Pure Michigan Business Success Stories

The Belle Isle Conservancy

Michelle Hodges, President, Belle Isle Conservancy

The Belle Isle Conservancy is a nonprofit organization working to restore, preserve and protect Detroit’s Belle Isle. In 2005, the Albert Kahn-designed Belle Isle Aquarium was closed after over one hundred years of operation due to Detroit’s economic difficulties. After a seven-year closure, the Belle Isle Conservancy was able to reopen the Aquarium on September 15, 2012. The Conservancy immediately began a major building restoration including replacing the roof, windows and restoring the Aquarium skylights. Currently, approximately 50 of the 60 tanks are open and display aquatic life from stingrays and electric eels to seahorses and starfish. The Belle Isle Aquarium is the oldest aquarium in the country and the last surviving Victorian-era Aquarium/horticultural facility in the world. This year, the Belle Isle Aquarium will be one hundred and eleven years old. The Aquarium is open every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free.

The Detroit Bus Company

Andy Didorosi, President, The Detroit Bus Company

Detroit Bus Company is a private bus line designed to fill the current transit gap in the city. The company offers daily routes, special events and private rents that will help alleviate Detroit’s growing transit issue, get people back to work and make it easy for more people to travel into Detroit. DBC is hoping to relieve Detroit of much of its car-based problems which involve traffic congestion and parking scarcity. The company’s goal is to develop a new system that will help people, and students, travel efficiently.

Two Men and a Truck

Brig Sorber, CEO, Mary Ellen Sheets, Founder, Melanie Bergeron, Chair, and Jon Sorber, Executive V.P.

In the early 1980s, two brothers from Lansing started the company Two Men and a Truck. Since then, the company has grown into a fleet of 1,500 trucks and is the nation’s largest franchised local moving company. A true Michigan success story, Two Men and a Truck show no signs of slowing down, with plans to expand internationally.


Greg Schwartz, CEO and Co-Founder; Chris Kaufman, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder; Mat Piccinato, Chief of Mobile and Co-Founder; Dave Webber, Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder

UpTo is an innovative tech start-up that is redefining the calendar. UpTo’s calendar app for iPhone and Android offers consumers an all-encompassing view of what’s coming up based on their own schedule, their likes and their interests. UpTo offers businesses and organizations a modern calendar that transforms static lists of events into beautiful, social and engaging calendar experiences. The company’s founders, all Michigan natives, chose to locate their business in Michigan to take advantage of the area’s incredible resources, including creative talent, tech know-how, venture capital firms and entrepreneurial energy.


Jason Vazzano, CEO & Co-founder, Kurt Steckling, CEO & Co-founder

Think Tank. Lab. Studio. Vectorform invents digital products and experiences with a focus on innovative mobile and emerging technology solutions. They work to deliver best-in-class contemporary insight to create game-changing experiences for the world’s most influential brands, including Microsoft, Chrysler, Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, Nike and Disney. Vectorform was founded in 1999 by Jason Vazzano, Kurt Steckling and Karl Steckling. The company is headquartered in Royal Oak and has five offices globally.


A U.S.-based global automotive parts company spun off from Ford Motor Company in 2000, Visteon now has approximately 22,000 employees and more than $13 billion in sales annually (2013). Through its core growth businesses, including Halla Visteon Climate Control and Visteon Electronics, Visteon designs, engineers and manufactures innovative components and systems for virtually every vehicle manufacturer worldwide. Visteon is headquartered in Van Buren Township, Michigan, where it consolidated its southeast Michigan operations in 2005, citing excellent support, efficiencies and cost savings.


Jeff Fettig, CEO

Founded in 1911, Whirlpool began by producing electric, motor-driven wringer washers. Today, Whirlpool Corporation is the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, with annual sales of more than $19 billion in 2013, 69,000 employees and 59 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world. The company markets Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Brastemp, Consul, Bauknecht and other major brand names to consumers in nearly every country around the world.

Zehnder’s Splash Village

Creating a premier, four-season family vacation destination. That was the goal of the $20 million invested in Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark expansion, finished in 2014. With help that included financial assistance from First Merit Bank and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the waterpark now offers families over 50,000 square feet of aquatic adventures including two, six-story thrill rides, 178 guestrooms and a unique retractable roof.