Category Archives: News

Generic… err Private Label Manufacturing in West Michigan

As discussed in a past post, West Michigan with its rich Dutch heritage has a reputation of being cheap. One thing that exemplifies the perception of cheap is the store brands or private labels products you can purchase in stores right along side the name brand products. You know the Meijer peanut butter, Spartan Stores frozen broccoli, or Walgreen’s toothbrushes. Almost every store has a complete offering of products with their store brand emblazoned on the product, and it is generally cheaper than the name brand version sitting right next to it. Well it shouldn’t surprise anyone that West Michigan is home to a number of these private label manufacturers making a wide array of products to sell to consumers with a store brand name on the packaging. Here is a list I have compiled, so lets get rolling!

Cheeze Kurls – But not only do they make Cheeze Kurls, but they also make balls, puffs, pops, fries, nuggets, pieces, among other delicious products. So while you might see their own brand on the shelves but most likely some of the store brands you purchase have been produced by Cheeze Kurls. Per this article 85% of their business is private label – some of the noted customers are Meijer, Spartan, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, CVS, and Rite-Aid.  Cheeze Kurls is located in the Walker area nearby Meijer.  Check out MiBiz’s piece on the company for an extremely thorough look at the company and on the snack food.

Quincy Street Inc.  – Is a private label meat (pork)  processor located in Holland on Quincy Street!  They definitely get extra points for originality in naming their company.

Request Foods – Surprisingly we have already covered Request Foods and how their company name was inspired by the DeVos’ Windquest boat.  I just don’t know about Holland companies and the way they go about naming their companies.  To recap Request Foods specializes in frozen entrees and provides private labeling, just look the picture and imagine your private label here.

Festida Foods –  Staying with the snack food theme, Grand Rapids is also home to Festida Foods, a private label manufacturer of tortilla chips and corn chips – what exactly is a corn chip and how is it different from a tortilla chip?  Earlier this  year they moved from Cedar Springs to a facility in Grand Rapids to meet their recent growth.

Artesian Distillers – Yes private label vodka, whisky, gin, or rum is now available, thanks to Grand Rapids based Artesian Distillers.  Based on their website they say they are working on opening up a tasting room in Rockford.  It’s a husband and wife team that started the operation.  I can’t wait to see my Meijer brand Vodka, or Spartan Rum.

Magnum Coffee Roastery – This one I found purely on dumb luck.  For some reason I was driving through Nunica (I know right), and smelled coffee in the air and saw this large building on the side of the road.  This lead me to do some more research on Magnum Coffee Roastery, and by research I just looked up their website.  Well they too offer private label brands.

Down Inc – Is a 50 year company based in Grand Rapids that produces down filled comforters and pillows for private labels.  In an interesting move Down Inc. actually named some of their customers in this Grand Rapids Press article – like Crate & Barrel, Room & Board, and how they supply JW Marriott and the Amway Grand Hotels (kudos to the hotels for buying local).  In a wise business decision of vertical integration – Down Inc is owned by Maple Leaf Farms – the largest producer of duck meat in the US.  So now we know where all those duck feathers come from, what a perfect idea… it almost makes too much sense.

Ranir – Oral care from West Michigan. Yes, Ranir in Grand Rapids is a leading private label manufacturer of oral care products – ranging from tooth brushes, to floss, whitening products to other assorted mouth related products.

Perrigo – One of the best known companies in the region is Perrigo based in Allegan.  They are the world’s largest manufacturer of OTC pharmaceutical products for the store brand markets.  As a company they have been broadening their product offerings with recent acquisitions of baby formula, and pet care brand Sergeant’s.  If you can be sure to check out their factory store in downtown Allegan so you can see all the store brands for yourself, side by side.  Here is an image from their historical medicinal display from within the store.

Pretty interesting list, and potentially mind blowing.  Especially if you were one of those people who always prefers Meijer cheese curls snacks over Spartan brand, you might be eating the exact same snack, or using the exact same toothbrush or whatever.  So any other private label manufacturers out that you are aware of?  Please share them with me in the comments section.

Advertisements

Hey! What’s Growing On?

As I am sure everyone knows Start Garden started today.  Start Garden is the next big thing from Rick DeVos and Pomegranate Studios, where people can submit ideas for a chance receive $5,000 in an initial investment.  Each week, 2 ideas will be chosen and given $5,000 and then the winners will be required to come back in 60-90 days and present where they are at with their winning idea for opportunity to get additional funding, in the amount of $20,000.  Ideas that are progressing well and have potential to become viable businesses can in theory receive up to $500,000 dollars from Start Garden.  The fund is backed up $15 million commitment from the DeVos family, so there is plenty of opportunities for many ideas to get a lot of investment dollars.  Throughout the process, ideas receiving funding will be able to get some resources and mentoring from Start Garden to help their idea move ahead.  The public gets to be involved in the process as well by choosing one of the weekly winners and public events will be held to present the progress of previous winners.

Some things I like about Start Garden:

  • Accountability.  Unlike the 5×5 Nights winners, who are not required to update anyone on their progress or what they have done with money that they won, Start Garden requires winners to come back in 60-90 days and update everyone on their progress.  Not to mention that great minds think alike, here is my tweet to 5×5 Night (Pomegranate Studio) on January 24, 2012 and their response.  I asked them if they followed-up with winners on their progress or what they were up to, and 5×5 responded that they didn’t..  I was always curious if there was an mechanism in place besides one own morals which prevent someone from coming up with a fake idea (charity/or good cause) and win the competition and just take the $5,000 and run.  Granted it would be a lot of work for someone to do all that but I am sure there must have been at least some hucksters who submitted ideas with this premise.  Plus people what to know what happens next, its like a cliffhanger and people want to see a resolution or at least the next chapter.  Start Garden did a great thing by adding in this extra step.
  • Helping ideas get off the ground, and giving them money
  • General philanthropy of the DeVos family
  • Getting exposure to some new, great, and interesting ideas (it could potentially give me more fodder for my blog)
  • And this great quote form Mlive “Backed by his wealthy family, [Rick] DeVos…” Wow way to empower all the troll commentators to like to spout negatives about the DeVos family.

Some things I don’t like:

  • All the garden talk.  I know its part of the name, and it helps complete the narrative, but look at this quote from Rick DeVos: ““Start Garden creates the field and brings the water. We ask the people to bring their ideas and plant them. And we ask existing businesses in our region to become the farmers. Because we believe the soil is fertile for business here and we can be the best place for somebody to have an idea and run with it”
  • Never did they really say what is going to happen to 5×5 Night, though by looking at the website, it does say “Site Closed Temporarily closed. Check out our new project Start Garden.”  None of the stories I read mentioned it, even the official press release never states what is going to happen to 5×5.
  • The logo should be green or brown instead of yellow… you know garden, things growing, greenery and soil.

Start Garden, cool idea, that I will be curiously following, and I am especially looking forward for the 60-90 day recaps which I think is the best part.  What are your thoughts?

Orlando Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide Steps Down Because of A Drunk Call

And you thought only young people drunk dial and usually toward their exes!  Well CEO of the Orlando Magic, Bob Vander Weide, drunk dialed the team’s star player Dwight Howard at 1am a few days ago.  The conversation involved Vander Weide stating to Dwight how badly they wanted him to stay in Orlando and play with the Magic, which is odd since he is not a free agent this year (but he will be after the 2011-2012 season ends).  As fall out of this phone call, Vander Weide is stepping down as CEO of the Magic, though it should be noted that his contract was set to expire on December 31st, so he might have been planing his exit for a while.  Though I doubt that the drunk dial was supposed to be the crux of his exit strategy.

Not sure what was louder the audio system or Bob’s shirt

Now a little background on Bob Vander Weide.  He is married to Cheri DeVos, daughter of the Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos, so he is firmly entrenched in the DeVos family business (more on that below, and this previous blog post).  The Orlando Sentinel did a nice piece on Vander Weide in 2008, which can be read here (it also talks about his private Gulfstream jet).  It gives some background on Vander Weide and how he became a part of the DeVos family and began working for the Magic.  In addition to his Magic responsibilities, he had many other West Michigan business, roles and organizations to keep track of or be a part of, such as:

There are rumors going around that Vander Weide stepping down is also related to some marriage troubles with his wife, which Vander Weide flat out denies.  He also states that by leaving the role of CEO of the Magic, he can devote more time to his family which includes 5 children.  Since he will still be a part of the Magic organization in a consulting role, and likely still traveling back and forth from Grand Rapids to Orlando, I am not sure how much more time he will spend with them but per that Orlando Sentinel article, he makes it happen by working remotely in Grand Rapids, and flying around in the Gulfstream when needed.

I would be curious to find out how the story of the drunk dial got leaked?  Was it Vander Weide’s paddle (does he mean ping pong?) & wine drinking buddies (They must have egged him on to call), or was Dwight Howard pissed about the call, and told some people in management? Or was it just general gossip.

If interested in the the whole transition of power at the Magic, here is the official scoop (warning more DeVos names in article).

Culture Clash? Revue Acquires MiBiz

Last week Revue, a monthly West Michigan entertainment magazine, purchased MiBiz, a weekly West Michigan business publication (there has been no official announcement regarding the headlines though).  Both publications are now owned by Revue Holding Company.

As mentioned in the press release, Revue president Brian Edwards (whose name graces a local Grand Rapids PR firm – Lambert & Edwards & Associates) will come on board at MiBiz as editor and publisher of the magazine.  It will be interesting to see how these two seemingly different magazines will operate with each other since it’s stated that they will share best practices.  However, they do share some similarities:

  1. Physical Appearance:  Both publications are of a similar (or same) size, made out of newspaper material, and are in color
  2. Free:  Well to a certain extent.  Revue is free, and you can pick up a copy almost anywhere, whereas MiBiz is free for subscription if you have a fancy title (middle to upper management).  Also both publications make their entire issue/content available for free online
  3. Advertising:  Both heavily rely on advertising for revenue, though their advertisers vary greatly.  Revue – bars, restaurants, and bands.  MiBiz – Banks, Insurance, and other boring/odd ads for businesses like this one.

Per the press release Edwards states that the MiBiz acquisition is just the first of several planned for the next couple of years… I wonder what is next – sports (maybe even high school sports), Rapid Growth (though maybe not after Revue’s Stad DiPonzi’s Vapid Growth comment), what else is there….The Ledger?  Maybe West Michigan isn’t a focus and they are looking to acquire publications in Central or Eastern Michigan.  Or perhaps Revue Holding Company is just positioning itself against Gemini Publications portfolio of magazines which include Grand Rapids Business Journal, Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Family Magazine, Michigan BLUE Magazine, Michigan GOLF Magazine.  By the way, Gemini gets bonus points for all their creative and original publication names.

So what are your thoughts on what’s next for Revue Holding Company or about the acquisition?

Update on Scott Bosgraaf

Well its gotten to that point, where Scott Bosgraaf deserves his own post. Oddly enough it seems that he has been following in his former lessee, Brett Flipse’s footsteps.

Scott Bosgraaf in front of what could be a building (at least GR Press knows how to label file photos)

Last time I wrote about Scott Bosgraaf he seemed to be doing quite well, owning several companies and building developments, but as you can see many of these are running into trouble:

Huntington Bank was a major financier for Bosgraaf, had enough, and decided to pursue action against Bosgraaf.  The bank began to take some properties into foreclosure, and initiated some lawsuits to receive payment on loans.  Auto Sports Unlimited (which was used as an umbrella company to Bosgraaf Commercial, and Holland Transmission Service) and Faargsob (Bosgraaf backwards) where used as collateral for some of his developments, and both have filed for bankruptcy.  The legal battles between Huntington Bank and Bosgraaf are ongoing so we will have to wait and see how this will all play out.

The situation between Bosgraaf and his lenders has been brewing for awhile.  Back in January 2011, I noticed lots of visitors to The Ledger were searching for “Scott Bosgraaf foreclosure” or some variation of that.  At the time I could not verify any of that information, but now the press has caught wind of the story.

Read more at Holland Sentinel, Grand Rapids Press, Argus Press, and my original post here.
Though I do love the title for this Scott Bosgraaf photo “Scott Bosgraaf of Baker Lofts stand in the wine cellar at what could be Theodore, the new restaurant at Baker Lofts. ”  At what could be… really?

Zipments.com – Manufacturing a Story

Read this article in The Grand Rapids Press “Got a spare hour? Zipments.com will pay you to move something across town“.

For those of you too lazy to click, here is the excerpt from the article:

The day before the launch of an international conference, organizers have better things to do than schlep 15 boxes of brochures and other materials from Grand Valley State University’s downtown campus to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

So Ryan Vaughn, an outreach consultant for the Center for Entrepreneurship, went to Zipments.com, a new online venture in which people who need things delivered can connect with people who will make the delivery. And the senders name their price.

He posted the job for $50, giving a window of time in which it had to be done. David Tilley, a registered courier with Zipments, signed up. He picked up the boxes, and the job was done.

Zipments.com is local courier service in West Michigan, where customers can post local “shipping” jobs, and couriers can bid on these posted shipping jobs. The customer picks the winning courier out of all the bids received for that job.

As a recently launched business Zipments.com has been doing its share of public relations, but after reading this latest Grand Rapids Press story something just didn’t feel right to me. So let me lay out some facts that might make you look at the Zipments.com article a little differently.

Innocent Shipment, or a Not Very Well Concealed Public Relations Ploy?

In reading the above facts, can you see the many possible conflicts of interest? It doesn’t seem right in my opinion. I don’t have a problem with any of the above people doing business with each other, but to use the example of Ryan Vaughn of Center for Entrepreneurship, using Zipments.com to move boxes, and Dave Tilley was chosen as the courier, seems so…… manufactured, especially as the lead in the story.

In fact the article now brings up many more questions. Like was Grand Rapids Press Reporter Cami Reister aware of these relationships outlined above? If she did why was the story run as is? If she wasn’t aware, how come more fact checking wasn’t done? In regards to Zipments.com, did they suggest this as a story? Why? As mentioned in the article they had about two other Zipments.com couriers which they could have easily led the story with.

For me knowing the above facts, does change the story, it’s like the shipment never happened and gives me the impression that Zipments.com is a crony run business (rightly or wrongly). As noted here, I am just a blogger and not a journalist or a public relations guy, so maybe this isn’t odd at all. But something this story just isn’t right. What do you think?

Schaap & the West Michigan Media

I have never been in a West Michigan news room, but I imagine it would go something like this:

Not an image of a reporter working on his deadline story.

Editor: “Johnson, do you have your article ready for the next issue?”
Reporter: “Boss, I thought the deadline for my story was next week.”
Editor: “JOHNSON! I need an article on my desk by tomorrow morning”
Reporter (to self): ” Damn… I need a story fast, I better call Schaap”

It's Schaap. Wonder if the yellow face might be sort of a Bat Signal, when media needs a story.

Every publication has written at least one article on Aaron Schaap.  But many have written two, three or even more, therefore providing proof  to my above hypothesis.

Who is perpetuating this cycle… the journalists or Schaap?  Are journalists tripping over themselves to get a recorder in front of Schaap or is Schaap pursuing the journalists with a barrage of calls, emails, and press releases?

Yellow face in background again must be the Schaap signal

So why is everyone writing a story on Mr. Schaap?  By the looks of it, he has a lot going on with his companies (The Factory, Elevator Up, Downstream), and with the local start-up and tech scene.  Is it a prerequisite for any business publication in the area to do a story on Schaap?  Probably not but the man does get a lot of coverage.

Seems like there would be an easier way to hold a pin? or is it an elevator (up) button?

It’s no surprise that the Mlive/West Michigan Business Review and the Grand Rapids Press have been working on the Schaap angle for years.  Fortunately not all of their stories focus solely on Schaap, they also include some other people, but they have some great photos (my personal favorite is the Tech Industry one):

Sharing the Thunder - One of the rare Schaap photos featuring other people

If you ever read the Holland Sentinel, they rarely have any business stories in their paper.  You have to search their website to even find their business section, and the actual stories in the paper are usually just AP wire stories.  So it is even more surprising that they have two stories on Schapp (Pitch Night, and Momentum) and even had Aaron as respondent on Street-Talk.

Grand Rapids Business Journal finally got in on the action with a Schaap feature just last month – “On-The-Job Training as an Internet Entrepreneur“.  I am surprised it took them that long (by the way GRBJ search function is awful, searching for Schaap will not bring up that story, and it is quite a pain not being able to actually read any of the stories…definitely a bummer).

MiBiz also has a few stories covering Schaap – DownStream, G33k, Entrepreneurs (you will have to log-in to read these stories).  As has Rapid Growth in covering his Pitch Night and Factory news.  The Rapidian touched on Schaap in a couple of stories (here, here) and even GrubSheets did a story.

Aaron levitating

Lastly the newly launched Startup Stories vlog did their first vlog post on Schaap and his Downstream company (honestly who else would have they done their inaugural story on?… Carl Erickson and Atomic Object, yeah right)

Mr. Schaap does have a great story, (which is surprisingly open and candid) and the guy is quite a good marketer of himself and his companies.  But his relationship with the media somewhat reminds me of Rob Bliss‘ relationship with the media (but without Mlive commenters making derisive comments), with the constant coverage.

Damn it, I just wrote an Aaron Schaap story as well.

Happy that The Ledger did a story