30 In Their Thirties 2011


We asked our readers to nominate regional business professionals in their 30s who are advancing their companies, industries, and communities. From savvy entrepreneurs to enterprising executives, these overachievers believe opportunity and growth are not only achievable, but expected given the success of multiple generations of business leaders in the region and state.

*Honorees in no particular order.

Linzie Venegas, 31

Sales and Marketing Manager

Ideal Group, Detroit

Revenue: $180 million

Employees: 200

It’s not every day that Google, the Internet search giant, highlights a small  business. But when Linzie Venegas, sales and marketing manager for Ideal Group in Detroit, generated year-over-year double-digit sales growth using AdWords and other Google services, the search engine took notice. “For every $1 we spend on AdWords, we generate $18.92 in sales,” Venegas says. “That’s helped us grow our overall revenue between 10 percent and 12 percent every year.” One of the largest Hispanic-owned businesses in the country, Ideal Group offers everything from construction and contracting services to retail and equipment sales. For the latter group, Venegas and her team set up an online auction site, one of five  company-owned websites she oversees, to sell surplus items such as cabinets, tools, and lockers. She also manages sales for Ideal Shield, which manufactures handrails, guardrails, and bollard covers for companies including Target, Walt Disney, and Wal-Mart. — R.J. King


Ryan Cooley, 35


O’Connor Real Estate & Development, Detroit

Revenue: $400,000

Employees: 17

After graduating from DePaul University in Chicago with a finance degree, Ryan Cooley stayed in the Windy City for six years working in commercial banking. While there, he learned to appreciate that city’s urban lifestyle. “We (he and his brother, Phillip) really liked being in the neighborhoods of Chicago,” Cooley says. They wanted to bring that same feel to Detroit, and Corktown became the beneficiary. “We wanted to come back to develop buildings, so we focused on Corktown because it was pretty intact,” he says. The pair bought several commercial structures on Michigan Avenue, east of 14th Street. “We really like buildings with character,” Cooley says. “We like to modernize them and keep the historic feel of them.” The first projects were Slows Bar BQ and an office building. Next will be another restaurant, which will replace a pawnshop. The project, expected to take up to two years to complete, will feature organic food, some of it sourced from local urban farmers. —Tim Keenan

Phillip Cooley, 33


Slows Bar BQ, Detroit

Revenue: $4.5 million

Employees: 100

What does one do with a film degree and two years of experience as a model? If you’re Phillip Cooley, you — along with brother Ryan and two other partners — open Slows Bar BQ in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. Last year, he added to the fare with Slows To Go in Detroit’s Midtown District. “We keep studying the great barbeque traditions all over the country, and celebrate them,” says Cooley, who has been written up in national food magazines, The New York Times, and numerous blogs. “We had a tremendous amount of help from Detroiters and our family,” he adds. “There’s a tremendous amount of work to do here. Now, we love helping others be successful.” Cooley, who says he volunteers some 50 hours each week in addition to his role at Slows and in helping his brother Ryan Cooley with their family development company. He is involved in beautifying Roosevelt Park in front of Michigan Central Station, and donates his time to several green organizations. — Tim Keenan

Jon Rimanelli, 38


Nextronix Inc., Romulus

Revenue: $6 million

Employees: 7

Jon Rimanelli was a 15-year-old clerk at a toy store in St. Clair Shores when a Chrysler executive inquired about building a line of motorized model trucks that could be used as gifts. “That was when the light bulb went off,” says Rimanelli, who is now CEO of Nextronix Inc. “I used my parents’ basement for the assembly line, and outsourced the paint.” Rimanelli launched Nextronix in 2000 with Saturn Electronics Corp., which fabricates and assembles circuit boards for automotive, aviation, defense, and other uses. An avid pilot, he founded Detroit Air Racing Inc. in late 2007, which sponsored and facilitated the 2008 inaugural Red Bull Air Races. Most recently, Rimanelli re-chartered Detroit Aircraft Corp. to manufacture next-generation air mobility systems, and he co-founded NextGen DET, a nonprofit that incubates innovations in aviation-related systems. “Our goal is to accelerate the FAA’s mandate to convert ground-based radar to GPS navigation,” he says. — R.J. King

Jason Abate, 31

Vice President and Banking Center Manager

Comerica Bank, Novi

Revenue: $1.2 billion*

Employees: 5,812**

Jason Abate recognized the importance of customer service at a young age. When he was 15, he landed a job at a restaurant in Farmington Hills, where he rose from busboy to night manager. “A regular customer came in and she was having a bad day,” Abate recalls. “I asked the owner if I could give her a bowl of soup instead of a cup, and he said OK. That customer called me at work the next day and said, ‘You really made my day — and that’s exactly what we’re looking for at IBM.’”  Driven by an appreciation for customer service, Abate’s career took off at the computer giant, with stops at The Gale Group and Charter One Bank, all while pursuing a degree at the University of Michigan Dearborn. He moved to Comerica’s Novi banking center in 2004, where he runs day-to-day operations and leads business development. “We really try to understand our customers’ needs and get to know them so that, as issues come up, they trust us to help them accomplish their goals.”      —Tom Beaman

* Midwest ** In Michigan

Ren Carlton, 38

Business Consultant

Dynamic Advisory Solutions, Troy

Revenue: $1.1 million

Employees: 20

The core principles of Dynamic Advisory Solutions — excellence, culture, integrity, and entrepreneurship — are not individually complicated. But what makes them function so cohesively is the vision of the firm’s founder, Ren Carlton. Having worked at large and small accounting firms, Carlton applied his insight in 2000 to the launch of Dynamic. He operated the financial advisory business out of his basement at first, and made ends meet by teaching at Baker College. In 2005, the company became so successful that it spawned a radio show and, more recently, a burgeoning franchise business known as Global CFOs. His advice is straightforward: “Determine your core values, and hold true to them no matter what,” he says. “When times are tough, they will guide you to better times.” Planning is under way to open a franchise location of Global CFOs, with the goal of establishing multiple locations. “We are ready to move forward full speed ahead,” Carlton says. — Dan Calabrese

Patricia Anderson, 34

District Manager

Perry Johnson Registrars, Troy

Revenue: NA

Employees: 920

Patricia Anderson says it’s her “nontypical” approach to customers that has propelled her to become the top sales performer for Perry Johnson Registrars. “I listen to what the client wants to say. I let them talk and let them tell me what their goals are, rather than me focusing on my sales pitch.” It has paid off. Since joining Perry Johnson Registrars four years ago, Anderson has been among the top three of 24 salespeople in the last three years, and led the company in sales in 2010. Perry Johnson Registrars conducts third-party auditing and certification in a variety of areas. Anderson is responsible for managing sales in seven states, where she negotiates large contracts and conducts seminars. “I love to travel, but it’s great to come home,” says the single mother. “My children are my life. They keep me very busy with all their activities.” What’s next for the high-achiever? “I want to top my sales revenue from last year, and I want to run a 5k race — and finish.” — John S. Schultz


Daljit Doogal, 39

Managing Partner

Foley & Lardner, Detroit

Revenue: $630 million*

Local Employees: 70

The U.S.-India Business Council says trade and investment between the two nations is worth more than $50 billion — and that spells opportunity for Daljit Doogal, a New Delhi native who co-chairs Foley & Lardner’s India Business Development Committee and Asian Pacific American Affinity Group. “We don’t practice in India, but we have a lot of clients in India and a lot of Indian clients who work in the U.S.,” says Doogal, who chairs the firm’s business law department. “I take pride in helping these Indian companies grow and create jobs here in the U.S.” In 2000, Doogal co-founded the Detroit chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs, an organization that provides mentoring, networking, and educational opportunities to local entrepreneurs of Indian descent. Doogal also serves as legal counsel and strategic business adviser to outside companies, and recently helped a local automotive supplier acquire a collection of distressed assets that preserved numerous jobs. —Tom Beaman


Randall Fogelman, 38

Vice President of Business Development

Eastern Market Corp., Detroit

Budget: $1.6 million

Employees: 11

For years, Eastern Market was in need of a new business model lest it reach the point of insignificance. Credit the city for approving a public-private partnership to operate the market in 2007. Since then, more than $10 million in improvements have been made, including the restoration and modernization of Shed 2 and Shed 3, along with a new branding program. “When we renovated Shed 2 we put up a perimeter fence, which really disrupted the market,” says Randall Fogelman, vice president of business development. “So when we redid Shed 3, we kept it open on the weekends and the contractors had it during the week. It was a lot better that way.” Early next year, Fogelman will oversee a $6 million, 12-month renovation of Shed 5, which will include a community kitchen that food entrepreneurs can rent by the hour. He also developed better signage. “People like to know where the food is from,” Fogelman says. “The buy local campaign is incredibly strong.” — R.J. King

Lilly Epstein Stotland, 33

Co-owner/General Manager of Business Development

Vesco Oil Corp., Southfield

Revenue: $108 million

Employees: 184

Every morning when Lilly Epstein Stotland comes to work, she walks past a large portrait. It’s an image of her grandfather, Eugene Epstein, who started Vesco Oil Corp. in 1947. “I greet him,” says Stotland, co-owner and general manager of business development. “And I ‘talk’ with him. I tell him if I made some kind of miscue the day before. I apologize — but I tell him I will fix it.” Since joining the family firm in 2004 after working in New York, Stotland has helped maneuver the company through a difficult Michigan economy via acquisitions, diversification, and regional expansion. The firm, a distributor of auto and industrial lubricants and supporting services to auto dealerships, repair and oil-change shops, and industrial plants, recently expanded into Ohio. Epstein, a graduate of Harvard, says recycling of used oil and solvents is as important as selling and distributing products. “[It’s] the core belief of the company,” Epstein says. “We want to be as green as we can be.” — John S. Schultz

Teanisha Eli, 39

Director of Development

Detroit Housing Commission, Detroit

Budget: $340 million

Employees: 140

Teanisha Eli graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy in 2000 with a degree in health care administration, but she discovered her true passion in her first job, at Habitat for Humanity. “I enjoyed seeing the excitement and pride of new homeowners,” she says. “That made me dive in head-first to make sure that individuals have the opportunity for quality housing.” That spirit followed Eli as she soon moved to the Detroit Housing Commission, where today she oversees a staff of eight and $340 million in private and public funding. Eli is responsible for developing four mixed-style properties — Woodbridge Estates, Gardenview Estates, Cornerstone, and Emerald Springs — which will ultimately house 1,000 families. Some residents will rent, while others will own outright. “I take pride in the work we do here,” Eli says. “We are building houses and providing jobs but, more important, we’re building futures and enhancing the hope of individuals in this community.”   —Tom Beaman


Jon Grabowski, 30

Real Estate Developer

Precise Associates, Detroit

Investment Capital: $25 million

Employees: 14

Jon Grabowski was building high-end homes in the suburbs when he discovered that his greater passion was developing single-family homes in Detroit. So he retooled his firm, Precise Associates, to focus on what might be considered an unconventional — but, for him, highly satisfying — priority. Today he sees himself as leading the rebirth of Detroit’s neighborhoods just as Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, is seen as playing the same role in revitalizing downtown. “The city can create a vision, and I think the mayor has successfully done that,” Grabowski says. “But inevitably, it’s up to private businesses to implement profitable strategies that can solve the problem. That’s where Precise comes in.” To date, Precise has invested $20 million in the redevelopment of 600 homes in Detroit, and most of the capital has come from local investors. If the market takes off, will it reach a point of saturation? He hopes so, “because that will mean we’ve been successful.” — Dan Calabrese

Meagan Hardcastle, 39

Director, Turnaround                                               and Corporate Finance Practice

O’Keefe & Associates, Bloomfield Hills

Revenue: NA

Employees: 40

As an analyst at a major bank, Meagan Hardcastle was confident she could work with troubled companies and successfully facilitate a turnaround. But by the time a struggling business reached her desk, the assets were often in the process of being liquidated. “I thought that, with the right kind of attention and shared expertise, you could help business owners protect their life’s work,” says Hardcastle, director of the turnaround and corporate finance practice at O’Keefe & Associates, a turnaround management firm in Bloomfield Hills. Since joining the firm in 2006, Hardcastle has helped dozens of companies reverse their misfortunes. “The thing I like about working here is that you can help pull companies back from the brink and put them on solid ground,” she says. In addition to assisting troubled companies, Hardcastle volunteers her time as a board member of Detroit Executive Service Corps, which helps nurture and grow nonprofit organizations. — R.J. King

Hans Hegge, 30


Text Ripple, Auburn Hills

Revenue: $1 million

Employees: 6

Hans Hegge was selling home products online when, in 2006, his cousin mentioned an interest in using text messages to connect with customers of his nightclub. Hegge smelled an opportunity. Although it was a young industry at the time, Hegge began building the foundation of a company that now operates in 41 states and several countries. “I would have to go to bar and restaurant owners, which was where we focused our efforts when we launched, and tell them what a text message was,” says Hegge, a Text Ripple partner. These days, of course, business leaders get it. Text Ripple focuses on SMS messages and QR (Quick Response) codes, but Hegge emphasizes that he only works with opted-in recipients. The next growth opportunity in mobile marketing, he believes, will be to give clients the ability to customize their messages to recipients. Hegge says his team has made the company a top contender in the field. His next goal?  Make Text Ripple a leader. — Dan Calabrese


Ken Harris, 37

President and CEO

Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, Detroit

Revenue: NA

Employees: 250

After returning from the annual meeting of the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., Ken Harris couldn’t have been more energized. One of the founders of the newly formed Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, Harris has plans to make the organization the largest of its kind in the country. “Our target is to have more than 5,000 members within two years, and with 79,000 African-American owned businesses in the state, we will have a very strong voice in Lansing and Washington,” says Harris, president and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber. The organization offers business owners conferences, workshops, economic development services, and access to financing opportunities. “One program we feel will have a big impact will be entrepreneurial training,” Harris says. In July, Harris helped form affiliate chambers in Grand Rapids and Lansing — plans are to have chambers in nearly every urban center in the state. — R.J. King

Medina Hunter, 37

Director of Business Development

ECI Services, Wixom

Revenue: $6 million

Employees: 35

Despite fighting serious illnesses on and off for more than 10 years, Medina Hunter, a single mother of two children, wouldn’t allow those health challenges to affect her work life. “I never refer to myself as a survivor, because I don’t want people to feel that I could somehow be defeated,” she says. Since May, Hunter has landed accounts from national players like CNA and Frankenmuth Insurance — a huge accomplishment, since it often takes three years or longer to be named to an insurer’s preferred vendor list. The accounts represent millions of dollars in revenue. “Medina has really helped us take our business to the next level in a very short period of time,” says Brian Ellis, president of ECI Services. “She has that true it factor that is hard to find.” As director of business development, Hunter says she spends hours researching potential clients. “I find out a company’s niche, what they do well, and where they need help, and then I provide a solution,” she says.             — R.J. King

Ibrahim Sendijarevic, 36

President and COO

InfiChem Polymers, Sterling Heights

Revenue: $1 million

Employees: 8

An industry first, Ibrahim Sendijarevic and his team at InfiChem Polymers in Sterling Heights, in partnership with Troy Polymers Inc. in Troy, developed a proprietary chemical process that recycles scrap foam for use in vehicles like the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Here’s how it works: InfiChem gathers excess foam from auto supplier Magna International and other sources, breaks it down into a liquid substance, and delivers the polyols (fluid) to a supplier. The resulting mixture, which contains more than 60 percent recycled content, is used to produce foam for car seats. Other uses include insulation in appliances, furniture cushions, insulation, and sealants. “InfiChem is charged with getting the product out in the field,” says Sendijarevic, president and COO. “Right now, our capacity is 2 million pounds of polyols, and our plan is to move to a facility where we can handle as much as 50 million pounds.” A chemist, Sendijarevic says there’s plenty of room for growth.” — R.J. King

Ryan Marsh

President & COO

T.H. Marsh Construction Co., Royal Oak

Revenue: $50 million

Employees: 45

As the third generation of his family to run the construction company his grandfather founded in 1954, one might think Ryan Marsh’s place at the top was a preconceived notion. Not so, says Marsh, who took his 1997 Western Michigan University finance degree to PNC Bank, where he was a commercial real estate lender. He returned to the family fold in 2000, when the company was a $5 million enterprise. “Assembling a team of high-level construction professionals with a focus on customer satisfaction was the key to that growth,” says Marsh, whose company has worked on projects in 12 states, including the Troy Beaumont Health and Wellness Center. Marsh says he doesn’t expect to maintain recent growth levels. “We’re not trying to go from a $50 million company to a $500 million company,” Marsh says. “We’re focusing on quality projects for our valued clients. If we manage 10 percent to 15 percent  year-over-year growth in the future, that’ll be good.” — Tim Keenan

Storm Kirschenbaum, 33


Metis Sports Management, Birmingham

Revenue: NA

Employees: 10

Storm Kirschenbaum got his name in January 1978, when he was born during what many Michiganders dubbed “the blizzard of the century.” It’s also a perfect name for the life he leads as one of Michigan’s leading baseball and football agents. “I get calls 24/7,” Kirschenbaum says. “There are no restful nights, no vacations — but I love it.” A baseball standout in high school and college, he graduated from the University of Detroit-Mercy Law School in 2003 and worked for a law firm with a sports practice until 2007, when he hung the Metis Sports Management shingle in his hometown. MSM is now arguably the leading baseball and football sports representation agency in Michigan, with 85 clients including Major Leaguers Fernando Rodriguez and Yhenty Brazaobah. Kirschenbaum says his days as a catcher prepared him for his role as an agent. “I do business the way I played — aggressive, serious, and prepared for any situation that arises.” —Tim Keenan


Ravi Ray Mathura, 37

Executive Patent Attorney

General Motors Co., Detroit

Revenue: $135 billion

Employees: 209,000

Patent attorney Ravi Ray Mathura is a fourth-generation employee of General Motors who started his career in the Powertrain Division before accepting a position with Novi’s Quinn Law Group. But his familial connections to GM — his great-grandfather was a test driver for Oakland Motor Car Co. (a GM division from 1909 to 1931) — were too much to keep him away. Mathura was lured back to a leadership position at GM, where he took on a role prosecuting the company’s powertrain-related patent applications, including hybrids, advanced engines, and electric drive trains. “GM is well-positioned to quickly bring advanced technology to market and to respond to changing customer  demands,” Mathura says. “I believe I help to enable this by allowing my intimate knowledge of the company to guide legal, technical, and business decisions.” On a personal level, Mathura studies 20th century decorative arts and paleontology, and wants to serve on a museum board. — Dan Calabrese

Gabe Rubin, 31

Founder and CEO

Beyond Gaming, Southfield

Revenue: $3.2 million

Employees: 6

In 2005, Gabe Rubin was playing an online video game with his brother in California, when he came up with the idea of creating a website for gamers where they could compete for cash prizes. A year later, he launched Beyond Gaming, which today operates an online service (www.gamersaloon.com) where players from around the world wager money prior to competing in a video game. “We get a fee for every wager made (around 14 percent), and the winning player gets the pot,” Rubin says. “We’ve since launched fantasy sports games online (www.fansaloon.com), where we allow players to pick teams on a daily basis.” Players of traditional games like chess and checkers can place their bets, as well, at www.gamersaloonarcade.com. Since inception, Beyond Gaming has awarded more than $8.5 million in cash prizes, Rubin says. “The new services have been working. Our revenue is up 30 percent for the first half of the year (over 2010).” — R.J. King

Arthur O’Reilly, 36

Co-chair, Appellate Litigation Practice

Honigman Miller, Detroit

Billings: NA

Lawyers: 203

Arthur O’Reilly took an unusual route to becoming a partner at one of Michigan’s largest law firms. After graduating from Georgetown University in 1996, O’Reilly went to work as a Washington, D.C.-based reporter and producer for a Japanese television station. He also spent time with the Defense Intelligence Agency before studying law — but not with the intention of becoming an attorney. “I went to law school as an entrée to public service, then realized I actually enjoyed the practice of law,” says O’Reilly. A postgraduate stint in the office of an appellate court judge provided a door into what is a very specialized field of law — appellate litigation. “It’s more cerebral than run-of-the-mill litigation,” says O’Reilly. “You’re deconstructing little points of law. It was an area that needed focus in our practice.” Apart from law, O’Reilly recently became a board member at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where he helped guide the organization through its recent labor strike.         — Tim Keenan

Alicia Schehr, 39


Jaffe Raitt Heuer and Weiss, Southfield

Billings: NA

Lawyers: 105

Most companies that file for bankruptcy protection eventually liquidate their assets to pay off creditors. “It’s a very specialized sector of the law, and the claims can range from $5,000 to millions of dollars,” says Alicia Schehr, a partner with the law firm of Jaffe Raitt Heuer and Weiss. “In some instances we work with secured creditors to affect the sale of assets to generate the largest repayment possible.” In other cases, Schehr will represent preference defendants to maximize a particular outcome. As a result, she has become an expert in both plaintiff and defendant bankruptcy matters — a somewhat rare set of circumstances. Due to the economic slowdown, Schehr adopted a core set of principles. “When you’re working on a case with 300 to 400 creditors, you need to be aware of the larger picture — and, yes, there are some judgments that will not please everyone,” she says. “The trick is to focus on the job at hand.” — R.J. King



Shane Pliska, 30


Planterra, West Bloomfield

Revenue: NA

Employees: 50

For someone who grew up in the interior landscaping business, a natural prerequisite to starting a career in the field would be to attend a specialized university. But Shane Pliska, president of Planterra in West Bloomfield, chose a different path. “I attended film school, which gave me a unique perspective on producing aesthetic beauty,” he says. The company, which was founded by Pliska’s parents in 1973, has 1,000 commercial clients across North America — the majority of which are in metro Detroit. In addition to helping oversee the construction of a 23,000-square-foot greenhouse in West Bloomfield last year, Pliska handles the company’s national accounts. “We consult for resorts and casinos in Las Vegas, for example, and last fall our biggest project was restoring the Palm House at the Governor General’s residence in Ottawa,” he says. “We operate more businesses today, but they’re all related to our core business.” — R.J. King

Greg Semack, 38


Your Local Car Guys, St. Clair Shores

Sales: $12.5 million

Employees: 9

Early in his career, Greg Semack worked in every department of a car dealership, including the body shop. But in 2006, he turned conventional wisdom on its ear and founded Your Local Car Guys in St. Clair Shores. With one call (or e-mail), customers describe their vehicle of choice and Semack searches for it from among a national network of dealers. Once a vehicle is located, Semack negotiates the best deal to fit a customer’s needs. He also prepares the paperwork and delivers the car. The company has delivered more than 2,100 vehicles, mostly in Michigan. “Nobody likes to be bounced from the sales manager to the finance manager,” Semack says. “I handle it all. When you can save people time, hassle, and money, that’s why I’m in business.” In addition, Semack returns 1 percent of the invoice price of every vehicle sold to the charity of the customer’s choice. “It’s me giving back to the community because things are tight everywhere,” he says.  —Tom Beaman

Shannon Stahlin, 32


Direct Incorporation, Ann Arbor

Revenue: $3 million

Employees: 22

The idea for Direct Incorporation, an Ann Arbor-based provider of business startup services, came to Shannon Stahlin during a corporate law class at Tulane University in 2003. “The Internet was just taking shape, and it just clicked that this was something I could do online,” he says. The company positioned itself initially as an alternative to law firms for incorporating businesses and protecting  trademarks. Then came domain registration, logo and website design, and compliance software for startups. “It’s in my blood,” Stahlin says, pointing to his entrepreneurial grandparents whom started their own businesses as inspiration. Aside from a $2,000 credit card charge and $5,000 in seed money from a friend, Stahlin has never required outside funding. “It’s incumbent upon you to use your own resources to figure it out, to bootstrap. We’ll put something out there, and see if it works. If it doesn’t, we tweak it and make it work.”  — Tom Beaman


Liana Spiegel, 32


Marmalade Hills, Bloomfield Hills

Revenue: NA

Employees: 2

What started in Liana Spiegel’s kitchen as a way to create healthy products for her husband and two children has spiked into a fast-growing body-care product business that has brought financial success.“We have doubled in sales every year,” says Spiegel, owner of Marmalade Hills, which was ranked No. 2 among 200 mom-owned businesses in 2011 by StartupNation. The company’s impressive growth has Spiegel scrambling to find a larger production facility before the demanding holiday season. Speigel began experimenting with making soaps and has since created more than 110 products, including cleansers, toners, moisturizers, facial masks, massage oils, and body scrubs. The products are made from natural ingredients that Spiegel utilizes for their healing and beneficial properties. “I don’t take any shortcuts on ingredients,” she insists. “I am most proud of their freshness, quality, and effectiveness. Marmalade Hills is my third baby.” — John S. Schultz



Michael Versaci, 35


Miguel’s Catina, Rochester Hills

Revenues: NA

Employees: 40

Six months after Michael Versaci opened Miguel’s Cantina in Rochester Hills, two other Mexican restaurants opened nearby. He took the competition as a  compliment. “I think they saw us doing well and they wanted part of that success, but it only made us stronger,” says Versaci, who has been in the restaurant business since he was a teen. In 2008, when the owners of Baja Fresh decided to sell their restaurants, Versaci and his friend, Reynaldo Paez, took over. In  February 2010, they opened Miguel’s Cantina, and Versaci says it has grown to double-digit positive. “After working within the restrictions of a franchise for so many years, we took full advantage of the freedom in defining our own brand,”  says Versaci, who learned culinary arts in Florence. Versaci says he uses only authentic ingredients, and nearly every menu item is made from scratch. To ensure freshness, salsa is made to order. “Sorry, no ground beef here, that’s for hamburgers,” he says.   — John S. Schultz

Lians Jadan, 33

Owner/Fashion Photographer

LMstudios, Warren

Revenue: NA

Employees: 2

“Detroit is a blank canvas,” says Lians Jadan, an international fashion photographer and creative consultant who believes the city has a chance to recreate its image and direction. “We are not Motown anymore,” he says. “We are not the auto capital of the world anymore … so we can make the city the kind of place we want.” The self-taught photographer, who is the owner of LMstudios, has won numerous awards for his work, including a 2009 honorable mention from the International Photography Awards Association. However, he says his true passion is using his connections and talent to bring new life to Detroit. “There is a momentum here, we just have to keep it rolling,” says Jadan, who helped spearhead Fashion in Detroit, an effort to create a venue for local designers to showcase their talents. He is also negotiating with Madison Heights-based Moosejaw to relocate their clothing manufacturing operations from China and California to Detroit.       — John S. Schultz


Steven Wybo, 36

Turnaround Specialist

Conway MacKenzie, Inc., Birmingham

Revenue: $50 million

Employees: 100

When Steven Wybo is asked to step in to help run a company, it means — by definition — that the company is in financial trouble. But with Wybo’s track record as a turnaround management specialist, it also means the company stands a decent chance of becoming viable once again. Wybo has helped turn around some 75 companies as managing director of Birmingham-based Conway MacKenzie. And because of his background, he says he can often identify solutions that company insiders miss. One such example involved his work as interim CEO for AZ Automotive, a $200 million auto supplier. By negotiating accommodations with lenders and customers, Wybo positioned the company for a sale to a global auto supplier, paid everyone in full, and saved 1,000 jobs. “Our clients typically have great ideas on how to fix the problem, but what I think I do best is take those ideas and formulate a plan that brings all parties together to achieve the best outcome.”       — Dan Calabrese