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ProGymSystems Kicks Off New Venture

The distressed real estate market is offering an opportunity for growth for ProGymSystems. The Baltimore based company is launching a new venture to open fitness studios in office properties with a high vacancy rate.

“Fitness and healthy living aren’t only hobbies for the fit crowd or bodybuilders. They are becoming the lifestyle of choice for the mainstream,” says ProGymSystems Director W. Thomas Sjolander.

The company sees the current real estate environment as an opportunity for expansion, and is marketing their new concept to property managers looking to attract new tenants to highly vacant properties by offering upgraded amenities.
“Many office buildings have high vacancy rates,” Sjolander says. “ Amenities like a free fitness center will help attract new tenants and even retain current tenants.”

ProGymSystems typically designs gyms for hotels, private clients and multi-housing properties. The company has designed gyms at the Saratoga Lofts in Baltimore and TownPlace Suites at Arundel Mills. ProGymSystems has approached several area property developers with the new concept, including Corporate Office Properties Trust, JBG Rosenfeld, Chesapeake Property Management and St. John Properties.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: W. Thomas Sjolander, ProGymSystems

WorkingWonders Wants to Become the Whole Foods of Home Goods

Baltimore based green home goods retailer WorkingWonders has made its name as an online retailer of sustainably sourced and green products for homes and families. The company is looking to do something unusual  – make the jump from online retail to traditional brick and mortar.

“WorkingWonders aims to be the first brand nationally recognized for sustainable home & lifestyle retail,” says WorkingWonders CEO BethAnn Lederer. ”In a nutshell, socially and environmentally savvy consumers have the 'Whole Foods' option, but the same does not exist for our homes.”

The company focuses on green products that are manufactured by small and medium sized companies, with the goal of keeping two-thirds of its retail products and production lines coming in from US companies. WorkingWonders is looking to open a flagship style retail location in Baltimore that fulfills this mission.

The WorkingWonders team is developing plans to attract investor interest in the proposed retail location. As they work on this plan for a brick and mortar store, WorkingWonders is continuing to add more sustainable home products to their mix. The company is also accepting applications for internships this year.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: BethAnn Lederer, Working Wonders

The Lunchbox Lady Keeps Growing

The Lunchbox Lady, which provides box lunches for corporate events, is launching a new menu this month, and planning to hire at least one additional full time food production worker and one part time driver this year.

The business has grown steadily, eventually outgrowing its original location. Last year, the business moved from Arbutus to Halethorpe – and business grew 185 percent. The Lunchbox Lady added three new staffers, and the business is still expanding.

Corporate downsizing brought Baltimore native Connie Henninger Neiman back to the food industry. The former co-owner of Henninger's in Fells Point left the restaurant business in 1989 to become and insurance broker. After 20 years in the business and two layoffs, Connie went back to her roots in the food business and reinvented herself as The Lunchbox Lady.

“All of the ladies that I have hired in the past three-and-half years have been downsized from various professional careers, so they have varied experience and most of all, they have invested their ideas and talents and share in my vision of growing this business,” says The Lunchbox Lady owner Connie Henninger Neiman.

“I am a very lucky person, because I have acquired employees that really believe in what they are doing and that is why our food and presentation is very high quality,” says Henninger Neiman.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Connie Henninger Neiman, The Lunchbox Lady

Broadcast Sports is Growing, Hiring

Broadcast Sports Inc. is growing.

The Hanover-based company that provides wireless telecommunications services for major sporting events recently opened a  U.K. office and is adding two staff positions here in Maryland.

Broadcast sports is currently hiring a test engineer and a management information systems analyst at its Hanover headquarters.

“The most exciting thing going on is all the new technologies we are working on now that will be deployed at various events this year," says Broadcast Sports Sales and Marketing Specialist Colleen Stanley. Though its U.K. office has only been on a few months, the company has been selected for some major sporting events including the Formula 1 racing series, Stanley says.

2012 is shaping up to be a busy year for Broadcast Sports. Already on the slate for this year, Broadcast Sports will be working the Winter X Games, Super Bowl XLVI, the Masters Golf Tournament, the Daytona 500, The Indianapolis 500 and the Summer Olympics in London. With all these events on tap, the company is looking for more help.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Colleen Stanley, Broadcast Sports Inc.

Groupon Fundraiser Helps Charm City Animal Rescue Exceed Goal

In this economy, it's been a challenge for Michelle Ingrodi of Charm City Animal Rescue to raise the funds that her charity needs to provide services for homeless animals in Baltimore.

A recent partnership with Groupon's nonprofit fundraising team -- called G-Team -- helped the animal rescue service find the funds it needs to keep the functioning. CCAR's Groupon event ran for three days and raised $2,060. The nonprofit sold 206 Groupons at $10 each, Ingrodi says.

“We aimed for $300, so this was really huge for us,” says CCAR founder Michelle Ingrodi.

The Groupon effort is just the first of this year's creative fundraising efforts for the animal rescue. CCAR will be raising funds through a tattooing benefit in March and a bull roast in April. The animal rescue also plans to continue the fundraising effort with a 1980's prom themed benefit, a “giant yard sale” benefit and New Year's Eve spay and neuter event.

“CCAR is funded only by donations. We don't have a facility yet, I don't even have a car, so both are very big on our list of items needed,” Ingrodi says.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Michelle Ingrodi, Charm City Animal Rescue

Company Promoting Cocktail Culture Launches in Baltimore

Craft cocktails are the latest trend in the beverage industry.

Liquid Culture, a beverage event start-up in Baltimore, aims to capitalize on that trend by holding events around town that combine an education in craft cocktails with an evening of fun. Craft cocktails are more than just your average rum and Coke. They rely on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, interesting flavor pairings and additives like bitters and syrups.

“I believe this is the perfect time for Liquid Culture because Baltimore, though it is often a bit behind cities like New York and L.A., seems to have caught up with the trends when it comes to food," says Liquid Culture founder Christine Stutz. 

"There are so many great restaurants in the city now, and people are much more adventurous about what they eat. There's a sophistication about food that translates naturally to what we drink. There's evidence that the cocktail movement has finally caught fire here, and we want to be the ones to fan the flames,” Stutz says.

Liquid Culture will be hosting themed food and beverage events featuring specialty drinks created by experts at venues around the city. The events are designed to educate cocktail neophytes about their options. At each themed event, a different kind of beverage will be sampled and attendees can learn about unusual cocktails. Events will be in a variety of locations around the city, with new themes and expert mixologists.

Liquid Culture will be holding their inaugural event, the Valentine themed “Libations for Lovers” on Feb. 1 at the Wine Market in Locust Point.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Christine Stutz, Liquid Culture

Apothecary Wellness Expands Services

Apothecary Wellness in Federal Hill has added three new employees.

The holistic wellness spa and boutique has added a new esthestician, a massage therapy assistant and Dr. Homa Hashime, a holistic medical practitioner to its team.

The addition of a naturopathic medical doctor to the staff means that Federal Hill patients who choose naturopathic medicine will no longer have to travel to Hampden for care. To promote this expansion, Apothecary Wellness has planned an open house Jan. 29.

“We are seeing a drastic change in the way people are taking care of themselves, including the products they are choosing to use," says Christine Cochrum, co-owner of Apothecary Wellness. "We are excited to be a part of that change and we hope to continue to inspire wellness in our community."

The open house will feature free samples of the natural products that the boutique carries, make-up and skincare demonstrations and educational opportunities with the spa's practitioners.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: Jane Seebold; Federal Hill Main Street; Christine Cochrum, Apothecary Wellness

Woodberry Kitchen Owners to Open Cafe in Hampden

Woodberry Kitchen’s Spike and Amy Gjerde will open a coffee shop at Hampden’s Union Mill this spring.

The 1,500-square-foot café will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Also still in the works is Half Acre, a fast-casual eatery that the Gjerdes will open at 3801 Falls Rd. in the middle of this year. The 75-seat restaurant will serve lunch and dinner.

The café will be under construction next month and open in March or April, says Michael Morris, the real estate manager for the Gjerdes’ restaurant ownership group behind Woodberry Kitchen, Artifact and Half Acre.

One of the area’s first farm-to-table restaurants, Woodberry Kitchen is one of the Baltimore area’s most popular restaurants. It earned the accolade of Bon Appetit magazine, which named it one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America in its September 2009 issue.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen; Michael Morris, real estate manager

Constellation Energy Accepting Renewable Energy Grants

Constellation Energy is now accepting applications for its EcoStar Grant Program, which promotes renewable energy.

In its third year, the program provides grants of up to $5,000 to organizations working on community projects that fit into one or more categories designated by the Baltimore firm: pollution prevention, education and outreach, energy efficiency, conservation and community activism

Past winners of EcoStar grants in Baltimore include Coppin State University, Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Coppin State University used EcoStar grant funds to study nanotechnology and solar power. Constellation has awarded EcoStar grants in 20 states since the program's inception. Last year, it awarded 85 EcoStar grants.

The deadline for applications for the 2012 EcoStar grant program is March 10. Grant awards will be announced on or before Earth Day, April 12.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Christina Pratt, Constellation Energy

Sensics Introduces SmartGoggles

Sensics Inc. is launching their first consumer-targeted 360-degree goggles at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show this month in Las Vegas. SmartGoggles are designed to provide gamers with an immersive view of their gaming environment.

Sensics had been selling exclusively to the defense and professional markets, says Sensics CEO Yuval Boger of the 360-degree goggles. "By adding the power to run Android applications on board, as well as allow these applications to use the location of the user’s hand, we believe SmartGoggles are changing how people think about virtual reality goggles much like smart phones changed how people think about phones.”

SmartGoggles differ from traditional virtual reality goggles in the way that  they run applications that track the user's motion. Traditional virtual-reality goggles rely on an external device for video and track the user's head motions. SmartGoggles run applications locally and track the user's hand motions.

The Columbia company is also looking to partner with a major consumer electronics company to help deliver SmartGoggles to the consumer market.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Yuval Boger, Sensics Inc.

Landscaping Firm Uses New Software to Keep Track of Crews

Keeping track of what a work crew is doing is a challenge for landscaping and construction firms. Akehurst Landscaping Services, Inc. in Joppa is solving that problem by implementing iCREWtek tracking software.

The software helps the firm keep track of its crews and  empowers them to be more efficient and accountable in estimating, scheduling and business management duties, says Akehurst Landscaping Services Business Developer David Sheredy.
Using iCREWtek, Akehurst Landscaping is able to do real time monitoring of all of the company's work crews.

iCREWtek is an extension of Asset, a business management application for landscaping services produced by Annapolis-based software developer Include Software.

Customer invoices, job site photos, materials management and time sheets can be processed paperlessly and remotely, which allows for more accurate estimates and faster billing. The software also has English/Spanish communication capability to increase communications accuracy.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: David Sheredy, Akehurst Landscaping Services Inc.

Campaign Management Firm Teams with Baltimore PR Company

CampaignON, a campaign management software company in Towson, has partnered with Baltimore's Weiss PR Associates Inc. to help candidates get their campaign messages out  --- just as the 2012 election season heats up. 

Weiss PR will be providing candidates with a wide range of public relations services, including strategic communications planning, media outreach, public affairs, issue management, community relations, and crisis communications, says Weiss PR President Ray Weiss

Weiss PR has worked with candidates on the state and local level, including PR support for former Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Ray Weiss, Weiss PR Associates Inc.

Bootcamp Lights Takes Digital Media to the Sky

Advertising banners flying from the back of a plane are a classic sight at the beach, but don't work so well in a crowded metropolitan area. Enter Columbia's Bootcamp Lights. The Columbia start up is taking that concept to a new level with digital banner advertising from a custom-built helicopter that is flown over urban events.

“We take a message, the foundation of any campaign, and we display that message directly above prime locations,” says Bootcamp co-founder Kyle Benham. “We are capable of reaching areas unattainable by other forms of media.”

The company has flown messages for a variety of area businesses specially tailored to their needs. Using a helicopter allows for more precise message locations, as it did with last year's advertising campaign for Scores flown over the U2 concert at M&T Bank Stadium.

Bootcamp Lights celebrated their new social media tool, currently in beta testing, at this year's New Year's Eve fireworks display in downtown Baltimore. Users were able to send their New Year’s greetings to the world using the online tool, Facebook and Twitter. Bootcamp Lights plans to continue developing their social media platform in 2012. The application allows customers to connect with a company and livestream chat on the company's site.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Kyle Benham, Bootcamp Lights

Caterers Launch Partyspace Baltimore

Looking for a venue for a wedding or bar mitzvah can mean hours of web searching and phone calls to determine availability and suitability. The new website Partyspace Baltimore aims to change that.

“The unique part of our website is that couples and their families can check availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the major venues in Baltimore and surrounding areas,” says Julie Brown-Edwards, a promoter for Partyspace Baltimore. “Our calendar service is a big difference to the way brides, couples and their families have searched for information in the past.”

Launched at the Timonium Bridal Expo 2012, Partyspace Baltimore is the brainchild of the Jeffrey A. Miller Catering Co. of Philadelphia and Chef’s Expressions Inc. of Baltimore. Partyspace Baltimore is designed to provide event planners and individuals planning their own parties with a one-stop shop for venues and event vendors.

The website offers users the opportunity to check venue availability any time with frequently updated calendars. The site also offers information about capability, restrictions and amenities.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Julie Brown-Edwards, Partyspace Baltimore

Pure Bang Games Is Hiring

Baltimore's Pure Bang Games is growing. The social games developer recently added star game designer Eric Ruth, developer of Pixel Force, to their roster and they're looking for more help as they launch new projects.

The company is looking for a top user interface designer as well as “rock star” front-end and back-end programmers, says Pure Bang CEO Ben Walsh. Ideally, the new hire will know AS3 Flash and/or PHP and MySQL, but if they know object-oriented programming, Pure Bang can teach them what they need to know to be mobile and Facebook programmers, Walsh says.

Pure Bang Games has a busy 2012 planned. The company is planning to launch their third mobile app game in the first quarter of this year. Pure Bang Games also plans to launch a new game by Eric Ruth.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Ben Walsh, Pure Bang Games
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