Macomb County woman becomes publishing powerhouse

Rebecca J. Ensign Photo 1How does a book get to the number one spot on Amazon’s best sellers list? Some might say its luck, but local publisher, Rebecca Ensign, knows better. In 1999, she helped James Talmadge Stevens clinch that top position with “Making the Best of Basics.” Through careful planning and strategic promotions, they achieved something not many individuals do. Now she’s willing to share the secret to that success through her new venture, a Warren-based content strategy and marketing services provider called Ensignia. The company, which Ensign started in 2014, focuses on the creation, development, preparation, formatting, packaging and dissemination of various types of content for all mediums and purposes. For instance, Ensign will write copy for new websites or craft scripts for corporate videos. Essentially, she’ll give businesses the boost they need by applying her expert communications skills. A craft she’s honed through her many years in the field.

A natural talent

When Ensign graduated college with a degree in political science and philosophy, her father questioned what she would do to make money. But Ensign knew her passion was writing and she pursued that as a freelancer. At 21, she got her first paid job writing for Michael Moore at The Flint Voice, an underground, alternative newspaper. She drafted press releases and announcements, cutting her teeth in the profession with an individual who would one day become a major voice in national media.

Eventually, Ensign needed a change of scenery and she tapped into Ann Arbor. It was here that she met a publishing headhunter who identified her “natural talent” for his industry. He changed her professional trajectory and got her job offers from some of the east coast’s most prominent publishing houses. Ensign was most intrigued by a Boston-based startup that specialized in college textbooks and after accepting a position there, she found herself immersed in the world of manuscripts and writers. A few weeks in, she discovered an innate ability to see what books would work and what wouldn’t. She was also adept at forming strong relationships with her authors, a key component for ensuring a positive publishing experience. These characteristics helped Ensign rise through the ranks at her company and she became its east coast manager at age 27. But after several years with this title, she started thinking about pursuing something on her own.

A leap of faith

Ensign made that life-changing decision after reading two proposed textbooks by two university professors. She had a gut-feeling that the books would do well outside of traditional collegiate circulation, so she convinced the authors to publish their work with GLP logo for Home page July 2018a new, independent firm that she was going to start. With just $200 dollars in her pocket, she left her impressive job and steady paycheck to open Gold Leaf Press back home in a downtown Mount Clemens basement office. It was a leap of faith with some uncertainty involved, but Ensign had been entrusted with getting her clients’ books off the ground so she had to get right to work finding a printing partner and developing a strategic cadence for production. Her plan – only print as many books as you need. Then, after you sell those, print more. It was a simple strategy, but it paid off. Both authors’ books found success with Ensign’s new company, with one even making its way to Pope John Paul II and the storied Vatican library.  Eventually word began to spread about “the girl in the basement” and in matter of months she had a sizable client list that included corporations and Detroit News columnist Pete Waldmeir. But no matter how many books were on her plate, she took the time to work closely with each individual writer, getting to know them on a personal level. Because for Ensign, chemistry with an author is an essential part of the publishing process.

Hitting the big time
Ensign got her big break five years later when one of her client’s books clinched the number one spot on the Amazon best sellers list. But as previously mentioned, there was a bit more to the story than just luck. According to Ensign, it’s all about market timing and she knew that if she found the right opportunity at the right moment, she could hit it big. In 1997, that came in the form of a congressional hearing broadcast on CSPAN. The Y2K phenomenon was approaching and government leaders were planning for a massive disaster brought on by the potential malfunction of computers around the world. These types of discussions certainly irked the public and many began stockpiling supplies for what was called the end of the world. Ensign saw through the panic and sensed an opportunity. She found an expert in family preparedness and secured the rights to collaboratively publish his book “Making the Best of Basics.” In January 1999, at the height of millennium madness, the book hit number one on Amazon. So as you can see, this was no coincidence. It was all by Ensign’s design.

Sterlingfest 2018 RE-AJIn the years following this success, Ensign kept busy publishing more than 150 books. Business was good, however, the industry was starting to become chaotic. A break was in order, so in 2014, she stepped back from Gold Leaf Press. During this period, she dove into studying new trends and technology in communications. And when she was ready, she hit the reset button and formed her current content strategy and marketing venture, Ensignia. The company houses Gold Leaf Press, so Ensign is still publishing. But now she’s offering clients additional services, with content creation at the core. Also key to her business – working closely with every individual that becomes a client. She wants them to have a great experience publishing a book, crafting a blog or editing a manuscript. Of course, this all makes sense. Building these types of relationships was the cornerstone of Ensign’s career in Boston and at Gold Leaf Press. By continuing these efforts, she will no doubt experience a similar level of success.

A special opportunity
Those moved by Ensign’s story and interested in her secret to success will be thrilled to learn of a special opportunity hosted by the communications expert. On Friday, October 5, Ensign will hold a free seminar called “The Secrets & Strategies of the Best-Sellers and Top Google Search Rankers.” Alongside co-host Russ Cuthrell of Spyder Byte Media, she will teach attendees how to get the most out of websites, social media, digital marketing, advertising and PR efforts. Notably, for aspiring and published authors, the seminar includes two very interesting bonus features:

  • Bonus Feature #1: The 5 Critical Elements every #1 Amazon Best-seller Must Have
  • Bonus Feature #2: From Idea to Manuscript and Manuscript to Published Book

Space for the seminar is limited, so Ensign is asking for advanced registration here. My recommendation – don’t wait to reserve a seat at the event. There aren’t many publishers and communications experts out there willing to share their secrets for free. So sign up now and perhaps one day, you can be an Amazon best seller too.

For more information on Rebecca Ensign, Ensignia and Gold Leaf Press, visit https://www.goldleafpress.com/.

**Ensignia is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Working with MCPED, they have access to services like assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations. To learn how our services can help your business to grow, visit http://www.MacombBusiness.com or call 586-469-5285. You can also reach Jack Johns at jack.johns@macombgov.org.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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Free workshop aims to help startup businesses

There are countless resources in Michigan aimed at helping small businesses and startup organizations. Why? Well, for starters, these types of organizations employ over 1.8 million individuals. That’s more than 49 percent of the state’s private workforce. To keep the economy healthy and growing, it is essential that support services are provided for this sector.

ou macombThis is why the Macomb-OU Incubator at the Velocity Center is hosting “Starting Up,” a workshop that is free and open to the public. The course, held Tuesday, August 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., is suitable for:

  • Individuals who have a high-tech startup
  • Individuals who have an early-stage, growth-based business
  • Individuals who have an innovative idea that they’d like to bring to market

During the workshop, attendees will explore Michigan’s “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem,” which is designed to help innovators start and/or grow tech-based businesses. They will also hear from John Eaton, the Macomb-OU Incubator client strategist. He will review the wide range of resources the state of Michigan offers – including business incubators, university technology acceleration and commercialization, SmartZones and various support services and funding programs. The end goal of the course – to identify what’s right for every individual’s business.

Those interested in attending can register here: https://hgioxpcxda.formstack.com/forms/starting_up_082118. Make sure to reserve a spot soon. These classes tend to fill up quickly.

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Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Macomb County moves forward with Mound Road transformation effort

County Executive Mark A. Hackel yesterday joined Senator Debbie Stabenow, Representative Sander Levin, Representative Paul Mitchell, Mayor Jim Fouts and Mayor Michael Taylor to share progress in the effort to rebuild Mound Road, one of the most important roadways in southeast Michigan. The focus of the afternoon was the Innovate Mound project and its receipt of a $97.8 million U.S. Department of Transportation Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant. Announced in June, the grant required a 90 day congressional review period. That period is now complete and the grant has moved on to the next phase of obligating funds and negotiating contracts.

Yesterday’s gathering, held at the Gazebo Banquet Center in Warren, offered community leaders the opportunity to reflect on the hard work that went into the grant process while also forecasting the construction and changes ahead for Mound Road. Most importantly perhaps, the occasion allowed the leaders to discuss what the future Mound Road will look like and how it will be a model roadway for cities around the nation.

Innovate Mound 8.6.18 v2“In 2016, more than 100 business and community leaders gathered to learn how we could work together to fix the mess that is Mound Road,” said County Executive Mark Hackel. “Together, we educated ourselves about how to transform this critical corridor and to advocate for change. Our efforts enabled us to receive funding that will not only completely rebuild the road, but also equip it with a smart infrastructure network while improving traffic flow, sidewalks, pedestrian bridges and wayfinding. When it’s complete, Mound Road will be a shining example of the future of our roads nationwide. It will go from the worst stretch of road to one that will be recognized around the nation.”

The construction effort is slated to begin in 20 months and will tackle a critical nine-mile, eight-lane connection between I-696 and M-59. All told, the entire project will cost about $184.6 million. The grant will cover more than half of that, while additional funding will come through matches made by Macomb County, Sterling Heights and Warren. This cooperation and collaboration was highlighted by everyone who spoke today, including Senator Debbie Stabenow.

“I have worked closely with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and local officials to urge Secretary Chao to provide the funding that is needed to repair this road,” she said. “Our efforts demonstrate, once again, that when we work together, we can get things done for Michigan families.”

Another major theme of yesterday’s gathering – how vital Mound Road is to the economic health of our region. Mound is home to more than 81,000 jobs in the manufacturing, automotive, aerospace and defense sectors and is responsible for billions of dollars of output. That’s one major reason why this project was such a high-priority for everyone involved and something all speakers, including Rep. Sander Levin, Rep. Paul Mitchell, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor and Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, mentioned in their remarks.

Innovate Mound 8.6.18
“This is a major industrial corridor,” said Mayor Fouts. “With GM, Chrysler, Ford, General Dynamics, TARDEC and TACOM – it’s a high-tech hot spot.”

Before closing the event, Hackel shared several details around maintenance on Mound Road that will occur ahead of the grant-funded construction. He directed all attendees to http://innovatemound.org/ for information on this and other work related to the roadway.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

What you should know before you start your small business

pexels-photo-908295Small business is booming in Michigan. According to a 2018 SBA state report, there are more than 870,000 of these establishments employing over 1.8 million individuals. However, getting a small business off the ground can be difficult, and every year there are closures alongside openings. That’s why investing in business education from the start is important. And Michigan’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is here to assist all entrepreneurs and innovators in this effort. For instance, on Thursday, August 16 from 9:30 a.m. to noon, they will host a free workshop for individuals who are at the beginning stages of opening a business. The class will be held at the office of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (1 S. Main, 7th Floor, Mt. Clemens) and will provide attendees with important information on:

  • Assessing readiness for entrepreneurship
  • Steps for starting a business
  • Writing a business plan
  • Tools to determine startup costs and operating expenses
  • Local resources and recommendations

To register for the workshop, click here. If you’re unable to attend on August 16, there are several additional dates offered, including:

sbdc
The SBDC also offers online webinars on a variety of topics. The following are currently open for registration:

Writing a Business Plan
Wednesday, August 1; 11am-Noon
Register Here

Marketing Your Business
Wednesday, August 8; 11-Noon
Register Here

Small Business, Big Threat – An Introduction to Cyber Security
Tuesday, August 14; 11-Noon
Register Here

Business Legal Issues
Wednesday August 15; 11am-Noon
Register Here

Financial Management
Wednesday, August 22; 11am-Noon
Register Here

Starting a Business
Wednesday, August 29; 11am-Noon
Register Here

So as you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to start your business education. Just attend a few workshops and you’ll be well on your way to getting your organization off the ground.

For more information on Macomb County Planning and Economic Development click here. For details on the Michigan SBDC, click here or call Wendy Richardson at 313-672-1101.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

STEAM camp prepares young students for future careers

Last week a unique summer camp took place at Macomb Community College focused on STEAM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math. The summer camp, funded through a grant from General Motors, was an immersive program specifically designed to engage middle school students from Macomb County. From college style lectures to touring real world laboratories, each day of the five-day camp had activities dedicated to one area of STEAM. For instance, on the science day, students learned a few chemistry magic tricks.

steam camp girls

“My favorite activity was the golden pennies,” said Emily Auchter. “They were so cool. First the pennies were cleaned with vinegar and water and then we put them in a zinc solution. Once they were silver, we took them and held them over the flames. They then turned gold.”

On the third day of camp, the students learned about art and engineering by designing and building model race cars. Ava Crnovrsanin was awarded the most aerodynamic car.  “My favorite activity was the edible cars,” she said. “Together, my partner and I made a car out of food. We then tested our cars by sending it down a ramp to see how fast it could run. Our car made it down the fastest.”

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Although each day was filled with activities, the camp also allowed the students to bond around their favorite subjects. “My favorite activity was Math Day,” said Shelby Lafferty. “I enjoyed it because I could hang out with my friends and learn at the same time.  They made math fun.”

Outside of simply providing a fun atmosphere, camps like the one held at Macomb Community College help prepare students for the future economy. It is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have job titles that do not currently exist. And many of those roles will be related to STEAM. So it is imperative that young people have opportunities to explore and become educated in these fields.

Macomb County is making big strides in this area. We collaborate with partners to develop and support initiatives that expose students to STEAM career possibilities and point them to educational pathways that lead to meaningful employment. This work includes:

  • The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development partners with the Macomb Intermediate School District, along with an active planning committee and generous sponsors, to coordinate one of the nation’s largest celebrations of Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). Since 2014, more than 7,000 students have visited a nearby plant to see industry in action and learn about career possibilities.
  • The Department has also partnered with Romeo Community Schools as they work towards becoming Michigan’s first Ford Next Generation Learning community. The newly established Academies of Romeo will enable students to choose a thematic course of study – such as engineering, health care or information technology – and learn in a relevant, hands-on environment. Students learn math, science, English and social studies within the theme they choose.
  • Macomb Community College hosts AUTO Steam Days, a two-day hands-on opportunity for students to explore careers in automotive design, robotics, manufacturing and technology.
  • The Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Awareness Team (MADCAT) partners with academia and area U.S. Department of Defense assets to develop a career pathway for high school and college students in cybersecurity.

mfg day 2

Those are just a few examples of the many programs and partnerships Macomb County is pursuing to fuel our talent pipeline and prepare the next generation for STEAM-related work opportunities. Through these efforts, we hope to ensure economic stability in our region for many years to come. But ultimately, our goal is to give our young people the tools they need to succeed and connect their passion with opportunity.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.