Ethel’s Edibles: An example of opportunities for new businesses in Macomb County

Update: Since winning the Macomb County Startup Business of the Year award in 2014, St. Clair Shores-based Ethel’s Edibles has proven to be a company to watch! This maker of gluten-free baked goods has rapidly expanded with successes that include increasing revenue by over 100 percent, doubling production space, adding more full-time positions, boosting employment base by 30 percent and partnering with both Whole Foods Midwest for distribution in 8 states and Warren-based Lipari Foods for distribution in 12 states.

“It’s been an exciting 18 months and we are working on accomplishing more,” said CEO and Founder Jill Bommarito.

Continue reading to find out how this enterprising company got its start.

Originally published March 4, 2014

By: Jill Bommarito, President & CEO of Ethel’s Edibles

Ethel’s Edibles, a gluten-free baking company, was born out of the idea that crazy good food should be available to all. Celiac disease has been in our family for over 30 years, so I was familiar with the choices and obstacles for the gluten intolerant. Our idea is to get our fresh baked goods to the customers where they shop, as quickly and conveniently as possible.

Ethel’s Edibles President & CEO Jill Bommarito displays the goods in the Kitchen. Visit their website to find out how you can get some!

Never having designed a commercial kitchen, let alone worked in a commercial kitchen prior to the church, presented challenges. I was very dependent upon the city, county and Michigan Department of Agriculture, who oversees the licensing of bakeries, for their input and guidance. Every single contact at the city and government levels from St. Clair Shores, Macomb County and the Department of Agriculture, was more than willing to help in any way they could. There was not a single stumbling block for us, and for that, we are extremely grateful. We made the move the first week of December 2012, and it felt like home immediately.

Shortly after our move, the Macomb Department of Planning and Economic Developmentreached out to us to see how they could help. Jack Johns from their team toured our facility, then sat down and spent time going over programs, grants, and collaborative relationships that may benefit our effort. This was a whole new territory for me. Jack’s assistance and accessibility have made all the difference. We’ve applied for and received grants to add equipment that lead to increases in efficiency and production capabilities. We received coaching in hiring and training. We’re meeting with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) to increase our lean manufacturing practices. We are getting assistance with hiring interns. Our new knowledge of Michigan Works will aid us with adding human capital. Every day presents a new opportunity.

We are looking forward to the growth opportunities for Ethel’s Edibles that lie ahead. With the collaborative efforts of Macomb County, along with the state of Michigan and City of St. Clair Shores, we feel our potential is boundless. Jack helped open doors for us. This will enable us to forge ahead this year, expand into a larger production facility and share our goodness nationwide.

About the author: Jill is President and CEO of Ethel’s Edibles, a business she founded in 2011. The idea came from Jill’s love for sharing great food, which everyone deserves to have.  She has two grown children and enjoys camping and traveling with her husband and children.  Ethel’s Edibles was chosen by a panel of judges as the Start-up Business of the Year at the 2014 Macomb Business Awards banquet.

Macomb County making connections at international Army conference in D.C.

The AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition is the largest U.S. Army-based conference. It draws in both national and international firms who are interested in growing their defense market. For Macomb County, this conference is ripe with decision makers and potential business attraction prospects.

Recently, staff from the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, including Director Stephen Cassin, Project Coordinator James Ahee and myself, traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the conference. Also in attendance was Deputy County Executive Mark Deldin and representatives from the Michigan Defense Center, Detroit Regional Chamber and Butzel Long.

We visited all the international pavilions at the event. Countries like Turkey, Israel, Germany, Korea, UK, Canada and Australia were represented. We informed them about Macomb County’s defense assets such as TACOM LCMC, TARDEC and Selfridge Air National Guard Base and about major prime contractors in the region.

_EPP9023While speaking with these international companies, we also extended an invite to attend our Arsenal of Innovation Reception to hear from Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, commanding general of TACOM LCMC, and Brig. Gen. Michael Stone from the Michigan National Guard. This year, we invited BAE Systems’ vice president and general manager of combat vehicles to speak on why they are located in the Defense Corridor.

Approximately 175 guests attended this reception sponsored by the Michigan Defense Center, Butzel Long and our department. This is our fourth year hosting a reception at the AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition, and we are seeing the benefits.

As a result of our participation in the conference, an Australian company reached out to us for a tour of our International Landing Zone (ILZ). They heard about the ILZ through a contact at BAE Systems who was in attendance at our Arsenal of Innovation Reception. Also, the government of Australia is looking to come to Michigan in the springtime with a delegation of Australian companies. Furthermore, we are working to schedule an Israeli defense delegation visit. These visits are excellent opportunities for our department to show international companies why they should locate their business in Macomb County.

Vicky Rad is the deputy director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.