welcome to behind your design

Based in Fenton, Michigan, Behind Your Design is a marketing, graphic design and web development agency. By utilizing deliberate and purposefully constructed communications across a variety of media types our marketing, graphic design and web development services will help you create or revitalize your brand.

Around the town with chelsea - articles from onthetown magazine

Around The Town with Chelsea

By chelseajaie 20 Oct, 2017
Did you know………Every year, 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. ( http://www.nsc.org/Measure/Pages/Workplace-Violence.aspx )
From 2000 through the first half of 2016, more than 600 people were killed in 213 active shooter events identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Unfortunately, this hits even closer to home. In 2016 two young women were fatally shot while at work in Genesee County. This seminar has been in the making since that terrible tragedy last year, unfortunately in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy, this topic is all too relevant today.  
On Thursday, October 26, 2017, Behind Your Design will be hosting a seminar on Workplace Violence Safety. Please see the attached link and flyer to sign up. RSVP is necessary as seating is limited.
By chelseajaie 03 Oct, 2017

A t Bella Vita, exceeding the expectations of the residents is simply the beginning. Having a quality life in our later years is the least we all should expect. Bella Vita is committed to providing an environment that allows one to feel independent, with the assistance of its highly trained care group.  

By chelseajaie 02 Oct, 2017

Today family businesses have a competitive edge that could hardly be anticipated. As millennials continue to take up over one third of the workforce, many of these individuals are looking for more out of a career than a paycheck. In this new arena, family businesses have an edge in building a sustainable footprint because of the personal connection between the family and the community they serve. 

A textbook example of this is Peabody Insurance Agency, a company with a history of serving the community since 1919. In the last year Peabody Insurance has grown the team to include two new family hires, Grace and Brandon, and has completely remodeled its office.

“In order to thrive in today’s competitive environment, I believe it’s important for businesses to give the next generation a voice in how we should work and serve our customers,” explains Jim Peabody, partner of Peabody Insurance in Fenton. “Our team has developed a culture of collaboration, where insurance knowledge is fused with new ideas, processes and tools.”

Peabody Insurance is now one of the most capable independent agencies in the state, with the development of an interactive safety app, DocuSign, virtual meetings and a client portal. “Many of our features have the goal of saving our clients time and money. Customers have the ability to choose how they want to do business with us,” Jo Schofield, account executive, explains, “and our customers enjoy supporting local businesses because they know those dollars are going right back into their hometown.” 

By chelseajaie 29 Sep, 2017
Written by: Andrea Kehoe
By chelseajaie 23 Aug, 2017
Behind Your Design recently had the pleasure of designing a new responsive website for Image Flow Media. Image Flow is a full service commercial production company serving the metro Detroit Area. They are constantly pushing themselves, their equipment and their approach to the edge. Image Flow is a solutions-oriented team with a proven ability to get things done while managing multiple projects. They're experienced, passionate, motion graphics artists and video editors, looking to continue expanding their knowledge in all areas of production. 

 To see example of their work please click here  . Contact us at   Behind Your Design   to help you design your next website.

By chelseajaie 09 Aug, 2017

Starting a new business? Looking to give your current logo a 'refresh'? It can be easy to just think  'I need a logo!'  - what you are saying is that you want a graphic representation of your business to use on your marketing materials. What you  need however is a memorable overall ' brand' that will attract customers to your business. Luckily, at Behind Your Design, we can help you with all your needs, even the ones you don't know yet.

How do I create a brand? 

It's important to know your brand values and aspirations. Basically, your WHY? What made you start your business in the first place? What problem are you solving and what are your passions? Long term, where do you want to be in 2, 5, 10 years? The answers to those questions are the core of your brand. We want to give you the tools you need to reach your greatest potential.

Next, we'll work on the personality of your brand. What will your brand look like? Sound, feel, act like? Knowing your business' personality allows it to shine through everything we do. It also helps narrow down your target customer and decide how your business will interact with them. Appealing to a certain audience makes marketing efforts meaningful and effective.

Consistency is key. We work together to create an entire brand concept and easy guidelines to follow. Colors, fonts, patterns... Anything to make your look consistent will be part of your brand. Then, we use those elements across all platforms (website, social media, business cards, etc) to ensure your voice, mission and design flow fluidly and works together.

Once you've created this brand, it's time to go beyond that and uphold the reputation. Your customers have to truly believe in your brand, just like you do, and will, in turn, become loyal advocates of your business. Not only will they stay local to you but they'll also recommend you to others.

Your business is so much more than just a logo. We believe building a solid brand can become a company's greatest asset, so we cover every step:

  • Web Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Email Marketing
  • Facebook Marketing
  • Mobile App Design
  • Trade Show Booth Design
  • Custom Photo Gifts
  • Speaking Engagements
To view our design portfolio, click here.

By chelseajaie 25 Jul, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of JDLab's new responsive website and logo design. JDLab is a family owned business dedicated to delivering high quality work in every department. Founder J.D. Hicks’ goals in 1950 remain their goals today:  "Provide every professional photographer with the highest standard of quality and service, and to work as partners to help studios grow as successful businesses."   To learn more about what JDLab can do for you please click   here . Contact us at   Behind Your Design   to help you design your next website.
By chelseajaie 18 Jul, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce that we have created a new logo for Wayne Contracting Services, LLC. Wayne Contracting Services, LLC is a licensed and insured construction company providing a variety of construction and remodeling services to SE Michigan. Give them a call for all your contracting and remodeling needs! If you are in need of a new logo contact us at  Behind Your Design   today to get started!

By Chelsea Mills 18 Jul, 2017
Join the growing team at Behind Your Design at 100 S. Adelaide St. in Fenton, Michigan!

- 40 Hours A Week (Mon-Fri - 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM with working lunch)
- Paid Holidays
- Opportunity for 401k Retirement Matching
- Must be able to multi-task, delegate and prioritize jobs that come in
- Must be able to track time spent on projects
- Responsible for ordering from vendors
- Responsible for managing multiple tasks and keeping jobs moving forward by following up with clients and our designers
- Friendly pleasant personality
- Responsible to answer phones, greet customers, take messages and packages
- Team environment
- Time Management and Organizational Skills
- Matching expenses/orders with client billing
- Approximately 25% of the job will be coordinating photo booth jobs including contracts, graphics, staff, programming booths, posting photos, burning DVD’s and communicating with clients.

Technical skills needed, but not required to apply, we would train qualified applicants:
- HTML Email Blasts (Constant Contact, MailChimp)
- Website Building
- Basic Photoshop Skills
- Professional Email Skills
- Word, Excel
- Asana Task Management System
- Social Media Posting
- QuickBooks

Click Here to Apply

By Chelsea Mills 11 Jul, 2017
Behind Your Design recently had the pleasure of designing a new website for Bennett Communication Solutions. Bennett Communication Solutions is a local family company that opened its doors in 1945. They provide telephone answering services, remote receptionist services, voice mail, and other services to meet the needs of their business customers. While they maybe local they have clients nationwide. Their clientele includes health care services, property management and real estate, contractors and of course business professions. To learn more about their services please click here . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 03 Jul, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce that we have created a new logo and business card design for DaniJo Hawkins Pottery a local Genesee County artist. Danielle Hawkins owner of DaniJo Hawkins Potter loves to create in clay. She believes in recreating, repurposing, up cycling. She believes you can beautify someone else's trash into your treasure and that is seen in her pottery! To view her amazing work please click here . If you are in need of a new logo contact us at Behind Your Design  today to get started!
By Chelsea Mills 27 Jun, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the logo design and responsive website launch for Linda Lucas Design. Linda Lucas owner of Linda Lucas Design is dedicated to creating an environment that reflects her client’s personality and lifestyle, by capturing their design dreams and making them a reality. With over 13 years’ experience, Linda offers a wealth of knowledge in both new construction, and remodeling an existing space. Linda understands that listening to a client’s needs is key, and is committed to working with you to create a beautiful living environment, while embracing your style through inspiration and imagination. She completed her interior design studies through Interior Design Institute, a Certified Interior Design (C.I.D.) approved program. To learn more about Linda and her services please click here . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 02 Jun, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of Bella Vita's new responsive website. Bella Vita Senior Living will be opening their doors this summer in Grand Blanc, Michigan.  At Bella Vita they believe in an  our all-inclusive service and care with an all-inclusive rate makes the decision of placement for your loved one a lot simpler. It allows you to budget your family member finances consistently without the stress of a changing add-on rate provided by other companies. They provide many services such as life enrichment programs, laundry, housekeeping, beauty shop, dining services and more. To learn more about the Bella Vita and their services please click  here   . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 02 Jun, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of the Corner Bar and Grill's new responsive website. The Corner Bar and Grill is a rock ‘n’ roll gastro pub located in Fenton.  If you are looking for a great place to dine with a terrific atmosphere the Corner Bar is the place to be! Their weekend brunch menu is sure to please everyone in your family with plate such as chicken and waffles, speciality brew cakes and loaded omelettes and lets not forget their mimosas and beermosas! They also feature live music every Saturday. So make sure to check them out the next time you are in Fenton! To learn more about their menu please click here Contact us at   Behind Your Design    to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 10 Apr, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of Mansour Realty's new responsive website. Mansour Realty, Inc  is local company provides strategic, high-quality services and solutions for commercial real estate owners, investors, managers and users. Although their named changed from Mansour Developments to Mansour Realty, Inc. they have 50 years of experience in researching, purchasing, developing and selling properties. And for the last 15 years they have been putting their expertise to help other companies with their commercial real estate needs. To learn more about the Mansour Realty and its services please click here . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 24 Mar, 2017
Behind Your Design is pleased to announce the launch of the Holly Hotel's new website. The Historic Holly Hotel is a family owned large restaurant in the heart of downtown Holly. It has been a hub for social activity since the early 1900's. Known for its themed events and dinners it is a the perfect venue for group outings. From comedy club nights to Sunday brunch the Holly Hotel is the place to be. While The Historic Holly Hotel is known as a destination restaurant for elegant dining, it is also a perfect setting for weddings and other private social gatherings. Even the smallest dinner party takes on an air of panache and sophistication when held at the Holly Hotel, and weddings, anniversaries, and other milestone events become memories of a lifetime. To learn more about the Holly Hotel and its services please click here . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website

By Chelsea Mills 06 Mar, 2017
Behind Your Design is pleased to announce the launch of a responsive website for Prescription Exercise. Prescription Exercise is a personal training, lecturing and consulting business. Frank Musumeci owner and founder of Prescription Exercise created the company in 2004. His mission is to educate the active aging population through lectures, seminars and individual assessments, on how to make proper exercise choices to lessen one's need for pills, shots, and surgeries, for common age related pathologies. To learn more about Exercise prescription and their services please click here . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website
By Chelsea Mills 03 Mar, 2017
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of recently launching a new website for GFAC Goal. GFAC Goal is a special needs activity club/support group based out of Genesee County. This group provides special needs kids and their families the opportunity to participate in activities without having the demands of leagues and competition. GOAL provides families living with loved ones with disabilities the opportunity to share life’s adventures. They support and celebrate with one another other through life and its many surprises. The families are there for each other to exchange stories, good, bad and indifferent. To learn more about this wonderful support please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 23 Feb, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of a responsive website for Evolution Soccer Training. Evolution Soccer Training is  Mid-Michigan's premier soccer training program. Based out of Fenton, Michigan, they offer classing, clinics and training camps all year round. They offer small group training  to help your child or teen take their game to the next level. Their coaches are highly certified with years of experience playing and coaching soccer. To learn more about their classes please click here.  To learn more about how Behind Your Design can help you create your new website please click  here  . 

By Chelsea Mills 14 Feb, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of a new responsive website for GenStar Management. GenStar Management is a full-service management team designed to provide everyone with the opportunity to own thoroughbreds regardless of their level of knowledge of the industry. They provide an approach that maximizes the opportunity to win races and make money.  From brand new to seasoned owners, including existing stables, they can help manage all facets of ownership including horse selection to trainer communication. To learn more about GenStar Management please click here . To learn more about how Behind Your Design can help you create your new website please click here
By Chelsea Mills 10 Feb, 2017
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of creating a new website for their sister company Freeze Frame Photo Lounge. Freeze Frame Photo Lounge is a photo booth company based out of Fenton, Michigan. Unlike most photo booth companies Freeze Frame Photo Lounge is an open air photo booth. Having an open air photo booth allows more people into the photo as well as giving you the option of green screen usage. They also have many  add on options such as ipad digital uploader (where you can upload a digital copy of your photos onto social media), TV Slideshow, 4x6 prints and much more! Freeze Frame Photo Lounge has been in the industry for over 5 years and is capable of handling any of your photo booth needs from open houses to corporate events. To learn more about their packages please click here . To have Behind Your Design create your next website please visit our website here .
By Chelsea Mills 02 Feb, 2017
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of creating a new logo and website for Huffman's Homestead. Huffman's Homestead is fully sustainable farm that produce vegetables, pastured pork, and pastured eggs. It is owned by a local veteran Jeremy Huffman and his wife and 3 daughters. As a new farm they are focused on offering the best-tasting, healthiest, most humanely-raised vegetables and proteins you can feed yourself and your family. They will be selling their produce at the Fenton Farmer's Market and Flint Farmers Market this spring of 2017. And they are also offering CSA share of their produce. To learn more please click here . If you are in need of a new logo contact us at  Behind Your Design  today to get started!
By Chelsea Mills 16 Jan, 2017
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of creating a new logo for Trinity Assembly of God. Trinity Assembly of God is church based out of Mt.Morris, MI. They have several different ministries for the community and we were happy to create their logos as well. To view all of Trinity's new logos please click here . If you are in need of a new logo contact us at Behind Your Design today to get started! 
By Chelsea Mills 09 Jan, 2017
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of launching a new responsive website for Strategic Safety Incorporated. Strategic Safety is a local company based out of Linden, Michigan with years of experience in helping businesses practice best safety procedures. Their experience with Loss Control Services and Audits, Environmental, Health and Safety Consulting (EHS) and OSHA compliance training, will help keep your employees safe while at work. To learn more about all the services they provide please click  here  . Contact Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 22 Dec, 2016
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of launching a new responsive website for HSP Imaging. HSP Imaging is a local family owned business based out of Fenton, MI. They have been providing the greater Michigan with professional photography services for over 15 years. They are known not only for their superior photography but also for their first rate customer service. Their team of professional photographers are experienced in both large and small events and are equipped to handle any situation. They print all of their photos in house and are committed to 100% customer satisfaction. To view their full list of photography services please click here . Contact Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 12 Dec, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Dribble Stick Training. Dribble Stick Training System is a basketball training system that was created to perfect your dribbling skills, increase your agility and improve your confidence as an athlete. Dribble Sticks was created by pro basketball player Luke Lloyd. After he retired from the NBA Luke decided to dedicate his time to coaching in his hometown of  Flint, Michigan. As he began to coach Luke realized the need for a training system that provided immediate feedback to new and novel players alike. He designed the dribble stick training tool as well as an entire system with online training videos, workout app and training camps. Luke and his training system are revolutionizing the basketball industry one player at a time.  To learn more about Dribble Stick Training please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 06 Dec, 2016
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of creating an e-commerce website for Water Sports Marine. Water Sports Marine is Fenton's premier online shopping center for all your water sports needs. They are based out of a local Fenton shop called  Action Water Sports.  The Pro Shop Staff at Water Sports Marine is equipped to answer any of your questions about new products, features that will work best for your skill set or manner of use.  From Water skis to wake surfboards to and board shorts they are your one stop shop.  To see a full list of their products please click here . Contact Behind Your Design to help you design your next e-commerce site.  
By Chelsea Mills 29 Nov, 2016
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of launching a new responsive website for Linden Kitchen and Bath. Formally known as Linden Sash and Door, this local family owned business has been serving the Linden community for over 70 years. Michelle Robins is a third generation owner with a bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Design and an extensive background that includes design work in California. Linden Kitchen and Bath is your one stop shop for a kitchen or bath renovation. They sell everything from countertops, cabinets, to handles, light fixtures and sinks. They also sell top of the line appliances such as SubZero, Wolf and Asko. To learn more about their services and product lines please click here
Contact Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 23 Nov, 2016
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of creating a new website for Fenton Glass Service. Fenton Glass has been proudly serving proudly serving Southeast Michigan (Genesee County, Oakland County, Livingston County) with quality automotive, residential and commercial glass needs since 1960. They are a full service glass company with a dedicated staff of Certified Technicians and experienced glaziers with years of experience in the glass business. To see a full list of their services please click here . Contact Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.  
By Chelsea Mills 18 Nov, 2016
Behind Your Design had the pleasure of launching a new responsive website for Serendipity Wellness Spa. Serendipity has two locations. One is located in Frankenmuth, Michigan and is known for both their Relaxing Massages (both Couples and Singles) as well as Manicures and Pedicures. Serendipity's other location is based in Linden, Michigan  and is the only spa in the Mid-Michigan area complete with a wine bar. Both spas provide soothing Body Treatments, Massages, Manicures, Pedicures and Facials that will put you in a state of serenity. To learn more about their services please click here.  Contact Behind Your Design to help you design your next website. 

By Chelsea Mills 10 Nov, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Massage4you. Massage4you is a massage studio located in Linden, Michigan. Abby the owner and massage therapist for Massage4you graduated from Northern University with a BA in Psychology and a minor in massage. She also has an extensive background in physical instruction and collaborates with both physical therapists and chiropractors. Her background and collaboration allows her to have a unique and compassionate approach to all her clients' needs. She offers several types of massages from sports massage to geriatric massage.  To learn more about her services please click  here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 13 Oct, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Black Door Design, LLC. Black Door Design is a locally owned and operated creative space studio in Flushing, Michigan. Amy the owner and found of Black Door Design has an extensive background in art and design. Some of her own work includes permanent installations for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. From her studio Amy inspires individuals to unlock their inner artist.  Black Door Design specializes in custom projects using glass, wood, watercolor, and acrylic paint. It's workshops are designed to guide you through the creative process, while encouraging you to incorporate your own individuality and style. To learn more about their workshops please click here .Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 03 Oct, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Ronald's Tree Service. Ronald's Tree Service is your local urban forestry specialist based locally out of Linden, Michigan. They offer both residential and commercial services as well as municipal services. Their staff are licensed arborists giving them extensive knowledge in everything from tree removal to deep root fertilizing. To see a full list of their services please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 29 Sep, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Reeves Builders & Remodeling. Reeves Builders is a locally owned and operated construction and remodeling company from Linden, Michigan. Their services range from new build and construction to commercial and residential remodeling. Their vast knowledge in the building and construction can help you transform your vision into a reality. To see a full list of their services please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 15 Sep, 2016
Behind Your Design is excited to announce that we recently launched a new responsive website for Peabody Insurance Agency. Peabody Insurance Agency is a locally owned and operated full service independent insurance company in Fenton, Michigan. They have a reputation for solving complex business and personal insurance problems. Peabody Insurance Agency has been providing insurance solutions for businesses and families for almost one hundred years. To learn more about their services and how they can develop a insurance program tailored to your needs please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 01 Sep, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Weir Building Company. Weir Building is a locally owned and operated full service building company in Fenton, Michigan. They specialize in designing and building custom homes and larger–scale remodeling projects throughout Southern Genesee, and Northern Livingston and Oakland Counties. As a full service building company they
manage the design process, from concept to a complete set of architectural drawings and then manage the building project from start to finish. To learn more about their building services please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 11 Aug, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for VIVE (Vendor Information Verification Experts, LLC). Vive is a locally owned and operated vendor compliance company based in Flint, Michigan. With their vast experience in property management, real estate, banking and compliance database fields they specialize in offering complete and an up-to-date vendor compliance monitoring services. To learn more about their monitoring services please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 27 Jul, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Cummings Property Management Inc. Cummings Property Management is a locally owned and operated management company in Flint, Michigan and has been in business for over 35 years. They provide the highest quality community management solutions for Genesee County and the Flint area, as well as in Oakland, Livingston, Lapeer, Ingham, Iosco and Macomb Counties. Because they are client focused Cummings Property Management offers many different options from full service packages to consulting services. To learn more about how they can help your community association please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 14 Jul, 2016
On The Town Magazine ( Volume 6 Issue 3) pg 14.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with the President and CEO of The State Bank in Fenton, Michigan and hear about his unplanned path to the bank presidency and the benefits he sees in having the same employer for his entire life. During the conversation, I found out why this is actually pretty common among the senior staff employees at the bank.

As we settled into the interview, I was surprised at first to learn that Ron Justice has always lived and worked in Genesee County. He started his professional career as a bank teller in the Linden Branch of The State Bank in 1984, while still a student at the University of Michigan - Flint. There are only two employees who have been at the bank longer than Ron’s thirty one years, Patricia Callender of Gaines and Janie Mansueti of Linden.

The Path

Justice was on track to graduate with a BA in business administration with an emphasis in accounting. He had every intention of pursuing a career as a CPA (certified public accountant) after graduation; however, his current employer had a different idea in mind.

The Human Resource Department had approached Ron and asked him to spearhead the development of the audit department after he received his degree. He accepted and was quickly named head of the Internal Audit Department, which was the first management position he held. He stayed in that position for three years.

From there, Justice was named the controller and quickly became the CFO and then senior retail officer, which handled “most areas of the Bank with the exception of loans.”

During this period, he was able to gain experience in different departments and have relationships with different boards of directors. He also spent three years each as the president of West Michigan Community Bank, and President and CEO of Davison State Bank. These were owned at the time by Fentura, the current holding company of The State Bank. This was an experience that fine-tuned his leadership skills and also prepared him for the next chapter in his career. Ron continued to reside in Genesee County during this time.

“If you look at my resume, some might consider it a negative trait, only having one employer. I don’t. I look at is as a strength. To me it says I’m loyal, dedicated and, with the experience in all the different departments, have a well-rounded background.”

The Presidency and the Growth

For the last five years, Justice has served as president and chief executive officer leading Genesee County’s oldest financial institution, The State Bank, through times of recession, then growth and now expansion. Justice is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the bank’s position as a community partner in Genesee, Livingston and Oakland counties. “Our mission is to serve the markets and communities we are located in,” Ron states.

“I think it’s a privilege working only nine miles from home. I know my community and can truly be their neighbor. We pride ourselves in relationship banking and local decision making.” Ron continued, “There are many financial options available out there and we understand we must earn the business.”

“Ron is the kind of person who trusts his leadership team to follow their responsibilities. He puts the right people in places they can succeed, and can trust they will be able to fulfill their responsibilities,” explains Kristy Schaffer, senior vice-president of human resources and marketing. “He still keeps the core values of the bank at the forefront. The first question he asks someone when presented with a new idea is ‘how is the customer going to be affected?’ That is the foundation the bank was built on, the idea that our customers come first.”

The State Bank prides itself on creativity, something not all banks have the ability to do. “Because we make all our decisions in-house, we know our customers and our community, and we can make decisions based on their past history and our relationships with them,” Ron explains.

Decisions happen fast at The State Bank. “We close mortgages quicker, which allows realtors and our customers to move faster to closing,” Ron explains.” This makes people happy, and that is a good thing!”

This flexibility has also allowed commercial clients to reach their business goals. Recently, The State Bank was instrumental in the financial orchestration of a large project in Fenton that was comprised of state, city, private and borrowed funds.

“We can be creative and flexible in funding business expansions, lines of credit, and commercial real estate too,” he says. “Many people do not know we are also an SBA-preferred lender, which means we can make it faster and easier to approve this type of loan. This allows us to provide lower payments to our clients based on the SBA’s expanded term options. We pride ourselves in our strong relationships with the municipalities of the communities we serve.”

Another shining star in their portfolio of services is the existence of an Investment and Trust Services Department. This is a wonderful complement to their banking organization because it allows them to offer options for portfolio management, financial planning, bill payment services, retirement and trust services.

“When done properly, a sound financial plan will take our clients from the beginning of their career, through their working life and into their retirement years. Along the way, it will help them educate their children, save for retirement, manage debt and create a spending plan for the funds they have accumulated," explains Dennis Leyder, President of the Wealth Management Group.

Having the last independent trust department headquartered in Genesee County is one of the many reasons people look to The State Bank Trust Services Department for expertise.

The Future and the People

“I am privileged to lead one of our community’s greatest financial institutions,” Ron says. “I’m very excited about our opportunity for new growth; we are well-positioned and that makes me very confident in our future.”

Ron speaks of the changes transforming his industry due to new technologies. “Twenty years ago, I would have known the majority of our customers by name because everyone came into the bank. Now, that isn’t the case because of online and mobile banking. Even just 10 years ago, 70 percent of the banking transactions were done face-to-face and 30 percent were online. Now, we have 75 percent of our transactions online and only 25 percent of our customers come into our branch locations.”

The State Bank is proactive and current in their branches and banking practices. They make it easy to bank online and even on your mobile device. They even have a rewards app, Perks+, which allows their customers discounts at local and national retailers.

“We continue to invest in the latest technology for our customers to make their banking experience efficient and secure,” Ron says. “The banking world is ever-changing, and we have made a point to continuously research and invest in emerging technology, providing it creates value and makes sense for our customers. Our website also has 24-7 live chat capability, so any time of day, any day of the week, you can speak to someone who can help you with your banking needs.”

Ask Ron Justice what the secret of the bank’s success is, and the answer will be quick and simple: “it’s our people.” The State Bank not only has a dynamic leadership team, but also takes steps to identify and recruit top bank talent. Once in the organization, staff members are treated well and the bank goes the extra mile to keep their staff happy at work.

The underlying theory in this business practice is that a happy workplace produces happy employees, and that is most effective in relationship-building in the local community.

Kristy explains further about the unique dynamic at The State Bank. “We certainly have our fair share of employees who have worked here for their entire careers, myself included. When we are interviewing new candidates, we let them know we have a mix of individuals. The first groups are the people who have started their careers here and have grown with us. There is another segment that was disenchanted at their former bank employers and came to us with great training and experience and are able to make an impact in an environment they can grow in. Thirdly, we have a brand new group of people who are excited and willing to learn about banking and because of the mix, it works.”

“Ron knows the names of all the employees, and he has an open-door policy so staff members can go in and talk to him at any time,” Kristy says. “This creates a productive and positive culture.”

The State Bank also believes that if they are going to invest in having the best people in their local communities, they want to show them off too. So you will often see State Bank employees volunteering at local events, in the local schools, and giving back.

“The State Bank is a good employer, fair and competitive; we are a family who works together in an exciting and positive environment,” says Ron.

An acquisition of the Community State Bank in St. Charles, Michigan is currently in the works for later this year and with that comes excitement and many questions. “We don’t want to get so big that we lose the definition of a community bank,” Ron says. “This expansion will allow us to serve our markets better and also create more opportunities for customers of the Community State Bank and for The State Bank customers. It is a decision that makes sense. We do not have any other planned expansions and as we grow, we are looking to the south and southeast of Genesee County.”

Many people do not know this, but The State Bank is the financial fuel behind hundreds of successful businesses and entrepreneurs in our community. They have a large range of products and services that are robust, efficient and helpful. The State Bank has definitely proven to be the power propelling many local businesses and their customers forward.

Main Office
175 N. Leroy Street | Fenton, MI 48430
Phone: 810.629.2263
Toll-Free: 800.535.0517

By Chelsea Mills 12 Jul, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Sunray Insulation. Sunray Insulation is a locally owned and operated company from Flushing, Michigan. They provide award winning insulation solutions for Genesee County and the Flint area, as well as in Saginaw, Oakland, and Livingston Counties. Not only do they provide energy efficient solutions for your home but they also can install sound reduction solutions as well! To see a full list of their services and products please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 06 Jul, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for Barry Wolf, Attorney at Law. Barry has been practicing law since 1987 and he has vast experience in his field. He has practiced as a trial attorney for both the State and Federal Court, has represented clients before the Michigan Circuit of Appeals, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. With offices in Flint, MI and Traverse City, MI, Barry is your perfect partner no matter what your needs are.

To learn more about his services and some of his past trials please click here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 29 Jun, 2016
Behind Your Design recently launched a new website for A-Team Gutters & Covers. A-Team Gutters is a family owned and operated company from Fenton, Michigan. While they may be known primarily for their gutter installation, they also specialize in home siding and under deck ceiling installation among other things. Make sure you also check out their Decorative Impressed Gutters, what a great way to make your home stand out! You can view the full list of their services here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 22 Jun, 2016
Behind Your Design created and designed both the logo and website for Horse Starz. What made this project unique was that Horse Starz is co-owned by Chelsea Mills herself.

Chelsea created Horse Starz when she saw a need for custom horse show accessories. She started this company with her childhood friend Charlie Brinks. With Chelsea's graphic design and marketing skills, and Charlie's expertise in the equine industry, they provide expert guidance and design advice to their clients. With high-quality cutting edge products, they are leading the market as the premium retailer of custom horse show accessories. To learn more about their products please visit horsestarz.com
By Chelsea Mills 14 Jun, 2016
Behind Your Design had the honor of launching a new website for Absolute Construction. Absolute Construction is a premier equine builder,  based out of Metamora, MI. While their specialty is on equine facilities and barn construction they are fully capable of handing any of your remodeling and general contracting needs. While we were launching their website we were also asked to design their new logo which you can view here . Contact us at Behind Your Design to help you with your next logo or website.
By Chelsea Mills 24 May, 2016
On The Town Magazine (Volum 6 Issue 2 - pg 36)

Peabody Insurance Agency has a pretty awesome group of agents and team members. They wanted to take the time to spotlight one of their workers compensation specialists who has saved his clients thousands of dollars each year. He’s done this by correcting errors found in workers compensation audits, experience modification factors and premium calculations in every type of business, ranging from excavators to industrial warehouses.

Did you know approximately 25-50% of business owners who carry a workers compensation policy are now or have been in the past overcharged by an insurance company?

Most business insurance clients have no idea that there are errors in their premium calculations. Lucas will review your current and past policies, looking for the errors that will return premium to your business. You can count on him to discover these errors and deliver refund premium due to overcharges back to your bottom line.

“Helping customers is the most fulfilling component of what I do. After the initial visit, where I discover what they have, what their concerns are, and what they are trying to accomplish, we can come in. One of the biggest benefits we have is knowing the risks they may be facing and what solutions are available. This will allow them to make the best business decisions for them and their employees,” Lucas says.

After spending five years with the elite US Navy Seabees, Lucas learned how important meticulous planning and clear expectations are-- not just for the Navy, but also for business owners.

“Customers should scrutinize the qualifications and experience of the agent and agency,” Lucas says. “I believe experience is extremely important, and that is what sets Peabody Insurance apart from other agencies. It’s not only my goal to find the best price and coverage for my customers, but to help them understand what they're purchasing and why it’s important.”

Dave Lucas is a local workers compensation specialist. His services include consulting, insurance and risk management. You can count on him to discover the errors in your current policies and help provide your business the tools necessary to make an informed buying decision.

“To me, insurance is a personal commitment to help others. My job is to spend time looking for ways to reduce or return premium to your business.”

Dave is a Certified Workers Compensation Advisor, Certified Insurance Counselor and has earned hOSHA Outreach Certification. He began his insurance career with the Smith-Peabody-Stiles Agency in 1995 and later served as Vice President of Brown & Brown of Michigan for three years before opening Lucas Insurance.

Peabody Insurance Agency recognizes that the world of insurance is ever changing and complex. That is why they provide their clients with ways to simplify the insurance process in order to continuously meet their clients’ needs and interests.

“We are a full-service agency and our value proposition is to assist our customers in lowering their total cost of risk. We look at our clients and prospective client’s unique needs and goals and put together a comprehensive insurance program tailored specifically for you.” states Jim Peabody, owner of Peabody Insurance Agency. “We are proud to have Dave on our team, with his expertise, to help reduce the risk and the overall cost of insurance to our customers.”

“Contact us today for a review of your policy, you might be surprised at what we can do for your bottom line!” - Dave Lucas

Peabody Insurance Agency
265 North Alloy, Suite #100 Fenton, Michigan
www.peabodyinc.com | (810) 629-1504
By Chelsea Mills 11 Nov, 2015
Debbie Wittbrodt's inspiration for opening her gift shop came to her back in 1986 when she needed to send something special to a close family friend out of state and the only option available back then was to send flowers, and, before the internet and photos, you had to trust that local florist would do a nice job.

“I thought, ‘There must be a better way to send gifts’ and that is when I started developing corporate gift baskets which I delivered locally and shipped all over the country,” Debbie Wittbrodt, owner of Treasure Baskets explains.

So in October of 1987, Debbie started her business in her home in Grand Blanc when she had five young children and the youngest one was only 18 months old. Her husband Patrick, a GM executive, was very supportive and still is very involved with the business today. She grew so fast that she opened a storefront in 1988 in the old Water Street Pavilion in Downtown Flint where she operated until the building sold to U of M – Flint in 1990.

In April 90, Debbie opened up in 800 square feet of retail space in the Grand Mall on Saginaw Street. Since she has been there, she has expanded three times and now has over 2400 square feet of retail space!

In August of 2015, Debbie opened a second location at the Davison Farmers’ Market and has been approached to open two more locations in other cities in Genesee County. “The last 28 years have been quite a whirlwind,” Debbie explains. “All our children have worked in the store; I believe it teaches great customer service skills, inventory management, bookkeeping, and organization, among many other great business and life skills. Small business owners have to do everything.” Debbie laughs as she explains that, “The kids knew that once they got to high school, if they didn’t play a sport, they had to work here after school…all my children played sports in high school!”

Business has continued to grow and two of her daughters, Bethany Barcey and Sarah Wittbrodt, have stayed in the family business and are raising their own children while still working at Treasure Baskets. “It’s great to be able to be there in the evenings with my family and have a flexible schedule...but also for my son to experience helping in the store on the weekends and after school,” explains Sarah. “Plus, I get to work with my mom and sister and that is what really matters.” The store transforms into its annual Christmas Shop in November after Halloween.

The Christmas Shop kicks off with Widow’s Weekend November 13th, 14th and 15th with special events and promotions all weekend long. Save-the-Date for the Christmas Open House on November 21st and 22nd from 10 AM – 6 PM when you can sample food products, see product demos, and enjoy wine while you shop and receive FREE gift wrapping for all gifts purchased during the open house.

“This is a great way to save money over the holidays. We run special promotions and have free gift wrapping, which can get very expensive. Plus, we make each of our beautiful gift bows individually, which is very important to me, because it adds that extra special element of class to each gift.” explains Debbie.

Some of the unique and affordable services Treasure Baskets provide are:

In 2007, Treasure Baskets started selling online. This came from an increased demand from snowbirds who wanted to send Christmas and birthday gifts to family and friends during the winter months when they were residing in warmer states. Now Treasure Baskets has clients all over the country, many of whom have never visited the actual storefront!

Many businesses keep a list of important dates on file at Treasure Baskets for staff and family birthdays, important anniversaries and various holidays. We create custom gift baskets and deliver the gifts on the specified dates every year. Let Treasure Baskets take care of remembering for you!

Book Treasure Baskets after hours and host your own private party. Treasure Baskets will send out the invitations, provide the food and beverages and your guests will also receive FREE gift-wrapping that evening along, with special discounts for items purchased that evening. A great Girls Night Out!

Let Treasure Baskets add that special something to your wedding with Made-in-Michigan Hotel Baskets for out of town guests, toiletry baskets for your reception, embroidery for custom gifts (robes, tote bags and more), and they are also an authorized retailer for Carlson Craft and Crane custom invitations.

Treasure Baskets has a beautiful selection of statues, stones and baskets that are inspirational and unique to send to the family in mourning. Just call to see the available items in stock as these items change often with the seasons.

Holiday gift giving can be overwhelming for some businesses, so let Treasure Baskets alleviate some of the stress. Determine the budget and theme for your baskets, and they will make them on budget and beautifully hand-delivered (or shipped if out-of-state) on time to your clients, business associates, friends and family.

12821 Saginaw Road // Grand Blanc
10 AM – 6 PM // M-Tu-W-F & SAT
10 AM – 7 PM // Th
12 PM – 5 PM // SUN

Davison Farmers Market
8110 East Court Street // Davison
8 AM – 6 PM // Tu-Th-SAT
(866) 694-9777 Toll Free
By Chelsea Mills 30 Oct, 2015
Headquartered in Linden, Michigan, Innovative Retirement Solutions is one of very few financial services firms dedicated exclusively to workplace retirement plans. With no product affiliation, Innovative Retirement Solutions not only reinvented the relationship between employer and advisor, but also did soby word of mouth, with no product sales or hidden revenue.

Keith graduated from Grand Blanc High School and went onto receive a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Michigan State University. As most young graduates do, Keith decided to move away and ended up landing a job in Troy at an insurance firm. Keith immediately recognized they had a gap in their service portfolio and spearheaded the development of their 401k program.

In 1993, Keith decided to start his own business, in 1999 he took over management of a 17-advisor firm in Farmington Hills and in 2006 when he had started his own family he realized he wanted to move back home to Genesee County.

 “I wanted to move back home to be near our immediate and extended family. I also wanted to be close to the kids schools so I could be part of all their important events.” Keith explained. “I never miss an event, whether it be to chaperone on a field trip, classroom party, dance recital, cheer competition or baseball game.”

The dedication Keith gives to his family is also a consistent theme in his business and his community. Keith served as the 2014 Chairman of the Board for the Fenton Regional Chamber of Commerce and has also been part of the growing development in Fenton and Linden. When Ed Koledo, superintendent of the Linden Community Schools and Chamber Board member, suggested bringing a Gus Macker to Linden, Keith was on board and served on the leadership committee for the Gus Macker event. “I like the fact that Genesee County is a slower pace compared to the Detroit suburbs and it also allows me to build relationships with the schools and community leaders.”

Keith is the Lead Business facilitator for the Fenton Regional Chamber program, Boys and Business, which is an entrepreneurial workshop for local area high school juniors and seniors. He is also the chair of the Business Development committee working to help create services in the chamber that local businesses can utilize.

All of these community events Keith is involved in has allowed him to create professional relationships with local companies that respect and understand Keith’s way of doing business.

“100% of my business is solely based on referrals,” Keith explained. “We do things a little differently than some of our competitors and our clients really appreciate that. This has allowed Innovative Retirement Solutions to grow through word of mouth.”

The industry is ever changing and Keith was one of the first advisors to go fee based 15 years ago. He also has the ability to communicate the plan with the investor, controller and trustees of the company before he educates and assists in enrolling the participants. Keith has the ability to identify plan expenses and offer ways to manage them without making sacrifices to the plan. Often times it’s not the plan provider that needs to be changed, it’s the fund options, expenses and education of the participants that will lead to greater participation and a successful plan.

“When I started 25 years ago the big question everyone wanted to know was if you had an 800 number and if they could add an investment account,” Keith stated. “Today the definition of a good 401k plan is measured by the amount of how many participants are on track to retire. So this is
what we focus on for our clients.” Evolving out of a larger corporate structure, Innovative Retirement Solutions has the in-depth industry experience of a large established firm but without the inherent conflicts of interest that plague most firms. This conflict free business model has led to rapid company growth. Some additional factors that have led to the rapid growth of Innovative Retirement Solutions unique approach include:

• White House and Department of Labor consideration of new fiduciary rules;

• Growing complexity around the administration of Corporate Retirement Plans;

• Increased appetite for conflict-free, customized retirement plans;

• Offering the clearest Fee Disclosure documents;

• Early adoption of sophisticated new technologies that increase service;

• Not accepting hidden revenue, at a time when employers have to answer for it; and,

• Newer, complex types of retirement plan design features coming to smaller employers.

Innovative Retirement Solutions has clients with branches or offices all over the country, and because their goal is to educate every employee on their retirement plan options, they travel to the different branches to meet with the individual participants.

A well-known car dealership in Fenton is one of their local clients and a team member from Innovative Retirement Solutions is there when the have a new hire orientation or have someone with questions about their 401k plan. Since Innovative Retirement has taken over the plan with this car dealer, they were able to grow the plan participants from 20 to 65 people in the first year.

“The biggest asset of any business owner is their business. Business owners can’t afford to have employees who are not on track to retire. I show my clients a different perspective of what not having a good 401k plan for their employees could look like. Having a 401k strategic plan to bring in knowledgeable and good employees ultimately benefits all parties.” Keith explained.

Proposed new government legislation could potentially mandate employers to have a 401k plan available for their employees. Employers could be liable and exposed to litigation if they have employees who are eligible for retiring and there was a 401k plan available, but the employees were never educated about the plan.

“We make a point to ensure every employee is educated.”

Keith shared that during the education process the number one question from every employee is ‘How much money do I need to retire?’ As part of their Work Site Financial Solutions program, LPL has programs in place which assists the participants with a multitude of things from assisting with rollovers from previous employers, advice on investments, creating retirement goals and strategic planning.

The biggest advantage Innovative Retirement Solutions has is that they are completely independent. They have access to service providers such as:

  • Alliance Bernstein
  • American Funds
  • BlackRock
  • Columbia Management
  • Dodge & Cox
  • Dreyfus
  • DWS
  • Federated
  • Fidelity
  • Franklin & Templeton
  • Invesco
  • Janus
  • Inveso
  • Janus
  • John Hancock
  • JP Morgan
  • MFS
  • Oppenheimer
  • T.Rowe Price
  • Vanguard

Innovative Retirement Solutions is one of the National Plan Advisory Services dedicated exclusively to workplace retirement plans and those responsible for them.

Innovative Retirement Solutions’ crystal clear, flat-fee or fee-based service models that strive to allow employers to right-size the objective work they crave and trust the advice they’re given. Innovative Retirement Solutions helps improve workplace retirement plans by not selling anything
and instead supporting plan governance, retirement readiness, and other Advisor Partners. Visit www.InnovativeRetirement . net for more information.
By Chelsea Mills 16 Mar, 2015
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Vanessa G. Nelson, president and owner of Expert Human Resources in Flint, Michigan. When asked why she started her company, Nelson states, “Employment litigation increased 2000% since 1995, [and] the average lawsuit settlement is $165,000. If the case goes to court, it can cost $1 million or more. Employment law non-compliance fines can cost upwards of $100,000. It is way too much for employers to operate their businesses and try to keep track of red tape and issues.” These staggering facts spearheaded Nelson to start Expert Human Resources in 2009 to help companies protect their assets.

Nelson, who was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, knew early on that she wanted to help others. She learned a strong work ethic from her role model and mom, Ione Larry who, Nelson states, always worked hard, took pride in all of the work she did, and is a strong leader. Nelson’s career path began over 30 years ago when she worked at Sparrow Hospital. She then went on to work at Hurley Medical Center in 1991 where, in 2000, she was promoted to Human Resources as a Benefits Specialist. After working in benefits for four years, a promotional opportunity became available in Labor Relations, a position she competed for and won. Nelson states, “I knew that Labor Relations was my passion almost immediately. I LOVED it!” She adds, “I had found my calling. “

During Nelson’s tenure at the Medical Center, she earned her Masters Degree from Central Michigan University, Certified Labor Relations Leader Certification from Michigan State University, and the prestigious Senior Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Human Resource Certification Institute. While Nelson worked on her Master Degree, she wrote her thesis (business plan) on the “feasibility of starting a Human Resources consulting firm in Michigan,” she declares, further stating that, “I conducted all the research, surveys, market analysis, etc. and ultimately received an ‘A’ on my thesis. The professors thought my idea was so outstanding I decided to execute my plan.”

Simultaneously, while working on her Masters, Nelson noticed that many of her colleagues would complain about being sued and having to pay large employment settlements, jury verdicts, and/or non-compliance fines. It was then that Nelson had an “Aha” moment and realized that many of those incidents would not have happened if those colleagues had certain policies or procedures in place, as well as if they had kept up with the changing laws, or had their managers properly trained to observe the workplace. Nelson lights up as she describes that, “It was then that I realized I could help companies save money!”

Due to Expert Human Resources being so well received, in 2013, Nelson retired from the corporate arena. She states, “Many business owners don’t have the time or the manpower to dedicate to protecting their companies, which is where Expert Human Resources can help. Our consultants have over 100 years of combined HR and employment law experience, and we stay up-to-date for our clients. Expert Human Resources works closely with businesses to make sure they have the right policies and procedures in place. We train managers and supervisors to protect the workplace, conduct HR audits to eliminate or reduce risk, perform workplace investigations to ensure policies are adhered to, and we help to make sure companies are consistent with their policy application across all avenues of the business.” And expert Human Resources also has memberships available for only $99 per year, which is a great affordable price for many small businesses. The basic membership includes one FREE, 10-minute call each month to discuss any HR or employment law issue, free access to seminars, free customizable forms, sample job descriptions, employment law interpretations, hiring and termination toolkits, and more! Based on the level of service needed, a business can upgrade its membership at any time.

Vanessa G. Nelson is also a sought-after speaker in her industry. She recently presented Human Resources and Employment Law: Don’t Put Your Company at Risk! to the National Association of RV and Parks Conference -- to roomful of about 80 participant’s in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nelson reports, “After the presentation, I received a flood of emails from the attendees, thanking me for presenting and for all the tools I gave them during the presentation. One of the freebies I give to all businesses is a social media policy. Employers need to understand and communicate the social media policy to their employees to protect their companies’ reputations and bottom lines,” Nelson explains.

You can find a copy of Expert Human Resources’ Social Media Policy Sample on her website www.experthumanresources.com under the ‘Shop’ section. You can also find her FREE e-Book entitled, Management Guide to Crucial Human Resource Strategies. This book explains how to be proactive and avoid common employee- related litigation and non-compliance fees.

Nelson also has other valuable information that can be found on her blog, including ‘5 Smart Things to Do in 2015 to Protect Your Business’ and ‘Affordable Care Act Update: Employer Mandate in Effect January 1, 2015.' “We are different at Expert Human Resources. We are [concerned with] preventing employment lawsuits and helping companies maintain employment law compliance because that is where our clients are most vulnerable,” Nelson explains. “We are protecting our clients’ assets.”

Get connected with Vanessa G. Nelson and Expert Human Resources today. Expert Human Resources has worked with over 60 companies, including McDonalds, MTA, Genesee District Library, Suski Chevrolet Buick, Old Newsboys of Flint, Pain Management Center of Flint, Village of Birch Run, Hank Graff Chevrolet, Balance Concierge, Richfield Trailer Supply, Lapeer County Vision Center, I-Ken Video, Lawrence E. Moon Funeral Home, Energy Sciences, and many more.

Expert Human Resources is also a benefits partner with the Saginaw Chamber of Commerce and the Birch Run Chamber of Commerce. Expert Human Resources has clients all over Michigan, as well as in Texas, Maryland, Georgia, New Jersey and Washington.
Expert Human Resourcesis located at 2425 South Linden Road, Suite D126 Flint, Michigan (Oak Creek Office Park) (877) 356-6175.
By Chelsea Mills 23 Feb, 2015
The leaves on the family tree may have changed, but the roots are still the same. Since 1919, these three families have had roots in the Flint, Fenton, Linden, and Holly communities. Stiles Insurance was founded then by D. R. Stiles, who passed the leadership position on to his son, Edison, in 1955, and then to Edison’s son, Jeri, in 1972. “The competition started [back in] 1934 with the late Ray Hunt, [whose company was] just two doors down from my grandfather, D. R. Stiles and his business, Stiles Insurance,” Jeri Stiles explains.

Ray Hunt started his insurance business in his home, calling it Hunt Insurance, sometime during the depression in 1934, with only two employees. Then in 1961, Jim Smith came to Fenton from the Flint area, met with Hunt, and they decided to merge their companies, forming the Hunt-Smith Agency, Inc. And Smith now has a whole philosophy built around what he does. “Life is made up of liabilities and goals from birth to death,” he says. “The service which my companies provided was all-encompassing – and that is very exciting,” he adds. The part that excited Jim Smith back then is still the part that excites his son-in-law, Jim Peabody, who joined
the insurance business with his father-in-law in 1991, forming Hunt-Smith-Peabody Insurance. They strive to cement a common bond with their customers in order to do business – and finding the right coverage to really help their clients has led them to become lifelong friends as a result.

In 1998, Smith Peabody and Stiles decided to merge together into one agency to better serve their customers. It was at this time that the name Hunt was dropped from the business’ title and Smith-Peabody-Stiles Insurance was born. Brown & Brown purchased Smith-Peabody-Stiles in 2008, and after a couple of years, Jim Peabody decided to step away from the insurance industry. But he didn’t stay away for long – he and his wife, Patty, opened up Peabody Insurance Agency in Holly by purchasing the Addis Insurance Agency, which had local roots dating back to 1921. The husband and wife team missed being in business and the excitement that comes from meeting new people and helping customers with their insurance needs. Thus, the focus of the Peabody Insurance business model is to help their clients reduce risk, which then allows them to save money in the long term.

“Our specialty is in helping clients identify the types of risk they are facing and what areas of operation are most exposed to risk through our unique four-step system, the Risk Reduction Process. We are now able to identify exposures and implement strategies which provide our clients a way to lower their total cost of risk while protecting their balance sheets,” Peabody explains, adding that “by reducing risk, clients may be able to lower their premiums and thereby increase profitability.” He goes on to detail some of the benefits he can offer. “We provide our clients with added value and service, as well as experience and industry knowledge. This ability is amplified by the tools Peabody Insurance utilizes, such as the Risk Reduction Toolbox and the [aforementioned] Risk Reduction Process. These tools give our clients a map of how to become more profitable, and the agents at Peabody Insurance provide the experience and knowledge that is needed to get there,” he says. This process has proven to be very beneficial for many of their customers, some of whom have discovered that they had not been properly insured in the past. “If someone is curious to see how we compare to [his or her] current provide, we are happy to provide a free premium price quote,” Peabody states. “We’ve helped over 3,000 companies reduce their overall cost of risk through our trademarked Risk Reduction Approach.”

As many things do, these three families have come full circle again, and the Peabody’s are happy to announce that Jeri Stiles is back in their office with Stiles Tax Service. Peabody Insurance Agency is a full-service, independent agency specializing in home, auto, life, and commercial business insurance.

FENTON: (810) 629-1504 | HOLLY: (248) 634-7731
By Chelsea Mills 30 Jan, 2015
Bob Owens is one of the best kept secrets in Genesee County for Harley Davidson history, motorcycle repair skills, selection of parts, Champion Trike Kit upgrades, and the rebuilding of bikes from the ground up. There are only a couple of things which Owens does not do in his shop, and that is chrome and paint. Owens enthusiasm for his business is evident, not only in what he says, but in how he says it. His passion for his work is evident as he explains how loyal his clients are and how some of them have been with him for over 25 years.

“We try to use local or [American-made] parts when available, but sometimes they just don’t exist,” Owens explains. At any given time, Owens Bootleg Cycle has about 10-30 bikes in waiting to be fixed by his staff of three: Paul, Vickie and Owens, himself. His love for motorcycles began when he was quite young, watching his father, Bill Owens, who raced Harley Davidson sprint bikes. Here he is pictured at age two and a half on top of his father’s Zundapp Motorcycle. Then later, when he was nine, Owens followed in his father’s footsteps and started racing his own bikes in competitions.

After graduation from high school, Owens worked for Mobil, delivering supplies to local area gas stations. Later, he hired into Buick where worked for 12 years on the assembly line. When he was laid off from that job, Owens wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but eventually, through some racing connections of his father’s, he applied for and got a job with Dennis Atherton at ABC Harley Davidson in Waterford. “That’s when I realized what I really wanted to do. I couldn’t believe I could actually get paid for doing something I loved!” Owens exclaims. “I was able to ride and fix motorcycles all day long for seven years, and life was good.”

In 1993, Owens moved back to Burton, returning to work on the assembly line at Buick, but this time, he only lasted eight months because he was miserable. He missed working on bikes. So Owens called his old boss, Dennis Atherton, who referred him to Bert Cummings at Cummings Harley, and he was able to get back into the industry he loved so much. This is where Owens really honed in on his skills and learned even more about customer service and the bike repair business.

Then on January 5, 2005, right in the middle of the worst economy Flint has seen in years, Owens Bootleg Cycle was born. “People thought I was crazy, but I knew it had to be done,” he says. Owens operated out of a warehouse, which he rented for several years -- until the building next door became available - which he then purchased in 2009. Right after he moved into his new building, he retired from racing his bike after 38 years. However, he still enjoys going to the races each year. At one particular Grand National Flat Track race in 2009, Owens invited a photographer who was there on behalf of a Japanese racing magazine to come over to see his place, and the man was so impressed, he published an article about Bob Owens and Owens Bootleg Cycle later that same year. Today Bob Owens is known for his uncanny skills in detecting what is wrong with his clients’ motorcycles. Even after clients move away, they still ship their bikes in a crate to Bob Owens when their motorcycles need repairs. He has many clients in Las Vegas, Florida and even Canada, to name a few. Many of the bikes his clients own have only had Bob Owens work on them. Owens Bootleg Cycle is also a sponsor of Bikes on the Bricks, which is held every year in September in Downtown Flint.

Owens also specializes in converting existing motorcycles into Trikes for his clients. One client, in particular, was suffering from mobility issues and thought they signaled the end of his riding career. His doctors had told him that pretty soon he would not be able to ride at all. He was having trouble shifting gears with his leg, and his balance was not good, so it was not safe for him to be on the bike. “As [this client] was telling me the story about how sad he was to give up what he loved [so much], it got me thinking about what I could do to modify his bike. You see, these Trike Kits are pretty cool; they allow people to keep riding longer because [the riders] don’t have to balance on two wheels anymore. Plus, I knew I could add an electronic shifter so [the man] could change gears with his hand on the handlebar instead of with his leg,” Owens explains. As anyone can imagine, this was the answer to a prayer for his client, and word about the Trike Kits traveled fast.

Today Owens Bootleg Cycle is the local distributor for Champion Trike Kits.


By Chelsea Mills 23 Jan, 2015
Tia Helita’s has been a Flint staple since 1970 when the restaurant first opened on Fenton Road in Flint. Growing up on the east side of Flint, in Burton, my family frequently went to both of the locations, the other being on Richfield Road near Western Highway. Some of my favorite dishes from when I was little are still my favorite dishes today. The chips and salsa are still exactly the same today as they were years ago, and I found out they still use the same recipe from when the restaurant first opened. I can even remember when it was in the small white building on Richfield, with parking behind the restaurant and with an entrance through the kitchen…just like if we were going to Grandma’s house. Tia Helita’s has always had that safe, family-welcoming atmosphere.

I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting down with Monica Reed, one of the third generation owners of Tia Helita’s. Monica has been working in the restaurant since she was 13 years old. She told me that “the best thing about a family business is having your family be part of it. Although it can be hard at times, you always know your family has your back.” My friend Tom Hicks joined me for lunch; his 46 year- old, Flint-based company has always enjoyed catered lunches from Tia Helita’s, and the restaurant also hosted their company Christmas party there too.

For those who don’t know, Tia Helitas has a full, authentic Mexican menu, which includes prime T-Bone Steaks, and their famous BBQ Ribs. Many patrons don’t realize that the BBQ sauce is homemade, the recipe including Dos Equis Beer and other special spices to make it sweet yet savory. There is full bar service with amazing margaritas and a full line of domestic and imported beers. Once the lunch rush was over, Monica was able to sit down with us so we could ask her a couple questions about her family business. Some of them included the following:

What is your favorite dish to serve?

“The fajitas, hands down, are one of the most popular dishes we serve because they come with all the sides and include chips and salsa. Another one of my favorites is the Carnita Taco Dinner which [consists of] pork taco, topped with Piico de Gallo and cilantro,   and served with rice, beans or famous stew beef, Carne Guisada.”

What is your favorite dish to make?

“I love the fish tacos and the shrimp tacos! It’s funny because when I am talking to a table [of customers,] explaining some of the dishes they have not tried, the guests will listen to me, but they always go back to order their favorites. It’s hard for people to try new things when they have their minds set on one of our favorites. But if they do venture out and try it, they love it, and it usually becomes part of their new favorite list.”

What dish do the customers rave about?

“The Wet Beef Burrito, hands down. It’s made with our Carne Guisada and our guests absolutely love it. We start cooking it every day at 7:30 AM, along with all our food. Everything is made fresh each morning.”

What is the oldest recipe or dish, one which has been served continuously since 1970?
“My grandparents opened the restaurant with the exact same Carne Guisada, Chips and Salsa recipes we still use today. Those definitely hold a special place in our kitchen and in the hearts of our guests.”

What is one thing you’d like people to know about your restaurant?

“[At] our restaurant, we welcome everyone like family. We want to have the same feeling and atmosphere as our grandparents did years ago. Although many of our guests come back for their favorite dishes, we are continuously introducing new items on the menu or in the bar. As a result, some of those new items have become new favorites, such as our seafood burrito and seafood enchilada.

Oh! Another thing I keep meaning to add to the menu is sliced avocado. Our guests know they can order guacamole, but they don’t know they can order sliced avocados, which are an amazing addition to any of their favorite dishes.”

Can you rent out your restaurant for parties?

“Of course! We have two banquet rooms, which seat 35-40 people and also have our large dining area which seats 80 people for big parties. We also have the ability to host fundraisers for different groups. We believe that it is important to give back to the community which supports us… that is one of our core values.”

What is something you’d like people to know about your catering?

“We can deliver the food right to your door or venue. We even have the ability to stay onsite and service the food if you’d like. We also have many guests who come and pick up food for parties they are having, from First Communions, to Super Bowl [ functions] or even a low key Friday Family Game Night.”
“Many of our patrons have become family and that’s what make us happy; we pride ourselves in good Food, Drinks, Family and Friends!” Monica Reed, 3rd Generation Owner of Tia Helitas.
By Chelsea Mills 16 Jan, 2015
There is a lot of talk about innovation being the key to growing American businesses, but exactly how companies get innovative remains less clearly defined. I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt and Rich Cramer from Dee Cramer in Holly, Michigan, to talk about how diversity has kept them on the forefront of innovation and allowed them to become a business fixture in our community since 1937. Dee Cramer had been featured on the cover of onthetown Magazine in September 1992, and that cover was included again inside the 40th Anniversary edition, earlier in February of this year.

Dee Cramer, Inc. is a third generation, family owned company, which was started by Dee Cramer, and then led by his son Dick, before Matt and Rich took the helm in 2005. Over the past decades, these leaders have been honored with several prestigious awards, including such distinguished recognition as Dick Cramer (2nd generation) being inducted into the 2012 Michigan Construction Hall of Fame, Dee Cramer (grandfather) being SMACNA Contractor of the Year 1983, Dick Cramer as SMACNA Contractor of the Year 1998, and Matt Cramer (3rd generation) as SMACNA Contractor of the Year 2011.

Studies claim that fewer than 10% of family businesses survive to a 3rd generation, which makes Dee Cramer very unique. President Matt Cramer says, “Our grandfather raised our father to be a well-rounded individual and did not force him into the family business. When he was ready, he came onboard. Our father also raised us to be very well-rounded, so we both worked other jobs in other industries, and later, we came back to the family business, [then] by choice.”

There are 88 employees of its 190 employees who have been with the company for over 10 years, 43 employees for over 15 years and 23 employees who have been with the company for over 20 years, showing the loyalty and dedication they have for the company. Many of the employees are 2nd and 3rd generation workers as well. Matt explains, “Our company was built on the core values from my grandfather. Our dad continued to build the company on those same values. We proudly continue to build on those same values over 70 years later. We are proud to have a company which allows our employees to live and work in the same community.”

Since its inception, Dee Cramer has prided itself on excellence in design, workmanship, competitive pricing and customer service. “Everything we do is intentional,” Vice-President Rich Cramer explains. “We stick to things we excel at.” And then he adds, “We focus on customer service and provide value when we identify a need in the community.” Matt continues, saying, “We are able to take care of our customers better than anyone else.” Furthermore, Dee Cramer represents the definition of diversity in our community. From residential heating and cooling services to taking the lead on the one million square foot C.S. Mott Children’s & Women’s Hospital project, Dee Cramer has proven over and over again to be truly a leader and innovator in their industry.

Many people locally believe Dee Cramer is just a residential company, with few realizing that they are the 13th largest sheet metal contractor in America. While a good portion of their work is on new buildings, they take pride in the work they do servicing mechanical
systems in existing buildings. “Mechanical systems represent a significant capital investment for any building owner. We provide a valuable service maintaining those systems to extend the life of that equipment. The latest technology allows us to measure the capacity and efficiency of existing equipment to help owners know when it makes financial sense to replace it,” explains Rich.

Dee Cramer is recognized nationally as an industry leader, with state of the art headquarters, right here in Grand Blanc Township, Michigan. This is not their only location, for they also have a 18,000 square foot fabrication facility in Saginaw, a 20,000 square foot fabrication facility in Wixom, and another 3,300 square foot branch office in Lansing. “We specialize in making difficult projects look easy for customers, primarily in the Midwest, Matt says. And to clarify further, “We are on the cutting edge – we are not inventors, but we are early adopters of new technology,” Rich explains. He is speaking of the BIM technology and IPD Projects which Dee Cramer has adopted early on and allowed to become industry leaders.

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is 3D technology that Dee Cramer has been drawing models in for over 20 years. “By drawing the building in 3D, we are able to allow all the trades to lay in all their contents and systems to ensure [that] everything fits and installs properly before on site construction starts,” Matt says, adding, “We are a recognized industry leader in building information modeling.” BIM keeps projects under budget and allows them to be completed in a shorter time span when compared to buildings built with traditional methods. One example of how BIM creates efficiencies is represented in how, in the construction of the C.S. Mott Children’s and Women’s Hospital, BIM was used to map out the hanging points for all the duct work in the entire one million square-foot building. This allowed the crew to install the hangers using GPS coordinates as the floors were being poured so that when the ductwork arrived, the install time was significantly reduced.

In addition, IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) is a new Construction delivery method that Dee Cramer uses to streamline projects by bringing all the key components of the project together for collaboration earlier than they would be in traditional building methods. This brings the owner directly in contact with the trades and allows brainstorming for the best possible way to achieve certain project objectives and project goals. IPD utilizes various specific talents of team members to improve cost effectiveness, minimize waste and ultimately focus on achieving specific owner objectives. The end result of IPD projects is a higher quality project, delivered more quickly, often times under budget, with much higher customer satisfaction in the final product. The Paul F. Reinhart Emergency Trauma Center at Hurley Children’s Hospital was the first IPD project in Michigan, and since then, Dee Cramer has successfully completed five more IPD jobs to date.

The innovative technologies Dee Cramer adopts come from their participation in the Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and also from a peer group of other like companies across the country. Dee Cramer is recognized nationally as an industry leader for their peer group and SMACNA. Dee Cramer is also a big believer in giving back and investing in their local communities. They change the sign in front of their Grand Blanc Twp. facility every October for breast cancer awareness, participate in the breast cancer walk, support the Boys and Girls Club of Flint, as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Christmas in Action and Hurley Children’s Hospital.  

For additional information about Dee Cramer or to contact them for their services, visit www.DeeCramer.com .
By Chelsea Mills 09 Jan, 2015
Life changed suddenly for the siblings in the Goggins family during the holidays of 2010. They experienced the ultimate heartbreak when they lost both of their parents exactly one week apart, due to terminal illnesses. And it was during this time that the siblings realized their individual aspirations were somewhat different from the path on which they currently found themselves.

Let’s back up a bit. For those of you who don’t know, NorthGate is a Goggins family-owned, Flint-based company, which was founded in 1984 by the patriarch of the Goggins family, Jack Goggins. Jack was the classic entrepreneur, cultivating many new ideas and founding several local businesses. But one venture took on a life of its own when the company’s major customer adopted Jack’s innovative idea for packaging automotive parts—and the name given to this program was the GumWrapper Packaging System, or later, and more affectionately, called Gummy Boxes.

This October, NorthGate celebrated two major milestones: its 30th anniversary and the major accomplishment of 100,000 on-time truckload deliveries of the Gummy Box. NorthGate invited community leaders, customers, vendors and all of its 220 employees to an evening celebration. The party invitation included an animated video telling the GumWrapper story. This video can now be found on the company website homepage at www.Go2NorthGate.com .

At the celebration, Andy Goggins, the youngest sibling and now owner of NorthGate, announced that he intended to make the momentous delivery scheduled for the following week. That proclamation concerned all the guests until Andy reminded them that his first role at the company was as a truck driver. So, on October 15th he did make the voyage with perfect execution.

The Goggins children grew up in Flint and Flushing and were immersed, to varying degrees, in the various business ventures of their father. Not every one of Jack’s ideas was successful, but in 1995, the GumWrapper business took shape, and the company was expanding. So, Jack began executing a long-term strategy for succession of the business to his six children, making them all partners of the company. “We were all active and familiar with the company even though only some of us had a full time role,” explains Terri (Goggins) Witt, the eldest daughter and current President of NorthGate. "I joined the business full-time in 2008, when my dad slowly started leaving more and more of the day-to-day decisions and tasks to us,” she adds. “At that time, not much thought had been given to the reality of what would happen when Dad was not part of the team.”

During this time, the business was operating under the name Security Packaging, but the company did so much more than just packaging, that it began to move forward with rebranding and refocusing of the business. "In 2011, we decided to change our name to NorthGate,” says Rick Valley, a brother-in-law and business development executive, "[in order] to describe our strategic location as the northern gateway of the manufacturing center of the Great Lakes Region. We were no longer exclusively a packaging services company; we had extensive expertise in order fulfillment, sorting, repackaging, kitting, inspection and warehousing.” And Terri goes on to explain that "as a company, we refocused on who we were and what makes us unique in the marketplace. We also worked to better describe our core values. We highlighted our belief in the importance of our employees to the ongoing success of the company and the significance of offering meaningful employment opportunities in our community.”

“It is important to me that everyone is treated with respect, just like they are part of our family,” Terri’s brother Andy adds. “I am proud of the relationship that we have built with our employees, our customers, our suppliers and our community.” And Terri continues in the same vein, saying, “I agree, we have the BEST employees in Genesee County. One of the main reasons I get up every morning is because I know I have over 200 families counting on us to make the right decisions for our company.”

NorthGate has grown to have over 500,000 square feet of value-added space in its three Flint facilities. They have grown through the years as a leading supplier to automotive companies in the Great Lakes region. Now NorthGate has positioned itself as a total solution provider in the areas of warehousing, packaging, processing and distribution services. "As an example of the type of partnership we provide our customers, we recently received a call from a Tier 1 automotive parts manufacturer looking for warehouse space,” Terrence Ethier, Business Development Director explains. “When we explored more fully their business issue, we realized we could do more than just provide warehousing for them—[in fact,] we were able to provide additional value-added services as well. This customer needed to focus on core business, and we are able to help manage the logistics aspects of the operation.”

Here is how it works: NorthGate sends empty racks to this manufacturer, daily, to match the shift production needs; the racks are then loaded with parts and sent along the supply chain, and eventually to an automotive assembly plant for installation in a new car. Next, the now-empty racks are sent back to NorthGate to be inventoried, cleaned, sequenced (based on the customer’s specifications), warehoused, and then, to complete the circle, shipped back to the customer. The company also provides other warehousing and inventory management services for this manufacturer. It has become a successful partnership.

In late 2012, it became clear that the best thing for the company would be to have a single direction moving forward. So, as a family, the Goggins decided that the sibling with the most extensive company background and the responsibility for key business relationships should direct the future of the company – and Andy became the owner of NorthGate. “We don’t know what the future may hold for us, but we expect our continued growth to support enhanced career opportunities for employees and managers who share our vision for the company,” Andy says, adding that “We will remain an independent, family-owned, Flint-based company [that is] dedicated to hard work, innovative and cost-effective businesses solutions [as well as] outstanding customer service.”

NorthGate provides warehousing, packaging, processing and distribution services. It is strategically located in Flint, Michigan, the “Northern Gateway” and ideal location to process materials being shipped into or out of the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada.

For additional information, please visit www.Go2NorthGate.com .
By Chelsea Mills 25 Jul, 2014
I’m sure you have heard about the new Flint Farmers’ Market which opened it’s doors on Saturday, June 21st. The facility is amazing and is the new home to over 50 year-round vendors as well as 50 additional seasonal vendors who set up outdoors. The market will keep the same schedule it had on its previous site, being open only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This allows the farmers and other vendors to be able to work their other jobs or farm and still be a part of the market.

Many of the vendors made the move to the new location, while some vendors retired… but their employees started new businesses to carry on the tradition of being in the market. There has also been expansion for other local Flint businesses. For example, Mark and Meghan Hoffman, who also are the proprietors of Hoffman’s Deco Deli & Café, located in downtown Flint, opened up two new businesses in the market: Hoffman’s Chop Shop, a butcher shop and Floradora Flower Shop. “For me, this has been a dream come true,” Meghan says. “I am overwhelmed by the support and love from my family, the community, my coworkers and friends! Much love…Flint ROCKS!”

What many of you don’t know is that the new Flint Farmers’ Market has several other offerings deep inside its walls that are available to help small businesses grow. “We brought the market closer to the people,” explains Chef Sean Gartland, Culinary Director. “No matter where you are, you can end up downtown because, right across the street from our parking
lot is the MTA Bus Station which gives easy access to everyone.” This easy accessibility is a sentiment echoed again and again. “The market is for everybody,” says Dick Ramsdell, manager of the new bazaar. “The new facility is going to allow us to accomplish so many good things in the city of Flint.”

Part of this movement is brought on by the fact that it is not easy to get fresh fruits and vegetables in Flint. Many
families can’t travel far to get to grocery stores in order to buy fresh produce, so they end up getting what they can at local convenience stores. Thus, in order to encourage the purchase of fresh produce by shoppers, the market has ‘Double- Up Food Bucks’ available to those with Bridge Cards. This program, funded by the Fair Food Network, allows residents to purchase staples (meat, cheese, milk) and receive up to $20/day in reward money which can be used to purchase fruits and vegetables. If they purchase Michigan produce, the residents actually will get double their produce money.

A stumbling block after the residents purchase the fresh produce is the fact that some do not know how to prepare it, which often results in much of the produce going to waste. So to combat this problem, Dort Federal Credit Union has sponsored the new demonstration kitchen inside the market atrium. This kitchen will have live demonstrations each week featuring different foods, techniques, styles and more. It will also allow guest chefs and market vendors the opportunity to showcase their products and talents. “I think it is important to note that we have four classically trained chefs with a permanent place in our market. In addition to those chefs, we have all the other market chefs who may not have classical training but have a natural skill and talent in the kitchen,” Karianne Martus, Media/ Public Relations and Market Manager states. “Our goal is to teach people how to prepare fresh food; we want to show them how to get the most out of their dollars and how to make healthy meals,” Martus further explains.

Chef Gartland has also been instrumental in the development of Flint Food Works, which is home to the Culinary Incubator Program within the walls of the new Flint Farmers’ Market. This program is a new resource for entrepreneurs who want to take the next steps in developing their food concepts into a viable business. It is also perfect for those entrepreneurs who already are operating under the small cottage industry food law in their homes, but who want to expand their businesses and have an opportunity to grow. “Business owners who are interested in being part of the Incubator Program will have the opportunity to practice their procedures with [me] before they are evaluated for their certifications by the Michigan Department of Agriculture,” Chef Gartland explains. “I will be able to help prevent many of the common mistakes [owners of] new food businesses make, hopefully making certification go smoother.” Flint Food Works provides low-cost, low-risk, full-service kitchens for local businesses to grow and establish operations. The participants in the program will be guided and coached along their way, and there are a variety of resources available to those in the program, including packaging, website, design, distribution and more.

One of the vendors in the market, Galloping Grocer, specializes in the distribution of locally-made and high quality products. With this vendor at the market, participants in the Culinary Incubator program will have a warm introduction to a possible distribution resource for their products. “This is the perfect spot for someone who has [the] dream of launching a food business,” Chef Gartland explains. “A person who works all day can put the kids to bed at night come into the kitchen for a few hours [later] to produce [his or her] product and be back home and in bed…[ to] wake up with the kids in the morning.” This new concept also allows participants to keep their day jobs while they launch a new business -- without missing a beat. Well, maybe they will miss just a little sleep.

To apply to the program and become a member, there are several steps to take, including application, insurance, certifications, licensing, packaging and going through a kitchen orientation. Sound overwhelming? There’s no need to worry, for Chef Gartland will guide people through the process and help them on their way to make their dreams a reality.

(810) 447-0714
By Chelsea Mills 20 Jun, 2014

Mr. Gerry Willey opened Fenton Home Furnishings 35 years ago on April 1, 1979, and since then he has grown it into a successful furniture business consisting of four locations, as well as 34 employees, including seven salespeople and ten designers. That makes him the force and the talent behind this impressive establishment, complete with a compelling life story that speaks to his remarkable achievements.

Born July 17th, 1939, Mr. Willey lived on the east side of Flint and came from very humble beginnings. He left high school in the 12th grade to join the Marine Corps in which he served from 1956 to 1959. Mr. Willey opened his Fenton store with only one employee-himself doing all the buying, selling, unloading, and pricing for the original establishment. He had two high school boys come in at 3 PM to help with deliveries. His dad had helped him covert a $400 old blue pickup to a delivery truck by building a wooden box on the top to hold all the customers’ merchandise. He has since come a long way to his present delivery fleet of five trucks.

In fact, the red-carpet delivery service now offered by Fenton Home Furnishings is unique. With each delivery, the customer can have things moved to another location in their home in order to accommodate their new purchase. That is, the professional delivery staff will move old furniture upstairs, downstairs, or even out to the garage of a customer if need be. After each delivery is completed, the client receives a special surprise gift, and a follow-up phone call a couple days later to ensure everything went as expected.

Though most merchandise the store carries is standard for the furniture business, there are also many one-of-a kind items available at each location, thereby making each store unique in its own right.  All the stores have the latest in styles and fabrics in furniture as well, with experienced staff at the ready with whom customers can consult. Complimentary home design services are offered at each location to help clients choose the right furniture and accessories to showcase their homes, while custom window treatments and blinds are also available at the Frankenmuth store. “Our customers expect us to take care of them. We offer quality, style, comfort, and design experience. Our customers are informed, well-read and enjoy travel.” In order to consistently meet these customers’ needs, he adds that Fenton Home Furnishings professional staff stay up-to-date on home design shows and magazines to ensure clients see the latest design trends.

Nowadays, Mr. Willey just watches his well-structured business operate, allowing him more time to discover other adventures-including a perhaps not so well-known purchase of the Fenton Hotel from the bank in 1996. He found out quickly enough that he was not cut out for the restaurant business and sold it in 1997-content now to enjoy observing the company he so carefully constructed run successfully. “For the most part, I just sit back and watch,” he laughs, but then he becomes more serious and says, “But I am very proud of my family.” Willey has three children who are involved in the business: Nick, who is the operations manager overseeing the finances; Kristi, who is in charge of advertising, web development, and buying; and Rodney, who is the general manager. At one time, his other two children also worked for the company-Lora, worked in the office, is now the Coordinator of Education for Reverence Home Health Care & Hospice, and Gerry Jr. who once delivered furniture while going to college. He has since earned his law degree and works at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP in NYC.

“God is Good and Life is Good-only in America” is Mr. Willey’s motto. He goes on to explain, “Fenton has been good to me; (the store) has an excellent service department and our reputation has gotten us far. About 85% of our business comes from current customers and referrals. Once we sell someone, we usually have him or her as a customer for life. The reason is we ‘hug’ our customers, and they get special treatment here.”

Recently he had a conversation with his grandson who is 15 years old and a student at Powers Catholic High school. Mr. Willey asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. His grandson replied, “I have no idea.” About that remark Mr. Willey says, “You know what, I’m almost 75 years old and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I never dreamed I’d sell furniture, but you know… , I enjoy it, I really do.” Ninety-eight percent of the merchandise in the store is American or Michigan-made Mr. Willey explained proudly, adding, “We strive to carry only the best, and we strive to make our customers happy.” And he seems to have succeeded in doing both for a very long and successful time.

Fenton Home Furnishings

1136 North Leroy Street

Fenton, Michigan

(810) 629-0650

By Chelsea Mills 20 Jun, 2014

The first thing I noticed about Fenton Farms Golf Club was the large, old original farmhouse building which sits prominently and majestically right off Torrey Road in Fenton, Michigan. That same farmhouse has stood almost 100 years, has known various owners, and has had many different names over the last century. I have been lucky enough to spend a sunny morning at the golf course to hear about this great facility, such as its origins, as well as the exciting changes and developments in progress, all from current proprietor, Christopher White.

White, who also moonlights as a film producer, has spent the last decade bringing a new life to this course, which has been in existence as an 18-hole facility since 1939 and was once called Shoreacres Golf Club.  Spanning eight decades, the owners and the course’s name have changed several times. It was also called Torrey Pines at one time. 

“Even before Shoreacres Golf Club, Fenton Farms had a colorful history dating back to the 1930’s, when farmer Ralph Crane decided to clear some of his farmland to create a few golf holes. He called the new course Long Lake Golf Course because, back then, Lake Fenton was called Long Lake.  Local legend and lore tells the story of Ralph’s children splitting up the family property, where his sons wanted the farm land and his daughters being left with the land surrounding Long Lake,” Chris explains.  “If you are familiar with Fenton, you might recognize the names of his daughters: Ruth and Margaret (the names of streets around the lake). They also had another street, Crane Cove, which was part of the daughter’s development. Ralph’s son, George, wound up owning the farmland, which included his dad’s Long Lake Country Club, and he added some additional holes to create the first 18-hole course on the property. Personally, I think the daughters got the better end of that deal, with lakefront property going for a premium,” Chris says, chuckling.

Yes, it's true that the course was sold in the early to mid-1960s to a group of investors headed by former Detroit Lions member and TV sit-com star, Alex Karras. It was during this time the Alex Karras Golf Classic was held -- a fund raiser for cystic fibrosis was the intention, but the entire outing was designed to be a pro-am with local sports celebrities. Karras had arranged for Tiny Tim to parachute in from the sky, while the band played “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” Furthermore, musicians were to jump out of the woods and play the Mexican Hat Dance when golfers were putting, while tape players were hidden in the bushes to play sounds of people screaming and cars crashing to also add an element of surprise to the event. (Harpers May 1971)

When Karras and company were finished with the place, they sold what was left to Walter Burkemo, a PGA touring pro whose career had been highlighted by his victory in the 1953 PGA Championship. By some accounts, actor and comedian George Gobel spent a considerable amount of time at the course during the Burkemo era and may also have had some ownership interest. It was during this time, is local lore has it, that Marvin Gaye performed on the back of a hay wagon, and the course was known then as more of a “Road House” and less as a golf course, due, in part, to the deteriorating condition of the infrastructure of the course itself. Apparently unable to turn the tide on the years of neglect, Burkemo eventually sold the property to golf architect George Fazio, who reportedly planned major renovations for Torrey Pines… until he became stricken with illness and died.

Fast-forwarding to 1993, when a Detroit-based group of investors, Fenton Farms Developments Inc., headed by retired automotive entrepreneur Jack Bott, acquired the course. This is when it first became known as Fenton Farms Golf Club.Bott’s daughters, Diane Rutheford and Kathy White, along with his grandson, current proprietor, Christopher White, took over operations of the course in 2002 and have brought in new ideas, new equipment, new management and rebranded this historic farm course into “The Friendly Place” -- with an emphasis on customer service.

For the next decade, Chris White, says, they went about  “…improving the course, renovating the clubhouse and changing the focus of the business plan to become a specialists in golf outings and entertainment events.” Known for his flair for fun, Chris has brought his experience as a producer in California to Fenton by enlisting the services of local bagpipe artists, barbershop quartets, local celebrities and various DJ’s to ensure each event held there is memorable. Many organizations come back to Fenton Farms year after year because they know they will be taken care of and that their guests will remember their experience for years to come.

The future of Fenton Farms is very exciting. Chris is excited to launch his “2014 Farm Fresh Menu,” which is designed to entice the golfers as well as the non-golfing neighbors and friends of the course. The menu features made- to-order Panini’s, artisan flatbread pizzas, gourmet-themed hot dogs and daily specials.

Leagues are nearly at capacity and Season Pass sales are at a record high. It’s easy to see why though; Season Passes are designed for people who like to golf… a lot. Pass holders receive advance tee times 2 weeks ahead of the general public, free range balls, 10% off all pro shop purchases, and they are welcomed with open arms into the Fenton Farms family.   Bill Davis is a season pass holder who last year, during the abundance of apples on the course, asked permission and picked several bushels of them, bringing them back to the course the next day in the form of five home-baked apple pies. And that is just one example out of many on how the season pass holders feel just like family.

Fenton Farms Golf Club

12312 Torrey Road

Fenton, Michigan


(810) 629-1212 Golf Shop & Tee Times

(810) 750-6098 Sales, Catering & Events

By Chelsea Mills 20 Jun, 2014

Anniversaries come and go without much notice, but not when it’s John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge in Fenton. John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge employs about 24 people, many of whom have been with the restaurant for over 25 years.  Everyone who walks through their doors is made to feel like family, which has contributed to the longevity and popularity of this local family-owned restaurant.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Delio and Sandy for the past five years, and my children have grown up knowing and experiencing what an amazing place and family they are and what a great place they own. Before my kids started kindergarten, Delio would let them come in and “help” during the week while he was setting up the lunch buffet. They also knew where they could get their suckers after their meal, but only if they cleaned their plates.

Delio passed away suddenly in his sleep at the young age of 76, in September of 2013, just a few months short of seeing his restaurants 50th anniversary. Those who knew Delio remember him fondly and always have memories to share about his restaurant, his food, and most importantly about his character. His daughter, Sandy Barletta Zdenek, who operated the restaurant with her father for the past 20 years, has continued to run the business seamlessly since his death, carrying on the tradition of good food, great service and a family atmosphere.

In 1959, there were 29 Italian immigrants who came over by boat from Italy to start new lives in America. Newly married to his bride, Vilma, Delio brought her to America to begin their married life together. Delio worked for a short time with GM in Pennsylvania and then was transferred to Michigan where he got a part time job at the local restaurant owned by another Italian immigrant, the place known as John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge.

Delio Barletta purchased that restaurant from John, the proprietor, in 1964, and over the next five decades, John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge witnessed many changes. In the beginning, Vilma, made thousands of meatballs a week for the restaurant, and many other family members and Italian immigrants learned how to open their own restaurants in the area with the help and expertise from Delio.

When asked why he kept the name, John’s Pizzeria & Cocktail Lounge, Barletta would reply, “I bought it, and I never changed the name because business was good.” It became a local inside joke to the employees and those who knew him that if someone came calling, asking for the owner, John, they knew it had to be a solicitor.

The Fenton community quickly adopted Delio and his family into their community, and the area became their home away from home. Delio preferred the small, close-knit community of Fenton, which was a drastic contrast to his hometown, a large tourist city in Italy called Patrica.

The restaurant was known to be the place to “hang out” after local high school football games, and diners fondly remember getting scolded by Delio if they were just loitering and not ordering food. In the early 2000’s, the restaurants popularity prompted expansion of it’s space to create a new dining area and banquet facility, with seating capacity for 120 people.

In 2011, I had the honor of presenting Delio with the Fenton Chamber of Commerce Enterprise Award at the Annual Dinner held on his birthday. I also surprised him by having the entire room sing “Happy Birthday” to him as he walked up to receive the award.

Inspired by support from the community and loyal customers, as well as their wish to continue a family tradition, the father and daughter team chose to expand even further and to offer local area delivery of their famous food right to customers’ homes in 2012.

John’s is still a popular place for hosting weddings, holiday parties, funeral dinners, local charity events and benefits, civil organization meetings, baby showers, bridal showers, first communicant celebrations, and so much more. They also have a large catering business for open houses, family reunions and any event where the host wants to serve the best Italian food in the area. This fall, Sandy and her family are celebrating 50 years of John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge family tradition in Fenton, Michigan with a celebration of food specials, live music and more.

Weekly Dine-In Specials include:
Happy Hour: Monday – Friday from 3 PM – 7 PM

Lunch Buffet: Monday – Friday, all you can eat for $6.99

Monday & Tuesday: 50% off ALL Pizzas, Any Size
Tuesday: $2 off ALL Pasta Dishes
Wednesday: 50% off Stromboli AND $2 off Fish & Chips or Cod (fried or baked)
Thursday: Kids 5 and Under Eat FREE
Friday: King & Queen Prime Rib

Dine-In or Carry Out Special:
Everyday: Family Style Meal for Four People $19.99
John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge is open seven days a week:
Sunday: Noon – 10 PM
Monday – Thursday: 11 AM – 11 PM
Friday and Saturday: 11 AM – Midnight

Located at 1492 North Leroy Street, Fenton, Michigan.

Phone (810) 629-5060
Menus are all available online at www.johnspizzeriafenton.com
By Chelsea Mills 25 Apr, 2014
You may not have ever heard of Rex Todd Rogers, and I can guarantee he has never ‘heard’ you, but once you read about his uncanny ability to communicate with his clients and turn their living spaces into functional, serene, works of art, you will not want to miss the opportunity to get to know him.

Designer Rex T. Rogers is a pioneer in the design world, because of his heightened sense of vision.  Rogers was born deaf and an only child. He is the first deaf interior designer in the entire world , a feat which has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, Rex was contacted by Deaf Professional Arts Network who just finished filming a documentary about him which will air later this year.

As this May marks the 2nd anniversary of his retail design studio, Rex has actually been designing since the young age of 14 when he was paid $100 for his first job helping a frustrated neighbor design and organize her living room.

After he graduated, salutatorian, from Michigan School for the Deaf, Rogers attended University of Michigan to pursue becoming an attorney and an advocate for Deaf Rights. This career path took him to Washington DC for several years where he was able to change paths and hone in on his coastal design style. This is when he realized he wanted to pursue a career in design instead.

Rogers has a knack for creating functional spaces with genuine purpose and eye catching design. He is just as interested in fabrics and textures as he is in mass and shape.  This skill allows him to combine a variety of furniture from different eras with sleek white modern picture frames, large pillars and simple plants into a serene and relaxing atmosphere.

His style has definitely not gone unnoticed by the big design houses and recently Rogers was one of two contenders left out of 30 for a high profile design job in New York City.  Although Rogers did not get the job, the company loved his work so much, there may be another opportunity for him to expand his work to New York City in the future.

Rogers has very contemporary instincts tempered by a flair for historical allusion. This is very evident in the building which he renovated on Shiawassee in the Dibbleville district, downtown Fenton. The building was originally the residence of Judge Leroy and over the years has had called many businesses home, such as a tavern and a doctor’s practice. He was able to save the original floor, plus old doors and trim. “I absolutely love history,” said Rogers. “It’s so important. The people before us are to be cherished and treasured.”

While his design studio definitely emulates Rogers' all-American, east coast style, I was surprised to see how eclectic, yet classic, his unique finds are. The lofty studio space mixes pieces he has hand picked during his travels all over Michigan and up the east coast. The light filled living room has a pair of beautifully restored 1930’s metal and white leather chairs, a 1950’s mid century modern armless chair and 1970’s couch. All of these pieces he has found, refurbished and restored to a new life.

As you walk through the studio, you will see beautiful lamps, restored and rewired, an old wooden trunk repurposed to a coffee table, which recently was sold to a Grandmother who bought it because it had the perfect set up for her grandchildren to store their art supplies in.

Also considered somewhat of a local superhero, Rogers uses his design powers to give back to the community in a variety of different ways. Just recently, he has worked with the Whaley Children’s Center in Flint, Michigan to help reinvigorate and redesign their living spaces. He feels very blessed to have had the upbringing and life he has had, he wants to help other children who haven’t had that opportunity have a beautiful place to live. Rogers and four of his friends also participate in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Genesee County and just raised $1000 to go towards their general funding.

Rogers has established somewhat of an underground following in the circles that know him. However, he is on the verge of breaking out and will no longer be a coveted secret to those who love him for his work. My advice to you would be to go see him now, so you can say you knew him when.

With an outgoing, warm personality and an ability to create welcoming partnership with clients, Rex is able to understand and emulate what his clients needs are without actually hearing them. He is able to read lips well and works with clients through visual presentation and with an interpreter, if needed. “You have a voice, but I have my eyes, my taste, my passion for my work,” he said.

His clients range from someone needing help framing a photograph to his current project being hired as the lead designer on a home being built this year on Pine Lake. As Rex pulled out the blueprints for the home, he went on to explain the level of integration he has had with the whole building process, “I’ve chosen everything from the floors, paint, lighting, siding, roof and am designing the landscaping to help maximize the view of the water from the home and the yard”.

Although his favorite style is ‘coastal’, Rogers prides himself in his ability to design in any style.

The Rex Todd Rogers Design Studio is open for walk in and retail business Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 AM - 5 PM, but you can call and schedule a consultation at (810) 814-0587. I also had the pleasure of meeting Mark Coleman, who has deep Fenton roots and assists Rogers in his studio and has over 25 years of experience in furniture and design.

Pick up a coffee at The Laundry, stroll across the street and stop by to pick up a couple one-of-a kind design finds and accessories, all hand picked by the Rex Todd Rogers.
By Chelsea Mills 21 Mar, 2014
With digital media constantly consuming us through social media, email advertisements, mobile phone apps, Internet ads, re-marketing campaigns and so much more it could be easy to cut print advertising from your marketing budget because you’re told it is ineffective. After all, everyone is always on his or her mobile devices, right?

Actually you might be surprised once you start researching it. A number of studies show people react differently to print media than they do to digital media. In the 2008 study published by the Journal of Research in Reading, shows that reading ads online isn’t as effective or rewarding as their printed counterpart.

Multimedia features of ads and physical manipulation of ads tend to distract the reader from the focus of what they are reading and could leave little room for imagination to come into play. The result is that readers do not fully absorb digital media in the way they absorb print media information.

Print advertising is fully controlled by the reader. He or she decides how long to stay on each page and when to move away. So to fully maximize your users experience here are a few things you should do and a few things you should not do when working on a print ad.

  • Make sure you are very clear about what you are selling. Use words or images to ensure you don’t leave people in the dark.
  • Use simple, clear contact information, which is easy to remember.
  • Make sure your logo is in the path of the reader’s eye, a reader’s eye moves in a Z pattern across the page.
  • Work with someone with design experience when designing your ad. Not only is skill necessary to make the ad look right, but your ad must compete with the other ads favorably in the publication.
  • Prepare your ad ahead of time, if you can, so you can put it away for a few days and then revisit the ad with a new perspective. This will allow you time for any revisions if needed.
  • Confuse the reader and assume your design is funny or clever, ask for second opinions to see if other people understand.
  • Clutter your ad with multiple images, text, font styles and an abundance of information.
  • Forget to have a clear call to action so the reader knows what to do next.
  • Allow your contact information to be obscured in anyway by a design element. An amazing design is useless if the readers do not know how you get your product or service.
  • Ask your ad to do too much.
A successful print ad should have one clear message. The more ‘extras’ you throw in about your business could start diluting the main message in your ad and confuse or disinterest the reader. Start noticing ads in the magazines and newspapers you read. Notice the things you like and just as important, notice the things you don’t like. You will learn just as much, if not more, from the bad ads as you will from the good ads.
By Chelsea Mills 24 Jan, 2014
By: Chelsea Mills, Owner - Behind Your Design

As a little girl, you always dreamed of an outdoor wedding. You dreamed you would be walking down the tree-lined steps at your family home on Lake Fenton, or through a fall orchard with the red and gold leaves or even a spring wedding in a park with scented with roses and cherry blossoms.  You envision the sun shining down on you during your wedding ceremony. The birds are chirping. A light breeze flows through the air. The guests are smiling at you. It is the PERFECT day.

Many brides and grooms get that perfect day. I wish every single one could. The reality is though, we live in Michigan. They don’t say, “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” for nothing. You could have a quick change of weather at any time. I’ve seen the most beautiful day turn into the perfect storm in a matter of minutes.

I have a few rules for outdoor brides and grooms. If you’re going to get married outside in the spring, summer or fall in Michigan, you have to:

1.     Deal with whatever happens and be happy with it

2.     Be prepared, have a plan B

3.     Make sure your guests are comfortable

4.     Roll with the punches (also see #1 deal with it!)

I’m not trying to scare anyone, but being prepared is the best way to have an ideal day not only for you, but also for your guests on your wedding day.

Rain, Rain Go Away

Plan A might involve all of your guests in the back yard or in a park under the trees, but a Plan B is a safe idea. Check with local rental companies to see how late you can add a tent. The 10-day forecast is a safe bet as it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Sometimes it’s best to have a back up location. Does the church you’re getting married in have hall? Does the hotel your guests are staying in have an extra room? You typically can’t hold these without plans of using them, but if they are going unused, as your event gets closer, they may be an option.

So, worst case scenario… It’s raining or it’s going to rain and it’s not just a sprinkle- it’s raining cats and dogs. Do your guests have to walk on wet grass? A trip to the store for a bunch of umbrellas for your guests to use to walk to their cars or the bathrooms can be helpful. Will it start getting muddy? As pretty as grass is- it can get really nasty fast. Think about getting some hay or mulch to put down in high traffic areas. Can you order sidewalls for your tent? Sometimes it does rain so hard that a tent can only do so much and if it is blowing, sidewalls can help a little.  Have large heaters on hand to turn on in the tent just in case the temperature drops. Not only is it only planning ahead, but also it shows your guests that you care about their comfort.

Trust your gut. If you have a feeling the weather might turn bad, secure a plan B. Because if you do, the saying is, you won’t need it. But if you don’t, you probably will.


You can never depend on the weather. A corporate event I did one October was predicting warm weather ten days prior and then a few days before changed to cold weather.  I ended up adding sidewalls to the tent, gas heaters inside and outside, valet parking and purchased many fleece blankets, which I had embroidered with the client’s logo to match the color scheme of the event. I placed the blankets on the lounge furniture and passed them out as gifts so the guests could stay warm.  The little extra cost is worth peace of mind and the guests thought the blankets were an amazing take a way from the event.

Oh, You Didn’t Plan for Your Wedding Party to Have 80’s Metal Band Hair?

As you know, it can get windy outdoors in Michigan very quickly. On a lake or in a backyard, wind can wreak havoc on an event. For your hair, use a little extra hairspray. For groomsmen, even if they’re not the product type, have them use a little. It’s better than having your hair sticking up in pictures. Buy some travel bottles of hairspray and hair gel to put in the bathrooms so your guests can use them as well.

Are your place cards secured? Get a plan B for your place cards if they were little cards on a table. Affix them to something! I’ve used figs with pins to secure the place cards as a paperweight. I have also used acrylic frames from the photo booth company to display the names in. This also makes a great keepsake for the guests to frame their photo booth memories in. Make sure your tablecloths are weighted so they’re not blowing up onto to lit candles or centerpieces. Are your napkins going to blow away? Make sure they’re secure as well by using heaving napkin rings or placing the bread and butter plate on top of them. Wind can also make it really hard to hear. Have a microphone for nuptials and speeches even if you think it might be overkill.

Create a Memory

Creating at atmosphere in which guests can enjoy themselves is not always an easy task. If your event is in a park, string lights around the trees so there is soft light when the sun sets. If your event is at a farm, have hand painted directional signs showing them the way to the ceremony, reception, restrooms and photo booth. When the guests arrive have a beverage handed to them by an attendant who is available to direct them or answer questions they may have. Don’t have a lot of idle time; you don’t want your guests to remember being bored.

Waiter, There is a Fly in My Soup

Insects can be uninvited guests. Make sure you have citronella candles and a bug zapper. Spray for mosquitoes in advance and also have bug spray on hand.

Hot, Hot, Hot!

August can make for days of unbearable heat! Make sure your guests have shade and plenty of bottled water. Make a pitcher of lemonade and ice tea and have that around too.  Plan on your programs being doubled as fans during the ceremony.  Add a tent and large commercial fans if you don’t already have one.  Butter cream frosting can melt! Make sure to tell your baker that you’re going to be outside so they can use fondant on the cake instead. Make sure your guests are facing away from the sun for your ceremony. Or purchase sunglasses for everyone to wear during the ceremony, this can also make a great photograph afterwards! You don’t want them all squinting at you!  

You’ll Laugh About This Someday

So, what if the weather isn’t the best? What if it’s not as you dreamed? At the end of the night, you’re still going home with the love of your life. That is what should be most important. Make this your mantra. Say it over and over again when you feel like things aren’t going quite as you planned.

Make the most out of it. Take fun pictures in the snow. Act like you’re blowing away in the wind. If you’re really adventurous - dance in the rain or jump in the lake. Why not, your going to get wet anyway?

Make sure your guests are comfortable. Then, have a glass of wine! You can’t control the weather, but you can be prepared.

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