2018 Powered by Women
From reader nominations, DBusiness selected eight professional women who are driving growth in Michigan, the nation, and the world.
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Terri Harwood // Katie Bowman Coleman // Amy B. Robinson // Monica Martinez
Lilly Epstein Stotland // Christine Sitek // Tricia Ruby // Sara Blackmer
Co-founder • Mobility, Detroit
Employees: 26 • Revenue: NA
Amanda Richie was stepping into an Uber in Austin, Texas, en route to a launch event for her new company, Mobiliti, when she shared her secret for writing a startup’s business plan: “You better be ready to pivot early and often in response to what you find the market needs,” says Richie, co-founder of Mobiliti, a vehicle subscription service in Detroit that she launched with her husband, Chance.
While a business-plan update for an existing company might take five days of collaborative effort, the plan for a startup will entail the commitment of “all your time,” she says. Richie credits Chance with the idea for Mobiliti. The company, which partners with area dealerships to provide customers with month-to-month access to different vehicles, is now operating in Dallas, New York, and central Pennsylvania. “We’re exploring a launch in Detroit for this fall,” she says.
Car-sharing is already a crowded field with a full menu of business models, but Mobiliti has a key partner in Ally Financial in Detroit (formerly GMAC), which is well integrated into the automotive market. The plan starts at $549 per month, includes insurance and roadside assistance, and allows customers to change cars monthly. “It’s everything you like about a lease … on steroids,” she explains.
What to do next had become the question after the couple succeeded in turning around Halo Burger, the mid-Michigan fast-food chain they acquired through their company, Burton-based Halo Country, in 2016. Halo Burger, founded in 1923, is one of the nation’s oldest chains. “It’s definitely got a Michigan flavor,” Richie says, referring to the featured olive burger, Boston cooler (Vernors ginger ale and ice cream), and fried pie.
The co-owners reduced the number of restaurants to eight locations from a dozen eateries and, with the help of Skidmore Studio in downtown Detroit, they rebranded Halo Burger from “Heavenly. Since 1923.” to “Michigan’s best burger since 1923.” They also “reinvested in people and quality,” Richie says. Today, the chain “is going very well” and is in the hands of a management team. There are 127 employees.
Richie started in business when she 29 years old, buying Plymouth Technology, today located in Rochester Hills, from her father’s estate. The company, since rebranded as PTI Water, provides water-treatment solutions for the petroleum industry and an array of manufacturers, ranging from automotive to appliances. “Nearly everybody who makes anything uses water,” says Richie, who serves as president and CEO. “We’re a boutique firm (42 employees) that solves unique problems.”
Having a hand in three companies may sound daunting, but Richie, who has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Albion College and loves to solve puzzles, is also in the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business MBA program. “I’ve always wanted to get an advanced degree, but I had children young and a lot of responsibilities. I wanted to get smarter about finance and strategy. It’s fun for me. I’m able to apply it in all of my businesses.” She expects to complete her degree in 2019.
Besides freedom and success, Richie savors the special camaraderie she finds with other women business leaders. An example — one of the highlights of her career, she says — happened in May.
“I had a social event at my home and found myself speaking with two other female CEOs in my living room, having a short taste of tequila, and talking about business and how we’re going to put together a deal. It was very much a throwback to the old-school (scenario of) Scotch and men in the smoking room, but (it was) female CEOs, and we were talking about how we’re going to bring mobility to Detroit. It was just a magical moment.” — Ronald Ahrens