, more cutting edge machines. The renovations represent an approximately $40,000 investment. 
“It’s been great,” says Grinnell. “People like that they have more space to workout in. We have a lot of fun. It’s like an adult playground here.” 

Local martial arts expert launches world's first online martial arts school

Martial arts expert Chief Master Richard McDowell knows there is an array of things that prevent people from attending training, even if they want to learn martial arts. 
“People don’t have the time anymore to go to a school,” says McDowell, “And some people may be too shy to come to class. But they still want to learn, they want their kids to learn”
McDowell created a solution for those obstacles by creating the first online martial arts school, Martial Arts Online University.
“We made it very affordable,” McDowell says. “You train at your pace, not anybody else’s. If it takes you six years, if it takes you six weeks, that’s up to you.”
The school gives students of all ages and in any location the opportunity to train up to black belt level. Twenty-five instructors – nine of whom are in the Lansing area – teach video courses available in 13 languages. As students become ready to test for the next level belt, they simply submit a recorded video to the master instructors for evaluation. 
“You can also download everything to be a black belt, and never have to test,” McDowell says.
The unique online school began this month and already has students in Canada, Europe and Jamaica, as well as throughout the United States. Here in Lansing, the Westside Community YMCA serves as the home for Martial Arts Online University, as the setting for the filming of the course videos, as well as the location where 60 students attend non-virtual classes.

Williamston tanning salon changes hands, creates three jobs

After taking time off from her career as an entrepreneur to spend more time with her children, Kelly Driver was looking for a new opportunity. When she noticed that a tanning salon on Grand River in Williamston had closed, she saw her opportunity. 
Driver and her oldest daughter purchased and re-opened the 900 square foot Bronzed Tanning Salon in the spring and have been busy serving the community ever since.
“We’re pretty competitively priced,” says Driver. “It’s very homey in here. We don’t try to push stuff on people, so people are just really comfortable here.” 
One of the things most people don’t realize about tanning, says Driver, is that it’s not all about cosmetics. Bronzed Tanning serves a number of clients who tan for medical reasons. 
“I have several people in here for psoriasis and eczema,” Driver says. “We try to educate people, whether they’re here for health reasons, or to have a healthy glow.” 
Bronzed Tanning Salon currently employs Driver and her two daughters. She hopes to expand the salon’s services to include hydromassage. 

DRM Genesis celebrates 10 years, expansion and 10 new jobs

Ten years ago, Re'Shane Lonzo learned firsthand about the need for a local quality home healthcare provider. When her friend’s daughter suffered a severe injury, she watched her spend countless hours caring for the girl without sufficient help. Though Lonzo worked full-time for Lansing Community College, she couldn’t help but volunteer to help. 
“After two years and about 2,500 hours of volunteering, my friend said, ‘Re'Shane, you should start your own company,’" Lonzo says. “I researched the thought, obtained the proper insurances, and 10 years later here I am.” 
Now with 50 employees and more than 40 clients, Lonzo is celebrating her tenth anniversary of her company, DRM Genesis with additional growth. She added 10 employees over the last year, and expanded the company with a new office in Warren.
“We were introduced to a physician there with 30 plus years of experience and he was looking to add another discipline to his office complex, says Lonzao. “It was a great opportunity for us and that office is actually growing at a faster rate than our Lansing office.” 
In addition to DRM Genesis’ growth, Lonzo started the DRM International Learning Center in 2007.
“Once we got into the groove of hiring healthcare staff to work with our clients, we realized there was a need for more healthcare training,” she says. “What better way to ensure that you have the most competent, compassionate home healthcare employees than to train them?”  
Now celebrating its fifth year, the school now trains between 200 and 250 students per year.

Friendly Heating & Cooling adds two positions, focuses on marketing

Friendly Heating and Cooling is now in it’s eleventh year in Lansing and is entering a new phase. Owner Michael Sobczyk has escalated his social media presence and is now looking to hire a new technician and a sales person to help manage the new work. 
“We’re a pretty small company, but we’re looking to grow a little,” says Sobczyk. “We’ve had a website since 2001, but we’ve never done much with it. We’re trying to get our feet wet with marketing and social media.”
In addition to his recent social media effort, including his informative heating and cooling blog, Sobczyk believes his growth can be attributed to the quality of his work, which he backs up with a unique, three-year warranty.
“We’re the only company in Lansing that offers a three-year warranty on parts and labor,” Sobczyk says. “We’re confident in knowing we’re going to do the right job, and we want our customers to feel confident that they are getting the best repair.”
Sobczyk hopes the additional technician and salesperson will help him manage his growing clientele, as well as allow him to continue his new focus on marketing. 

MSUFCU to award $25,000 for winning startup idea

Area entrepreneurs could get a real boost from a new contest from Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. The startUP Challenge will award up to $25,000 to an entrepreneur in the tri-county with a winning business plan. 
“A lot of our members are MSU students and they are the most entrepreneurial generation and we believe in supporting all our members to achieve financial security and their dreams,” says Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for MSUFCU, April Clobes. “This program is designed to help individuals looking to start their own business to have some assistance in achieving their dreams.”
In order to win, participants must complete an application, business plan and video pitch. The top five entries will have the opportunity to present their business ideas to the startUP Challenge committee, which will be comprised of local experts. According to Clobes, the committee will be open to business ideas from a wide array of industries.
“We wanted to be appealing to all the business startups from creative to scientific,” Clobes says. “The prize is substantial enough to attract individuals that could manufacture something, be a scientific patent for food or medications, or to create an art studio. The possibilities are endless and we are excited to see all the ideas.”
Individuals in need of assistance with their entry or business plan are encouraged to contact LEAP for help. MSUFCU is also introducing the startUP Loan Fund, which allows entrepreneurs to apply for loans up to $15,000.

Incu-BaKe expands presence into Lansing City Market

Incu-BaKe was started with the intention of helping young culinary businesses grow. As it’s been doing that, the incubator kitchen has been doing some growing of it own. This month, the business added to its operations a new space in Lansing City Market. 
One of the biggest joys in owning this business has been helping to spread the word about the delicious products that are made here,” says Marcy Bishop Kates. “I've talked with City Market personnel a few times over the past six months or so, and now just seems like the perfect time.”
The 100 square foot Incu-BaKe space can be found between the Waterfront and Uncle John's Winery and will feature products made by Incu-BaKe businesses. The location will be staffed by Kates and her assistant, as well as the occasional presence of the producers themselves. 
“I am particularly excited about those day when our producers are there. They will be our ‘Meet the Producer’ days, and we will have sampling and other specials,” Kates says. “I expect that our product line will be somewhat seasonal, and somewhat fluid, just by the nature of our being a kitchen incubator. Of course, I'm also very excited to be able to talk about the entrepreneurial services here at Incu-BaKe!”
The Incu-BaKe space debuted at the City Market last weekend and will celebrate it’s grand opening this week. Shoppers will find an array of products there, including "take and bake" casseroles, salsas and sauces, granola, spice mixes, snack items, jams, jellies and baked goods. 

Eagle Eye gym reopens as Conquest Health & Fitness, adds 17 jobs

The athletic club located at Eagle Eye Golf Course is getting revamped under the new ownership of someone who knows a bit about athletics himself. Former MSU basketball player and entrepreneur Andre Hutson celebrated the grand opening of Conquest Health & Fitness Center last week.
“I used to live out here in the neighborhood and was a member of the gym for awhile,” Hutson says. “I knew the club and got to know the owner. I liked that the membership base they had here is really nice as well.”
The facility has been renovated, and in addition to cardio and weight equipment, it now includes massage theraphy, a room for classes, such as Zumba, yoga, Pilates and more. Space is also being leased in the gym to On Target Living, a wellness and nutrition business that Hutson believes will be an added benefit for club members.
“The long term goal is to try to create a better place for the Lansing area to come and get fit,” Hutson says. “We have all the resources here to help people attain their goals. We want to give people a better life balance with more energy and vitality.” 
Between massage therapists, new class instructors and On Target Living, 17 new jobs have been created with the newly renovated facility. 

Connection Graphics grows staff by 50 percent

Fifteen years ago, Connie Sweet found a way to combine her love of communications and her love of art by founding Connection Graphics. While the Potterville company began by offering graphic design, Sweet’s list of services has been growing. 
“We’ve been doing more and more brand marketing for our clients,” says Sweet. “When you practice good design, you have to incorporate marketing with that.” 
Sweet’s staff is now expanding as well with the addition of two new employees that will grow her total number of workers by 50 percent. 
Connection Graphic also produces MI Sports Page, a publication dedicated to covering local high school sports. The idea came from employee Thad Kraus who saw something missing in local news coverage. 
“He has a passion for high school sports,” says Sweet of Kraus. “We write about the athletes, and not just one key athletes, but sharing stories you might not hear anywhere else. We were losing a lot of the small community news.”
Sweet hopes to continue to expand the services of Connection Graphics, as well as the reach of MI Sports Page. 
“Our goals are really to focus on helping businesses to build their brand,” she says. “There is a lot of competition, but I think there is enough work out there, you just have to concentrate on your niche.” 

Retia Medical raises $7M, adds two jobs

A Technology Innovation Center startup has reached a major funding goal of $7 million. Medical device company, Retia Medical, moved into the TIC last September. The company has developed a less-invasive cardiac output monitor than is currently on the market that is also able to maintain its accuracy for critically ill patients.
“I strongly believe in what is called the ‘double bottom line,’” says Marc Zemel, Chief executive officer of Retia Medical, “which means focusing on generating superior financial returns and superior returns to society. Medical equipment naturally falls into this category and the cardiovascular field impacts a large swath of society.” 
According to Zemel, what makes Retia’s device so innovative is its ability to continue functioning when patients are unstable. 
“That is when accuracy is most critical,” Zemel explains. “Over 18 million high-risk surgical patients and ICU patients can benefit from this technology. Recently, the UK heath system estimated that they could save up to 1100 pounds per patient through implementation of this monitoring technology and the optimized treatment protocols that it enables. Not to mention the number of lives it can help save and improved quality of life that it can impact.”
Along with the funding, Retia is currently looking to expand its three-person staff with two additional biomedical signal processing engineers. Zemel says the company is focused on building and proving the product in the clinic making it available to as many people as possible.
“We are extremely grateful for the support of the TIC and the Michigan State community,” says Zemel. “So many people have contributed their time and efforts and we could not have gotten this far without them.”

Owosso-based MMI Business Services to add three Lansing jobs

Todd Meyer left the corporate world to start a new kind of company to serve the needs of businesses years ago. Since then, he’s kept to a consistent strategy for growth. 
“I started the company in 1989,” says Meyer, president and CEO of Owosso-based MMI Business Services Group. “From there it was a matter of finding quality people to join.”
Now, he’s looking for even more of those quality people. Though MMI’s corporate office is in Owosso, the firm has sales offices in Lansing and Flint, and Meyer is now looking to add three news positions to his Lansing location. 
“People are dealing with the recession differently,” says Meyer. “Our decision was to grow our way through it.”
MMI offers an array of business service to clients, including financial and insurance services, benefits services and general business consulting. 
“We’re really focused on working with the owners, mangers and employees of small and mid-sized companies,” Meyer says. “We do a host of different things all under one roof that you don’t typically see in any one company. You have an insurance agency, you consulting people and you have website people here.” 
Though the MMI Lansing office is currently downtown, Meyer hopes to eventually expand into two Lansing-area offices, with one on the east side of town, and another on the west. 

Annabelle's Pet Station expands pet play areas and training services, adds four jobs

It’s been a busy few years for Annabelle’s Pet Station since their opening in January of 2009. When Ann Andrews and Angela Brown first opened the doors of their doggie daycare, they averaged about three dogs per day. Today, they’re up to 30. 
To make more room to grow, Annabelle’s has undergone a year long renovation project that resulted in new play areas and expanded training opportunities. The business now has the capacity to host 50 dogs each day. 
“We now will have three play floors: one for large dogs, one for small and one for medium dogs,” says Andrews. “People are finding how handy it is. It saves their homes; it saves their sanity.”
With their growing clientele, Annabelle’s has also been taking on new employees. The 13-member staff is up four new positions since last year, and will soon bring on four more. In addition to its regular staff, Annabelle’s employs four trainers and a groomer. 
“It’s not just play all day,” Andrews says. “We work with the dog’s temperament. We do structured time with them too. There’s den time, a little bit of free play, structured play and some time outside.”
In the future, Andrews hopes to add overnight pet sitting services to Annabelle’s offerings, as well as an eventual overnight camp for canines and their families. 

Two local printing companies merge to become Keystone Millbrook, to add five jobs

Big changes have been underway in the local printing industry thanks to the merger of two of the area’s largest printing businesses, Keystone Printing and Millbrook Printing earlier this year.
“It was a long process, but it’s been an exciting one was well,” says Stephanie Murray-Killips, marketing director for the new Keystone Millbrook. “We were able to maintain the majority of our positions.”
According to Murray-Killips, the new company combined two shops with unique specialties that allowed most positions to remain unduplicated after the merger. Not only was Keystone Millbrook able to keep most of their employees, the firm of 50 workers is now hiring more.
“The two companies really had a long standing history of exceptional customer service,” Murray-Killips says. “It was a good fit in terms of company values.”
Five positions are currently posted, and Murray-Killips says demand will determine whether the company hires one or more employees for each new position. Between the merger and campaign season, that demand is currently looking strong. 
“We have just completed one of the greatest sales periods of our companies' history this past month,” says Murray-Killips. “I believe a lot of it has to do with our sales team being invigorated.”
The new Keystone Millbrook website is currently underway and will soon be unveiled to the public. 
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