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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

Georgio's Gourmet Pizza celebrates second store with fundraiser for Kids' Food Basket

Georgio's Gourmet Pizza is opening their second store in Grand Rapids at 5570 28th St. SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan. To celebrate the opening the of the store, owner Steve Millman is partnering with Kids' Food Basket to hold a fundraising event on Friday, May 23rd from 11 a.m. to 12 midnight. Customers will enjoy free pizza slices for the entire day with a donation to Kids' Food Basket.

With the new location, the East Lansing-based Georgio's now has five stores and is preparing for expansion by offering franchise opportunities.

Besides their unique menu, which features pizza-by-the-slice and over 50 varieties of ingredients, Millman credits the company culture at Georgio's as a big part of their success. "We have a great culture. Our employees are phenomenal," says Millman. "We do different things and provide a lot of flexibility for our employees." He says since they employ a lot of students, the flexible scheduling helps students balance school and work.

Millman also says that the work environment at Georgio's is intended to help prepare their employees for future success: "We know this can be someone's first job and it won't be their last job. We encourage students to pursue your passion. We want to help all our employees achieve their next goals."   

The business will employ 12-15 individuals when open, bringing the total number of Georgio's employees in Grand Rapids to 30. Millman says they are are always accepting applications and anyone interested should send their resume to chris@georgiosgourmetpizza.com.

To learn more about Georgio's you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Wyoming entrepreneur launches new restaurant, adds 11 jobs

Andy Rosario is the entrepreneur behind the new restaurant, MAYA Mexican Grill and Bar, located at 1020 28th St. SW, Wyoming. Rosario's wife, Elizabeth Reyes-Rosario, a Wyoming-based attorney and business owner, is serving as the acting general manager for the new venture and says business has been outstanding since the April 12 opening. "We had no advertising other than Facebook and word-of-mouth," she says. "We've been very busy and have appreciated the support from friends, family, and the Wyoming community. We anticipate success."

Rosario-Reyes says the decision to open their business in Wyoming was easy: "We are both from Wyoming and had an idea to open a restaurant." She says her husband had a small food truck "back in the day" when restrictions made it difficult to expand, so they were waiting for the right time and location to move forward with a restaurant.  

"I have two offices in Wyoming and we felt the area needed another Mexican restaurant. It was just one of those things that lined up. We had been on the prowl for the last three years. This space was open. The landlord was terrific to work with and it was an excellent location," she says.

She says all the Mexican food at MAYA is "authentic and made from scratch" and describes the atmosphere as a "sports bar with a family mentality." Specialties include Parrilladas for food and the Cazuela Maya and Coronaritas for alcoholic beverages. (The Cazuela Maya is an infusion of freshly squeezed citrus juices combined with tequila and mixed in a clay pot -- and it's meant to be shared.)

Rosario-Reyes says the restaurant currently employs 11. To keep updated on MAYA, you can join their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Job News Editor

The Right Place powering the job market, helps land customer call center in Cascade Township

The Right Place, Inc., along with local municipal partners and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), announced a West Michigan economic development project that is projected to add 287 new jobs in Cascade Township.

With the approval of a $550,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant and another $1.5 million dollar investment, Dialog Direct will expand their operations to 2905 Lucerne SE, Grand Rapids, MI.

The firm manages customer contact centers for a variety of markets, including healthcare, insurance, financial, utilities and retail. The company's contact centers are near capacity and additional space is required to meet new client needs. The company's Holland site currently employs nearly 500 employees and was established in 2010.

According to Jack Wilkie, chief marketing officer for Dialog Direct, the location was chosen over 23 other sites, with the decision to locate their new operation in Cascade being made much easier by the firm's previous experience in West Michigan and the collaboration between multiple stakeholders in the region.

"We already have an operation in West Michigan that opened in June 2010 and have really enjoyed the community and the workforce," says Wilkie. "There is a strong labor market, community support and our desire to create jobs in the region."

Wilkie says the jobs will include a site director, team leaders, and training specialists, with the majority of new positions being customer service advisors. The firm is already hiring, with the first training class, an eight-week, fully paid program, scheduled for June 2. Individuals interested in exploring employment opportunities should call 616-834-9700 or visit dialog-direct com.

The Dialog Direct expansion is one of three West Michigan projects that will be adding up to 446 new jobs and $52.1 million to the region, according to The Right Place.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Boxed Water Is Better gears up for summer drinking water demand, seeks production line workers

As Boxed Water Is Better gears up to meet warm weather demand for healthy drinking water, its Holland production facility seeks to add a second-shift production line.

Boxed Water, which offers purified drinking water in eco-friendly boxes rather than plastic bottles, has distribution networks in a number of regions including the Pacific Northwest, California, Florida, New York, Ohio, and Calgary, Canada, and others. CEO Brett VanderKamp says the company recently launched new markets in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., plus is finalizing plans to launch in Toronto.

"We're building our sales force and have sales people in L.A., South Florida, New York," VanderKamp says. "We're interviewing for the Chicago/Great Lakes market and looking to add people in San Francisco, Boston, and Texas."

With the increase in sales personnel and the anticipated spike in demand over the summer months, Boxed Water needs three more production folks to operate a second shift at its 11,000-square-foot facility at 135 Manufacturers Drive, Holland.

The plan is to hire a production shift manager, and then fill in the other two team members. It takes three to run the equipment. VanderKamp is looking for a shift manager with packaging experience, a good mechanical skillset, and an interest in water chemistry.

"We have a fast growing company, we're competitive, we like to challenge each other," VanderKamp says. "The growth rate means the jobs are constantly changing and we need to be adaptable. We're looking for someone that's optimistic about the future of the brand, sees the potential of having a disruptive product like this in the marketplace, somebody that challenges the norm."

Boxed Water announced earlier this week that it has partnered with 1% For The Planet and will donate a portion of its profits to clean water and reforestation projects.

To apply, please stop by the facility at 135 Manufacturers Dr. and pick up an application.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Boxed Water Is Better

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Growth at Quantum Leap Communications prompts company to seek more sales people

Quantum Leap Communications, a telecommunications company specializing in Voice Over Internet Protocol systems for businesses, plans to hire at least two more account executives immediately, and possibly another four in the next 12 months.

President Mike Borowka says he's looking for people who are able to prospect, network, and build solid relationships in the community.

"It's much less about having a technological or industry background," Borowka says. "We will train for the skills. We want people who are willing to be out there meeting, talking to people. It's preferred that they have some business-to-business contacts, but having the right synergy with the team is what's important."

Quantum Leap Communications, 2006 44th St. SE, Grand Rapids, installs and services ShoreTel, MiTel, Avaya, and Executone systems, and is an agent for all the major telecom carriers, such as AT&T. Determining the best telecommunications system for a client's needs and helping them choose the right telecom carrier are essential to Quantum's success.

"Even though we're a technology business, this is still a relationship business," Borowka says. "We try not to be too techie when we're finding out what's going on in a client's business -- what are the pain points, what keeps them up at night -- it makes it easier for us to connect the dots and ease the pain and correct the challenges they have."

Quantum Leap expanded into an 11,000-square-foot building last month and plans to use the space as a collaborative workspace where clients can come to brainstorm ideas and see what particular systems can do for them.

"We're trying to be a non-typical telecommunications company," Borowka says. "We're trying to get rid of the stigma of technology being intimidating. We want to know how we can make clients' lives easier, and make their employees more productive and happy in our little segment of their business."

To inquire about the sales positions, or to submit a résumé and cover letter, click here.  

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Quantum Leap Communications

West Michigan design powers Chervon North America and their line of battery-powered lawn equipment

In an unforgettable 1976 movie scene, Howard Beale famously declared "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

The Grand Rapids company behind EGO, an innovative line of battery-powered yard and lawn equipment, is pretty confident that consumers are feeling the same way about their gas-powered mowers, trimmers and blowers.

David Allan, VP of Product Development, says that the market is more than ready for a cleaner, quieter but powerful line of lawn equipment. "Gas is just messy," he says. "Consumers are looking for something better." Allan says with the development of new battery technology, their EGO brand of lawn equipment is now as powerful as gas-powered equipment and, most importantly, much quieter and cleaner.

After primarily being a firm that designs and makes lawn equipment for other companies, EGO is Chervon North America's first brand of their own. Their initial line of products can be viewed here. They are also in the process of launching another brand called HammerHead (http://hammerheadtool.com ).

Allan is not the only person touting EGO. The New York Times and several other consumer review sites have been bullish about the product line.

Chervon North America's corporate headquarters is located at 120 Ionia St. SW #102. The office handles creative services, industrial design, customer support, and general North America support. Since opening the offices, the company has grown from a team of five employees to 29 and maintained strong connections with the local design community, especially Kendall College.

You can connect and learn more about the EGO line of products on Facebook and YouTube, where they host over 58 Grand Rapids-produced videos to demonstrate the products. You can also visit their website here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Attorney/entrepreneur designs and launches line of premium loungewear

Jamie Loeks Duffield is the attorney turned designer turned entrepreneur behind the new line of premium loungewear, Duffield Lane.

Duffield says the inspiration to design a line of loungewear came from her annual search for the perfect pajamas for Christmas Eve and her inability to find the style and quality she was looking for. "I wanted to create something that is stylish and flattering and you can wear all the time," says Duffield, "classic clothing with a real soft material."

Working with a freelance designer, an apparel firm from Minneapolis and her sketch book full of designs, Duffield created her initial line of loungewear, which is now available in Grand Rapids retailer Leigh‚Äôs, Muriel‚Äôs in Holland and Joseffa‚Äôs Store on Useppa Island, Florida. You can also purchase the loungewear online at www.DuffieldLane.com.  

Moving forward, Duffield says she anticipates tapping into the local design community for both inspiration and staff as the business grows. She is already scheduling trunk shows, attending fashion trade shows and looking north to Traverse City for her next retailer.   She is also currently partnering with Michigan-based Fashion Proto to develop locally made  styles that will be available this summer.

To learn more about Duffield Lane you can visit their website here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Doorganics introduces community supported fishery products, continues to grow and add jobs

You plant seeds. Nurture them. They grow. Kind of like the Doorganics business model.  

The local grocery delivery service that started as a seed of an idea for home delivery of local organic produce now works with over 30 farms, offers 35 organic produce items and offers 80 grocery items. With its newest partnership, customers will have the opportunity for home delivery of frozen fish through a Community Supported Fishery program.

Starting this month, local residents can join Sitka Salmon Shares by purchasing a share of wild Alaskan seafood caught by small-boat family fishermen in southeast Alaska.   Members then receive monthly home deliveries of blast-frozen, vacuum-sealed, one-pound fillets that are aligned with the commercial fishing season.

Nicolaas Mink, President & Chief Salmon Steward of Sitka Salmon Shares, says the partnership with Doorganics makes sense on several levels. "Everyone that fishes for us has deep roots in the Midwest, and we are committed to partnerships with businesses that deliver good food to good people. Our fisheries director was also a supplier for Doorganics," he says.

Mink says Michigan has been on their radar for quite awhile and the Doorganics team and business mission fits like a glove: "We loved their philosophy of food: providing access to the best ingredients and being as sustainable as possible."

Mike Hughes, founder of Doorganics, says this latest service is a natural extension of his business plan. "Our biggest opportunity is to continue enhancing the customer experience," he says. "We're working hard to make organic grocery delivery less of a novelty and more the norm. We have doubled our customer base and weekly sales since mid-January, and are four times larger than we were one year ago. We recently hired our 5th employee and are preparing to hire two more part-timers by June as we ramp up for the Michigan harvest season."

To learn more about Sitka Salmon Shares, you can view their site here. You can check out Doorganics here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor


HopCat expansions in other markets means finance, IT, management jobs in West Michigan, beyond

With the expansion of the HopCat bar brand into East Lansing, Detroit, and now Indianapolis with HopCat -- Broad Ripple opening in August at 6280 N. College Ave., the need to add support employees in the Grand Rapids home office and beyond creates a variety of job opportunities.

BarFly Ventures, which owns HopCat, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, McFadden's, and Stella's Lounge, seeks to hire a financial analyst, an IT manager, and from 20 to 25 front house managers over the next six months. The financial analyst will work out of Grand Rapids, the IT position will be based in Grand Rapids with an expectation that there will be some travel involved, and management trainees must be available to work in any of the markets where there is a need.

"We're striving to find people that have experience, who would enjoy working in an atmosphere like we have at BarFly -- very fun, fast paced," says Marketing Director Chris Knape. "We offer benefits that go above and beyond what others in the industry offer, and there's the chance to grow with the company, because we're growing quickly."

The financial analyst should have restaurant experience, know food costs, human resources costs, and be able to set up accounts for expanding into new markets. Knape says the push to open the planned HopCats in Detroit and Indianapolis will happen within eight months, plus there's another location on the drawing board for 2015, and other locations beyond that.

The IT manager will work to install and integrate sophisticated point of sale systems, primarily Aloha, with inventory control, brew house systems, purchasing, and the composting/trash system.

Management trainees should have bar and restaurant experience, and should be able and willing to relocate to the market where they are needed, says BarFly's Head Ringmaster, Garry Boyd.

"Some of our best ideas come from out of the blue from an employee suggestion," Boyd says. "Our trash program was suggested by employees who watched us throw away glass bottle after glass bottle and they challenged us to do better."

BarFly Ventures says the program, implemented three years ago in all of its bars and restaurants, has reduced by 90 percent the amount of waste it sends to landfills.

Hiring in Indianapolis for 100 wait and bar staff for HopCat -- Broad Ripple, has also begun.

To apply for any position, please send a cover letter, résumé, the position name, and three job references to jobs@barflyventures.com.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of BarFly Ventures

Holland's LeanLogistics adds technology, transportation jobs to keep up with company growth

Holland's LeanLogistics has plans to bring on a number of new employees to meet customer demand for its supply chain software, services, and transportation technology. The company, based at 1351 S. Waverly Rd., is hiring software developers, project managers, transportation load planners, transportation load coordinators, and transportation managers.

LeanLogistics was founded in Holland in 1999, then purchased by Australia supply chain logistics giant Brambles Limited in 2008. LeanLogistics has 150 employees at its Holland facility.

"We continue to develop technology that leads the industry, so we have need for software developers and project management individuals adept in working with web based software and working in the latest technologies," says Chris Timmer, senior VP of marketing. "We also have a great need for supply chain expertise -- people that would be working with the software on behalf of clients to help them manage their transportation."

Timmer says the company recruits from the "supply chain schools," such as Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Ohio State, and Penn State, and works closely with Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University to find technology development graduates.

"Michigan tends to be somewhat of a hotbed for supply chain logistics professionals, so we're able to bring talent in from the local marketplace," Timmer adds. "But the technological side is more challenging to find developers for a certain technology. In the Western Michigan market, we can be a little bit challenged finding the right talent. We're a software company that's extremely progressive -- we need open minds, creative thinkers, people who are willing to be coached as well as to coach. We work for the greater good of the organization and of each other, and we look for those attributes in the people that we bring on."

To find out more or to apply for a position, click here.

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

Helicopterhead Media connects the dots in the creative economy

Jason Johnson founded Helicopterhead Media in 2011 with a simple idea of creating interesting, search engine-optimized, multi-media content that would make it easier for people and businesses to connect with their customers.

Johnson has the ability to create traditional marketing campaigns for his clients but spends most of his time on two similar but distinct services: helping customers create their own podcasts and building unique, personal branding websites.

For his podcasting service, Johnson says it is really about helping people use their own voice (literally and figuratively) to tell stories and share their expertise. "A lot of my customers are looking for unique ways to connect with their audience via marketing." he says. "Audio and video is a great platform to teach and share about what you do. You can talk as long as you want, as short as you want, and about whatever you want. It is more magnetic than traditional marketing."

Johnson says his podcasting services include consultation, coaching, story boarding, editing, producing, scheduling and syndicating.

A second service that Johnson focuses on is the creation of a one-page website that he calls jPlates. "It's a one-page website that is all about you. It's your business card online. So if people Google you, they find out your information, which then links back to all your social profiles. It's  a very dynamic business card," says Johnson.

Johnson says this service is typically $500 and includes a professional headshot, unlimited tech support, search engine optimization, and social profile integration.

To support his business, Johnson has a team of contractors that provide professional videography and photography

To connect with Helicopterhead Media, you just need to click on the link here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Business intelligence software firm in downtown Grand Rapids makes schools smarter

Eidex is one of the latest high-tech firms making its home in downtown Grand Rapids.

The company, which was founded by Doug LaFleur, PhD, has developed a business intelligence software tool that crunches thousands of academic and financial data points to create a series of customized digital reports, enabling school administrators to identify opportunities for improvement that benefit students and the districts. "There needs to be strong innovation in education. By bringing data analytics to school districts, we are helping administrators identify where they are doing well and understand where they need to improve," says LaFleur.

LaFleur says their data can help school districts be much more strategic in their decision-making, identify cost savings, and better communicate program needs to stakeholders in the community: "We are a service business wrapped around a software application."

LeFleur also cites their firm's customer-centric approach as being an important part of their service delivery. "Core to our philosophy is partnering with our clients. A good deal of the tool's current features have resulted from suggestions made to us by our clients," he says. "We listen, and build what they need."

Eidex is also part of Start Garden's portfolio, having been funded at the $50,000 level. CEO Jack Gunn says the investment has been significant: "Start Garden's involvement has been extremely beneficial. Not only in terms of funding but helping with strategy and the opportunity to be a part of the ecosystem they are building."

Currently Eidex has over 70 school district subscribers in Michigan, which all pay an annual fee for the service. Eidex also has been in a hiring mode for over the past year.  "We have grown from a team of three to 14 in less than a year and we're still hiring. We're looking for developers to meet the needs of our clients."  says Gunn.

As is the case in the local tech sector, recruitment of top talent is very competitive but Gunn says Eidex has plenty to offer to developers beyond the typical pay and benefit packages, including "making a positive contribution in education, working with state-of-the-art technology, and having fun in a relaxed, collaborative environment."

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

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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