30 in Their Thirties 2013

The 2013 Class of "30 in Their Thirties" is taking on major redevelopments, running larger enterprises, overseeing social media campaigns, and building single family homes.


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James Van Dyke // 34

Vice President of Development, The Roxbury Group, Detroit

Financed Projects: $100 million // Employees: 4

Financing a new building or a redevelopment project in Detroit isn’t easy, due to a lack of new construction and other factors. It took two years for The Roxbury Group to finance The Auburn, a $12-million mixed-use building at Cass and Canfield in Detroit’s Midtown District that offers 58 apartments and 9,000 square feet of retail space. “We started in 2009 and completed the financing in 2011, and we opened late last year,” says James Van Dyke, Roxbury’s vice president of development. “The building is full. We had 150 people on the waiting list for the apartments.” The company’s latest redevelopment is the David Whitney Building, overlooking Grand Circus Park. The historic tower, set to open in fall 2014, will offer a 136-room Aloft Hotel, 105 apartments, and 7,000 square feet of retail space. “Half of the retail space will be for the hotel,” Van Dyke says. “They will offer a bar and restaurant, as well as other amenities, and we’re looking to fill some of the remaining space with a second restaurant.” In addition, the developer will soon start work on the Detroit Globe Building, a historic structure located east of the Renaissance Center that at one time was used to build ships. Following a $13-million renovation, the building will open next spring as an indoor state park operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. — R.J. King

 

Alisha Serras // 32

Owner, Scavolini by Cucina Moda, Birmingham

Revenue: NA // Employees: 3

Kitchen designer and entrepreneur Alisha Serras was 18 months into her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Eastern Michigan University when she discovered Scavolini Italian kitchen cabinetry. Impressed, she dropped out of school and opened Scavolini by Cucina Moda in Birmingham in 2010 along with her husband, Brian Gamache, and her sister, Niki Serras. Despite a sluggish economy, the company has tripled its revenue over the past three years. As lead designer, Alisha says every client’s home gets her final approval. “We put a Ferrari-red kitchen in our front window when we opened and became known as the store with the red kitchen,” she says. “We believe that Italy is ahead in the design world, and we bring these styles and trends to Michigan before anyone else does.” The company’s geographic reach stretches from Birmingham to Las Vegas, and Alisha’s clients originate from a variety of backgrounds. “We find that engineers tend to love Scavolini because of its clean lines,” she says. “Our clients come to us with a vision of doing something different, and (they want things) 100-percent personalized.”  — Gary Witzenburg

 

Brian Szliter // 38

COO, Arteva Homes, Bloomfield Hills

Revenue: $12 million // Employees: 17

Arteva Homes was shifting away from building multimillion-dollar custom homes to more conventional residences when Brian Szliter decided to leave his supply chain logistics job at Pfizer Inc. in Ann Arbor in 2005 and join the company his father started in 2003. “I always had an interest in building and development, so I took my pharmaceutical industry experience and parlayed it into home-building,” Szliter says. “When the downturn happened, many competitors turned to slashing prices, but that wasn’t our focus. We found a niche of customers who appreciated the fit and finish, but also didn’t just want to buy a cookie-cutter box design.” Szliter also kept potential buyers engaged through the rough times with a concept he developed called an “idea” show house. “It wasn’t a model home or a high-pressure sales situation; it was where people could come to see the latest and greatest design trends,” he says. Since 2010, the firm has built idea show houses in Macomb and Shelby townships and downtown Rochester, and it plans to open a fourth in Rochester Hills this fall. “People who were remodeling their kitchens or bathrooms would come in looking for ideas, and they would go and purchase products from our suppliers and our trades. We’ve also had people come back to us who had visited the original show house and are now ready to buy a home. It was really an investment in future sales.” — Tom Beaman

 

Ed Mamou // 34

Owner, The Root, White Lake

Revenue: NA // Employees: 40

By buying local, seasonal, and sustainable products from Michigan farmers, Ed Mamou, owner of The Root restaurant in White Lake, believes he is at the forefront of a developing trend in the restaurant industry. “We stay true to Michigan by buying local, making from scratch, and treating ingredients with respect.” Mamou says. “Not only is it about growing the business; it’s about making a statement and taking it to the next level, where we are really making a difference in the Michigan food business.” Mamou says nearly 70 percent of the food prepared at his restaurant comes from Michigan farmers and vendors. The philosophy seems to be working. The Root opened in 2011 and was named the Top Restaurant for 2012 by the Detroit Free Press. Mamou gives a lot of credit for The Root’s success to his executive chef, James Rigato. “Chef James has an amazing ability to create menus from local, seasonal food, and that makes a difference,” Mamou says. Besides owning The Root — another restaurant is planned for Howell — Mamou also serves as the vice president of Royal Oak Recycling and Royal Oak Storage. Under his leadership, Royal Oak Recycling has grown into a diversified, multistate business. He credits his father for instilling a strong work ethic. “My dad (Habib Mamou) built his business on handshake agreements and an old-school mentality where loyalty is important, as is speaking the truth and being fair to your employees. I think I have always carried those values throughout my life.”  — John S. Schultz

 

Daniel Haberman // 39

President, Byte & Mortar Offices, Troy

Clients: 50+ // Employees: 2

Combining his legal, hospitality, and real estate expertise, Daniel Haberman launched a flexible workspace business in 2012 targeted to startups, established enterprises, professional firms, and project teams. Recently rated the fourth best co-working space for entrepreneurs by YFS Magazine, Byte & Mortar Offices in Troy offers a range of services that includes private offices, shared workspace for extended or time-sensitive projects, a support staff, office equipment, furniture, secure Wi-Fi, and other amenities. “We offer the same environment as a Class A office building, with the hospitality of a luxury hotel,” says Haberman, president of Byte & Mortar and general counsel of Haberman Productions in Ferndale. “Once we perfect the model, we plan to start expanding with other locations, most likely in 2014.” Growing up in an entrepreneurial family — Haberman’s parents, Sam and Toby, own Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak along with numerous real estate holdings — proved to be a harbinger of growth. Haberman and his brother, Jeremy, co-founded The Bosco, an upscale lounge on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale, in 2001. They sold that business a decade later (Jeremy owns the Magic Bag, an entertainment venue located just south of The Bosco). “Byte & Mortar was a concept that came to life after a lot of planning and research,” Haberman says. Prices range from a $14 day pass for a co-working project to $599 a month for a furnished, private office. — R.J. King

 

Joe Kadaf // 38 

CEO, ReMax Leading Edge, Dearborn Heights

Gross Sales: $121 million // Employees: 47

When the ReMax agency where Joe Kadaf worked for several years appeared to be on its last legs, Kadaf could have done the easy thing and hooked on with a different agency. His impressive sales record would certainly have put him in demand. But Kadaf saw untapped potential in the seemingly dying agency, so he bought it from his employer and committed himself to turning the company around. Five years later, with two offices and a third one about to open, ReMax Leading Edge has topped $121 million a year in gross sales. “We’ve combined an embrace of the latest technology with the creation of an energetic atmosphere,” Kadaf says. “When people think real estate, they think coffee-drinking and water coolers. I created a powerhouse, a machine, with agents that just move one after another.” The key, Kadaf says, was in aiming for the top. “I knew I could go hire mediocre agents who would do the same business they’d been doing all their lives,” he says, “or I could go for the top 1 percent who want to take their business from what it is now to what it could be.” Once he hired the best, Kadaf says, he created an atmosphere that “rewards the best, and helps the best to be even better.” — Dan Calabrese

 

Joseph Lambert // 36

Founder, Sequoia Applied Solutions Inc., Ann Arbor

 Sales: $750,000 // Employees: 10

Joseph Lambert is an engineer at heart, but when the engineering firm he worked for decided to venture into manufacturing, it went too far outside its area of strength and ultimately went out of business. That could have been a blow to Lambert’s career, but it turned out to be exactly the opposite. Longtime clients contacted him, urging Lambert to find a way to continue his relationship with them because they valued his engineering expertise. So Lambert founded Sequoia Applied Solutions, which opened in 2012 with just
a handful of clients. A year later, Sequoia has grown to 10 employees, and 80 percent of the firm’s business comes from new clients. “Where we really play well is helping to prioritize technology,” Lambert says. “A customer has something they do well, but we build the product around it. If they do radar, we’ll build the radar system with platforms and all that stuff. We’re kind of the guys in the back room that make the things you see.” Management is a new endeavor for Lambert, but he focuses on empowering people and trusts them to deliver for him. “It’s a different skill set, but it’s very rewarding building a team of people and giving them the tools they need to be successful.” — Dan Calabrese

 

Emily A. Hay // 30

Founder, Hay There Social Media, Birmingham

Revenue: NA // Employees: 6

Emily A. Hay was working for a small business that sold corporate sponsorships for major Detroit events when she decided to go out on her own. She founded Hay There Social Media in 2011 and, with her team of six women and TweetTeam.com, she helps small businesses and nonprofits find innovative ways to use social media — and use it affordably and effectively. Additionally, she is co-creator of Saving Face for Parents and Schools, an online video program that helps parents and teachers coach tweens to become smart digital users. Hay has led sessions at local schools on the topic, and the program has been a fundraiser for Cornerstone Schools, where she is involved in the Partner Program. She also is a social media expert on News/Talk WJR 760 AM Radio’s “Internet Advisor” show, serves on the Challenge Detroit Board, is a core volunteer member for Founder Friday Detroit by Women 2.0, and was named one of “52 Empowering Women of 2013” by the WooHoo Radio Network. “We can expand interest in and usage of social media with education and a human connection,” she says. “We receive regular inquiries from individuals looking for social media coaching. That’s why we’re launching SocialGig, our specialized social media task marketplace.” SocialGig helps people and businesses connect with experienced social media users in their community. The gigs can include training on optimizing a presence on Facebook or Linkedin, managing an Instagram account for a business, or mobilizing a “TweetTeam” or a group of bloggers to spread the word about a new product or location. — Gary Witzenburg

 


 Kevin Jappaya // 32

Senior Associate, Thomas A. Duke Co., Farmington Hills

Revenue: NA // Employees: 28

Kevin Jappaya grew up in a family that owns and manages hotels, including the Soo Locks Lodge in Sault Ste. Marie, so it’s no surprise that, after graduating from Wayne State University, he would follow a similar path. “I’m passionate about commercial real estate; I live it, breathe it, and I’m still active in the family business,” Jappaya says. “I enjoy helping people find investment opportunities, and (helping) those who are looking to buy or sell properties for their own businesses.” In 2006, after joining Thomas A. Duke Co., a commercial and investment real estate firm in Farmington Hills, the bottom fell out of the real estate market — but Jappaya saw an opportunity in connecting mainly cash buyers who were looking for “steals” with lenders desperate to unload foreclosures and other distressed properties. “When times were tough, I hung in there. That’s what I’m proud of — understanding that situation, adapting, and reaching out to the people who were selling those assets,” he says. In the process, Jappaya compiled an ample Rolodex of clients that serves him well now that the market is rebounding. “In the last few years, you’ve seen businesses expanding and looking for additional space and eager investors,” he says. “The market has improved and we have experienced significant growth. Compared to 2010, our company’s transactions are up 100 percent.” — Tom Beaman

 

Karry Brook // 33

Owner, Goods Detroit, Detroit

Revenue: NA // Employees: 4

Karry Brook believes in Detroit. She studied advertising design at the College for Creative Studies, then opened Goods Detroit three years ago in the Park Shelton, after selling her wares part-time for six years to other retailers. Along with producing her own designs and illustrations, she creates logos and pictures for clients. She also prints her designs on shirts and other apparel items for individual customers, businesses, and group events. Once an item — a T-shirt, bag — is selected, a buyer heads to the “bakery counter” for printing. Brook’s store also features clothing, jewelry, and other gift items made by local artists. A member of the Midtown Development Group, Brook also serves as a marketing adviser for local merchants. “Some projects are in the works,” she says, “but I’m not ready to talk about them yet.” Does she believe there is hope for recovery for the city of Detroit after it filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in mid-July? “Of course. I never would have opened a business in Detroit if I didn’t see potential in the area. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it is happening one neighborhood at a time.” — Gary Witzenburg


 Nathan Conway // 36

CEO, Fortis Energy Services, Bloomfield Hills

Revenue: $15 million // Employees: 100

As CEO of Fortis Energy Services, a Bloomfield Hills-based oil and gas service company with operations in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland, Nathan Conway’s primary focus is on strategic acquisitions and organic growth. Prior to taking on this position, he was COO of Ward Williston Oil Co., which experienced double-digit revenue growth and led the highly successful divestiture of its two divisions. A third-generation oilman, Conway grew up in the North Dakota oilfields and earned an accounting degree from Minot State University in North Dakota, followed by an MBA at the University of Michigan. He is passionate about the subject of responsible oil and gas exploration. “That means balancing the needs of energy, health, safety, and the environment,” Conway says. “In 2012, the Michigan oil and gas industry paid $100 million in state royalties, fees, and tax revenue. Over the past decades, our industry has contributed $1.3 billion to our state lands, parks, and outdoor recreation.” Can the U.S. attain energy independence? “Absolutely,” Conway insists. “It can happen in the next 10 years to 15 years. America will become a net exporter of natural gas, with Michigan playing an important role. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. is expected to import 30 percent of its oil in 2014, will be able to supply all its own energy needs by 2030, and will become the world’s largest oil producer in less than a decade.” — Gary Witzenburg

 

Dounia Lievan // 33

Senior Vice President, Flagstar Bank, Troy

Net Income: $62.7 million // Employees: 3,778

Dounia Lievan’s father is an entrepreneur. Her mother is a social worker. Lievan grew to love both avocations — the challenge and rewards of business, and the calling of helping others. With that background, she wanted to build her career by doing something that would combine both concepts. The answer was banking. “I chose a profession that was really tough, but banking was the best opportunity to help people,” Lievan says. “You’re helping business owners get their start. You’re helping customers when they’re saving for their first home, when they have a baby, when they have a death in their family — getting through that. So it’s been a great way to make a living and a great way to make a difference in people’s lives.” After rising through the industry with positions of greater responsibility at Comerica Bank and People’s State Bank, Lievan came to Flagstar Bank and began taking on challenges to upgrade the effectiveness of the bank’s sales and service functions. As Flagstar transitioned from a mortgage bank to a full-service financial institution, it went through some “pain points” and its service ranking from J.D. Power & Associates slipped to ninth in its category. Lievan led an effort that successfully returned it to No. 2 in just a year. “We focused on all customer touchpoints and changed some of our processes and interactions to get us back toward the top,” Lievan says. — Dan Calabrese

 

 Monique Stanton // 32

President and CEO, CARE of Southeastern Michigan, Fraser

Budget: $2.7 million //  Employees: 75

After receiving degrees from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids and Marygrove College in Detroit, Monique Stanton worked with homeless youth in Portland, near Lansing, and spent time as director of a family learning center in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood before being named president and CEO of CARE of Southeastern Michigan last year. The nonprofit serves more than 20,000 children and adults each year, focusing largely on substance abuse prevention and treatment as well as providing grief counseling and family support, helping families cope with loss and divorce, teaching parenting skills, and developing re-entry plans for prisoners. “We provide services to the most desperate in our community,” Stanton says. “Our education programs give people the tools they need to prevent negative situations from happening in their lives, and to help their children grow into healthy adults. CARE also consults with businesses on workplace issues such as sexual harassment and techniques that foster improved communication, trust, and accountability.” Lately, Stanton has been concentrating on increasing the group’s brand awareness and fundraising. Today, funding comes from the Southeast Michigan Community Alliance, the Michigan Department of Human Services, the Macomb/St. Clair Workforce Development Board, and the United Way. “Since we brought on our full-time fund development manager in 2012, we’ve almost doubled the amount of individual and business donations,” she says. — Tom Beaman

Ryan Hathaway // 37

President and Co-founder, Global Telecom Solutions, St. Clair Shores

Revenue: $1.5 million // Employees: 5

Ryan Hathaway’s first job out of Michigan State University involved interacting with the phone company that served his uncle’s dental practice. It was at this early stage in his career that Hathaway realized there had to be a better way. “There was a considerable lack of customer service (with telecom providers). You never got the impression that they were looking out for your best interests,” he says. That experience led Hathaway and partner Mark Stackpoole to form Global Telecom Solutions in 2001 to help clients navigate the knotty field of telecom services. Today, GTS serves more than 2,000 customers. “We don’t charge our clients a penny — we have service agreements with over a dozen carriers including Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T, and they compensate us,” Hathaway says. “We go into a company and objectively look at the phone service they currently have and offer suggestions as to which carrier may be the best fit for them.” GTS’s clients typically save between 20 percent and 25 percent on their telecom costs. One customer stands to save $400,000 on a $1.5 million annual bill by switching providers.“By analyzing one client’s bill, we found out they had been paying for all the people who had phone service in an apartment complex down the street,” Hathaway says. “It’s only when you start picking apart the bills that you find the potential for considerable savings.” — Tom Beaman


Aaron Sikora // 38

Partner, PwC, Detroit

Revenue: $31.5 billion (Global) // Employees: 108,500 (Global)

A native Detroiter and one of the youngest partners at PwC, the largest of the Big Four professional services firms, Aaron Sikora has long had a passion for the Motor City. “I was raised on the east side,” he says, “and I’m very vested in the long-term success of the city.” He started working at the age of 9 as a Detroit News carrier and held a variety of jobs before joining PwC at 19 — two years before graduating with a business administration degree from the University of Michigan–Dearborn. At PwC, Sikora provides services to both public and private clients while contributing to “the professional development of the people in our practice.” He served on Mayor Dave Bing’s transition team in 2009 and, after being elevated to partner at PwC in 2010, he became an active member of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “I get a lot of energy from United Way’s goal of helping Detroit become one of the top five places to live and work by the year 2030,” he says. “Look at the results of the turnaround schools and the excitement around the downtown redevelopment.” Sikora also serves as board vice chairman of the Catholic Youth Organization. “I grew up in the CYO sports program in elementary school and the youth leadership program in high school,” he says. “They laid the foundation of who I am today, and those are the values I believe are important for kids to learn to be successful in life.” — Gary Witzenburg

 

Carrie Jones // 37

Executive Director, Michigan Venture Capital Association, Ann Arbor

Dollars Invested: $242M (2012) // Member Organizations: 115+

Carries Jones may be the state’s biggest cheerleader. As executive director of the Michigan Venture Capital Association, she has a chance to tell Michigan’s story in hopes of growing and maintaining strong venture capital funding for entrepreneurs and startup businesses. “I love our state and want to see it be successful,” she says. Jones works closely with the association’s more than 115 member organizations on educational, networking, and advocacy activities. She has been especially focused on marketing Michigan’s growing role as a center of innovation and entrepreneurship. Through her efforts and those of the association, Michigan has jumped from 25th to 15th in the United States for business investment activity. “What is exciting to me is all the folks that left Michigan are now coming back to be part of all the great things that are happening here,” Jones says. “Attracting outside investment to Michigan infuses the economy with new money that can help a company grow here.” A graduate of Furman University in South Carolina, the Fenton native was previously director of the Michigan Film Office, where she administered Michigan’s film and digital media incentive and spearheaded an initiative connecting the state’s film industry with the popular Pure Michigan campaign. Jones has also served in key leadership roles at the State Capital and in the U.S. Senate. She says each career move has allowed her to promote the state. “I have no tattoos of the state of Michigan on me, but it’s only a matter of time,” she says. —John S. Schultz

 

Brad Goodstein // 36

Founder and CEO, Retrofit Studios, Royal Oak

Revenue: NA // Employees: 4


Brad Goodstein has a reputation as a very particular employer, but that’s because he understands that a business focused on personal training can’t attract clients without dedicated employees. “Opening my own gym was a goal I set for myself the moment I trained my first client,” says Goodstein, CEO of Retrofit Studios in Royal Oak. Using a growth strategy that has been compared to that of Warren Buffett, Goodstein emphasizes strong attention to detail in operations, cash-flow management, and making financial decisions. He also leased a specific space that would allow him to grow the business. Ultimately, however, the success of the company comes down to providing clients with realistic, long-term results rather than on-again, off-again training. “I want to help my clients achieve their goals safely, quickly, and effectively,” Goodstein says. “The first step is for them to understand that this is a lifelong experience, not a short-term ‘getting ready for a high school reunion in two weeks’ kind of thing. Small, manageable changes are always my primary focus. Most of my clients see significant changes with two, 30-minute sessions each week.” — Dan Calabrese

 

Chris Thomas // 36

Founder and Managing Director, Fontinalis Partners, Detroit

Portfolio: 11 companies // Employees: 10


In 2009, Chris Thomas saw a future in sustaining next-generation mobility companies and recruited some of the biggest names in corporate America — Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.; Ralph Booth, CEO of Booth America Co.; Mark Schulz, former president of Ford’s international operations; and Chris Cheever, principal of Launch Capital, a venture capital firm. According to projections, by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s 9 billion people will be living in urban areas. Thomas says one drawback is if emergency vehicles can’t reach the scene of an accident due to high traffic volumes, chaos could ensue. “It’s a very real problem that we and others are working on,” says Thomas, who served as an emergency operations specialist with the U.S. Army. “The data shows 30 percent of congestion is caused by people looking for a parking spot, so if we can solve that, it really helps you better manage everything else in urban transportation infrastructure.” Among Fontinalis’ portfolio companies is Park Me, which provides parking data to a host of navigation providers and mobile platforms; Parkmobile, a supplier of mobile parking payment systems; and Zagster, a bike-sharing service that offers rental solutions to a variety of commercial businesses and consumers. “Between the five partners, we have a deep understanding and appreciation of digital technology and how it can best be deployed to improve people’s daily lives,” says Thomas, who also serves as vice chairman of the nonprofit Read To a Child, which pairs business executives with students in two public schools in Detroit. “We work with our portfolio companies to provide better functionality, better service, and better performance. The end goal is to deliver huge efficiencies.” — R.J. King

 


 Dan Mullen // 32

Vice President of Development, Bedrock Real Estate Services, Detroit

Portfolio: 7.5 million square feet  // Employees: 120

A self-starter, Dan Mullen began working odd jobs when he was 13 years old, including stints as a janitor, a ditch-digger, a lawn-cutter, and a car-washer. “I was out there hustling any way I could,” he says. “I was really passionate about work; it just drove me.” Following graduation from college in 2003, Mullen was hired as a mortgage banker at Quicken Loans Inc., which was then located in Livonia. “I worked hard, was promoted, and eventually met (founder and chairman) Dan Gilbert,” Mullen says. When the decision was made to move nearly 10,000 workers from Quicken Loans and its affiliated companies to downtown Detroit, Mullen was the first person hired to lead the project. Soon after, Bedrock Real Estate Services was formed; today the company manages 7.5 million square feet of office, commercial, and related space. “We started out with master planning, which evolved into retail planning and place-making,” Mullen says. “One project we had early on was developing the Madison Building, which today houses Detroit Venture Partners, a business incubator in the digital space, as well as outside businesses like Skidmore Studios and Twitter. We did everything from the initial vision to working with Dan’s wife, Jennifer, on the final fit and finishes.” In addition to helping oversee the renovation of several historic office towers as well as the construction of parking decks, Mullen says he and his team are looking to optimize the development of the M-1 Rail line that is set to begin service by 2017 along Woodward Avenue, from downtown to New Center. “One of our goals is to create these unique retail places that people can’t find anywhere else,” he says. “If we can create this sense of place, people will want to live and work here.” — R.J. King

 

Valerie Richards // 36

Director of Executive Initiatives and Special Projects, The Parade Co., Detroit

Employees: 14 // Volunteers: 2,500

Valerie Richards, a former corporate communications specialist who today is a self-taught expert in logistics, helps oversee hundreds of moving parts. Six years ago, Richards joined The Parade Co. in Detroit, which hosts several annual events including America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Ford Fireworks, the VIP Rooftop Party, and the Hob Nobble Gobble, along with 5K runs and numerous public tours. “What you find early on is that your organizational skills will carry you through, but you have to be willing to adapt on a moment’s notice,”  Richards says. Among numerous duties, Richards helped take the organization’s collection of papier-mâché heads, some of which date to the 1940s, from a few dozen traditional parade-ready characters to a force of nearly 300. With the assistance of Sean Moran, senior vice president of The Moran Group at Morgan Stanley in Grosse Pointe Farms, among others, the Big Heads Corps was formed five years ago. Tony Michaels, president and CEO of The Parade Co., says Richards has helped take the organization to another level. “We have so many great people involved in this organization, and it’s people like Valerie that make us go,” Michaels says.— R.J. King

 


 Jason Vazzano // 36

Co-founder and Co-CEO, Vectorform, Royal Oak

Revenue: NA // Employees: 100


Jason Vazzano is up front about being profiled as an up-and-coming entrepreneur. “I’m not the most fascinating person,” he says. “For that, you have to go downstairs,” referring to the mostly 20-somethings he works with in Royal Oak to create the next generation of technology. “You build the best team, you get the best product,” he says. Vazzano, co-CEO and co-founder with Kurt Stecking, have taken Vectorform from a five-person startup in a small loft office in Detroit into a global leader in strategy, design, and technology solutions for an impressive client list that includes Microsoft, Intel, Disney, VW, BMW, Chrysler, NBC Universal, Raytheon, and others. With more than 100 employees, the company now has offices in New York, Seattle, Munich, Germany, and Hyderabad, India. A graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy, Vazzano says Vectorform was the first to create an app for a smartphone that controls a vehicle remotely. The company collaborated with Massachusetts General Hospital and Microsoft to develop a virtual colonoscopy viewer that allows a noninvasive, inexpensive, and highly accurate scanning process to determine if a procedure is necessary. “Apps are important for people, but we use apps to bridge people to what’s coming next.” So what’s next? Vazzano says more “wearable” technology that adapts to the individual without being invasive. “The idea is to make technology invisible. You want it in your life, but not in your way.”— John S. Schultz

 

Jesse Venegas // 32

Vice President/Business Unit Manager, Ideal Setech/Ideal Group, Detroit

Employees: 108/400 // Revenue: $58M/$215M

For nine of the last 10 years, the Ideal Group in southwest Detroit has been selected as a supplier of the year by General Motors. “It’s a tremendous honor, but we take nothing for granted,” says Jesse Venegas, business unit manager at Ideal Group and vice president of Ideal Setech. The latter enterprise, a division of Ideal Group, allows GM and other large corporations to better manage production equipment including stamping presses, robots, hydraulic pumps, and an array of electronics. In partnership with Setech, a Nashville-based supplier of highly-specialized production and replacement parts, the two companies provide OEMs with critical components while reducing inventory at assembly, stamping, engine, and transmission plants. “We handle the automotive side, and Setech handles other manufacturers in North America and around the world,” Venegas says. Venegas’ father, Frank, founded Ideal Group in 1979. “I started sweeping floors at 12 years old, and when I was 14, I was operating welding equipment and fabricating steel,” Venegas says. “I was a union iron worker for a time, working on projects at the University of Michigan and airports. It was a great training ground.” Most recently, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Venegas to the Hispanic Latino Commission, a division of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Venegas also serves on the board of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “If you work hard, everything else will take care of itself,” he says. — R.J. King

Jason Raznick // 35

CEO, Benzinga, Southfield

Monthly Web Visitors: 10 million // Employees: 25

A self-described “startup junkie,” Jason Raznick launched several enterprises while attending the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “I had an online textbook business, an online dating site, and in high school I tried to do a digital TV recording business, but I couldn’t make it work,” he says. “Four years later, TiVo came out and did the same thing.” Following graduation from college, Raznick started working in the ecommerce sector and dabbled in real estate and mortgage lending — all the while writing investment articles for an array of media outlets. “I wanted to give the average person access to the same tools and education that the 1 percent of investors has,” he says. “There was a deep divide there, and that’s how Benzinga got started.” Launched in 2010, the company at first wrote and distributed financial articles, then added investment webinars, online courses on trading, and a platform where people can follow an expert who makes trades. “We make money by licensing our content and selling subscriptions,” Raznick says. “The market here is so much cheaper than if we had our operations in New York, but we’ve grown enough now that we will be opening a satellite office there soon.” While Benzinga doesn’t provide investment advice, it does offer the latest financial news. “We provide everything to help our customers make informed decisions, as if they were right there on Wall Street,” he says. — R.J. King

 

Tony Grant // 34

CFO and COO, Northern United Brewing Co., Dexter

Revenue: $8 million // Employees: 190

Not one to quit his day job, Tony Grant invested in a burgeoning brewing business in 2008 while working full time doing mergers and acquisitions work at Owens Corning. But when Northern United Brewing Co. in Dexter took off — it’s on pace to produce 10,000 barrels this year, up from 5,200 barrels in 2012 — Grant made a leap of faith. “The craft beer industry is on fire, and with the company’s other divisions, I stepped in as CFO and COO without too much of a learning curve,” he says. In addition to producing a range of beers under such labels as Jolly Pumpkin, North Peak, and Grizzly Peak, Northern United also operates Civilized Spirits and Bonafide Wines. “We have two production centers in Traverse City that produce cider and spirits, as well as a small brewing system,” Grant says. “We have a lot of moving parts, and the only way you can manage it all is to be incredibly organized.” On the restaurant front, the company operates Jolly Pumpkin locations in Ann Arbor and Traverse City, North Peak Brewpub in Traverse City, and Grizzly Peak Brewpub in Ann Arbor. “We have the capacity (in Dexter) to reach 12,500 barrels, and we plan to get there next year,” Grant says. “One thing we found to be successful was sharing our culture. You have to make sure all of your employees are on the same page, because they are greeting and serving our customers every day. If that goes well, everything else goes well.” — R.J. King

 

 Michael Kalis // 32

CEO and Owner, MarketplaceHomes.com, Livonia

Revenue: $30M // Employees: 100

Looking to revolutionize the residential home market, Michael Kalis started an online marketing company that acts as a real estate brokerage firm. Founded in 2007, the company was foundering until Kalis acquired it for $25,000. “At the time, it was basically a landing page,” says Kalis, CEO of MarketplaceHomes.com. “We saw a way to sell new homes and help people sell their existing home — all over the Internet.” The company doesn’t build dwellings; rather, it links prospective buyers with builders, both here and around the country. Based in Livonia, the firm expects to deliver 1,400 new homes this year. “We’re open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week,” Kalis says. “You pull up to one of the model homes, call the number on the sign, and we’ll (remotely) open the doors and turn on the lights. Our trained specialist is with you the whole time.” Called iTours, the program can be accessed virtually from a home computer, as well.  Over time, Kalis has developed several unique programs, in addition to the virtual tours. Under one of the programs, the company will agree to lease a new homebuyer’s existing residence for up to six years. “Some people have trouble selling their homes, so we help them avoid one of three scenarios — double payments, a smaller new home than they wanted, or the cancellation of a new home,” he says. — R.J. King

 

Brian Hannigan // 38

Founder and CEO, Ratekick.com, Clinton Township

Revenue: NA // Employees: 6

Brian Hannigan has been in the insurance industry since 1998, but he says the business model he once used at Hannigan Insurance was broken. “Back then we used telemarketing, direct mail, cold-calling, and ads on shopping carts. Those days are over,” he says. In 2008, Hannigan launched RateElert.com, based on the Lending Tree model, which matches online auto quote requests with insurance providers. As consumer behavior morphed yet again, Ratekick.com followed in 2012. “A lot of people wanted quotes but they didn’t want phone calls, and there was no way to compare information from multiple providers online,” Hannigan says. “They just want price transparency and a way to shop for car insurance anonymously, without being hassled by a salesperson.” Ratekick.com allows shoppers to enter vehicle and driver information, a desired deductible, potential discounts, and any traffic violations. Within seconds, the user receives estimates from multiple insurance companies. “We have 100-plus carriers in 50 states,” Hannigan says. “Not just the big national guys you see on TV, but local and regional companies. On average, the user will get 10 price quotes. My goal is to build Ratekick.com as a brand and to be a household name in three years,” he says. “We could easily have over 200 employees one day as we scale up with life insurance, mortgages, credit cards, student loans, pet insurance — anything that’s tied to a rate. Going public could be in the cards for us someday, too.” — Tom Beaman

 

Hyaat Chaudhary // 32

CEO, OutdoorHub, Bingham Farms

Revenue: $9.5 million // Employees: 52

Prior to joining OutdoorHub as CEO, Hyaat Chaudhary started an online commerce company called eBrands. Based in Birmingham, in just two year’s time the company saw revenue jump fivefold while profits increased sevenfold. After selling the business in the fall of 2011, Chaudhary was appointed CEO of OutdoorHub in Bingham Farms, which bills itself as the world’s largest digital media company targeting the outdoors — fishing, hiking, boating, skiing, power sports, etc. The company represents 600 websites via partnerships and advertising reach, which collectively generate more than 22 million unique visitors per month. “We’ve made huge forays into video, with more than 2 million video subscribers and 1 million video views a day,” Chaudhary says. “We have an in-house division that syndicates content through our proprietary technology, and we’re just starting to branch out into digital streaming.” In the near future, Chaudhary and his team will reposition the company’s various assets — action adventure sports, outdoor activities, and agriculture — under Carbon Media Group. In addition to producing daily e-newsletters, the company sells digital ad space and provides content for dozens of clients including General Motors, Energizer, All State Insurance, REI, and Kawasaki. Chaudhary spent seven years in private equity before launching eBrands. “From startups to large corporations, I’ve been fortunate to see both sides of successful businesses,” he says. “The key thing is finding the right talent and then providing the right tools so they can grow.” — R.J. King

 

Dan Ryan // 30

Co-owner, College Hunks Hauling Junk, Madison Heights

Revenue: $530,000 // Employees: 15

In 2008, Dan Ryan was a young, up-and-coming TV sports producer in New York when a layoff threw his career in an unexpected direction. Returning home to Detroit and finding competition fierce for a limited number of jobs, Ryan soon took inspiration from a cousin who, along with a partner, had started a business hauling rubbish via a “beat-up cargo van.” It wasn’t long before Ryan decided he could do better as an entrepreneur rather than diving back into TV sports. Ryan and Patrick Lipa acquired two franchises — College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving. It wasn’t long before the duo upgraded their trucks and equipment, and moved into new office space in Madison Heights. “It’s not a glamorous business, but I tell everybody we’re in the customer service business,” Ryan says. “Where we’re different is that we immerse ourselves in helping others, whether it’s food drives for Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan or collecting art supplies for needy schools.” Over the next few years, Ryan and Lipa, who respectively handle sales and operations, plan to expand into the Ann Arbor market and the west side of the state. — Dan Calabrese

 

Fadi Aoude // 39


Senior Vice President of Technology, FordDirect, Dearborn

Annual Revenue: N/A  // Employees: 86

FordDirect, a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and its dealer network, was formed in 2000 to provide Ford and Lincoln dealers with digital marketing services such as websites, lead management systems, and customer chat functions. “There were hundreds of servers,” says Fadi Aoude, senior vice president of technology for FordDirect. “The biggest challenge we had was consolidating all the digital marketing systems across Ford and our dealer network.” Aoude’s team has consolidated more than 40 applications, 3,300 dealer websites, and all lead management tools under a single platform, shrinking a disparate array of IT systems and vendors. “All of our lead generation across the Web and third parties now funnels through our lead processing system and the customer information gets delivered in real time to our dealers,” Aoude says. “My plans for the future include building a best-in-class technology team that can bring innovation, flexibility, and process to take FordDirect to the next level.” —Tom Beaman

 

 

Michael Pearson // 32

Director, North America, Bremont Watch Co.

Revenue: NA // Employees: 50

If you believe Michael Pearson, the British are coming — again. This time though it’s in the business of luxury watches — Bremont, to be exact. Pearson, director of North America operations, says he is driven to sell more of the high-end timepieces in the U.S. than are sold in Britain, where they are manufactured and assembled. A native Brit, Pearson has lived and worked in Michigan nearly seven years. His first job here was with a jeweler in Birmingham, where he led the company’s international business development. Pearson then met Bremont co-founders Nick and Giles English through a friend, and was offered a sales job on the spot. In just over a year, Pearson expanded the company’s operations from eight stores to 50. He quickly became director of sales in North America and has increased distribution to Canada and the Caribbean. Pearson points out that each timepiece undergoes extreme testing, and the movements are all mechanical, not battery-driven. Pearson says it is his personal mission to brand Bremont as a top-seller in this country. “It’s been wonderful to know that this company, this seed, is set and can grow into something quite special and unique in the watch industry across the world — but, more importantly for me, in the United States.” —John S. Schultz 

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