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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

C/D/H's growth in Grand Rapids, Detroit markets puts six new technology jobs on the table

At least six new technology jobs are now on the table as Grand Rapids-based C/D/H continues to add clients across Michigan, using its Grand Rapids HQ at 15 Ionia SW and its Detroit office at 1500 Woodward Ave. as collaboration hubs.

C/D/H, a technology consulting firm that bills itself as a Microsoft-certified Gold Partner and a VMware Professional Partner, with top certification with Citrix, has 30 employees split between the Grand Rapids and Detroit offices.

"We help frustrated CIOs who have high risk projects and who need experts to make sure those projects come in on time and on budget," says C/D/H Partner Paul Hillman. "The projects might be websites, massive data center upgrades, big new application rollouts, maybe acquiring a new company, and they don't have the people with the experience and expertise in-house."

The six job openings posted on the company website currently list the work location as the Detroit office, but Hillman says that, because the two offices collaborate seamlessly through technology, employees can work effectively from either office.

The jobs are: SharePoint architect and consultant, infrastructure consultant, UX/UI designer, Microsoft system center consultant, Microsoft UC consultant, and client sales professional.

The C/D/H team is an integral part of the company's five-layer hiring process, Hillman says, and candidates complete a personality test to see if they'll be a good fit for the team.

"We have proven statistically that we talk to about 40 people before we hire one," Hillman says, adding that the company's four core values of active collaboration, genuine commitment, continuous improvement, and unquestionable fairness are central to maintaining individual, team, and company integrity.

To find out more about the positions and to apply, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of C/D/H

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Orion Construction's growing project list creates need for accountant, three project superintendents

Grand Rapids' Orion Construction has been around for about 10 years, and as its list of major developments continues to grow, the company has four new job positions to fill.

The company seeks three project superintendents with at least 10 years' of construction industry experience focused on larger commercial projects. Orion also aims to hire an accountant with a minimum of five years' experience. The company is in the process of sorting through accountant résumés and preparing for interviews.

Beyond the field experience, the project superintendents should "be familiar with working in an urban setting, have strong leadership skills, communication skills and strong/positive subcontractor relations," writes Orion Construction President, Roger Rehkopf in an email. "They must be committed to, and have a proven history for, high standards in safety and quality."
Most of Orion's projects are in Michigan, and that's by plan, says John Wheeler, president of Orion Real Estate Solutions. "We don't want to send our guys on the road for three, four, eight months. It's hard on the guys and on their families. The stress comes through in their work as well. (With other companies) so many are building projects so far away and no one really knows the long-term effects of that. It's just not positive."

Orion says it has several major projects in the pipeline, including the $45 million Arena Place building just west of the Van Andel Arena, the 65-unit Seventh St. Lofts in the former Israels Building, and the 35-apartment Eastown Flats in Eastown.

"There's competition for the good employees," Wheeler says. "A lot of good employees who have left Michigan during the last recession are now coming back. It's a full all-on effort to find the right people in our business and, when we find them, we don't want to let them go."

To apply, send your résumé to info@orionbuilt.com.

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

Challenge the absurdity: An interview with Meredith Bronk, president of OST

Meredith Bronk is the new president of OST. She was one of the original seven employees who bought out OST (when it was a division in another company) in 2002. At that time, sales were around $5 million a year. Today, OST is forecasting sales of over $100 million for this fiscal year.

In a 2009 report about women in I.T., the conclusion was that, despite the prediction that technology job opportunities are expected to grow at a faster rate than all other jobs in the professional sector, the industry is failing to attract and retain highly qualified women. In a short interview, Bronk shares her insights and experiences about efforts to attract and retain women within technology.

RG: What is your assessment about the "state of the I.T." in terms of its ability to attract and retain highly qualified women?

MB: I think the stereotype of I.T. and technology is hard and slow to overcome but I think we are overcoming it. As I look at the statistics you shared from 2009 it was going in the wrong direction. I think about what has happened since then. You have Meg Whitman, president and CEO of HP in 2011; the CEO of IBM, Virginia Rometty in 2012; and Melissa Mayer in Yahoo in 2012. There is a surge of women leaders in the industry that is helping to change the stereotype.

We are also seeing that with our recent hires. We did not have any female consultants on staff a couple of years ago and we have hired three just in the last six months. We are seeing that the tide is changing over the last few years but it is slow.

I.T. is about problem solving. It's about communication and working with people and understanding business, business outcomes and business objectives. As you break the stereotype that I.T. is all about someone sitting in a dark corner at a keyboard, it becomes part of attracting diverse talent, including women, to the industry.

RG: What can companies do to change the current state of affairs?

MB: There are couple of things. I recently had the chance to attend the "50 Most Influential Women of West Michigan"luncheon and the keynote was Reshma Saujani, CEO and Founder of Girls Who Code.

I am often the only woman leader in the room and had stopped noticing. I had not necessarily, proactively, put myself out there as a female leader in technology. She (Reshma) made a comment: "You can't be what you can't see." As a female leader, creating awareness and being someone who girls can see, and that the possibility exists, has to be where it starts. She inspired me to embrace the fact that I am a female leader in technology and could be a motivator for others.

At OST, we are actively recruiting female talent. We are also engaging with BitCamp, we are engaging with younger girls, because the only way you can change the trend is to bring girls up in the industry from an earlier age.

I had someone tell me the other day, you have to challenge the absurdity of the status quo. That can translate well into women in technology and what we are doing and teaching.

The other thing is that women have to support other women in I.T. We have to be better at helping each other, putting ourselves out there and encouraging others to put themselves out there.

RG: If you could speak to classroom of 7th and 8th grade girls as part of a "career day" program, what would you say?

MB: I have three daughters, 4th, 6th and 8th grade. So I have an opportunity to talk to middle schools every day. The most important thing I tell them is, challenge the absurdity. Don't take everything at face value. And second, do what you love. Don't limit yourself and explore everything you can.

Hydroponic concept wins Wege Prize, continues to move forward

Team FusionGRow, which is comprised of a "transcollegiate" group of students -- Jacob Czarniecki (GVSU), Aziza Ahmadi (GVSU), Yulia Conley (GVSU), Eric Choike (KCAD) and Philip Han (KCAD) -- were the winners of the inaugural Wege Prize held in early March 2014. The winning team shared the award of $15,000.

Czarniecki describes FusionGRow as a hydroponics system that "empowers people to take a more active role in healthy living by growing their own produce anywhere." Czarniecki says the team was focused on creating a system that was "affordable, accessible and aesthetically pleasing." 

The Wege Prize was created in collaboration between Kendall College and the Wege Foundation. It is an annual design competition that is focused on solving "wicked problems." The challenge for 2014 was to "design a product, service, or business model that can function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economic model."

Moving forward, the team is focused on getting assistance in prototyping. "No one has experience in product development but there are many mentors helping to further the idea along and helping us find exactly the best materials to use," says Czarniecki.

The team, which had never worked together prior to the Wege Prize, recently participated in the MWest Challenge and will be looking for other opportunities to raise funds for business development.

To view the business concept, you can visit the link here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

PaintworksGR launches in West Michigan

If your home or commercial building needs a fresh look this year, Steve Naylor would be interested in hearing from you, because he says he can "make your walls pop."

Naylor is the founder of Grand Rapids-based PaintworksGR, a new business that provides a range of specialty painting services. "We position ourselves as high-quality. Very clean, bold colors. We help people reinvent rooms and houses. We do a lot of faux finishes, stone finishes. We try to make the painting part of the room," he says.

Naylor says the inspiration for his business came from experience: "My dad taught me how to paint in 8th grade. I managed a painting crew in high school and college. I actually put myself through college with my painting. In grad school I employed eight of my classmates."

Besides the painting business, Naylor is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He stays active by contributing as needed in his church, but his focus in on growing on his business. "I always wanted to start a business in Grand Rapids and painting comes naturally to me," he says.

PaintworksGR recently hired one full-time position and Naylor anticipates hiring more throughout the year as the business grows.

To learn more about Naylor's business you can visit his website here or his Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

GR Current adds new entrepreneur-in-residence

Dr. Stanley Samuel has joined GR Current as an entrepreneur-in-residence, where he will focus on helping to grow the life science and medical device community in the region.

In his new role, Dr. Samuel will provide a wide range of consulting and coaching for startups, from ideation to technology validation. He will also help advise on company structure, business planning, investor pitches and plan out the regulatory path with the FDA. "Any company in (the) medical device and life science industry needs an understanding of how a product is received by the FDA. It is very important to lay it out early and get feedback," says Samuel.

Besides his role with GR Current, Dr. Samuel is the founder of OcuSano, Inc, one of several life science startups that is choosing to base their operations in Grand Rapids, even though the region is not yet really known for these types of businesses. "The industry is not real well known here yet," says Samuel. "GR  Current wants to focus on recruiting talent to West Michigan. Life science can be a big job creator." Dr. Samuel adds that these are typically high paying professions, including engineering, drug development, chemists and pharmacology.

If interested in accessing the services at GR Current, Dr. Samuel suggests you make an appointment and drop in to their new facility: "Go to GRCurrent.com and you can contact anyone on the team." He says you don't need a business plan to make an appointment. "You can come with an idea. We are encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit," he says.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Handmade ice creams, fresh-baked cones, and jobs -- Furniture City Creamery aims for May opening

With the building permit finally on display and the sound of hammering not yet quieted, Matt and Rachel Franko are thrilled to be moving forward with the creation of their tiny storefront for Furniture City Creamery, 958 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids.

The cozy shop will offer 14 handcrafted ice creams, fresh-baked cones, and handmade toppings. Many of the ice creams and all of the cones and toppings are vegan-friendly. The store opening, tentatively set for Memorial Weekend, looms large as the married couple works to build a commercial kitchen, add a few seats, and create an ice cream-lovers paradise in the backdoor courtyard.

Amidst the dust and din, Rachel Franko says she's preparing to begin hiring for four full-time equivalent job positions (six to eight people) for front counter servers/cashiers, and kitchen assistants.

"For the kitchen assistants, we want someone with experience," Franko says. "The counter service people should have service experience. We're looking for college age or above, looking for people who are interested in what we're doing and in bringing our products to the public."

Franko, whose background is in industrial process development, says the culinary industry speaks a common language and sees the creamery jobs as a good crossover fit for college students studying science or chemistry. "They can see how it all works and how it comes together."

She sees opportunities and challenges ahead, all stemming from the intimate size of the creamery.

'The opportunity will be having the ability to interact with the community," she says. "We'll have a suggestion box where we can gather input from the community. The challenges might be keeping up production with the cones. We have a small kitchen and the cones take time to make, but we won't know until we get in there."

To apply for a job, contact Rachel at Furniture City Creamery.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Furniture City Creamery

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BizStream technology company moves to new headquarters, seeks developers to fill two new positions

BizStream, a technology company that specializes in web design, web development, custom software, portal and intranet development, celebrates a grand opening of its new 12,000-square-foot Allendale headquarters at 11480 53rd Ave. The company's growth prompted the move to the spacious new digs that feature play and relaxation areas for employees, along with the need to hire two developers.

"We're making sure the culture for our 19 employees is a place where people absolutely love to come to work," says Mark Schmidt, founder. "We have a three-quarter size basketball court with two hoops, a foosball table, a weight room, and darts. We had a March Madness party and took the day off and just hung out with our team, and we had a movie night with employees' kids watching Frozen."

Schmidt says it's the playful camaraderie that makes his team an effective force for setting up clients' data systems, integrating their order management systems and other technologies for seamless business transactions, and enabling smooth e-commerce transactions. Click here to view an unscripted video of employees talking about the company.

BizStream needs a front-end web developer with experience in Java Script and HTML. The back-end developer position requires experience in C Sharp. Applicants for both positions need to have CMS experience of any kind.  

BizStream works primarily with the Kentico content management system and Schmidt says that out of Kentico's approximately 1,200 partners worldwide, BizStream ranks in the top four or five.

"We're looking for people who are passionate about technology, people who hang out with people who love technology," Schmidt says. "If you like to go home from work and have your own website going and you follow podcasts on new technology information and read the blogs, you're doing it because you love it."

To apply for a position, contact Mark Schmidt through BizStream's website here.

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

First comes love, then comes a really well designed website

Sitting in a Tree is the two-year 'young' startup which provides an online platform and multiple website designs that allow couples to modernize the wedding invitation process.

Since November 2012, Laura Vaughn, co-founder, (along with Julia Jamieson) says they have helped facilitate invitations for over 650 weddings.  She also estimates they receive between 50-100 customer service emails each month, which has necessitated the hiring of a customer service representative, Megan Seeley.  "The volume is too high now for Julia and me to handle the customer service process" says Vaughn who explains that even though their sites are very user friendly to set up and use, it might the first time someone ever went through the process of managing a reservation site.

Seeley will be responsible for handling design and technical questions plus help craft the overall customer service experience for the the site.

Leveraging their experience with wedding R.S.V.P.'s, Vaughn and Jamieson are all ready working on their first product extension, a corporate event site that provides planners with a customized registration experience.  The site, called Blackbird, is near launch.

To learn more about Sitting in a Tree or Blackbird, you can view their sites here and here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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