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Innovation + Job News

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SalesPad growing, "always in hiring mode"

SalesPad might be one of the fastest growing, most innovative West Michigan software companies you've never heard of before. Which, according to Jeremy Boogaart, general manager, used to be okay with them but isn't so much anymore.

With continued projected growth and ongoing hiring needs in a very competitive market, Boogaart says it is time to share their story to a broader audience. "We used to fly under the radar but after ramping up the hiring process and adding about 49 people in the past year, we decided it was time for people to know more about us," he says.

SalesPad makes innovative business software. The company has a suite of 13 products for a wide variety of enterprise level, business management activities. Boogaart says the company was founded by Matt Williams in 2004 and the firm now has 120 employees and is  "always in hiring mode."

"We never stop hiring", he says. "We always runs ads and we currently have open jobs in sales, support, and development." Boogaart describes the SalesPad culture as "collaborative" and says it is quite different than many development and consulting development shops.  

"We are a full-time software development shop with our own products. We focus on team work. We provide a lot of training, opportunities for ongoing learning and group development, all in an open office environment. Plus, we have fun." He says with their commitment to training, it is a great company for new college graduates,

Besides adding to the local economy, SalesPad is also helping to showcase Grand Rapids to people from around the country. The firm recently hosted a three-day conference in downtown Grand Rapids, bringing in around 250 customers, the majority of whom were from outside of West Michigan. "We had to block about 800 nights at hotels. We had brewery tours, golfing and ate at various restaurants throughout the city," he says. "Many people attending did not know what to expect in Grand Rapids. They were surprised with the cool vibe." This was the second year for the conference and the firm is already planning for 2016.

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

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

Rebranding complete, Freshwater Digital is getting innovative

2015 has been good for Freshwater Digital. Very good.

The five-year-old digital signage and media production firm has been riding a significant growth wave in the past year and shows no sign of slowing down.

Just in the last several months, the firm has moved into a new office and warehouse space (almost doubling its previous footprint) to occupy 25,000 sq. feet, hired eight new people (now a total headcount of 14), released its own proprietary software, acquired and integrated a digital gaming company, and finished a complete rebranding.
And to think: less than four years ago, the founders of the company were working out of their homes.

Jon Dodge, EVP of business development, says the growth is a result of a blend of their core business expansion, a great team and new opportunities: "We've had fantastic growth in last two years. We have a very talented team and we recently added a vice president of product development."

Dodge describes Freshwater's core business as retail digital signage, but he says the firm is always looking for innovative ways to expand. "We are moving beyond just content on a screen. We now have different platforms to provide better communication with the consumer," he says.  

Dodge points to the firm's recent acquisition of the digital gaming company, "Extreme Ring Swing", (extremeringswing.com) as an example of moving beyond traditional digital signage to create a better customer experience. Dodge says that this product is a creative and engaging way to help their clients promote products and also increase sales by enticing customers to spend more time in an establishment.

With the growth and commitment to new product development, the firm just completed a complete rebranding including a name change (Freshwater Digital Media Partners to Freshwater Digital) and a revamped logo and website. The firm is planning an open house in early November to showcase its new location and its production and product development labs.

To learn more about Freshwater Digital you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Nitro Cold Brew, the official coffee sponsor of ArtPrize, hits the streets

Riddle me this. What looks like a dark beer, tastes like a stout, is served cold out of keg but is not a beer? Give up?  

Well, it's not much of a riddle, especially since Nitro Cold Brew is gaining traction and brand awareness quickly these days, but it is worth noting that in Beer City, U.S.A., there's a new beverage in town and it is not a craft beer.

Kirby Watson, president of Direct Trade Coffee Club, says the nitrogen-infused, cold brewed coffee is a phenomenon and is quickly trending throughout the country. Watson says he was personally inspired by the nitrogen coffee movement in Austin, TX, and he felt there was an opportunity to do the same thing in Grand Rapids.

He says the brewing process is fairly complex but the end result is worth the time and effort. "The nitrogen gives it a nice creaminess, he says. "The people who taste it say it is a bit like a stout. A creamy stout." Watson says the product is caffeinated so it can serve as an afternoon or evening "pick me up" but it also has about half the acid of hot brewed coffee, serving a market for coffee lovers who aren't able to enjoy the beverage because of the acidity.

Watson says his cold brewed coffee will be a viable product throughout the year and adds a better option to 'last call". "We think people will drink this all year round" he says. "We envision people drinking it at bars as the last drink of the night."

Introduced just over 10 weeks ago, Watson says you can find the product at Hall St. Bakery, Wealthy St. Bakery, Long Road Distillery, Lyon Street Cafe, Bartertown and the UICA.

And thanks to a very unique distribution model, you can also find Nitro Cold Brew being served from a series of specially outfitted trikes in downtown Grand Rapids during ArtPrize: "We built up four trikes and we will be rolling around ArtPrize throughout the event. Just flag us down."

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

New restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids unleashes the flavors of Latin America

Bienvenido a Grand Rapids!

Luna, the new Latin American-themed, full-service bar and restaurant located at 64 Ionia Ave. SW, opened its doors last week and will soon be opening the eyes and taste buds of the local food community to something very distinct and flavorful.

After working on the concept for almost two years, Mario Cascante wanted to bring something unique to the Grand Rapids food scene. While working with Rockford Development to identify a location, an opportunity opened up on Ionia Ave. SW and Cascante was ready.

While remaining true to his roots (Cascante is a native of Costa Rica), he says the new spot will also be "distinctly different" than his first venture, Tacos El Cunado at the Downtown Market.  

Cascante says Luna will feature meals that are prepared with the flavor profiles of Central and South America. Because of the breadth of spices, foods, and techniques in this type of cuisine, Cascante is reluctant to generalize about the menu but he says customers can expect a different type of spice level, "flavorful but not too spicy" and very different takes on traditional street foods like tacos and flautas.

However, he says the menu will also feature stews, vegan fair and South American-style steaks. "This is not a continuation of Tacos El Cunado. It will be a very different vibe and atmosphere. You can sit down and enjoy your meal. The flavor profile will be Latin American and it will be very refined and approachable."

Besides the unique menu, Cascante said Luna will feature a very good wine list, a "thoughtful" beer list and and interesting cocktails.

Cascante says he anticipates 30-40 jobs to be created with his new restaurant; he has several openings and encourages individuals to apply online here.

You can learn more about Luna here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor


Degage Ministries voucher program provides meals and more

Heartside neighborhood homeless organization Degage Ministries has a dignified solution to help visitors respond to downtown panhandlers during ArtPrize: Help them. And the best way to help them is to direct them to a place where they are assured of getting help.

Marge Palmerlee, Degage executive director, says the organization developed a voucher two years ago in response to requests from those in the community who had had questions on the best way to help someone who approached them for money. "We all want to be caring people but wise stewards of money." Palmerlee says. She says the voucher program helps to not only direct someone to a place where they can have a meal, but also get additional help for whatever problems the individual is experiencing.

A $2 voucher can be used for a variety of services, ranging from the purchase of a full meal, storage in a locker for a week, a hair cut, a pair of warm socks, and much more.  Palmerlee says the staff in the Resource Office will work with individuals to find solutions to other needs they may have.

With the opening of ArtPrize this week, Palmerlee knows the city will experience a tremendous surge in visitors, so Degage is looking to be more proactive with increasing the awareness of their voucher program. The vouchers are available for purchase by contacting kim@degageministries.org or calling (616) 454-1661. You may also purchase them here by selecting "Purchase of $2 Vouchers" from the designation drop-down list and they will be mailed to you.

Besides making the vouchers available for purchase, Palmerlee says the the organization has provided several hundred of its Degage Vouchers to Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. Ambassadors so they can hand out to guests for their use.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Fuchsia Design builds a foundation for growth with national certification

Autumn Fuchs has many reasons to celebrate the first anniversary of her residential interior design firm, Fuchsia Design. Besides successfully building a strong client base in year one, Fuchs also joined a very elite club when she became one of only a few residential designers to become NCIDQ certified (National Council for Interior Design Qualification).

The NCIDQ certification process is a three-day exam consisting of two days of multiple choice and a 10-hour-long drafting exam. It tests on things like mechanical systems, electrical, accessible and sustainable design, codes, and building practices. Fuchs says that NCIDQ is not a requirement for interior designers, but she wanted to set the bar very high for herself and differentiate her business from the competition. "For me, it is important as a interior designer to have the highest level of certification in the  industry," she says. "It really sets me apart from other design firms."

Fuchsia Design specializes in residential projects and targets both new home and deep renovation ("taking homes down to studs" says Fuchs). She says her typical clients are individuals who are excited about the entire design process and have a strong vision for what they want to accomplish. "My clients value design and are excited about their home. They know what they like and enjoy collaboration."
Besides building Fuchsia Design, Fuchs also facilitates a networking community for designers, West Michigan Interior Designers, which has grown to over 150 members to date.  "I always believe the interior design industry can achieve more when we work together" she says.

In the very near future, Fuchs anticipates taking her business to the next level when she hopes to add 5-10 designers to her team.

To learn more about Fuchsia Design, you can visit their website here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Straight from the heart, Reyna's Gallery is getting down to business

Reyna Garcia is an artist, social activist and businesswoman. She opened Reyna's Gallery in 2014, has participated in two ArtPrizes and the DisArt Festival, and been involved in a number of events where she has exhibited or spoken. "I've been doing art for many years, first in Mexico, and then for a number of years in New York City where I coordinated the Mexican Cultural Project," she says.  

Garcia says her inspiration is rooted in her background and her passion for social justice: "I especially enjoy using art to represent the needs and the plight of Latinos and of immigrants, both through the art itself, and also through the forums through which my art allows me to speak and give voice to these causes."

Recently, Garcia participated in the SpringGR consulting and mentoring program in order to strengthen the business needs of being a working artist and running a gallery. She credits the program for helping her to not only develop a business plan but also helping her to create a network of business professionals that can help her manage and grow her gallery.  

"The SpringGR counselors are my coaches," she says. "They are helping me connect with more people so I can run my gallery as a business". Garcia says that one of the first outcomes of her class will be the launch of a website, sometime in October, where she can display and sell her work.

In the meantime, Garcia sells at various events and creates custom pieces as requested or commissioned. You can view her work on her blog  or Facebook page.

"My goal in art is for my art to touch the hearts and minds of the viewer" says Garcia. "The art expresses my most deep passions, memories and experiences, and I think it does for many viewers who have seen it as well."  

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

And the winner of $50,000 is...

Andy Thomas, Starving Artist Brewing!

Thomas is the winner of the inaugural Mason County Momentum Business Plan Competition. His "nanobrewery" beat out four other competitors to win $50,000, which will be used to grow his business in Mason County.

A long-time craft beer enthusiast, Thomas has a wide variety of experience working in the industry including stints at the Jamesport Brewing Company, being certified as a craft beer judge, and as the founder of a local home brew club.

Thomas currently operates a small-batch brewery on his home property in Scottville, where he brews a handful of rotating beers for local distribution as well as contract brews for two Ludington restaurants. His business model is focused on controlled growth. He says  phase one of his business plan has been based on generating local sales through kegging, for which the demand is already exceeding supply,

The winning pitch as delivered by Thomas was focused on launching phase two of his business plan, which includes purchasing additional brewing equipment, building out addition space, and expanding distribution beyond Mason County. Thanks to a partnership with Grand Rapids-based Alliance Beverage Distributing, Starving Artist will be able to sell beer from Kalamazoo to Traverse City, and as far east as Lansing once he builds capacity.

Thomas is very optimistic about his business and the burgeoning craft beer scene in Mason County and has plans for growth beyond phase two. "Once our recipes are solid and our fan base is strong, we plan to expand into bottling and canning."  

Although Starving Artist Brewery is not a brew pub the brewery is open for tours by appointment. Call 231-794-1399 and leave a message. "People are always welcome to stop by. Just let us know when they are in the area so we can set some time aside,‚Äù says Thomas.  

The brewery is located at 624 S. Stiles, Ludington. Thomas also owns and operates the Ludington art gallery A.M. Galleries, hence the moniker Starving Artist.

To keep up with the latest for Starving Artist Brewery, follow their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs news editor

Spring GR alumnus, Alfield Reeves Photography, explores Grand Rapids people and events

Alfield Reeves Photography is a Grand Rapids-based photography business. The owner and operator is, naturally, Alfield Reeves, a native of the west coast African country of Liberia.

Reeves, who has lived in Grand Rapids most of his life, bought a camera while in college and fell in love with taking pictures. "After starting my photography page on Facebook, a friend of a friend saw some of my work and asked if I would do their wedding," Reeves says. "Since then I realized I could start a business and make a profit off of it. Never in my lifetime would I have imagined that I would start a business, let alone a photography business."

Reeves says he specializes in fashion photography, events, and portraits. He recently started a photo series called #ThePeopleOfGrandRapids (found on Instagram) where he explores downtown Grand Rapids. "I just talk to people and hear their stories, passions, interests and lives," he says. Reeves says this project led him to be asked to do a week-long Instagram takeover for Grand Rapids Magazine.

He says enjoying photography is only a small part of running a business. To help him build a stronger foundation, Reeves just completed Spring GR, a training, mentoring and networking program. "Spring GR helped me tremendously," he says. "It opened my eyes to a lot of things I wasn't thinking about as a business owner, such as controlling my costs, building a team, understanding my niche and other avenues to expand my business."

You can learn more about Alfield Reeves Photography through his website, Facebook page or Instagram.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Up, up and away with Worksighted

A Holland-based IT Services company, Worksighted, has made the Inc. 5000 fastest growing American companies list for the fourth consecutive year. It's a remarkable feat considering their humble beginnings 15 years ago.

Worksighted was founded by Mike Harris and Matt Nguyen in a basement with two employees and three customers. It now employs 44 full-time staff, including 28 engineers.

In the past year year alone the firm moved ahead 154 places on the Inc. 5000 list and their revenue increased 41 percent from $4.9M to $6.9M with a doubling of sales in the Grand Rapids market.

What's driving the growth? It's pretty basic, says Harris. "Honestly - it is the fact we have such an incredible team," he says. "We have the right people in the business and incredibly high employee retention. Nothing magic about it."

Harris says that, with the growth, they are always looking for the right people. He says anyone interested in working for Worksighted should go to the career page of their website and submit their resume.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor


It's a family affair at Creations by Jodi

You name it and Jodi Hardiman-Redmond can create it.

Creations by Jodi is the family-owned and operated business that helps people celebrate the special events in their lives. The business specializes in creating customized chocolate treats, gourmet cupcakes and other sweet treats.  

"Each one is unique," says Hardiman-Redmond, "and all are named after my grandchildren."  One speciality of the shop is chocolate-covered fruit: "All of our fruits are hand-dipped. Every piece." She says the process takes time, but the attention to detail is worth it.

Hardiman-Redmond says she started the business about 15 years ago, doing only a few jobs, but the demand has grown every year and she is now poised for a move to a brick and mortar location. "I have a vision for the business that I am following," she says. "I customize all our products and people trust me to work their business."

Until the move to a store front, the best way to contact Creations by Jodi is through her website. You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Local Kickstarter campaign aims to preserve voice of the silent generation

It has the all the makings of an epic adventure: travel the 50 states to interview individuals born before 1940 and create an oral (and digital) history of the world before laptops, the web, wi-fi, smart phones and tablets. All it needs is a little kickstart.

Veronica Kirin, entrepreneur and web designer, is the creator of the Untold Stories of the Silent Generation Kickstarter campaign, which launched on August 20. With a goal of $5,000, the money raised will help fund Kirin on her travels throughout the United States.

Kirin, who has an anthropology degree, will interview, photograph and record the volunteer participants in the program. Each interview will feature a series of fourteen standard questions designed to explore a perspective about life before and after the technology revolution. It's a perspective that is rapidly vanishing as the "silent generation" ages.  As Kirin collects the data, the content is made available on her website. Once the project is completed, the interviews will be a part of book to published in 2016.

Kirin says she was inspired by a NPR show that stated many children today don't know the meaning of a telephone pole. To date, Kirin has already interviewed over 30 individuals in five states. She says that, so far, every interview is different but one common denominator is how these individuals feel that interpersonal communication has changed. "Many of the people I interviewed are a little worried about the loss of communication skills," she says.  

From a personal perspective, Kirin says the project has been transformational especially as it relates to her own choices: "Relying on instant messaging and texting, I've realized how far I have separated from friends." She says she now spends more time meeting in person or having long phone conversations.

Kirin also wants to encourage families of the interviewees to be aware of the history as she welcomes requests for the materials collected so they can be shared with preceding generations.

The project relies on nominations for interviewees, which are currently being accepted on the website. Participants must be over the age of 75 and willing to be interviewed in person. Interview questions and the oral release form are displayed on the website.

To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign, which ends September 19, you can visit the site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Great food and customer service are the secret ingredients for Lindo Mexico

When you have great food and great customer service, it should be no surprise that business is good. Very good.

The popular Mexican restaurant, Lindo Mexico, will be moving to its third location in the last five years, having continually outgrown each preceding location.

The new building for Lindo Mexico is currently under construction at 1742 28th St. SE in Wyoming. It previously was the home to Ponderosa restaurant. The opening is scheduled in September, pending final approval of a liquor license, almost five years to the day they opened in a small location on the corner of 28th St. and Clyde Park.

Gricelda Mata, owner and founder, says the new location is significantly larger and gives her the opportunity to add a full service bar, a bigger kitchen and more seats. In addition, Mata says there will be at least "4-5 new jobs" added.

Mata says Lindo Mexico has a few "Tex-Mex" offerings on the menu, but the real focus is on traditional Mexican food, made with fresh ingredients, inspired by her birthplace in Michoacan, Mexico.

Besides the great food prepared by her brother, Chef Cris Campos, Mata attributes her restaurant success to exceptional customer service. "I am very strict with the hiring," she says. 'We stress customer service at all times."

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

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

New career assistance program launched by coLearning and TEKsystems

The Factory and TEKsystems have announced a partnership that will provide financial and career assistance to those taking The Factory's coLearning courses.

coLearning classes blend technology and design. They feature instructors who are "industry experts" says Aaron Schaap, founder of The Factory. "These are the people you want to become. They have working knowledge from doing it day in and day out." Courses range from Design Thinking and User Experience Design to Content Strategy, Modern Web Development and Software Development.

Schaap says over 200 people have already completed coLearning courses. He says the program is designed for individuals who have been in the workplace for a few years but understand the rapid pace of change in the economy necessitates constant career vigilance. "These individuals are realizing what they graduated with is not what is needed," he says. "They have a lot of knowledge but not skills."

TEKsystems has been involved with coLearning since the launch of the program in 2013. The new partnership gives TEKsystems a bigger role as they now will be offering career assistance (customized career planning, resume building, interviewing tips, job placement) and financial reimbursement for completed courses and successful employment.  

To learn more about the program, including enrollment, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Grand Rapids-based US Signal opens new division, adds jobs

US Signal is launching the Professional Services team, a new division that will focus on data transfer and migration.  

The team can serve as an extension of a client's IT staff and assist with infrastructure assessments, installation and building of virtual environments, migration to the cloud and training as needed.

Adam Kessler, director of information systems, says the formation for the new division came simply from listening to their customers: "A big reason we created this new group was from talking with customers. We discovered a gap in what we offered and what was needed," Kessler says. "Our customers needed services wrapped around our infrastructure."

Kessler says with the new division US Signal has already added new jobs and he anticipates more openings in the near future. "As a service department, the product is the people. As we onboard more customers, we plan to grow head count," he says.

US Signal has over 14,000 miles of lit fiber and metro rings in 23 tier-one, tier-two, and tier-three markets. US Signal's product portfolio includes colocation, disaster recovery, security and cloud hosting services to complement its network offerings.

For more information about US Signal click here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
1901 Articles | Page: | Show All
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