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30 in Their Thirties 2012

One thing is certain, the 2012 Class of “30 in Their Thirties,” as nominated by our readers, isn’t content with a day job as they drive revenue and open new frontiers around the world.

Austin Black II // 31

Founder and President, City Living Detroit, Detroit

Revenue: NA

Employees: 4

Austin Black II is on the cutting edge of urban re-engineering, as the city of Detroit encourages residents in deteriorating neighborhoods to move into more vibrant urban districts. Black, founder and president of City Living Detroit, a real estate firm in Midtown, says buyers are starting to make the move to places like Lafayette Park and Corktown, which operate as tight-knit villages. Large employers such as Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center are contributing to the shift, as they provide incentives that encourage their workers to live nearby. “We sold 16 units and expect to sell the remaining 58 units soon,” Black says of a renovated building that once housed the repair and service department for Willys Overland Jeeps in Midtown. Black grew up in Detroit and Birmingham, earned a bachelor’s degree in urban planning from Cornell University in New York, and worked in Washington, D.C., on learning public policy. In addition to volunteering on the Detroit Housing Commission and with Mayor Dave Bing’s urban relocation venture called Detroit Works, Black was recognized by Realtor magazine as one of the top young real estate agents in the nation. —John S. Schultz

 

 

Mike Cosgrove // 36

President, PCIA, Brighton

Revenue: NA

 Employees: 14

Mike Cosgrove brushes aside suggestions that his rise to the presidency at Professional Concepts Insurance Agency in Brighton is a big story. That’s because his mother, Kim Fricke, started the firm. “My mother was single with two kids when she started PCIA as a company,” says Cosgrove, who took over as president in 2007. To set itself apart, the agency developed a niche serving architects, engineers, CPA firms, construction companies, and law firms. “Our clients are all over Michigan and Indiana, but we only serve those specific professions,” he says. “We made a decision to become much more entrenched with our clients, so we would understand their business.” PCIA, which offers risk management, time management, and budget-control services, takes its commitment to its clients a step further. It sits on trade industry boards for its clients, including the Michigan Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies, for which Cosgrove chairs a committee. His highest priority for PCIA is what he calls quality growth. “We are very choosy on who we work with,” he says.— Dan Calabrese 

Antoine Dubeauclard // 39

President and co-owner, Media Genesis, Troy

Revenue: NA 

Employees: 40

Joining the workforce in 1994, Antoine Dubeauclard sold life insurance before taking a job with a microfilm company that was transferring a large database of business strategies to the Web. “No one really knew what the Web was, and companies were paying a lot of money to access our database,” Dubeauclard says — but the business model began to buckle once people learned that most information on the Web was free. Seeing the writing on the wall, Dubeauclard joined a startup in 1997 that designed traditional collateral material for Chrysler and other major clients. Two years later, he bought half the company and sought ways to meld marketing programs with digital offerings. “Now we’ve done more than 100 projects for Chrysler and we’re doing projects for the United Nations, GM, Ford, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.” The latter project,  in which Media Genesis created a webcast of 22 DSO performances, drew 120,000 views from more than 75 countries. More importantly, donations from online viewers skyrocketed. “The webcasts allowed the DSO to reach a whole new audience.” — R.J. King

 

 

Kyle Evans // 32

Senior Exterior Designer, Chrysler, Auburn Hills

Revenue: $55 billion 

Employees: 58,780

Kyle Evans lives and breathes cars. The senior exterior designer at Chrysler just completed a trip to the rural regions of Iceland, where he tested concept Jeeps built by American Expedition Vehicles (AEV). As part of a previous adventure, he drove across India in a replica of the Ford Mustang featured in the movie Bullitt. That trip is chronicled in the book, Maharajah of the Road (Parker House). Most recently, as part of an art trilogy along Woodward Avenue, Evans designed a 30-foot-high glass and concrete sculpture to be installed at 13 Mile and Coolidge in Royal Oak to honor the rich auto history of the thoroughfare. At Chrysler, Evans is working on a functional concept Jeep truck called the J-12. “(My passion for cars) started when I was 8 and saw some designer drawing a car on a PBS show,” he says. “I said, ‘I want to do that.’” When Evans isn’t working, he’s busy designing furniture for his home in Royal Oak, where he and his partner, Michael Chetcuti, transformed the former Hinson Heating & Cooling facility into a 5,600-square-foot “automotive themed” loft. —John S. Schultz

Jordan Field // 35

Director, Detroit Tigers Foundation, Detroit

Funds RAISed: $1.1 million

Employees: 2

When Jordan Field was 5 years old, his dad spotted Detroit Tigers great Gates Brown at a restaurant. The “Gator” came over and signed a cap for Jordan, writing, “I hope you become a Tiger.” And that’s just what Field did. After receiving his law degree from Wayne State Law School in 2002, he accepted an unpaid internship with the Tigers. The job quickly grew into a paid internship and, ultimately, a full-time position. It wasn’t long before Field observed that, unlike the other 29 teams in the Major Leagues, the Tigers had no institution set up to benefit the community. So he drafted a mission statement, prepared a business plan, and pitched the proposal to the team leadership. In 2005, the Detroit Tigers Foundation was formed, with Field leading the way. The foundation raised $1.1 million last year from special events and promotional sales, in addition to receiving support from players and the team itself. Its mission: Refurbish inner-city ball fields. “I grew up a baseball fan, and my parents had a magnet on their refrigerator that said, ‘Find a job you love, and never work a day in your life.’” — Dan Calabrese

 

 

Chris Genteel // 34

Head of Diversity Markets, Google, Ann Arbor

Revenue: $37.9 billion 

Employees: 400+ (Ann Arbor, Birmingham)

Chris Genteel started with Google as an intern in 2006, the same year the search engine giant established an office in Ann Arbor. After earning an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, he joined Google’s Ann Arbor office full time, managing B2B advertising sales. In short order, he saw an opportunity to assist minority-owned companies. “I wrote a job description around it, and now I’m working full time helping underrepresented companies use technology to grow their businesses,” says Genteel, Google’s head of diversity markets. Later this year, Google plans to issue a report measuring the impact of its diversity program, which includes success stories like Ideal Group — a Hispanic-owned company in southwest Detroit that produces patented bollard covers, guardrails, and handrails. For every $1 Ideal Group spends in Google AdWords, the company generates $22 in new sales, on average. “Michigan is built on companies that make things and offer great services,” Genteel says. “Our goal is to reach more customers and start more relationships on the Web.” — R.J. King

Billy Gershenson // 34

Vice President of Shop Leasing, Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, Farmington Hills

Revenue: $121.3 million

Employees: 125

Riding out the 2008 global economic meltdown, Billy Gershenson says the retail industry is on the rebound. “We’re seeing growth in women’s ready-to-wear and women’s accessories, plus fast casual restaurants,” says Gershenson, vice president of shop leasing at Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust in Farmington Hills. As of June 30, the company had 81 shopping centers in more than a dozen states. “We’re actively expanding our portfolio through acquisitions and development,” says Gershenson, who worked in the financial sector in London and New York before joining Ramco-Gershenson in 2002. Earlier this year, Ramco-Gershenson acquired four shopping centers and started work on Parkway Shops, a nearly 90,000-square-foot retail facility in Jacksonville, Fla. “We match our portfolio to consumer trends,” says Gershenson, a board member of the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce. “People have fast-paced lifestyles in business and at home, and our job is to provide a shopping center that appeals to a wide array of people and lifestyles.” — R.J. King

 

 

Stacy Goldberg // 36

CEO, Savorfull, Detroit

Revenue: NA

Employees: 5

A nutrition expert, Stacy Goldberg saw her family practice take off five years ago — but she soon found the traditional office setting to be cumbersome. “My passion was working with families, taking them to the grocery store, and teaching them how to select healthy, allergy-free products,” Goldberg says. “I saw the consulting business growing on a larger scale.” Eager to market and distribute healthy food online, Goldberg, a registered nurse who has a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan, took the initiative. She was one of two finalists who beat out 300 applicants for an entrepreneurial accelerator program offered at Detroit-based Bizdom, a nonprofit founded by Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans. The win helped her launch Savorfull in February; today, she has several hundred customers. “Every month we send out allergy-free food samples, and we develop recipes and provide education about healthy eating,” Goldberg says. “A food allergy, especially with a child, can overwhelm a family. We help them get their lives back.” — R.J. King

 

Stephen Gurski // 34

Hybrid Systems Engineer, GM, Milford Proving Grounds 

Revenue: $150.3 billion

Employees: 202,000

Stephen Gurski, a hybrid systems engineer and advanced vehicle technology lead at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds, is charged with making hybrid and electric vehicles more acceptable to more people. Gurski says improving the vehicles’ driving range and reliability will attract more buyers. The secret to better distance, he says, is mastering the control technology. “We’re not worrying about how to control fuel injection or another system,” Gurski says. “We’re looking holistically at how the entire system works and interacts together. In the last four years, we’ve stuffed more into our computer networks, trying to coordinate more systems and provide more feature content, and offering more information and safety.” Gurski also works to minimize electric battery problems. “If you have a failure of one part of the system, the system has remedial actions that it takes to keep a customer from being stranded, breaking down, or having some other unpleasant experience,” he explains. On the Chevrolet Volt, Gurski worked on serial data transfer between component controllers. —Tim Keenan

 

 

John E. James // 31

Vice President of Operations, 

James Group International, Detroit

Revenue: $30 million

Employees: 175

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, John E. James was responsible for planning, managing, and synchronizing the deployment of 24 Apache and 10 Blackhawk helicopters during his second tour of duty as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He says his greatest achievement was bringing back all of the soldiers alive and the aircraft intact. “If you show people the right path and show that you care about them, you’re going to have a much better team and get better results,” says James, who earned a master’s degree in supply chain management at Penn State University. In January, following 12 years in the military, he joined James Group International, a global logistics and supply management firm in Detroit that works primarily in the automotive industry. In addition to upgrading the company’s supply management operations, James has worked to improve internal communications between six separate facilities. “Progress can only be deployed rapidly when a team aggregates its successes and minimizes its mistakes,” he says. —R.J. King

Amy Kaherl // 31

Founder, Detroit SOUP, Detroit

DONATIONS: $12,400

Employees: 2

A lot of people have good ideas that could bring something positive to the city of Detroit, but it’s not always easy to land startup capital. Enter Amy Kaherl, a self-described “natural networker” who is making financing a little easier. In 2010, with partners Kate Daughdrill and Jessica Hernandez, she established Detroit SOUP. Here’s how it works: Once a month, the nonprofit hosts a soup-and-salad dinner at a warehouse in Corktown that typically attracts 150 to 175 people. Guests pay $5 each to attend. During the dinner, four promising entrepreneurs present their project plans and, following an audience vote, one of them receives the take from the meal  “It’s a really non-schmoozy way to network,” Kaherl says. “We’ve watched people get jobs, we’ve watched people get married, and projects have taken on whole new levels.” Recent winning projects include an urban farm and a cleanup at a school site, organized by a group of fifth-graders. Kaherl, who lives in Detroit’s Woodbridge district, also DJs and plans events for the new Detroit Futbol League. — Dan Calabrese

 

 

 

Jeffrey Kaufman // 34

Attorney, Law Offices of Alex Berman, P.C. , Farmington Hills

Billings: NA

Employees: 7

The number of new workers’ compensation cases in Michigan fell to 7,800 in 2011, down from more than 22,000 in 1993, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. No matter. Attorney Jeffrey Kaufman’s phone keeps ringing. “While other law firms are giving up on these cases, we’re thriving,” says Kaufman, who attributes the drop in claims to a loss of manufacturing jobs and changes in the law. “The more difficult they make it for my clients, the busier I get,” he says. Kaufman recently negotiated the highest settlement offer in his firm’s history ($3 million), and recovered benefits from an employer who had no workers’ compensation insurance and attempted to hide his assets. “I take my clients’ problems personally,” Kaufman says. “What I see is people who are losing their house, and they can’t pay child support or tuition.” Mindful of the stress these situations create for his clients, Kaufman approaches his work with the mindset of a social worker. “You don’t have to play in the mud to be a good advocate,” he says. — Tom Beaman

Kelley LaFontaine // 37

B2B Marketing Director, LaFontaine Automotive Group

New Car Sales: $261.8 million

Employees: 695

LaFontaine Automotive Group in Highland Township may be the greenest dealership in America. In addition to a geo-thermal environmental system, the dealership features recycled tiles and doors made of cornstalks. “You can look anywhere and see something that’s been recycled,” says Kelley LaFontaine, B2B marketing director for the company’s seven dealerships. “Some people might be motivated to buy from us because of the green standards, but we did it for us.” To complement the business taking place on the sales floor, LaFontaine and her mother, Maureen, spearheaded the installation of a coffee shop, a children’s play area, and a hair and nail salon in their dealership. The reason: Research shows women influence up to 85 percent of all vehicle purchases, so the duo decided to do something to make their showroom stand out. Apart from her duties at the company, LaFontaine was named Woman of the Year in 2011 by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for leading a team that raised more than $400,000 for the organization over two years. —Tim Keenan

 

 

 

Jay Lambrecht Jr. // 32

Co-owner, Lambrecht Jerant Inc., Detroit

Revenue: $3.3 million

Employees: 64

When Jay Lambrecht was searching for a ground-floor tenant at the Book Tower in downtown Detroit, he decided to tackle the project himself. It took three years for Lambrecht, then 19, and his business partner, Mark Jerant, to open Bookies Tavern. “It was very much like Cheers,” says Lambrecht, co-owner of Lambrecht Jerant Inc. in Detroit. Four years ago, the pair worked on opening a second location at Cass and Columbia — which turned out to be providential, since they had no idea the Book Tower would soon close. The transition resulted in a new name, Bookies Bar & Grille, and benefited from a fortuitous bit of timing. “The first week we were open was the NCAA Final Four (at Ford Field),” Lambrecht says. “The following Friday was Opening Day (for the Detroit Tigers).” In 2011, Lambrecht renovated a former coffee shop in Campus Martius Park and opened Fountain Bistro, a French-inspired eatery that handles food and beverage service inside the urban square. He also opened a consulting firm, Kern’s Clock Concessions, to assist with event planning. “We’re looking to add another Bookies on the east side,” he says. “So far, we’ve surpassed all of our projections.” — R.J. King

Antonio Lück // 32

Portfolio Manager, MEDC, Lansing 

budget: $385 million

Employees: 315

Antonio Lück is on the front lines, helping to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs in a bid to expand the economic health of the state. Working directly with some 25 companies, Lück, a portfolio manager for Michigan Economic Development Corp., oversees each company’s operation from the inside out. From offering startup advice to helping strategize and cultivate sales, Lück does it all. He says Detroit, like other older urban districts, is attracting young creative talent — and large companies are starting to take notice. “I truly believe that Michigan is on an uprise,” he says. Born in Brazil, Lück came to the United States in 2005 to pursue his master’s degree at Wayne State University. “When I arrived in Michigan I knew one person, and I had two bags,” he says. Lück earned a fellowship at Delphi and played an integral role in the launch of Monarch Antenna Inc., a Delphi spinoff. His advice to entrepreneurs: “If there is something you want to do, take the plunge. Don’t overthink it. If it doesn’t work out, take a step back and go at it again.” — John S. Schultz

 

 

Ryan Maibach // 38

President, Barton Malow Co., Southfield

Revenue: $1.4 billion

Employees: 1,200

Rising through the ranks of Southfield-based Barton Malow Co., one of the largest contractors in the country, Ryan Maibach says his experience working on job sites in Arizona, Florida, and Maryland opened his eyes to inconsistencies in how the company was operating. In the past, Barton Malow — which got its start in Detroit in 1924 — treated each market almost as an autonomous organization. Maibach, a civil engineer, knew the company scored well on multiple metrics, but “we made some of the same mistakes in different markets.” After being named president in the spring of 2011, Maibach took on the challenge of improving overall communications, setting common principles, and removing unproductive barriers. “We do a lot of sports work, so when we completed the expansion of Michigan Stadium (in Ann Arbor), we took that knowledge base and used it to renovate the Rose Bowl (in Pasadena, Calif.),” he says. “As a result, we had better focus and we were able to deliver more efficiencies for our client, which in the end saves costs.” — R.J. King

Asad Malik // 39

CEO and President, Amerilodge Group , Rochester Hills

Revenue: $18 million

Employees: 226

For some, one career isn’t enough. After completing a master’s degree in health services administration at the University of Michigan, Asad Malik worked as a financial analyst and strategic planner for various health care organizations before being named vice president of finance for Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. Under Malik’s watch, the hospital, which opened in 2009, met its financial targets, and became cash-flow positive 10 months ahead of schedule. “We saw sustained double-digit revenue growth since opening,” he says. Having established himself in one industry, Malik gave Henry Ford notice in June and turned his attention to Amerilodge, a hospitality group he formed “on the side” in 2007. Amerilodge operates 11 hotels — mostly Holiday Inn Express and Marriott brands — throughout Michigan and the Midwest, and the group plans to soon open more properties in Troy, Rochester Hills, Battle Creek, and Monroe. “We only build brand-new facilities; that’s the foundation of our success,” Malik says. “My ultimate goal is to learn from my hospitality business and go back into health care.” —Tom Beaman

 

 

Lauren Maloney // 30

Business Director, CityFARM, Ann Arbor

Revenue: $150,000 (2012 projected)

Employees: 5 

Lauren Maloney has big plans for CityFARM, an urban farming/edible landscaping company she formed earlier this year in Ann Arbor with entrepreneur Stewart Beal. She says the company’s mission is to refine the urban agricultural movement. “Food production is a huge drain on the world,” Maloney says. “The world needs so much food, and the way it’s being produced right now causes a lot of environmental problems. By changing over to a more sustainable, environmentally friendly method, it’s a good thing for the world.” CityFARM offers four chemical-free “urban farm packages” (the largest is 400 square feet); each package includes composted soil, bed preparation, seeds, trellises, and an irrigation system. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to $3,000 or more, depending on the scope of the project. The company also designs, installs, maintains, rescues, and winterizes gardens. “As our business grows, we hope to have our own farm in Detroit and develop an online store for locally made farming and gardening materials,” she says. —Tom Beaman

Matt Mosher // 30

Co-founder and CEO, hiredMYway.com, Detroit

Capital: $3.5 million

Employees: 22

Matt Mosher started his first business — selling salt-water aquariums out of his parents’ home — while still in high school. Now he is tackling a bigger challenge: the job market. Mosher, co-founder and CEO of hiredMYway.com, believes the way job seekers and employers typically connect is outdated,
so he came up with a more efficient, online hiring process. “I just flipped the system so it isn’t an overwhelming process for both the employer and those looking for a job,” Mosher says. His idea is working; the company, which started in 2010 and is housed in the Madison Building in downtown Detroit, expects to double in size by the end of the year. It is one of several businesses within the investment portfolio of Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capital firm started by Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and entrepreneurs Josh Linkner and Brian Hermelin. In addition to his work with hiredMYway.com, Mosher runs a landscaping business and a real estate firm. He also wants to see Detroit thrive. “I want this city to prosper,” he says.  —John S. Schultz

 

 

Chris Nelson // 32

Director of Professional Solutions, RTT USA, Royal Oak

Revenue: NA

Employees: 100

Chris Nelson says RTT USA is making the vehicle design process easier and less expensive through the use of virtual prototyping technology. By employing photo-realistic imagery and 3-D software programs, auto manufacturers and suppliers can create a virtual concept car or truck, saving millions of dollars in time and materials. Nelson, who started at RTT in 2006 and has grown the local office from three employees to 100, also oversees the coordination of operations at the company’s office in Pasadena, Calif. Because of his involvement in helping customers operate RTT’s software, Nelson works closely with various departments at General Motors. “I was given an opportunity within the company to grow into this role with a trusting, hands-off approach by my CEO, so I hit the ground running,” he says. In addition to his position at RTT, Nelson, a College for Creative Studies graduate, is an industrial design instructor at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield. “The idea at LTU is to keep design leaning toward engineering,” Nelson says. “Don’t just draw a picture of something; show how it works, too. ” —Tim Keenan

George Nikollaj // 39

Owner, 6 Salon, Royal Oak and Birmingham

Revenue: $1.5 million

Employees: 65

When 6 Salon opened in Royal Oak nine years ago, George Nikollaj made sure the interior was modern and the staff was customer-oriented. He incorporated the same design and work ethic in his Birmingham location, which debuted a few years later. In addition to averaging 1,500 clients every year between the two locations, the salons have been honored nationally and internationally as a member of Intercoiffure, an association of approximately 300 owners representing some 2,200 elite salons in the United States and Canada. Key to his success, Nikollaj says, is an intense employee-training program. In addition to turning out skilled hairdressers, the training combats turnover, which is rampant in the industry. “We start (all new employees) from the ground level, no matter how long they’ve been a hairdresser,” Nikollaj explains. “It takes about two years to get someone
in the salon and working on the floor. During those two years, you’re integrating yourself into our culture, our system, and learning how we deal with clients. It’s not just a haircut.” — Tim Keenan

 

 

Neelie O’Connor // 35

Director of Call Center Performance, OnStar, Detroit

Revenue: $150.3 billion

Employees: 202,000

If it were feasible, Neelie O’Connor, director of OnStar’s four worldwide call centers, would respond to each of the more than 150,000 people who call in daily. “Many of those who use OnStar are in a crisis (situation), and I want to make sure they get the fastest, most direct help possible,” O’Connor says. On a more doable scale, the self-directed Texas native leads 90 employees at the Renaissance Center in Detroit and nearly 2,700 call center advisors who provide OnStar subscribers with rapid response to emergency situations and help with roadside assistance, locked cars, or tracking stolen vehicles. After graduating with a business degree in management/information systems from the University of Texas at Austin, O’Connor went to work in customer relations with PWC and IBM before joining OnStar in 2004. She has a patent pending for enhancing OnStar’s vehicle email notification system. Connor admits she was not initially excited when she was offered a job in Detroit. “I never wanted to live in Michigan,” she says. What was she most apprehensive about? “The winter weather scared me; I am not a good winter driver.” —John S. Schultz

Scott Rice // 38

COO, Powerlink Facilities Management Services, Detroit

Revenue: $22.4 million

Employees: 670

After guiding the manufacturing operations of several automotive and consumer products companies to profitability, Scott Rice joined forces in 2003 with Link Howard and formed Powerlink Facilities Management Services in Detroit’s New Center. The company, which started with a single client and 20 employees, today has 670 employees and supplies building management and maintenance services for Henry Ford Health System, Karmanos Cancer Institute, and Detroit Public Schools. Rice says the agreement with DPS for building engineers, signed in February 2011, will save the district $70 million over five years. “We were able to work with the operators’ union and tell them we’d like to do things differently,” he says. “The (previous) labor contract at DPS was over 100 pages long; our contract is 17 pages. That speaks to the fact that if you engage people in thoughtful discussion, if you address the brutal realities that exist and try to create a dialog, there’s an opportunity to work together.” In addition, Rice is vice chairman of Winning Futures, a Warren-based nonprofit that trains students in goal-setting and career preparation. — Tom Beaman

 

 

Jeff Selik // 38

President, Hillside Furniture, Bloomfield Hills

Revenue: NA

Employees: 18

Jeff Selik started in business at the ripe old age of 8 years old, selling a mattress by winning over a customer with his cuteness as he hung around his father’s store, Hillside Furniture in Bloomfield Hills (he’s still waiting for a commission). But that first “sale” didn’t guarantee his future. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Selik had to undergo an interview with his father for a position as an assistant buyer — and his father didn’t make it easy. Selik was given the chance to prove his mettle, but he soon unexpectedly had to take on even more responsibility when his father stepped away from day-to-day leadership after undergoing heart surgery (his father remains CEO). Today, Selik, now president of Hillside Furniture, runs the store with an eye toward a modern audience by tapping social media and equipping the entire staff with iPads. He also gives back by hosting a charity fashion show in which the models wear clothes designed from furniture fabrics. — Dan Calabrese

Jake Sigal // 31

Founder and CEO, Livio, Ferndale

Revenue: NA

Employees: 12

Jake Sigal just signed a major deal with an automaker, but he’s having trouble finding talent to fuel what has been a rapid ascent in the consumer electronics industry. His company, Livio, produces $100 radio car kits that allow drivers to stream their favorite music, make hands-free calls, and charge a phone. He started the company in 2008 in a spare bedroom of his home, after helping Delphi’s consumer electronics group develop satellite radio products. “Our biggest challenge is hiring,” Sigal says. “We have an open engineering position and open management positions, but it’s hard to compete with the big companies,” he says. “We’re all about working hard and breaking the rules, which isn’t for everybody.” In addition to developing, producing, and distributing hardware products, the company offers Livio Connect, a software protocol that links third-party apps with car stereos, TVs, and home audio systems. “Entrepreneurs and companies are always coming out with new things,” he says. “That’s what I love.” — R.J. King

 

 

Carra Stoller // 35

Co-owner, Ecology Beauty, Birmingham

Revenue: NA

Employees: 5

As an attorney handling commercial litigation cases, Carra Stoller had her hands full. But her law career took a back seat two years ago when her sister-in-law, Marla Shapiro, was diagnosed with cancer. Stoller wanted to know what caused cancer, and started to learn more about chemicals that enter the bloodstream through ordinary makeups and creams. “I decided to educate other women about the dangers they were facing every single day,” Stoller says. “I felt it was my mission to do this, so I took the risk (to change careers).” In September 2010, Stoller and Shapiro (who is now cancer-free), opened Ecology Beauty in Birmingham, which specializes in organic makeup products. “A lot of our customers are people who have recently been diagnosed with cancer, and that’s why their health has become an issue for them,” Stoller says. To reach new audiences, the pair hosts monthly fundraisers called Parties with a Purpose, where community members gather and raise money for a local cause, such as a cancer support program for Beaumont Hospitals. Today, Stoller divides her time between her law practice and the store. — Dan Calabrese

Mark Tapper // 31

President, Tapper’s, West Bloomfield

Revenue: NA

Employees: 150

Prior to attending Harvard Business School, Mark Tapper spent two years as “CEO of a classroom” in the south Bronx. “I had 12 students in special education, and for each student there was a business plan that included fundamental academic and life skills,” says Tapper, of the Teach for America initiative. Following his graduation in 2009, Tapper oversaw the build-out and opening of a Louis Vuitton store at City Center Las Vegas, as a way to get “outside experience in luxury retail.” Returning to the family business — at 12 years old he was stocking shelves and doing basic watch repair — Tapper, now president of Tapper’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, ran the company’s West Bloomfield store before opening the first Tapper’s Gold Exchange, which today has 13 locations. He also helped launch Marlee’s By Tapper’s at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, which combines jewelry selections with women’s accessories. The concept, started by Tapper’s wife, Leora, and his sister, Marla Tapper Young, is a place “where women can come and be styled from head to toe.” A certified gemologist, Tapper says the secret to success is operating as a family team. — R.J. King

 

 

Kara Tertzag // 36

Attorney, Ford Motor Co., Dearborn

Revenue: $128.2 billion

Employees: 164,000

Because she is the daughter of a prominent Downriver judge (the late Kaye Tertzag), Kara Tertzag has been recruited and encouraged to enter the political fray. So far, though, she has spent most of her legal career fighting legal battles for Ford Motor Co. After passing the bar in 2001, Tertzag went to work at a private law firm for five years before joining Ford’s litigation department. “Ford tries more product liability cases every year than all of the other manufacturers combined,” Tertzag says. “We meet all of our government standards, as well as Ford’s internal standards, so we defend (the company) when someone says our design or manufacturing is defective or faulty.” In addition to her work at Ford, Tertzag is president of the Downriver Bar Association, one of more than a dozen affiliate groups of the Michigan State Bar. Carrying on a legacy of public service, Tertzag helped create the annual Purple Sport Coat Award in 2009 to honor her father. Is a run for a political office in the cards? “You never know what could happen, but I am really happy at Ford,” she says. —Tim Keenan

Jason Watt // 38

General Manager, Detroit City Airport, Detroit

budget: $1.7 million

Employees: 5

Sixteen months after taking over operations at Coleman A. Young International Airport, better known as Detroit City Airport, Jason Watt has secured $6 million in federal airport improvement grants that have been used to rehabilitate the main taxiway (5,200 feet), upgrade security and lighting systems, and repurpose the former passenger terminal as Aero Tech Town. The latter effort provides R&D space for advanced aircraft, propulsion, and communication systems to help meet an FAA mandate to vastly improve the nation’s airspace. “We’ve brought our costs in line with revenue, started to rebrand the airport, and partnered with Avflight Corp. to be our FBO,” says Watt, former deputy airport director at Flint Bishop International Airport. The improvements at the Detroit airfield have generated some of the highest national customer service ratings, based on a recent survey by www.airnav.com. Next up is a renovation of the aging Executive Terminal, which is under way. “One of our goals is to re-establish passenger service with a charter operator,” Watt says. “It would be a win-win for everyone involved.” —R.J. King

 

 

Jason Wolcott // 35

Founder and CEO, 3CSI, Novi

Revenue: NA

Employees: 30

Jason Wolcott was on the fast track at General Motors — rising to manager of the Automotive Strategy Board and overseeing global chassis procurement, an $18 billion business, all within eight years of graduating from Western Michigan University in 1999. But in 2007, he traded it all in and founded 3CSI, which takes traditional customer relationship management into the digital world. Wolcott says it’s customary for businesses to use social media to develop brand awareness, but they seldom engage customers as they surf, blog, or post content. Wolcott’s company, on the other hand, uses technology to dive into the sea of Internet chatter and extract the 1 percent of comments that are relevant to a specific client. When a complaint or comment is discovered, 3CSI relays it to its client for action. “If a consumer says they’re having issues with a vehicle, our technology is able to identify that and give the brand an opportunity to respond,” Wolcott says. The firm, which serves the auto and consumer electronics industries, plans to move to Detroit next year. — Tom Beaman

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