DBusiness Daily Update: Ten ‘Micro Makers’ Pitch to Become Next Big Thing at LTU, and More

By Jake Bekemeyer, Tim Keenan and R.J. King | June 27, 2022

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Ten companies pitched their products to judges in a “MicroMakers Pitch Event” at Lawrence Tech last week.

Ten companies pitched their products to judges in a “MicroMakers Pitch Event” at Lawrence Tech last week. // Courtesy of LTU

Ten ‘Micro Makers’ Pitch to Become Next Big Thing at LTU

Ten companies pitched their novel products to judges and an online audience of more than 50 people in a “MicroMakers Pitch Event,” conducted last week by the Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.

The event featured startups creating innovative physical products that are being established by historically underrepresented populations in the city of Southfield and Wayne County.

Judges for the event were Southfield Mayor Ken Siver; Wafa Dinaro, executive director of the New Economy Initiative; Nezar Akeel, founder and CEO of exercise equipment maker MaxPro; Rochelle Freeman, director of business development for the city of Southfield; Paul Riser, senior program officer at the Ralph Wilson Foundation; and David Farbman, partner at Farbman Group.

Winning the $10,000 for best early stage company was LucyPop with best early stage runner up going to Carpet Puller.

Southfield-based LucyPop, founded by licensed nail technician Tomia Osby, has developed a patented, microfiber-based nail product that allows regular nail polish to last up to three weeks. Osby said the product uses sustainable materials that unlike a lot of nail products today won’t damage fingernails. The product is in a prelaunch with early adopters. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Osby studied public relations and computer science at DePaul University.

Southfield-based Carpet Puller, led by veteran carpeting contractor Woody Gneckow is developing an “easier-to-use” tool for the removal of old carpeting, where there hasn’t been a technological advance in the tools of the trade in 50 years. The patented product shows promise in massively reducing the time it takes to remove old carpet, reduce workplace injuries, and improve recycling rates. The company’s slogan: “Pull carpet, not muscles.”

Winning the $10,000 for best growth stage company was Celsius with best growth stage company runner up going to AptumBuild and Wareologie.

Celsius founder Rakesh Katragadda has developed ionized water products with natural herbs that are shown to kill bacteria and viruses. Markets for the products include shampoos and other personal hygiene products, household and industrial cleaning, hydroponics, and pet care.

Madison Heights-based AptumBuild, led by longtime builders and auto engineers, has developed a modular structure system that allows buildings to be built quickly and inexpensively, with no nails or screws and no sawing required, by aligning and clicking panels together. Founder and CEO Bill Schofield said the structures offer good insulation and are tested in 150-mph winds.

The initial markets for the structures are recreational and park homes, with eventual inroads planned into disaster relief and affordable housing. In only four months, the company attracted $3.1 million in orders. The cost of the buildings? Just $40 a square foot.

Livonia-based Wareologie first developed Buttons2Button, a magnetic system for fastening buttons for people with limited dexterity. Now, founder Gina Adams said, the company has developed a portable parallel bar system for use in physical therapy.

Developed through a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the patent-pending unit replaces permanent installations that can’t be moved and today’s flimsy and unsafe portable units. Adams said the system will allow patients to access therapy sooner, regain mobility faster, and be discharged from the hospital earlier. The units will be sold direct to hospitals as well as to the wholesale market through medical device companies.

The winner of a $5,000 People’s Choice Award — sponsored by Ward Law, an intellectual property law firm with offices in Southfield and Tiffin, Ohio — was VersaWare. Developed by a group of former Divison I college athletes, VersaWare is developing a nutritional device that consists of a bowl and a cutting board with built-in scales and a small tablet computer that attaches to them—allowing users to easily calculate the precise nutritional value of every meal.

The product replaces apps that require much data entry in spreadsheets. Co-founder Jacob Lindberg said the product already has $125,000 in preorders. It’ll be pitched first to the 1.2 million Americans who “religiously track every single thing that they put into their body.”

Other participating companies were:

  • Leafinator: Developers of a rugged, all-in-one leaf and lawn care cleanup device.
  • Pareto Aluminum Systems LLC: Developers of lightweight, easy to assemble, low-cost, flooring systems for wheelchair users in vans, buses, and specialty vehicles.
  • Pingree Detroit: Developers of hand-crafted bags, accessories, and footwear, using high-quality leather and other materials reclaimed from the auto industry.
  • PlugZen LLC: Manufacturers and distributors of electric vehicle charging systems.

For more information, visit here.

Allbridge Expands Warehouse Footprint in Taylor

Allbridge, a North Carolina-based property technology solutions provider, has expanded its warehouse and logistics operations in Taylor allowing the company to fully stage 20-35 full-property technology projects at once.

“With our significant growth, we needed to expand our physical warehouse space,” says Vin Zachariah, COO at Allbridge, “We needed a facility close to our existing warehouse operations in Ann Arbor and be in close proximity to our primary distributors and avail ourselves of the shipping capabilities in the metro Detroit.

“We were fortunate to find a space that met our needs, allowed us to build on our existing team and within a few-mile distance to the Detroit airport. We now have enough space to store, configure, and ship an entire seamless project in one space and send it along to a job site ready to go.”

The new space, located at 22701 Trolley Industrial Dr. in Taylor, spans 52,000 square feet.

This facility expansion comes as more multifamily and hospitality properties are looking for ways to leverage technology and deliver exceptional resident and guest experiences that will differentiate the Company from its competition. The ability to stage, configure, and test equipment prior to onsite delivery allows Allbridge to deliver a seamless, end-to-end connected experience.

“This warehouse expansion took a great deal of time and consideration on our part, but it was well worth the effort,” says Eric Klumb, director of supply chain management at Allbridge. “We are now able to exhaustively and robustly support our existing clients while we service new full property tech (proptech) projects.

“It’s not just about extra space, but, for us, a boost to our entire business model. We can now easily handle a capacity of up to 35 full-service projects at a time, which really changes the game for us with regard to sales and services on the ground at our various existing client sites and new projects.”

For more information on Allbridge, visit allbridge.com.

Flag to Fly at Half-mast at Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to Honor Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson

On July 8 at 8:00 a.m., the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, owner of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center (CAYMC) in Detroit, will fly its flag at half-mast to honor the life and legacy of Tuskegee Airman Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson.

“In the annals of American and World History, Tuskegee Airman Jefferson is a hero who lived his life with purpose and distinction during the time of segregation in the U.S. Armed Services. He achieved in all aspects of his life serving in the U.S. Air Force, education, and as a proud lifelong Detroiter. He led by example,” says Sharon Madison, chair of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority.

As guests of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, at the CAYMC annual flag-raisings for each military branch on their national day of honor, Tuskegee Airmen attend and represent Lt. Col. Jefferson and other members, including the building’s namesake, Lt. Coleman A. Young, Detroit’s longest serving and first African American mayor.

The public is invited to attend the flag-raising.