MTEC SmartZone’s Entrepreneur Support Center Presents Awards Local success stories highlighted during Pure Michigan’s Entrepreneurial Services Program.

HOUGHTON, Michigan (April 27, 2012) – The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Entrepreneurial Services Bus Tour concluded in Houghton on Wednesday, April 25, 2012, at Michigan Technological University’s Advanced Technology Development Complex (ATDC). Houghton marked the final stop of the tour, which spanned five days and 15 stops throughout Michigan.


The MEDC dedicates over $25 million in programming to assist business growth and job creation in Michigan. The one-time-only tour targeted university communities and entrepreneurs to highlight over 20 state programs available to assist early stage technology companies. MTEC SmartZone is a recipient of MEDC funding, used for facilities, support and resources that assist early-stage businesses and people with ideas, in Houghton and Hancock, Michigan.


Preceding the MEDC’s program, MTEC SmartZone showcased new businesses who have sought services from the Entrepreneur Support Center (ESC), a collaboration between MTEC SmartZone and Finlandia University. Ranging from student start-up Superior Nautical by 18-year-old Michigan Tech student Joel Florek to start-ups by seasoned professionals branching into a second career, ESC assisted 50 people with ideas this year alone. Thirty full-fledged companies have been formed since May 2011 with assistance and resources provided by MTEC SmartZone’s ESC.


Jonathan Leinonen, Program Director for MTEC SmartZone, presented awards to three local success stories. G&S Tool Company earned Innovative Product of the Year for its invention, the Hand Dozer. Michigan Tech student Jess Tompkins of Two Bows, maker of women’s hunting and fishing gear that fits and flatters, took home Student Start-up of the Year. Chef Patrick Curtain and Sam Lockwood of Old School Baking Company based in Lake Linden, Michigan, received Business of the Year. The artisan bread makers sold their first loaf of bread in December 2011 and now distribute to stores and markets in multiple counties throughout the Upper Peninsula.


“An attorney connected us with MTEC SmartZone. My partner and I didn’t have business experience and MTEC SmartZone helped us with our approach, especially with marketing. We’ve come up with new signs and packaging and even new uses for our product, all with the SmartZone’s help. We’ve been contacted by five manufacturers already and anticipate expanding to Europe,” says George Oikarainen, owner of G&S Tool Company. Oikarainen’s Hand Dozer can also be found locally in Downtown Hancock, at McGann’s Building Supply.


Other entrepreneurs showcased during the program include recent New Venture Competition winners Ben Mitchell and Wade Aitken-Palmer of social start-up Baisikeli Ugunduzi. The pair will relocate to Kenya, Africa, next week to build better bicycle parts for sub-Saharan Africans who spend 20% of their weekly income repairing bikes. The company benefited from consulting services provided by MTEC SmartZone partners.


Other nominees were Katie Stanaway and Damian Waara of Crazy Joe’s Salsa, Travis Beaulieu of AsfalisMed, Staci Gibson of Bugs & Blooms/Into The Woods Mini Golf, Amber Campbell’s new farmers market, Trent Sturos and Zach Erkkila of ZT Web Development, Adam Gibson of Clever Cloud and Vada Riederich of Tidy Traveler.


MTEC SmartZone looks forward to assisting more entrepreneurs and is dedicated to supporting MEDC’s mission of job creation in Michigan. For more information about MTEC SmartZone, please call (906) 487-7000.