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SpringGR trio collaborates to launch new line of cosmetics

With a little help from his friends, Juan Autrey, founder of J. Autrey Cosmetics, celebrated the launch of his new product line of lipsticks.

Autrey teamed up with fellow SpringGR graduates Latesha Lipscomb (Posh Entertainment; I Got Face Cosmetic Concierge) and Nicholas Dean (Dean Catering) to throw a private launch party on Friday celebrating the release of his new products.

Autrey has been working on his line of lipsticks since 2011, experimenting and creating his unique colors from his home. He launched his first products to sell in 2013. and, then, with the help of SpringGR in 2014, formalized his business plan and energized his efforts to build a sustainable cosmetic business. 

For the launch, Lipscomb’s company, Posh Entertainment, planned, promoted and hosted the event, while Dean’s company catered the party.

Autrey says his products are unique, featuring very distinct colors.  He says he purposely chooses women of all ethnicities as models, who help highlight the universal appeal of his lipsticks. Currently, Autrey says his products are manufactured and packaged in New York and are available through his website.

Arlene Campbell, SpringGR business coach, says this type of event is a great example of the networking and mentoring that SpringGR encourages.  "This collaboration is distinctive because of the cohort model that we use in SpringGR,” Campbell says. “These three businesses have teamed up to launch J. Autrey Cosmetics. It shows the power of collaboration to get someone started in their business. Juan won the people choice award and has worked hard to use his social capital to connect to others to launch his cosmetic line.  SpringGR would like to help expand Juan’s networks as well.”

SpringGR is an entrepreneurial training, networking and mentoring resource for individuals interested in starting a business or scaling their current venture.

You can learn more about SpringGR here and J. Autrey Cosmetics here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

The sweet life: Laham family pursues the American Dream with Chocolates by Grimaldi

There’s no doubt about it: Steve and Molli Laham are living the sweet life.


The husband and wife duo, both of whom were born and raised in Grand Rapids, not long ago had been living in Indiatlantic, Florida, a small beach town perched on Florida’s east coast, with their two sons when the idea hit: Why not return to their home state and open a family run chocolate shop?

It was an idea born from visiting their friends’ chocolate store in Florida (“where everything was amazing!” Molli exclaims), and one that came naturally to the Lahams, who had owned and operated businesses in Grand Rapids for years prior to heading south.

“We wanted to show our sons how to start a business, run a business, grow a business,” says Molli, who owned a dental lab for 15 years in Grand Rapids.

Plus, moving back to Michigan was a no-brainer for the couple, with Steve citing “the values that are so core to the Midwest and West Michigan” being a major draw for their family of four.

“We’re Grand Rapidians,” says Steve, who owned an ATV, snowmobile, personal watercraft, and boat business in Grand Rapids for 19 years before going to work for a French multinational company in a senior level capacity for a decade and a half. “When we do a tour, we say, ‘We’re smitten with the mitten.’”

So, Molli and Steve and their two sons, Nick and Zach, packed up and hit the road, returning to the place they always called home: West Michigan. In 2012, the family opened Chocolates by Grimaldi in Grand Haven, and, with everything from tours of its chocolate factory to its chocolate-covered potato chips and truffles that seem to fly off the shelves, the space has flourished. Now, four years after its inception, the chocolatier continues to do what it does best: whip up caramels, hand-rolled truffles, chocolate-covered fruits hailing from local farms, and more — plus it’s gearing up to grow the business, including offering more events in the shop that’s located in a former roller rink at 219 N. 7th Street.

“We love creating recipes for chocolate confections and sharing them with everyone who comes into our shop,” Molli says. “Seeing the smiles and contentment on our customers’ faces while they savor our chocolate creations is priceless.”

Using a 30-foot 1950s enrober (a machine that coats the candies in chocolate and, despite being more than 60 years old, looks impressively futuristic), the business frequently uses local ingredients from places like the Ferris Nut Company, Crossroads Blueberry Farm, Gordon Foods, Better Made Potato Chips, and more to create their products that they proudly describe as using no artificial ingredients, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup.

This emphasis on using local ingredients is something that the Lahams stress is celebrated by their customers.

We have so many of the same people come in on a weekly basis; I think a lot of it has to do with supporting local,” Molli says. “When you can find a place that supports the local growers, that’s something people want to support. Michigan has such amazing crops, from strawberries to blueberries to cherries; we have great ingredients that are grown locally.”

Part of this focus on local is a natural fit for the Lahams, who say building relationships with the community has been one of their ultimate priorities, which can also be seen in the way they interact with customers.

“[West Michigan’s] more relaxed pace and outdoorsy activities allows you time to be able to talk, and when that happens, you start to create relationships,” Steve says.

Already, numerous community groups from area schools and religious organizations take advantage of the space, going on the tour that the Lahams offer of the chocolate factory, and the owners say they plan on expanding how they offer the space to the public. “We’d like to do events like chocolate-making classes or wine and chocolates,” says Steve, who adds they also hope to expand by growing their gifts for sale. “If you think about the perfect gift, chocolate is pretty darn close to perfect,” he says.

No matter how the business grows, there’s one thing the Lahams say they know will remain constant: their love for chocolate.

“It’s surprising you never get tired of chocolate,” Molli laughs. “You think it will just become part of your day and not be a novelty for you, but that’s not the case. Everyone who works here enjoys coming to work because it’s a fun product.”

To learn more about Chocolates by Grimaldi, you can visit the website here or check out their Facebook page here. You can also find their products locally at their factory at 219 North 7th St. in Grand Haven, or at Crossroad Blueberry Farm and the Sweet Tooth in Rockford. Those interested in taking a tour ($4 per person) should schedule it in advance by calling 616-935-7740.

Cooking up dreams: Small business owners find space to flourish at Downtown Market incubator kitchen

As physicians, Monica Randles and Andrew Maternowski have a deep understanding of what it means to be healthy  — and the critical role food plays in your well-being. Longtime locavores who would regularly support area farms, the couple realized, after they and their two children became vegetarians, that while they could find plenty of healthy, West Michigan-grown produce, they couldn’t find the same for locally made substitute meats.

“We started looking at alternative meat options for vegetarian/vegan eating, and it became obvious to us there weren’t really super healthy options,” Randles says. “There were a lot of chemicals or processed products. We wanted to see what we could make for ourselves that are healthy and delicious, and we ended up making vegan sausages using walnuts, hazelnuts, brown rice, and quinoa. Any sausage is really a vehicle for seasoning, so we could have a hot Italian sausage, a breakfast sausage, which are super healthy and very flavorful.”

The couple started working on their recipe around 2010, and in July 2014 they founded Nutcase Vegan Meats, at which time they knew they needed a commercial kitchen to continue making their line of sausages. A friend recommended connecting with the Downtown Market’s incubator kitchen, which provides space, cooking and packaging equipment, and business development assistance for food start-ups and entrepreneurs.

“They really helped us,” Randles says of the kitchen, which now houses 21 businesses, ranging from Bloom Ferments, which makes kombucha drinks, and coffee company Prospectors Cold Brew to D’Arts Donuts and soul food spot Southern Smoke. “They’ve been really critical with education and mentoring for the business. We didn’t know what to do in terms of hiring employees or looking for additional staff and support and licensing. They’ve been a big source of information.”

It’s those kind of reviews that Whitney Lubbers, who manages the incubator kitchen, is thrilled to hear. After all, she says, in a city awash with an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s crucial that small businesses owners with limited funds are able to access space to flourish.

“A place like this is so important,” Lubbers says as she sits in her office overlooking the kitchen, an expansive sea of stainless steel equipment that’s used practically around the clock by businesses for everything from frying donuts to slapping labels on bottles. “If they’re not successful here, in the kitchen, they’re not losing everything they have" because they don’t have to invest in an often incredibly expensive brick and mortar site.

One of the few incubator kitchens in West Michigan, the space at the Downtown Market allows businesses to work with Lubbers to make sure they have a viable business plan, and they have immediate access to the Michigan Small Business Development Center, which helps owners on a range of topics, including the county and state licensing processes.

“They’ll really walk you through the process; you can take the ServSafe course so you understand food handling and regulation,” says Randles, whose business now sells their vegan sausages at about a dozen places throughout the state, including at spots like Kingma’s Market, Nourish Organic Market, and Horrocks Market in Grand Rapids. “The incubator kitchen helps you understand the process well prior to having a state inspection. We can’t say enough good things about the incubator kitchen; we wouldn’t be where we are now without them.”

Many of those who go to the incubator kitchen do so based on recommendations, as Randles did, and the space has grown from housing six businesses when the Downtown Market first opened in the summer of 2013 to the current 21 businesses. For Lubbers, that’s indicative of  a need for shared commercial space for entrepreneurs. The kitchen has five distinct areas: pastry, packaging, catering, production, and prep, and the hourly rates to use these spaces vary on a tiered system, depending on what equipment one needs to access and financial need (there are three choices: market rate, support rate and scholarship rate). Plus, the market offers owners access during “non-peak hours” (10pm-6am), which also makes the price drop.

“It was important to us to offer this as soon as the Market opened, to have something that would support small businesses in the city,” Lubbers says. “We saw a need to foster this entrepreneurship; we’re able to accommodate a lot here.”

Of the businesses that have worked out of the kitchen, one, Cultured Love, has “graduated,” or grown out of the space, and two others, Bloom Ferments and Prospectors, are soon poised to leave. While at the incubator kitchen, Prospectors inked a deal with Meijer that places their product in more than 200 stores throughout Michigan and the Midwest.

Sydney Dennison, who runs Masen James Bakery with her mother, Clarice Dennison, and works out of the incubator kitchen, says the communal space has given them a chance to live out a dream.

“My mom has always had a passion for baking,” Dennison says. “For her whole life, people would say, ‘Oh, you won’t make any money that way,’ and so she went and got her Master’s degree in business leadership and works at a hospital now. But every since I was young, I knew she had a talent for baking, and I wanted her to do what she loves. You only have one life; you may as well do what you want. So, I said, ‘Show me how to bake; show me how to do this.”

Dennison notes that it’s not just having the space itself that helps, but that owners have a chance to share words of wisdom with other entrepreneurs.

“It’s a great way to connect,” she says. “We’re sharing the kitchen with a ton of different businesses, and people do collaborations with other businesses all the time. We’ve done things with Prospectors. We feed off of each other; we give each other great exposure.”

For more information about the incubator kitchen, visit its website here.

U.K. based Create and Craft opens Grand Rapids office and is hiring

 , a U.K.-based 24-hour crafts TV channel, is expanding its presence into the U.S. craft shopping and education market with a new office In Grand Rapids at the Calder Plaza Center (250 Monroe Ave NW.)

Offering a variety of products and established brands across craft, sewing, quilting, knitting, and niche creative arts, Create and Craft began broadcasting nationally into approximately 40 million homes in the United States on December 29. Programming can be found on Direct TV channels 85 and 222, along with dish Network channel 221 and online at www.createandcraft.com.

Clive Briscoe, Create and Craft's U.S. project leader says as part of the expansion, the firms has already hired six staff for its Grand Rapids office  and plans to hire at least double that number over the coming months.  "The Grand Rapids office will be responsible for website management, digital, marketing, merchandising and logistics coordination at this stage, however we will likely expand in all areas in the new year."

Briscoe says they will be looking for candidates with experience in the areas outlined above and have posted the most recent opening to the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America website and plan to post other relevant job openings on major and local job boards.

The decision to locate in Grand Rapids came down to several factors. "We considered other larger cities including Chicago. Grand Rapids was on our radar initially because of our partnership with Notions Marketing (distribution of our products). After many visits, we discovered West Michigan was a perfect fit for us with a talented workforce and impressive arts culture. We were also happy to learn that Grand Rapids is host to AQS QuiltWeek that attracts 10,000 people."

Create and Craft boasts an interactive website with project tutorials, promotions, and programs, most of which are currently filmed in the U.K, but which will be partially filmed in Grand Rapids in the future. A custom app is expected to be released in early 2015. "We are excited to bring this innovative crafting network into the US market to inspire creativity and creation. We hope crafting enthusiasts will join us online at createandcraft.com, via Roku or on Dish Network channel 221 or Direct TV channels 85 and 222." says Briscoe.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Job News Editor

'Tis the season for alpaca products, fa la la la la

Beginning in December, Via Verde Farm will be opening their first pop-up store in Ada, displaying a wide variety of alpaca and fiber products for the holidays.

Tamara Miller, owner of Via Verde Farm, says the pop-up store will be based in Scooper's Ice Cream Store at 591 Ada Dr SE in Ada. 

Miller says the inspiration for the pop-up store was really just constant encouragement from her customers and demand for her products: "I had been to a few sales and things went well. There was demand and people were interested. This is the season for alpaca products."

The store will feature alpaca sweaters, coats, hats, mittens, and socks as well as carpets made from fiber from the farm. There will be also be hand-spun yarns and commercial yarns.

Miller says she will also have a unique product with a family twist. "I have several handmade dog leashes constructed out of hand-spun alpaca yarn and then twisted into rope. The handle is woven back into the rope and a clip is twisted into the rope so it is secure. My son makes the rope."

Besides the traditional alpaca products, the pop-up store will serve as a launching pad for a new venture that Miller and two friends are working on. "Two of us make the fabric by nuno felting alpaca fiber into silk or chiffon. Then our friend designs gorgeous pieces of clothing from the fabric," she says. "I will have several of the pieces in the store."

The store will be open until December 21st with operating hours of Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To learn more about Via Verde Farm, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Holiday gift program gets a makeover and investment through Start Garden

There is a personal backstory to the Elf Factory's tag line: "a handmade holiday school program specializing in gifts that parents don't have to pretend to like!"  

Kirsten Field, founder of the Elf Factory, explains the inspiration behind her new venture. "I volunteered at my kids' schools and I was disgusted at the products for the holiday workshop. I knew there had to be something better."

Describing herself as a "stay-at-home-mom getting back into the workforce," Field submitted her idea to Start Garden and received $5,000 in funding after she ran one pilot program with an elementary school. Field says she will use the Start Garden funding for  customer development experiments with five new schools and ultimately try to determine if the idea is scalable. "Our goal is to get a 75 percent participation rate at the schools."

Operationally, Field says that once a school decides to go ahead with the Elf Factory program, she partners with a parent organization and then provides all the craft materials  order forms, timelines, online training videos, and other tools they would need to run an Elf Factory at their school. The concept is designed to for simplicity (approximately four minutes to make a present), affordability, and a much higher quality product than existing holiday programs.

Currently, Field is the only full-time employee but she has four part-time staff that help with assembling the craft boxes.

To learn more, you can follow on Facebook for Elf Factory updates or check out their website at www.elffactory.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Dear Prudence adds some bling to downtown Grand Rapids' boutique scene, expands workforce

Another tiny boutique in the retail incubator space at MoDiv has opened, this one with a bit of bling and a lot of custom jewelry options including pieces crafted by local artisans. Dear Prudence, whose flagship store remains in East Grand Rapids (701 Bagley St. SE), jumped at the opportunity to open a second shop, this time in a central downtown location (40 Monroe Center Ave. NW).

Prudence and Brad Kauffman set up the new shop in just 200 square feet nestled next to bokay by Eastern Floral and Wolverine Company Store. The owners, who both have full-time day jobs, added a full-time position to the downtown economy when they brought Stephanie Wood aboard as shop manager.

"We wanted somebody who could be creative, and confident enough to make decisions on their own," says Prudence Kauffman. "We met Stephanie several months ago and she was available. She wants to eventually open her own shop, so she's getting a lot of experience with us."

Kauffman says she selected the most popular items featured at Dear Prudence in East Grand Rapids to sell downtown. Those items include custom monogrammed necklaces, phone cases, iPad cases, and wire jewelry in the shape of the state of Michigan. Other pieces include jewelry made from vintage maps -- customers can customize the pieces to any location -- and jewelry by local artist studios Luminous Creation and Lake Effect Studios.

"We lived in Winston-Salem for 20 years and saw how that city struggled because it didn't have a vibrant downtown district," Kauffman says. "So when we moved here and saw the big push to create downtown, we wanted to be a part of it. When we opened the first store, we couldn't afford anything downtown, but then we heard about MoDiv."

Dear Prudence will have a grand opening on Thurs., April 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Source: Prudence Kauffman, Dear Prudence
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Cabela's Grandville store to open soon bringing 200 jobs, some positions still available

Cabela's, which bills itself as the world's foremost outfitter, opens its third Michigan location in Grandville on March 21 and plans to have some 200 new part-time, full-time, and seasonal employees ready to serve customers.

The new 88,000-square-foot store (44th St. at Ivanrest) is part of a 43-acre mixed-use project under development by CWD Real Estate Investment, who purchased the former X-Rite property in 2009.

Cabela's, a stand-alone building within that development, will feature an indoor replica mountain populated with North American game animals, an indoor archery range where customers can try out archery gear before purchasing, a deli, and a 40-flavor fudge shop.

Although many of the jobs are filled, this week Cabela's website listed several positions still open, including retail marketing manager, boat/ATV service mechanic, power sports sales outfitter, and gun library manager.

Cabela's spokesperson Wes Remmer says the company encourages interested applicants to visit the store's website, complete an application, and submit a résumé.

"Being retail, jobs are always opening up," Remmer says. "We're looking for people passionate about the outdoors and who love to provide good customer service."

To review all of the jobs or to apply for a position, click here.

Remmer says the grand opening on Thurs., Mar. 21 begins at 11 a.m. and will run the entire weekend, featuring outdoor television personalities, product giveaways, and family events.

Source: Wes Remmer, Cabela's; Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Downtown Grand Rapids' new Kilwin's location is a great place for first time job seekers

For many high school and college students, summer doesn't just mean time off from school -- it also means landing their first job.

Tim Calderone, owner of the newly opened Kilwin's Chocolates and Ice Cream franchise in downtown Grand Rapids (McKay Tower, 146 Monroe Center NW), is happy to employ first-time job seekers as well as those who have minimal work experience.

"We hire a lot of first time jobbers," Calderone says. "We've got seven or eight people who have never had a job before. One of our fudge makers, probably our best guy who works in the kitchen in production, never had a job before. Both my wife and I have a lot of leadership experience in our professional life, so we look forward to being able to help develop some of these young kids as we build the business."

The new franchise, which opened in May, currently supports 17 part-time workers and one full-time management position, most of them high school or college students. Calderone says he is still looking to hire additional part-time customer service and production employees for 25-30 hours a week.

Employees hired for production positions will work in the store's show kitchen making fudge, caramel and hand dipped chocolates, while customer service employees are in charge of all ice cream and chocolate sales.

Calderone says he is looking for outgoing people who enjoy interacting with customers and are willing to help create a unique experience for shoppers.

"The product is good, that's a given," Calderone says. "But the experience when people come into the store, we want them to go out saying, 'that was a really cool place to go because of the people.'"

For an application visit www.kilwins.com/career-opportunities.

Source: Tim Calderone, Kilwin's Chocolates and Ice Cream
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Independent grocer explores technology to serve customers

Although there have a been a great deal of technological advances in the grocery industry over the years, primarily operational, technology is not always the first thing that customers think about when grocery shopping.  

However, for independent grocer Forest Hills Foods, applying technology to  customer service will be one strategy they explore to better serve customers.

Jeff VandenBerge, president of Forest Hills Foods, singles out a mobile shopping application currently being developed in conjunction with Jonathan Engelsma at the Grand Valley State University App Lab as one example of how technology will be used for customer service. The  app will have several features, such as an interior map of the store and coupons to make the shopping experience easier and faster.

Forest Hills Foods' website also has a meal planning interface, daily recipes, information on cooking workshops at the store, exclusive email coupons and links to their Facebook page.  

VandenBerge is quick to point out that he is more concerned with not being "behind the curve" than being "ahead of the curve."

"Everyone in this industry is looking towards technological solutions to enhance the shopping experience," he says, "and we are a little ahead of the curve, but our resources are limited. The potential is tremendous, however."

Besides the application and web-based services, VandenBerge also focuses on non-technological ways to remain responsive to customers, pointing out the growth of their gluten-free products and the increase in locally-sourced produce. "Many of our marketing initiatives are the result of what our customers tells us," he says.

To learn more about Forest Hills Foods, you can visit their website here.

Source: Jeff VandenBerge, Forest Hills Foods
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs Editor

Online buying club ready to roll after January Startup Weekend

At Startup Weekend last January, Paul Kortman pitched an idea and spent the next 48 hours working to start the development of a web-based buying club.

While Startup Weekend is an event with the intention of "starting something," some ventures move forward after the weekend, and others do not. In Kortman's case, the weekend proved to be the platform he needed.

Kortman came to the weekend with the concept partially developed, but stated "we wouldn't be here today without Startup Weekend. I formed a team, and am now lightyears ahead of where I would be without that experience."

Kortman, owner/founder of Connex Social, now has a dedicated team and is ready to test Bulko, a concept that "leverages the power of group buying by providing wholesale purchase discounts to subscribers of the service."

Kortman references the growing trend of discount buying services like Groupon and says his niche will be products versus services. Initially, Bulko will focus on three industries: wine, health food/natural products and consumer products in the green/energy sector.

The Bulko team is ready to test their concept with 25 participants in West Michigan and has plans to enter an expanded beta test this summer.

Kortman is also seeking investors for his venture, which is a change from his initial approach of bootstrapping the operation. "We are looking to get funding to have developers quit their day jobs," he says.

Team members include developers Joe Vanderstelt, Jack Slingerland and co-founders Sarah Cleveland and Paul Kortman.

Source: Paul Kortman, Bulko
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs Editor

Website pitches discounts for active moms

John Rumery

MomsinTow.com is an online community in West Michigan providing area merchant discounts and information on networking opportunities to mothers interested in maintaining an active lifestyle.  

MomsinTow.com Founder Jenny White, 29, came up with the idea for the online venture soon after she moved back to Holland, MI from Colorado with her husband, a professional cyclist, and their newborn son, Macen.

While in Colorado, White had been involved with a group of young mothers that got together for hiking and biking and supported kid-friendly stores.  Wanting to meet other new mothers in Holland, who were interested in active lifestyles with their children, White had an idea for a website that would serves a platform for these moms to interact and to share ideas, plus serve as a catalyst to meet offline as well.   

Taking it one step further, White felt that besides being a resource site, why not use this community of active moms to approach local businesses to see if they would provide discounts on their products or services in exchange for patronage by this customer base?

According to White, "merchants have loved this concept," and she has very positive and encouraging feedback from everyone she has discussed this with. 

Which is good, because White, who has no background in sales, admits to being  "very nervous" when initially approaching the business community with the idea. But, local businesses immediately saw the benefits of direct marketing to young families early in developing their purchasing patterns.

White now has a core listing of select businesses that provide discounts to members of MomsinTow.com. There is no cost to the merchant to become part of the first level of the network. White also has a paid sponsorship program for businesses that will provide them extra visibility to this community.

For the moms, in order to get these discounts, there is a $30.00 annual membership fee, soon increasing to $48.00.  White says the primary benefit of membership is to "save money at local businesses." 

White is also quick to point out these businesses are not just mom-related, but family-related. For example: "We just partnered with a plumbing firm," White says. "Moms are usually the ones at home and have to deal with the plumber."

White will be relying heavily on word-of-mouth and social media to spread the word. She points to their Facebook page as key source of marketing. 

White also is very appreciative and amazed at the help she has received from the entrepreneurial community. She recently pitched MomsinTow.com at pitch night at Startup West Michigan and took first place.

"I am just discovering the support groups for entrepreneurs," she says. "Pitch night was terrific evening."  

For more information, you can visit the MomsInTow or attend their launch party on Thursday, October, 14, details on their Facebook page.

Source. Interview with Jenny White


John Rumery is the Innovation and Jobs Editor for Rapid Growth Media. He is an educator, board member of AimWest, WYCE music programmer, entrepreneur, raconteur and competitive barbecuer living in Grand Rapids, MI.  He can be reached at InnovationandJobs@RapidGrowthMedia.com

 For story tips you can e-mail info@rapidgrowthmedia.com

Grand Rapids technology startup releases iPhone music app for workouts

Grand Rapids-based Rehab Technologies, LLC has launched two technology products for the health and fitness industry with this week's release of its Cadence Desktop and Cadence App.

The Cadence products, released under the company's dba TrekoClinics.com, enable runners, walkers and other exercise buffs to sync their iTunes music library to match the pace of their workout.

Cadence Desktop analyzes a user's iTunes music and assigns a beats per minute (BPM) rate to each song, says Curt Kuiper, Rehab's managing partner. Using the Cadence App, users sync their iPhone (3.0) or iPod Touch (2G) to their computer and choose the BPM they want for their workout. By keeping in time with the music, the user can improve the consistency of their pace,  speed up their pace or slow it down while listening to their favorite music.

"There's a debate between whether you should try to change your stride length or your cadence to maximize your workout," Kuiper says. "Research shows that sticking with a cadence that works for your body is better."

To play songs with a faster or a slower BPM, users simply move a slider on their iPhone or iPod touch-screen.

Cadence Desktop includes a tap feature that set a song's BPM by clicking the mouse in time to the music for 10 seconds. They also can remove any song they don't want to use for their workout.
Cadence Desktop is Mac-based. Rehab Technologies plans to release a PC version in a couple of months, Kuiper says. However, the iPhone/iPod app is compatible with Windows.

The Cadence Desktop download is available free, or if purchasers would like to pay for it, they can pay what they choose. The Cadence App is $2.99 and available from the iPhone App Store or at www.cadenceapp.com.

Source: Curt Kuiper, Rehab Technologies, LLC

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids' Green Giftz on track to double sales, adds green impact to ArtPrize SWAG

By last spring, Promotional Impact's sales had already exceeded sales of the entire previous year, which had been a record year itself. Now the company owner, Karen Scarpino, says the Grand Rapids promotional advertising firm is on track for $2 million in sales double last year's numbers.

Furthermore, Scarpino says the company held true to its prediction of creating two new jobs; the last of those jobs was filled this week.

Much of the success is due to Promotional Impact's eco-friendly SWAG (Stuff We All Get) company Green Giftz. Green Giftz' designers have been able to use client's scrap waste such as fabric or scrap metal to fashion upscale gifts for employees, clients, tradeshow giveaways and more. The company offers other eco-friendly options as well, including the items ArtPrize will give away during the 18-day event.

ArtPrize items include BPA-free reusable aluminum water bottles, wristbands made from sand-based chemicals that will biodegrade back into sand, tote bags made from 80 percent recycled materials and pens that are 80 percent biodegradable.

Scarpino sees the ArtPrize opportunity as a chance to get Green Giftz' unique approach to promotional items on the world stage and in front of thousands who will visit Grand Rapids, will volunteer or who will display their art.

In addition, Scarpino says that despite the tough economic times, repeat clients who have an eco-centric mission are still investing in green promotional products that illustrate the company's care for the environment.

Scarpino says the company has no immediate plans to add more employees. But she leaves the door open for possibilities.

"No one has a crystal ball to predict how business will be next year," she says. "But if we have the same kind of growth we've had this year, we'll need to add people."

Source: Karen Scarpino, Promotional Impact

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Online wedding planner engages both brides and grooms, covers details beyond the special day

A new Grand Rapids web site proposes to take the worry out of planning one of the biggest, most stressful events in a couple's life their wedding.

In just a few clicks, GRBrides.com provides brides, grooms and parents with detailed checklists outlining what to do before, on and after The Big Day. And it's all free.

The site is the creation of Denise Kolesar, owner of Grand Rapids-based Kohler Expos which produces three bridal shows a year at DeVos Place. Kolesar has been in the wedding industry more than 25 years, 13 of them with Kohler.

"Couples deserve a worry-free wedding and with proper planning they can have just that," Kolesar says. "[Brides and grooms] can go to GRBrides.com and get their to-do lists, and then the brides and their mothers can come to our bridal shows and get all the planning done in one place."

The checklists include detailed to-dos for the wedding day the wedding announcement, music for the wedding and reception, photography, flowers, a groom's To Do list and a surprising collection of information brides and grooms need to know:  expenses to include in a wedding budget, who pays for what, what to know about buying a first house and the legal requirements for getting hitched.

"There's a fun hot button for wedding flowers that tells what each flower means," Kolesar says.

Visitors to the site can link to information on Kohler Expos' West Michigan bridal shows, which, Kolesar says, feature between 75 and 125 wedding vendors each.

"At our bridal shows brides are saying how hard it is to find basic, simple guidelines for planning their weddings," Kolesar says. "Our site is meant to provide information in a very simple format and to keep you up-to-date on the bridal shows."

Source: Denise Kolesar, GRBrides.com; Mary Ann Sabo, Sabo Public Relations

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

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