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Whole animal butcher shop set to open in Eastown

In ancient times, any celebration might have featured the slaughtering of and feasting on a fattened ox, lamb or hog.   

It wouldn't be a stretch to picture a similar celebration for Aidan and Evan Brady when they received the green light on their building permit this past weekend. The permit sets the stage for the opening of their whole animal butcher shop in Eastown this summer.

"E.A. Brady's. Local. Pastured. Meats." is slated to open in early summer at 1413 Lake Drive SE in Eastown. The butcher shop will be owned and operated by the Brady brother duo and will feature grassfed meats, organic and antibiotic-free poultry, fresh sausages, charcuterie  and a wide variety of "meat accessories" (cookbooks, utensils, seasonings) that are sourced from within a 150-200 mile radius of their store. Brady says besides the focus on local meats, they will also stress transparency and sustainability: "We will use the whole animal. You will see whole carcasses in building. Our process will be transparent. We will artfully use the all meats."
 
Aidan Brady says both brothers are long-time meat enthusiasts, spending time on the weekends making their own fresh sausages and salamis, and felt there was an unmet need in Eastown for a neighborhood butcher. "We both live in Eastown. It's a dream having a walkable commute," he says. "We also realized to be successful we needed a high-traffic area between downtown and East Grand Rapids. It is high-density, high-traffic and underserved when it comes to fresh food."  

Brady also says their shop complements the emerging food scene that stretches west to encompass Wealthy St., East Hills and the Fulton St. Farmers' Market, which "is becoming a destination of unique food."

As part of their pre-opening due diligence, Evan Brady spent several months in Brooklyn, New York, learning from Fleisher's Grassfed and Organic Meats.

Initially, Brady says the brother combination will be the only employees but he foresees additional jobs being added as the business grows.

To follow the progress of E.A. Brady's, like their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Love's Ice Cream takes it to the streets

Life doesn't get much better than when you're eating ice cream on a summer day. And Chris McKellar is doing his best to make sure that anyone who appreciates great ice cream, handmade with only the highest quality ingredients, will be able to enjoy the creamy, cool goodness at the Downtown Market and beyond.

McKellar, founder of Love's Ice Cream, just completed his ninth month of operation in the Downtown Market. In those nine months, McKellar says his 10-person team has focused on fine-tuning the process of making the ice cream in his small commercial kitchen and using the time to test new flavors, talk to customers and build strategic alliances with suppliers and potential commercial accounts. It's all part of his plan to expand the availability of his products throughout West Michigan.

McKellar says his team regularly experiments on new products and services, such as ice cream cakes and ice cream sandwiches -- "We just like to stay fresh and relevant" -- but what he has learned is that their business about one thing: small batch ice cream that is made with fresh and natural ingredients. "Every week we are constantly testing the waters while at the same time staying true to our core: ice cream. Side things are good to have but are not driving the business," he says.

Beside creating new products and flavors, McKellar is also experimenting with finding ways to deliver ice cream beyond the Downtown Market, including developing a wholesale business and launching a mobile ice cream cart that can be used at special events anywhere in the area. "The mobile cart has been a surprise. We are booked out for summer with weddings and catering and we are starting to book graduations for the cart in 2015," he says. McKellar also says that he plans to have the cart at various community events, such as Movies in the Park and street festivals.

Besides events, he also says he is slowly building a wholesale market through retailers and restaurants. Nourish Organic Market will be his first retail customer, carrying pints of Love's Ice Cream this summer. He also says that Love's will soon have a signature delivery vehicle that he hopes to unveil in 2014.

In a world where most ice cream is mass produced with mass-produced ingredients, McKellar is very optimistic about the future of Love's: "No one is doing it the way I am."

To learn more about Love's visit their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Ideomed ready to change the world - one person at a time

Growing, curious, optimistic, creative, confident -- all adjectives that might aptly describe a precocious college student preparing for graduation and ready to change the world. At the same time, these adjectives are equally accurate in describing Grand Rapids-based med-tech firm Ideomed. Including the part about changing the world.

Ideomed's first product is the web- and mobile-based patient engagement solution, Abriiz, an application that connects the patient, family, friends and health care specialists to better manage chronic health conditions.

In the past year the 27-person firm has moved to a new location on 4th floor of the CWD Building at 50 Louis NW, dramatically expanded the functionality of Abriiz, and has positioned itself as a national thought leader in mobile medical technology.

Brian Mack, director of marketing, explains the motivation behind the new space: "The move has been planned for some time to coincide with Ideomed's ongoing growth. It offers the opportunity to unite the Grand Rapids-based Ideomed team (we also have an office in Ann Arbor) in one space with room for future growth."

The physical growth parallels the added functionality to the Abriiz application. "We launched multiple Abriiz applications that can help with daily health management," says CEO Keith Brophy. He cites multiple conditions that Abriiz can now cover, including (but not limited to) congestive heart failure and other cardiac illnesses, diabetes, obesity, COPD, HIV and palliative care.

In addition to the new applications, Brophy says they have also introduced another level of gamification to Abriiz targeting adults called "Cardlings," which is part of the Ideomed core strategy in attacking health issues by changing a person's behavior. "Abriiz is really approaching health care from a behavioral science position. By and large the other players in the industry address symptomatic issues, but at the end of day, chronic illness is a behavior issue," says Brophy.

On a different stage, Ideomed is also focusing on plugging into the national conversation on health care. Mack cites Brophy's testimony before Congress as an example of Ideomed's opportunity to be a leader in health care. "Keith was among four thought leaders invited to present in conjunction with the Association for Competitive Technology, a trade organization that represents application developers," says Mack. "The testimony took place on June 27th, 2013, before the House Subcommittee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Health and Technology. It was an opportunity for lawmakers, in advance of the FDA's publication of their Regulatory Guidance on Mobile Medical Applications, to learn more about advances in the field of Mobile Health, and the leadership position that entrepreneurial ventures like Ideomed has taken."

Brophy remains extremely optimistic but realistic about the impact that mobile health technology will have on health care and knows he is in for a long journey. "Abriiz is a convergent point for data and intelligent analysis. We are in the early, most primitive stages of the product life cycle," he says. "We are using insights to refine the approach. It still takes effort to download the application and use it."  

Brophy says wearable medical devices hold the opportunity to make health care reminders "more fluid and automatic" and more effective, which he says will allow Abriiz to adopt and share the technology with their customers: "Health care is reinventing itself. It takes a lot partnerships and savvy to work side by side with the health care providers throughout the journey."

To support further growth, Ideomed is hiring, looking to add developers, designers and health care specialists.

To learn more about Ideomed and Abriiz you can visit their site here.

Writer; John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

New locations opening bring 160 teacher, teacher's aide, admin jobs to Gilden Woods Preschools

Appletree Learning Centers and its partner program Gilden Woods Early Care & Preschool Centers are in the throes of opening at least four new Gilden Woods locations in Michigan, bringing some 160 new jobs to the state.

Appletree Learning Centers began in 1998, catering to children six weeks old through 12 years, offering early education opportunities, after-school learning and play environments, and enrichment programs that include Spanish, gymnastics, and music.

Since partnering with Gilden Woods Early Care & Preschool Centers in 2012, the company has opened its 13th school and looks to open four new schools in the near future: Portage (broke ground in April), Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Walker.

"We're planning to add 160 employees in the next year, most of whom will be teachers and teachers' aides," says Beth Johnson, marketing manager. "Early education equips the (children) for school so they are socially ready, emotionally ready, and mentally ready -- all the different facets of the early education program to help them be a success in school. We start with the infant, then they can stay at the same school for preschool, after-school programs, and summer camps."

Each new school opens some 40 positions: school directors, teachers, teachers' aides, cooks, and bus drivers and other support staff. About 75 percent of the jobs are full-time.

Teachers need qualifications such as a Bachelors, Child Development Associate (CDA), or Associates degree and/or CEU hours in child related fields to meet the Licensing Rules of Child Care Centers for the State of Michigan.  

"The culture here is based on the premise 'Would this be best for my own child?'" Johnson says. "We want to hire people who want to establish relationships with these families, because they've trusted us to be a part of the development of their most precious gift, their child."

To find out more and to apply, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Appletree Learning Centers and Gilden Woods Early Care & Preschool Centers

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BandA Tech Solutions provides small businesses with big business I.T. support

As more small businesses realize that I.T. is key to their success and mission, the bigger the opportunity there is for service firms to fill that need.

A case in point is the growth of Holland-based BandA Tech Solutions. Founded in 2011 by Bill Badran, the firm provides a wide variety of I.T. management, support and training services for small businesses.

Badran says his company has experienced steady growth since entering the market three years ago and credits his firm's approach to customizing I.T. support for each of his clients. "We begin with a tech assessment, first evaluating staff and hardware," he says. "The assessment then helps determine staffing and training needs."  

Badran says his firm has worked within multiple sectors in the private sector and recently has begun to explore opportunities to provide managed I.T. services and training in the nonprofit sector. "We feel there are opportunities in the nonprofit sector and are working with nonprofit throughout the country," says Badran. "They question 'how do we stay on top of technology without relying on volunteers?'"

Besides traditional I.T. services, Badran says his firm is expanding into training businesses how to use and leverage social media, new devices and, in the case of health care, be compliant with privacy and security regulations.

Currently BandA Tech has four full-time employees, with Badran anticipating more jobs to be added in the upcoming months.

To learn more about BandA Tech, you can view their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

YAC.so's dashboard provides direction on the digital media highway

The rise of social networks has been both a boon and a bane for marketers, especially in small business.

The ability to connect and listen to customers, anywhere at anytime, is unprecedented -- and a marketer's dream. At the same time, if you are a small business owner with limited time and resources, how do you manage all these connections without becoming overwhelmed?

Enter YAC.so, a West Michigan marketing firm that has created an easy-to-use dashboard where marketers can manage all their social media, website, email and text campaigns.  

YAC.so, which is shorthand for "your area code," was started in 2007 when the company's founder created a media site that helped bar and restaurant owners handle social media within the 616 area code.

Listening to their customers, the firm began adding different modules to their dashboard and now offers a multi-faceted service designed for small businesses.

James Matthews, vice president of marketing and partner programs, says YAC.so now services over 600 customers. He says the core business is focused on restaurants, bars, specialty retailers and other entertainment venues. He says their service thrives in the business-to-consumer market, where these companies customers are active and engaged with social media.

According to Matthews, a key to their growth has been innovation. "One of the main things is for us to continually innovate our product by listening to our customers. Add new services with  our existing services and  push out to new markets. Keep adding value to the end user and make it simple for their business," he says.

Another key to growth is their ability to recruit top talent to their team. Matthews says their company is close to finalizing a move to a downtown office, which is part of their overall strategy of creating a vibrant culture and bringing the firm closer to the growing urban tech community.

Currently YAC.so has 11 full time employees, contracts out to another 15 developers, and has several full-time job openings for software developers.

To learn more about YAC.so, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Up, up and away: Mighty in the Midwest is on the move

Mighty in the Midwest is a Grand Rapids-based web and mobile design and development company. It values organizational culture, collaboration, craftsmanship and its clients. It works on cool projects and it's growing. What's not to like?

Cliff Wegner, founder and CEO, says the firm  has been on a steady diet of growth since it was founded in 2007 with one employee, a 300-square-foot office and a focus solely on web development. "We have grown in staff and services," Wegner says. "We started with only web development and now provide content strategy, project management, and full-service web and mobile design and development. We've doubled in size in the past year, 33% since January, and are moving into a new space three times our current size this summer (Trade Center, 50 Louis)."

Wegner credits his organization's culture as key factor in Mighty's growth: "We have great work and great clients. We are focused on working with clients for the long term. The majority of our clients have been with us for 3-6 years. We have a team that works with that client so there is a sense of personal ownership."  

Besides encouraging a culture that emphasizes long-term relationships, Wegner says the firm's consistently thoughtful approach to work is another significant part of its success. "We have a group that appreciates the details. It requires a level of humility," he says. "How can I get help? Can we work on this together? We really care about work and craftsmanship."

Current projects for Mighty include a complete, strategic redesign of Hope College's website, ongoing work with Start Garden, and their almost three-year relationship with ArtPrize, where Mighty is responsible for the digital and mobile experience.

While there are no immediate job openings, Wegner says he expects to be hiring again soon, anticipating a sales position to be open in the summer. "We hire very, very slowly," he says. "Meaning, we hire if and only when we really need to, which is why we have very, very little turnover."

To learn more about Mighty in the Midwest, you can visit their website here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Proper Soda hits a home run, expands to the Pacific Northwest and minor league baseball

Amidst the cacophony of craft beer, boxed water, artisan roasted coffee and micro-distilleries, there is a new beverage in town that is cutting an impressive swath in the land of West Michigan startups.

Proper Soda is the all natural ingredient, hop-infused soda created by Stephen Curtis in 2012. In a very short time since launch, the two-person operation has managed to get Proper Soda into about 60 stores in Michigan (Grand Rapids, Lansing and Holland), secured a distribution deal with Kent Beverage, and most recently has been picked up by Alpha Beer Distributing and Point Blank Distributing in the Pacific Northwest. In what's perhaps the coolest of all its accomplishments, Proper Soda will be the official soft drink of Portland's minor league baseball team, The Hops.  

Curtis says he's not really surprised that Portland and Seattle are the first markets outside of Michigan to pick up Proper Soda: "We both grow hops. We both have a prevalent craft beer culture, have similar climates" and, he adds with a smile, "appreciate the finer things in life."

There are several other significant developments in the works for Proper Soda. Curtis has an update night scheduled for May 22 at Start Garden (from which he has already received a$25,000 investment), is close to adding distribution to the Traverse City area, has several international inquiries, and will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a new flavor of soda in a couple of weeks.

To learn more about Proper Soda you can visit their site here or 'like" their Facebook page to follow their progress.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Pioneer Construction gears up to add 30 carpenters, ironworkers, and metal building erectors

Following on the heels of a hiring blitz that added 12 new ironworkers, carpenters, and metal building erectors to its ranks, Grand Rapids-based Pioneer Construction is ready to hire another 30 workers.

Pioneer Construction, which employs about 200 people, has built some of West Michigan's leading-edge structures, including Grand Valley State University's Mary Idema Pew Library and the Seidman College of Business, as well as Grand Rapids' Downtown Market, Heart of the City Health Services, and Boardwalk Condominiums.

"We have a strong backlog right now, and have new opportunities with manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, office build-outs, higher education, hospitality, and healthcare," says Director of Business Development Chris Beckering. "We've maintained the philosophy that it's important to have the self-performance horsepower and services to deliver full-service construction."

In conjunction with the expected uptick in larger-than-life projects, the company recently purchased a $1 million 70-ton Grove TMS700E crane.

While Pioneer's ideal job candidate is one with experience in carpentry, ironwork, or metal building construction, Beckering says the company has partnered with Associated Builders and Contractors to provide extensive training for anyone wishing to begin or advance a career in construction trades.

"First and foremost, candidates must have a good solid work ethic, positive teamwork-oriented mentality and attitude, people who take pride in their work, and people who have a commitment to safe work practices," Beckering says. "Ideally, they would have experience in the trades or general construction services; however, for people with a strong work ethic and a good attitude, we're willing to invest in training."

To apply for a position, stop by Pioneer Construction's offices at 550 Kirtland St. SW, or apply online here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Pioneer Construction

Herbruck's Poultry Ranch poised for job growth and expansion

With the assist from a $500,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant, Herbruck's Poultry Ranch will begin a $33 million expansion in the Village of Saranac that is expected to add 50 new jobs in the next three years.

Jennifer Wangler, the executive director of the Ionia County Economic Alliance and the Ionia County business development manager for The Right Place, says the grant is contingent on Herbruck's hitting several milestones relating to job growth and capital investment over the next three years.

Wangler says that performance-based grants are an important tool for economic development and help in the retaining of companies, especially community-minded firms like Herbruck's. "Anytime a company stays local is a good thing," she says.

Wangler says the new jobs "will run the gamut" and include both hourly and salaried positions.

Herbruck's Poultry Ranch is a leading egg production and processing company based in Saranac, Michigan. Operating since 1958, Herbruck's remains a family-owned and operated business, with a workforce of over 400. The company supplies retail and food service customers nationwide with shell eggs, whole liquid eggs, and hard-cooked peeled eggs. For more information, visit:  www.herbrucks.com

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs Growth Editor

Financial services firm focuses on the needs of small business

Corey Swiftney had a simple idea for Triune Financial: helping small businesses become successful. "Basically we are a small business, helping small businesses," he says.

Swiftney established his firm in 2011 after working for a decade in commercial banking, then as a comptroller at a foundry. Based on his experience he believed there were very few affordable resources for small business owners, especially those with 10 employees or less, to get help with their financial and accounting needs.  

Highlighting financial, accounting, cash flow assistance "and really good record keeping" services, Swiftney says his firm works within a variety of industries but that  contractors and small trade companies are an important niche for his business, as they tend not to have the resources for "comptroller level service" and can greatly benefit from outsourcing their financial management needs. "We help them not to worry about accounting, book keeping, payroll taxes and instead replace that time with what they do best," Swiftney says. "We provide expertise that a small business owner needs and deserves."

Swiftney say Triune Financial works on a fixed monthly charge which encourages ongoing collaboration with clients. The firm is currently a two-person operation but has a job opening for an administrative assistant.

To learn more about Triune Financial you can visit their website here or their Facebook page here.

Big deals driving Breakupgoods.com to the next big jump in business

The big deal.

Literally speaking, the "big deals" with Breakupgoods.com are the great deals on a wide variety of products. The Holland-based startup offers consumers one of the largest online selections of distressed goods from around the country. It follows a business model very similar to the travel site, Kayak, by compiling the best product deals from various e-commerce platforms on one easy-to-use site. 

Figuratively speaking, the "big deal" is the growth.

The firm, which officially launched in Holland in 2013, currently employs five full-time staff and has a team of six contractors. The business also has hit several milestones, including 2 million users, over $69 million in total value of items listed, a $95,000 investment from StartGarden and the near completion of a "bridge round" of funding, which essentially closes the gap between seed investment and the next round of funding that the founder Tom Liravongsa says will allow him to make "the next big jump in business" - which, it turns out, is quite the jump.

The big jump.

Liravongsa says that because his company was able to "get massive traction," he has attracted significant interest from investors in Silicon Valley and will soon be moving Breakupgoods.com headquarters to the San Francisco area, where access to funding, talent and networking are aligned with his business needs. "At a networking event in Holland my extended reach is the local bank or attorney's office," he says. "What happens in the west coast when you talk about your site you immediately are taking to people with experience with Yelp, Google, and eBay. The density is entirely different."

Although needing to move away from West Michigan to grow might be disheartening to some, Breakupgoods.com will be adding jobs in West Michigan as its product development team remains local and opens an office in Grand Rapids.  

To learn more about Breakupgoods.com you can visit their site here. The company also has immediate job openings for an information architect and programmer. If interested you can mail an inquiry to info@breakupgoods.com

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

American Seating new product lines are designed for active learning

American Seating will be unveiling two new product lines at this year's NeoCon June 9-11 in Chicago. Both new product lines are designed to give instructors and students the ability and flexibility to configure the classroom to optimize the learning experience.

Rely is the table line design that features options for flip and nest storage plus a variety of options for sizes, mobile and stationary applications, edge profiles, finishes, power and data technology, wire management and modesty panels.

Complementing the table line, Nima is the family of chairs designed by the famous furniture designer Giancarlo Piretti. The chair's  articulating back movement provides for a more comfortable and ergonomic seating experience. Each chair in the line also offers stacking and mobility functionality.

Deb McDermott, vice president of marketing, says the trend toward "active learning" environments is changing the way many instructors and students interact: "Teaching and learning styles have changed over the years. More and more instructors want (the) ability to change the classroom quickly."  

McDermott says that today's classroom environment requires flexibility in how tables and chairs are organized in the classroom, especially for project-based learning that emphasizes collaboration and teamwork.  

Besides enhancing the instructional environment, there are also very practical issues that these new designs address. "One of the biggest challenges is when the student comes to class," McDermott says. She explains many students are coming into a class prepared for multiple classes -- and the ability to store extra books, laptops, tablets, water bottles and other material is a real challenge. "We did our research and observed the learning experience. There were many backpacks on the floor and they might reconfigure the desks  two to three times during a class."

McDermott also says both the Rely and Nima line also have a broader use within corporate learning and training environments.

The new products will be introduced at American Seating's permanent showroom on the 10th floor, space # 148 at NeoCon. The Rely line will be available for shipping in September. The Nima chair will be available in the spring of 2015. More information can be found at www.americanseating.com

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Holland's Outdoor Discovery Center seeks nature lovers to fill two new job positions

Connecting people with the joys of our natural surroundings, instilling a love of the earth, and developing programs that nurture caretaking of our wetlands and its inhabitants are opportunities awaiting new employees of Holland's Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway.

The nonprofit organization, located at 4214 56th St., seeks to fill two new positions immediately: naturalist and program assistant.

Due to growth Executive Director Travis Williams calls "phenomenal," the 150-acre center hired seven employees in the past 12 months, and recently added the two new positions to help the center keep up with its popularity among schools, church groups, and visitors.

"The Outdoor Discovery Center started in 2000 to connect people with the outdoors through education programs for area schools, community churches, scout groups, libraries, teaching about the outdoors and natural sciences," Williams says. "We merged with the Macatawa Greenway in 2009 to preserve and protect land along the Macatawa River, about a 10-mile river corridor, to protect the water quality, create park spaces, protect wildlife."

The organization maintains trails through wetlands, woods, and meadows, manages a visitor center that hosts upwards of 37,000 visitors a year, plus feeds and cares for birds of prey, reptiles, and amphibians.  

The naturalist will help manage the visitor center, engaging with the public in face-to-face presentations and answering questions, and helping develop educational programs for schools and other community groups. The ideal candidate will have at least five years' experience in natural sciences or outdoor education, and/or a degree in a related field.

The program assistant will perform some of the same face-to-face engagement with visitors, but will work only on weekends. Other responsibilities include helping prepare programs.

Both positions require someone who will care for the birds, reptiles, and amphibians, clean their cages, water the native garden around the building, and even help with posting on social media.

"All of our employees have to be interested and willing to handle live animals and talk to the visitors," Williams says.

To apply for one of the positions, stop by the center or call. Click here for contact information.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway
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