Shop Small windows spread holiday cheer

celticsistersIs there anything more charming than the window of your favorite #ShopSmall destination decorated for the holidays? We want to see them! Snap a pic, post it here and let us share it with others. What’s in it for me, you ask? How about a chance to win this basket full of #MadeInMacomb goodies?

We visited Celtic Sisters in downtown New Baltimore and gathered up some items. So far, we have:

  • Berry Medley Jam from Jam’n Sisters of Roseville
  • Dark chocolate hot fudge from Sanders
  • Vanilla Cupcake lip balm from Bizzy Fizz of Utica
  • A luscious bar of soap from J.L. May of Macomb Township
  • Gourmet dog treats from Biscuit Bob’s of Shelby Township

Also in the basket is shop owner Colleen’s newest venture, Chickie’s Chocolate & Fudge, and their yummy mix of sweet-and-salty Fish Fly Crunch.

And, we’ll keep adding to the basket as the number of photos grows. Post your photo here and be randomly entered for a chance to win (while helping us build a really festive photo album!).

Zardis, Maria IMG_0089Maria Zardis is the program manager of the Business Outreach and Communications Group for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

Healthy food just became a lot more convenient

Clean Planet Foods was born from the same food entrepreneurs that created the very successful Garden Fresh Gourmet brand, which most of us know from their salsa, tortilla chips, hummus and dips. When I first tasted the products from Clean Planet Foods, based in Clinton Township, I was amazed how fresh it tasted and how simple it was to prepare. A light bulb immediately went off in my head: This is how I can eat healthy at work and at home with only a minute or two to prepare my meal. The selection keeps growing as well, from chicken to turkey patties, and now I just had some great meatballs.

Cp2One of my favorite parts about Clean Planet Foods is that they want a really healthy, fresh product with the highest food safety that can be delivered. They put each product into a High Pressure Pasteurization machine that seals in the freshness and helps keep your product safe. Another great part about this is you can order online at CleanPlanetFoods.com, and fresh products will show up at the door in a 10- or 30-count box, and you can reorder automatically. Continue reading for what owner Jack Aronson says about his newest product line.

Jack Johns is a senior economic development specialist with the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in assisting food and agriculture, automotive, energy and retail companies.

Cp1

Dear Fellow Food and Fitness Lover,

I founded Clean Planet on simple, down-to-earth principles. Make honest and healthy food, make it safe and out-of-this-world good, and make it easy to get and prepare. After all, what’s the point of being healthy if you can’t enjoy life? So, I got together with some of my favorite chefs, and along with nationally-syndicated health and fitness coach Peter Nielsen, we set about creating a line of outrageously tasty, fully-cooked whole proteins using some of my best recipes. As a team, we worked hard to make them delicious, nutritious and quick. When we finished, we knew that we had before us the cleanest, most convenient, most mouth-watering line of proteins the world had ever seen. It seemed only appropriate to name the line something special, so we called it Clean Planet.

Although our principles are modest, our goal is not. Simply put, we’re out to change the way the world eats for the better. It all starts with your visit to another planet, a planet without compromise.

No need to compromise on taste. From our juicy turkey patties to our tender, melt-in-your-mouth, Jamaican-style jerk chicken, these chef-inspired proteins are as good to eat as anything you’ll find in your favorite four-star restaurant.

No need to compromise on nutrition. Our gluten-free, center-of-plate meat products are loaded with delicious, whole protein, as many as 26 grams in a single serving, and contain no artificial additives.

No need to compromise on convenience. Each Clean Planet protein serving comes individually wrapped in a special food-safe pouch designed to steam in all the natural juices. And variety? Trust me, with our wide assortment of flavors, you will never get bored.

Don’t look for us in the grocery store. The only way to enjoy Clean Planet proteins is to order them direct online or purchase them through one of our affiliates.

Looking to build lean muscle? Interested in shedding a few pounds by eating right? Maybe you just want to feel better. Only you can know what’s in your heart. And only you can do what’s best for your heart. It all starts with you.  So make Clean Planet a regular stop as you travel through the galaxy of food choices in this land of abundance. We know your life will change – for the better.

Jack Aronson is the founder and chief protein officer of Clean Planet Foods.

 

Helping Macomb County small businesses succeed

 

This week is National Small Business Week, and it is the perfect time for entrepreneurs and small business owners to learn about the many services the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has to offer.

The SBDC is funded by a host of partners, most notably the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. As the counseling arm of the SBA, the SBDC is able to provide entrepreneurs with a variety of tools to help grow a business including:

  • Providing the Guide to Starting and Operating a Business, a step-by-step 64-page resource.
  • Offering no-cost and low-cost training sessions that teach about running and growing your business.
  • Through personalized, one-on-one business counseling to help with planning and growth strategies.
  • Assisting with business plan development – your blueprint to business that helps you stay on track.
  • Aiding in financial management, including cash flow analysis and steps to raising capital.
  • Suggesting ways to grow your business with strategic planning, financial analysis and exporting strategies.
  • Delivering marketing assistance, including market research and search engine optimization for your website.
  • Helping tech companies bring new products to market with technology commercialization.

Some of the ways we have helped Macomb County companies:

  • Provided demographics and other market research to a new restaurant so they know who their potential customers will be.
  • Helped an owner prepare a compelling loan application to fund business expansion.
  • Brainstormed different marketing strategies for a construction company to enter into new markets.
  • Worked with a landscape firm to help understand their financial statements so they can make better management decisions.
  • Assisted a technology company to better describe their product and its benefits.
  • Connected a food company to local resources.
  • Supported an entrepreneur as they grew from a home-based business into a thriving retail brick and mortar.

These services are at no-cost (or low-cost for some of the business workshops). They are not free, but pre-funded through your tax dollars. You have paid for them, you might as well use them! Visit us today at www.SBDCMichigan.org/Macomb  or 586-254-3551.

P.S. For your friends and neighbors in other counties, we are here to help them too. There is a SBDC program in every state.

Wendy Richardson is a business consultant with the Macomb County branch of the Michigan Small Business Development Center.

Soup with a cause

Senior Economic Development Specialist Jack Johns recently went on a retention visit with Utica-based Motown Soup and shared their incredible story with me.

beef barleyMotown Soup is a nonprofit company that assembles dried soup ingredients and packages them as convenient, ready-to-make mixes. Some of their most popular soup mixes are chicken noodle, white chicken chili and chicken pot pie. Most soup mixes make two quarts, cost $8 and are ready to serve in around 20 minutes. They have expanded their product line to also include mixes for dips, cookies and corn bread as well as sampler packages that come in beautiful, Michigan-themed boxes.

This businesses operates out of the state-licensed kitchen in the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church on Van Dyke in Utica. Food companies headquartered in church kitchens is not a new concept, but it is perhaps not well known. Yumbitz, a growing Macomb County cookie company, bakes in the commercial kitchen at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Clinton Township, and Ethel’s Edibles also started making gluten-free baked goods in a church kitchen until they purchased a commercial retail and bakehouse space in St. Clair Shores.

Measuring in lineWhile some businesses can make food out of their home under the Cottage Food Law, they can only conduct direct sales to customers. In order for a food company to sell their products in retail stores, restaurants or over the Internet, the food must be prepared in a licensed commercial kitchen that adheres to strict codes, undergoes regular inspections and often contains expensive equipment.

“It can be difficult for a startup business to find an affordable commercial kitchen to work in,” said Johns. “Churches give entrepreneurs the opportunity to start their business and get their products out there, even before they have the money to buy their own commercial kitchen. Many companies in Macomb County have started this way.”

As a result of their meeting, Johns was able to provide Motown Soup with a list of distribution companies that may potentially lead to savings on supplies. Additionally, he put them in touch with another Macomb County small business about the possibility of including locally-made noodles. Motown Soup is also interested in starting to sell at farmers markets, so Johns connected them with the Mount Clemens Farmers Market director to submit an application.

While delicious sounding, this narrative isn’t quite the incredible story I promised in the introduction. That part comes now. Motown Soup is completely staffed by volunteers – and there are more than 100 of them. Why are so many people willing to give up hours each week to make soup? Because Motown Soup donates nearly all of their profit to other area nonprofit organizations.

Michigan sampler boxIn 2014, Motown Soup donated a whopping $100,000 to soup kitchens, free clinics, homeless shelters and food pantries. Locally, that includes Roseville-based Lighthouse Outreach Center and MCREST, Fraser-based Hope Center and Samaritan House in Washington Township. Since 2005, they have donated nearly half a million dollars and are certain to beat that by the end of this year.

Motown Soup’s products can be found at Art-Is-In Market at The Mall at Partridge Creek and can also be ordered online through their website. These mixes are great to have on hand at home for an easy meal and also make a thoughtful gift. And when you support this local business, you’re also helping many other great organizations that are fighting hunger and poverty in metro Detroit.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

 

 

Macomb-OU INCubator’s Capital Raise Meetups: Let Mac-OU INC show you the money!

The Macomb-Oakland University INCubator (Mac-OU INC) recognizes that one of the largest needs of entrepreneurs is capital, so we created Capital Raise Meetup seminars to steer these small-business owners in the right direction. After three consecutive years, Mac-OU INC’s Capital Raise Meetups are still in high demand.

Mike Brennan, Mac-OU INC’s capital strategist, covers the various capital sources in Michigan and discusses how to properly position a company to be qualified for private funding, including private equity, the angel network and venture capital, and/or public funding, including grants, pre-seed, micro-loans and venture match.

Brennan is an accomplished executive and entrepreneur with 26 years of experience in both growth and startup organizations. He has founded five companies, raised $12 million privately for one and cumulatively employed more than 200 people in Michigan.

An example of these funding sources includes the Business Accelerator Fund (BAF), which is available solely through the state of Michigan’s SmartZones. Mac-OU INC is the top SmartZone, out of 18 total, for garnering the most BAF dollars to assist client companies.

In total, $579,004 in BAF dollars has been awarded to client companies through Mac-OU INC. These BAF awards are distributed by the Michigan Small Business Development Center through Mac-OU INC to the various accelerator service providers.

Free Capital Raise Meetup sessions are set from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, March 1, April 5, May 3, June 7, Sept. 6, Oct. 4 and Nov. 1. After his group presentations, Brennan is available to further assist participating companies in determining individual needs.

Mac-OU INC supports economic development in Southeast Michigan by accelerating high-tech businesses, cultivating academic innovation and encouraging research and development. To help small businesses grow, the incubator creates customized success strategies for startup and emerging companies in the niche industries of defense, homeland security, advanced manufacturing and technology.

The incubator is located in the Velocity building at 6633 Eighteen Mile Road in Sterling Heights. Those interested in attending the lectures are asked to register in advance by contacting me, Joan Carleton, at (586) 884-9324 or macINC@oakland.edu. For more information, visit the incubator website at oakland.edu/macombouinc.

Joan Carleton is the marketing and communications manager for the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator.

 

Retaining Macomb County businesses one cup of coffee at a time

I recently tagged along on a retention meeting Senior Economic Development Specialist Jack Johns scheduled with Minha’s Coffee Haus, a new business in Mount Clemens. It is called a retention meeting because one of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development’s objectives is to retain existing businesses in the county by connecting them with services and resources that will help them grow and succeed.

Johns, known as the food czar to some due to his extensive work with agricultural and food-processing companies, wanted to check in with Minha’s Coffee Haus to see how he may be able to assist with any needs they may have. Of course, he also wanted to get his hot chocolate fix for the day.

We met with Sora Childress and learned about the business. They are renting a 1,200-square-foot space in the heart of Mount Clemens at 58 Cherry Street. They serve coffee, caramel macchiato, Mexican hot chocolate, espresso, cappuccino, chai lattes, water and pop as well as a rotation of baked items. They had a soft opening on Monday, Dec. 28 and have already met with officials from the city of Mount Clemens, the Downtown Development Authority and other small businesses nearby.

After learning more about Minha’s Coffee Haus, Johns was able to determine a list of needs. They are considering expanding their baked goods selection, so Johns was able to connect her with other Macomb County small businesses that make and package baked goods. He also offered marketing ideas ranging from signage to business cards.

Johns was also able to provide her with information about where to acquire affordable commercial machinery, a list of local packaging suppliers, information about free internship programs and a food-safe cleaning supplies contact.

At the end of the meeting, Johns promised to follow up with additional information and check back in. He also offered his assistance for any future issues that may occur.

If you are a Macomb County business and would like to know more about the services our department offers, contact us at (586) 469-5285 or visit our website at MacombBusiness.com.

Click here to read more about Minha’s Coffee Haus on the Make Macomb Your Home Blog.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

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.