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Mother Reverence opens Sacred Pregnancy Classes, Doula services

At Mother Reverence Sacred Pregnancy, women sit in circles and connect with each other. Some are first-time mothers and some have been mothers for much longer, but regardless of race, religion or experience in motherhood, they gather in the same place every week and they talk about nutrition and body image, sisterhood, fear and forgiveness. 

"I believe that I want to support women where they're at on their journey," says Kristin Revere, founder of Mother Reverence and certified Sacred Doula. "So, I don't have any other intentions other than being a support."

Revere has been teaching Sacred Pregnancy classes in the Grand Rapids area since April 2013, but became an officially certified Sacred Doula this summer after a few months of prior training. She also holds a Contemporary Doula International certification and has apprenticed with Crowning Lotus Doula Services at Cedar Tree Birth & Wellness in Grand Rapids, among a handful of other training program certifications. 

Revere's eight-week classes include maternity portraits, henna, belly dance instruction, art supplies and a "swag bag" for reach participant, with intimate class sizes that never exceed 10 women, Revere says, so everyone has a chance to contribute to discussions and be heard. 

"We have a class called 'Honoring' where it's like mini a Blessing Way," Revere says, including a foot bath and henna. "We do a lot of art projects in the classes as a way for them to connect with each other and process everything. I bring in a belly dance instructor during the body image portion and so they bare their bellies together and get used to that body image thing. There are a lot of things that it's nice to have an intimate class for." 
Revere says Sacred Doula has a stronger emphasis on the spiritual journey of acceptance and connectivity, a different approach to the more widely practiced DONA Doula training, which she says has a particularly strong following in Michigan and is what you'll typically find at many other Grand Rapids doula services. 

"When I go into a birth, I leave all of my own baggage behind on the other side of the door and I'm there just being present and trying to read the room and find out how I can best support the woman in labor and her husband and really work as a team, but at the same time knowing when to step back," she says.

The Sacred Pregnancy Classes are based on the book Sacred Pregnancy by Anni Daulter, which, shortly after publishing, became a larger national movement with training sessions in pregnancy journey classes as well as birth journey classes.

Pregnancy journey classes are held from 3-5 p.m. on Sundays from Jan. 11 to March 8 at Centre Pointe, located at 1440 Wealthy Street SE and cost $300 per person, with a $50 discount for registering at least 30 days in advance. The four-week birth journey class will begin in March, and costs $200 per couple, with a weekend retreat at $225 per person. 

"For me, it's about giving women encouragement and support, about not being divisive but uniting women, because we are all connected and there is a sisterhood that is missing," says Revere. "I feel like if we bring that (sisterhood) back, families are stronger and women have the support they need because sometimes you just can't talk about the things you go through in pregnancy with men in the same way." 

For more information on Mother Reverence, visit www.motherreverence.com. To find a doula in Grand Rapids, or learn more about what services are available locally, check out the Grand Rapids Area Doula Network online.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Mother Reverence 

Walter Mitty inspires local entrepreneur to make a wallet to weather life's journeys

By day, Bob Orchard is immersed in high tech, as the president and interaction/user experience designer at Tinypint, a web agency in Grand Rapids.

By night, Orchard is immersed in no tech, as a leather worker and craftsman behind his line of wallets being sold through his new venture, Grand Rapids Wallet Co.

Orchard was inspired to make wallets when he and his wife were planning a trip to South America this winter. "She had long been telling me to 'find a hobby' and I started considering what I'd do. Models and painting for board games, maybe I'd do woodworking or woodturning or even possibly miniature scene building."  

But his muse ended up coming from an iconic dreamer. "After watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and seeing the wallet the main character received in the movie with 'Life's Motto' stamped in it, I decided I wanted to make a wallet that would weather the most of life and be with me as I start traveling more and more."

His design was based personal experience, one where he frequently gives and receives business card and primarily uses plastic instead of dollars. "I needed a wallet that was flexible enough to manage cash but get out of the way if you didn't have any," he says.

Orchard's first-batch wallets were handmade at his office in the GR Makers space, where the collaborative ethos of the maker spirit provided a catalyst for a lengthy process of creating his wallets. "Harbinger Leathers on the 4th floor of our building has been a huge help in providing unused materials and encouraging me to try making my first wallet.   Each wallet, when producing one at a time, which is all I've done so far, takes roughly 3 hours end-to-end to produce."

While The Grand Rapids Wallet Co. remains a side project, Orchard has been able to apply his tech skills to create a marketing site and laser-cutting template that will allow him to scale the business if the demand is there. "The leatherwork got me more and more excited and people started asking if they could order them for Christmas gifts. After putting together a brand and business plan, I decided I could do it and opened up sales for orders," Orchard says. "If there's enough demand I can translate my laser-cutting template to dies to expand my production process and increase quantity while ensuring they're nothing but the highest quality."

To learn more more about the Grand Rapids Wallet Co., you can visit the Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

Couple explores Grand Rapids through new blog, Unlocking GR

West Michigan natives Spencer and Melissa Blanchard did what many young professionals dream of doing after they are done with college: work and travel around the world.

Spencer Blanchard estimates that, between the two of them, through work and personal adventures, they visited around 17 different countries throughout Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

At this point, conventional wisdom would be "once you have seen Paris" it can be a bit tricky to settle back into the Midwest. But not so fast, as Spencer Blanchard explains:  "We have seen some of the most beautiful places in the world but at the end of the day we have found that Grand Rapids has as much to offer as anywhere we've been. We love the culture, the people, the food, the art, the music, and of course the beer. And that's just the tip of the iceberg."

Fueled by civic pride and curiosity, the couple came up with an idea to explore Grand Rapids with a fresh set of eyes and share what they learned about the city and region through their blog, Unlocking GR. "I built the site and Melissa writes," says Blanchard. "We started with 60 ideas that we could cover."

The concept is similar to many "lists" Grand Rapids is fond of -- but it is different at the same time. The Blanchards do not focus on just one category, such as food or entertainment, but instead they plan to cut a wide swath through business, culture, people, art, neighborhoods and more. "We want to highlight the good in Grand Rapids; we aren't here to be cynics or critical. We offer a unique angle and insight into local businesses and activities that we believe add life to our city," Blanchard says.

Blanchard describes Unlocking GR as a "passion project," and the couple updates the site in their spare time. He also admits that he has been a little surprised by the reaction.  "So far the response has blown us away," he says. "We have received a ton of positive feedback and thousands of visitors to the site within a very short period of time." In four weeks, Blanchard estimates to have had around 8,000 unique visitors and 1500 page views: "People are engaging with our content."

As it's a side project, Blanchard says he has no immediate plan to expand the concept outside the region. He says just focusing on the city has enough to keep him and his wife busy. "The more we discover about this great city, the more there is to discover. Grand Rapids is growing and evolving rapidly every day, and so we must grow and evolve with it."

You can visit Unlocking GR here.  You can view their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Geronimo!: New community gear rental site looks to help downtown dwellers get back to nature

Grand Rapids may be building up its urban core, but that doesn't mean its great outdoors are shrinking. 

As city leaders put the 2013 park millage to work and organization and community-led initiatives like Grand Rapid White Water look to bring life back to the Grand River, Grand Rapidians are going to need their outdoor gear -- and a new online start-up called Borrows & Lends hopes to make gear sharing in Grand Rapids the new standard. 

"There is less of a focus on having a giant house with a giant garage filled with all of your gear and all of your stuff," says Borrows & Lends' Kendall Gilbert. "People don't want that anymore. They want the conveniences and the services of being able to do the things they love, but maintenance and paying into that as a long-term investment doesn't really make sense." 

Modeled after similar community gear rental sites like GearCommons in Boston, Borrows & Lends is looking to build on an inventory of outdoor equipment that ranges from mountain bikes to kayaks with more affordable price points set by the people, for the people. 

Although it sounds like you could skip the whole community marketplace and just rent equipment for a specific trip or ask a friend to borrow their gear, Gilbert says both alternatives, however viable, are limiting.

"Things like rentals are often geared more toward tourists and in the tourism industry, so you'll pay a little bit more just to rent something once or twice, but as far as an every day or every weekend type of activity that you might want to try out, it's not really in anyone's best interest to be dropping $50 on a two-hour kayak rental," she says. 

Though Borrows & Lends is operating strictly online at the moment, Gilbert says after the brand is more established and inventory bulks up, her ideal future business has a physical location in Grand Rapids with doors open to anyone, regardless of skill level or experience, to walk in, list their interests or preferences, and get paired up with reasonably priced equipment. 

"I think Grand Rapids just has the natural connection because we're in such a cool place," she says. "We're one hour from Lake Michigan, one hour from the Manistee National Forest. We have a really heavy tourism industry and adventure industry throughout our state and I think that's awesome."

Endorse Borrows & Lends on Start Garden, or visit Borrows & Lends on Facebook to learn more about becoming part of its community gear rental shop.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Borrows & Lends 

Welcome home for the holidays. We miss you. Why don't you stay?

ReThink West Michigan has a pretty simple ask. If you're a native Michigander who has moved away to start a career in another state, when you come back to Grand Rapids for Thanksgiving weekend to visit your family and friends, why don't you stay?

In fact, ReThink West Michigan would like to introduce you to other professionals and have you meet representatives from some of the largest and most dynamic companies in Grand Rapids who are looking for talent and are eager to share some cool projects they are working on.

That is the premise behind ReThink West Michigan's recruiting event on November 26. The casual networking event targeting former Michiganders who will be in town for the holidays is being hosted by Hello West Michigan and The Right Place. It will be held at The BOB from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The Right Place's Megan Sall says the organizing team has lined up employers from very diverse industries, including Spectrum Health, Amway, OST, Steelcase, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Ranstad Technologies, Mercy Health, Crowe Horwath, and Northwestern Mutual, who will have representatives attending and be available to informally talk about job and career opportunities.

To get the word out, Sall says they have partnered with local college and university alumni groups so that individuals who have left the state after graduation for jobs elsewhere can see the career opportunities here with a fresh set of eyes. "The event is for everybody because the job story of West Michgan is not just manufacturing and not just health care," she says. Sall points to Grand Rapid Public Schools as an employer who will be attending and has openings for teachers.

Sall hope that anyone reading this story will share information about the event: "If you have friends and family coming back for Thanksgiving weekend and want them to move back, have them attend."

Additional information can be found at www.rethinkwm.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Cherry Health reflects on past successes, looks ahead to future growth

Known as Cherry Street Health Services for the past 25 years, the medical provider that now has 23 locations throughout the state of Michigan is much bigger than it was when it opened its first location at 500 Cherry Street in 1989.

Over the past decade, the recently renamed Cherry Health has opened a new clinic every two years on average, most recently in February 2013 with the Barry County Community Health Center in Hastings, which plans to add dental services to its existing behavioral health services in the coming months.  

"We've had a pretty significant impact on the area, so we thought it was time we helped people appreciate who we are as Cherry Health, which has grown out of what has been Cherry Street Health Services for the past 25 years," says Michael Reagan, chief external affairs officer with Cherry Health. 

Cherry Health has created jobs alongside the past two decades of growth in location and service expansion, most notably following the 2011 merger with Proaction Behavioral Health Alliance and Touchstone innovare, when the organization more than doubled its staff from 250 employees to what is now around 800.

"Whenever we begin to establish a new health center or whenever even Proaction or Touchstone began to expand, we were adding local employment opportunities for health professionals both in the entry level and more advanced professional staff," Reagan says, using the 20-30 new jobs created with the opening of both the Montcalm Area Health Center in Greenville and the Barry Community Health Center as an example. "It gives an important diversity to the labor market in each of the communities that we serve."

Reagan attributes much of Cherry Health's success and its steady growth to two key factors: the first being its awareness of community needs, its documentation of those needs and its competitive approach to demonstrating those needs to funders; and secondly, accounting for a wide spectrum of primary care health issues and behavior health issues with integrated care practices, including both mental illness as well as substance abuse disorders. 

"Over the years we've always looked at what the needs of the community were, in terms of those who were medically underserved and didn't have access to care and they were quite successful," he says. "By going after competitive federal grants in some cases state grants that have helped sustain that growth where they were expanding every few years with a new health center."

Currently, Reagan says Cherry Health is waiting on the verdict of a proposal still pending with the federal government to open a new health center in Eaton County. The organization is also looking at opening two school-based health centers; one at Innovation Central within the Grand Rapids Public School System and another in Cedar Springs, however Reagan says neither of the school-based health centers are concrete plans at this time. 

Cherry Health is the largest Federally Qualified Health Center in Michigan, serving over 60,000 patients annually with over 60 physicians and mid-level providers in four Michigan counties. 

Click here to see current job openings at Cherry Health, or click on the "careers" tab to learn more about job opportunities at its various clinics throughout the state. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Cherry Health

Fashion designer launches fall collection in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids fashion designer Jessica Swagman has announced the launch of her fall collection.   

Like her spring 2014 collection, all the items in the five-piece fall collection have been handmade in Grand Rapids using local materials. And like the spring collection, they will be sold exclusively at JessicaSwagman.com.

Swagman is one of several designers that is part of a small but emerging fashion scene  "that is creating a community for fashion" in Grand Rapids. Swagman identifies programs in fashion design at Kendall College of Art and Design and GRCC as playing a role in the increased awareness of local opportunities and "connecting designers" together as being critical to the future of her trade.

Looking forward, Swagman says she is actively seeking out distribution beyond her website and has interest from boutiques in Chicago and Detroit, but for now her focus is on creating more garments for each collection. She is currently finishing work on the spring 2015 collection and will soon begin work on fall 2015 as well.

For more information about the Jessica Swagman Collection, please visit www.jessicaswagman.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Job News Editor

"Screaming fast" real estate market and training fuels Five Star Real Estate's growth

Business has never been better at Five Star Real Estate. The firm, which was founded in 1996, has endured several ups and downs in the housing market, but thanks to a rebranding exercise, an increased emphasis on training and a surging marketplace, the firm has been able to grow from 155 agents to 250 in the last two years and is expanding its Grand Rapids office and adding two additional offices in Muskegon and Kalamazoo.

"Last year and this spring we experienced a screaming fast market," says Paul Carlson of Five Star Real Estate. But, he says, the hot market is only one factor in their growth.  

Carlson says their firm's decision to focus on a comprehensive training and educational program for their agents has been key to creating a more stable team. By reducing turnover and investing in a rebranding effort that updated an "old school, 1996 look," the strategy has allowed Five Star to bounce back from the "horrible market" of 2009. "A decision to rebrand the firm two years ago has been a tremendous help, plus we now offer five to six educational sessions per week for our agents."

Carlson also says that there is no better time to look to real estate as a career and income option. "The key to a career is to understand the cost to get into business," says Carlson. "Interview a bunch of companies. Ask them what their training is. Get a map of the educational program." He says many times training is only given lip service and new agents find themselves without the tools needed to be successful.  

"It is an awesome time to get into the business," he says. "There is no limit on income and there is always an opportunity."

To learn more about Five Star Real Estate you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

Digital gaming studio takes root in Lowell, MI

Seed. Grow. Harvest. It is a business model straight from a farm. The big difference for Protege Game Studio, however, is that they aren't growing crops, but instead are training students for high-tech jobs in the digital media and gaming industries.

Sandon Newton, founder of Protege Game Studios, says that March 2015 will mark two years at his studio in Lowell. A second studio in Zeeland, MI was just opened in September 2014.

Protege offers classes in video game design to students, roughly from 5th grade to college. He says some students are only interested in having fun and making cool games, while others are looking for career and portfolio development.

Keeping with their mission, "Seed, Grow. Harvest," Newton, who has a computer science degree from GVSU and an MBA from Cornerstone, says he currently has two employees, both of whom started as part of Protege classes, and he intends to keep that that practice in place: "We plan to hire only from within."

Besides offering classes, the firm has a commercial side of its business and creates digital gaming courses and training materials for other companies. Newton says their team has developed a simulation game called "The Lean Ice Cream Shop" for a local lean manufacturing training company that uses game mechanics to teach and apply lean principles. He is also is working on augmented reality apps and game development curriculum through the Zeeland-Holland studio to support iCademy and Innocademy charter schools as a premium elective.

Newton says he is reviewing several opportunities for growth and says that the education and training marketplace is ripe for innovation and perfect for using game mechanics as a platform. He says he is anticipating more hires in the very near future, all from students from within the studio.  

To learn more about Protege Game Studios you can review their sites here and here.

Writer:  John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Compass Insurance moves, hires, and predicts new neighborhood is next to 'blow up'

After completing an expansion project early last month on its new offices at 525 Ottawa Avenue NW, Sales Manager Hernan Balcazar at Compass Insurance Agency says the locally owned and operated company will be looking for between 7-10 new insurance agents to add to its staff over the course of the next 18 months. 

Compass Insurance Agency moved from a strip mall location on 28th Street to the now 54,000-square-foot offices on Ottawa Avenue in May, completing the expansion project in early October to make room for 15 individual offices, a customer service center, and additional workspace for about six other employees. 

“We just outgrew it,” Balcazar says of the old 28th Street location. “We were growing and looking to add more agents and add more employees, so by moving here in May, we immediately doubled our square footage. Then with the rebuild we were just able to add on top of that.” 

Neighbored by the Speak EZ Lounge and the newly opened Garage Bar, Balcazar says he thinks not only is the company poised for growth, but so is the surrounding community of businesses. 

“I really think that this little area that we're in here on the other side of the highway from the main downtown area is the next one to blow up,” he says. “Right now it's kind of like an industrial district, but there's a lot of vacant properties out here and I think a lot of people will be looking to move in.” 

Owner Jack Hoedeman started Compass Insurance Agency in 2002, but Balcazar says business has really picked up in the last few years, and even more so when he joined the company a little over one year ago. 

“[Jack and I] just kind of just clicked and have a lot of the same values and ideas,” he says. “I allow him to have the ability to still mentor, while I can interview, bring in new people, managing them, bring in the numbers and motivate and he can focus on some of the sales and being the face of the company.”

Not only are there more clients looking to Compass Insurance Agency for service, there are more companies than ever available to its clients for auto, home, health and commercial insurance.

“The biggest difference is that as an independent agent I can broker multiple companies and because I have multiple companies that I can invest your business in, I work for the customer and not for the companies,” Balcazar says. “We know that price is important, but service and coverage is also important.” 

He says he and Hoedeman expect to grow Compass Insurance Agency over the next two or three years, both in the form of its staff roster and its physical building space, considering the future purchase of the building among the many options still on the table. 

“It’s been go, go, go, but we’ve got a good thing here,” he says.  “We’re bringing in the right people and we think we’ve got a good product and process to go along with it. Word is kind of getting out now that we’ve got the space.” 

Visit Compass Insurance Agency’s website to find new employment opportunities or contact Balcazar at (616) 245-5555 for more information on how to apply. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of Compass Insurance Agency

Slows Bar-B-Q to bring dozens of new part-time positions to new Downtown Market location

As owners of the Detroit-based Slows Bar B-Q begin construction on the new Grand Rapids Downtown Market location, over the next few months, they will be hiring as well as building.

Over a dozen new jobs will come to the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids this spring upon the completion of Slows Bar-B-Q’s second location of the full-service barbecue joint, which originally opened in Detroit’s Corktown back in 2005. 

Brian Perrone, executive chef and co-owner of Slows, says without a complete floor design the restaurant can’t pinpoint the number of new employees they will need come spring, but he expects the kitchen alone will require at least a dozen.

“We’ll be looking for bartenders, experienced kitchen and catering people,” he says. “We will probably be hiring some catering servers that will be more of a part-time thing. We’re not really planning on having services but we still need hosts, and ushers and food runners and that kind of thing.”

Perrone says Slows plans to expand their popular Slows-To-Go service, which includes catering, as the brand grows in the southeast side of the Downtown Market. The menu features slow-cooked barbecue staples like brisket, ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey, and jambalaya and will have several dozen Michigan-based artisan and craft beers on tap, as well. 

“It’s just great to get the brand over (to Grand Rapids),” he says. “It’s great being able to offer the menu that we do, I think that’s going to be huge. I think catering will be a big piece for the business. Just in the Downtown Market alone there is lot of opportunity.”

Perrone says he and Slows co-owners Phillip Cooley, Ron Cooley, and Mike Metevia also want to advance the Slows Bar-B-Q retail line in the future as brand recognition grows in Grand Rapids. 

In the meantime, Perrone thinks Slows Bar-B-Q is exactly where it needs to be in Grand Rapids. 

“I think the downtown market is a really great place for us to be,” he says. “We don’t plan on going anywhere, so we’re looking for a long-term relationship.” 

Slows Bar-B-Q will create an online portal for job seekers in the coming weeks, but Perrone says interested applicants can still check the restaurant’s website for updates on employment opportunities and construction progress or email jobs@slowsgr.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of the Downtown Market 

Fast-growing human resource consultancy helps fast-growing organizations find talent, manage process

HR Collaborative provides human resource consulting and management services to small and medium-sized organizations. In the last 18 months, the firm has added seven employees and moved from a one-room, shared office suite to a new office with triple the space.

Beth Kelly, founder, says the firm's growth is a combination of factors, including a resurgence of the economy and employers needing more assistance in "finding the best people for the company." Kelly says before the last recession, it was simple enough for many employers to take out a help wanted add and fill the position. Now, she says it is a much different story; many talented individuals left Michigan during that time and firms are not getting the response they used to when they had jobs to fill.

Another factor in the growth was strategic. Kelly says for many years, she worked with a team of contractors to provide her services but companies were wanting a longer-term relationship with her firm. "We worked for years with partners and consultants but our model began to change and we wanted more stability when clients called and we wanted to work more as a team," she says.

Although Kelly has experience working with organizations ranging from two employees to large corporations, she describes their firm's "sweet spot" as organizations with between 25-50 employees, growing at a pace that the the human resource issues are becoming more complex but, at the same time, are not in a position to create a full-time, internal  human resource team.

Kelly says she hired her first employee in June of 2013 and now has a team of eight. Her new office space is at 678 Front Ave NW, Suite 265. She says future hiring needs will be evaluated in 2015.

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

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs New Editor

Wedding planning entrepreneurs want you to say "I do" to Grand Rapids

When asked what the inspiration was for the Bride School Workshop, Jamie Kirby puts it pretty succinctly: "Brides are hungry for information and want an awesome wedding."

Kirby and Kaci Muller are the entrepreneurs and founders of the The Bride School Workshop, a one-day class designed to not only help brides plan an amazing wedding and maximize their budget but also to move West Michigan "from an oasis of status-quo weddings to a destination of exceptional weddings," Kirby says.

Their workshop brings together a wide variety of vendors and provides information on different approaches and processes plus tips on how to maximize budget and create a totally "amazing wedding" without hiring a wedding planner.  

Kirby says their first workshop, which is scheduled for Saturday, November 8, features a lineup of local suppliers such as The Cakabakery, who will be teaching a segment on wedding cakes and displays. Other parts of the program will include a wedding dress designer who will help brides know how to pick a dress for their body types, a photographer, DJ, caterer, florists and calligraphers.

Kirby estimates that a wedding budget in Grand Rapids is typically around $15,000 and says that with some "DIY" effort and connections to vendors a bride can stretch her budget and not have to spend extra on a wedding planner.

The Bride School Workshop team, both of whom have professional experience in project management, interior design, event planning and branding, says they have a goal of having two or three local workshops per year, and once they have the business model established, want to take the concept to other cities in need of a little creativity and originality in the wedding planning process.

To learn more about the Bride School Workshop you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

New online job site is designed to meet the needs of the working professional

Booyango is the new online platform that targets those in the workforce who are employed and are not actively seeking new opportunities - but at the same time, who would be interested in learning about an opportunities as long as it's done confidentially and discretely. Chris LaFontaine, CEO of Booyango, says his new site is specifically designed for the working professional: "Our model is about discretion."

Booyango only features career opportunities that are posted directly to the site by recruiters who are looking to fill specific positions. The free, online resource also provides professionals with full control over how much of their information is shared publicly while still allowing recruiters to discover and connect with them.

LaFontaine says it is entirely up to the professionals if they want to connect with a recruiter about a specific job, and if they do, their resume or portfolio does not go into a "black hole" like many job boards but instead they are connected with a person to discuss the opportunity in more detail. "Our technology enables working professionals to have a career companion. The recruiter sees an interested profile and the professional has the option to follow up or not. There is no wasted time," LaFontaine says, based on his experience and research.

The Ada-based venture currently employs five. Its business model is based on professionals being able to create a profile at no cost and recruiters paying for access.

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

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Plenty of job openings as manufacturing expands in Michigan

Blackford Capital, a national private equity firm headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has added five new staff members to the company. The hires are a result of the success of its Michigan Prosperity Fund (MPF), a fund that recharges the economy by investing in Michigan-based ventures.

Since MPF was created in 2012, Blackford has created 44 jobs locally, including 39 at portfolio company Custom Profile and the aforementioned five at the company's headquarters.

Jeff Helminski, managing director and head of the Michigan Prosperity Fund, says the new jobs at Custom Profile are a great entry-level opportunity for anyone looking for a job but especially for those who are entering the work force for the first time. "These are good jobs that pay well," he says.   

In his experience, Helminski says, these types of manufacturing jobs, many of which don't require a college degree or previous work experience, are rapidly increasing. In many cases, employers are not able to fill the openings and are having a hard time building their workforces. "Manufacturing is expanding," he says. "The basic requirements are that the individual has a good work ethic. There are plenty of openings."

The Michigan Prosperity Fund currently includes Grand Rapids-based Custom Profile, Inc., Metro Detroit-based Mopec, Grand Haven-based Grand Transformers, Inc. and Fenton-based Burgaflex NA.

To learn more about Blackford you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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