Dan Miller is starting to clean up in a slow-growth industry. Miller, 32, a former management consultant, expects to more than double sales this year at Mulberrys Garment Care, the toxin-free dry cleaning business he launched in 2009.
"Our revenue 'run rate' will be at $2.5 million to $3 million by the end of the year," Miller said. "Our main goal is to become a leader in the dry-cleaning industry."
He added that the company plans to expand to the Chicago area next year "to make sure this not a Minnesota-only phenomenon."
Miller, who has nearly doubled employment over the last year to 50 people at five Twin Cities stores and an automated plant in Roseville, uses a next-generation "green cleaning" approach of pressurized carbon dioxide, a recycled industrial byproduct that is converted to a liquid solvent, instead of the standard industry chemicals.
"It's great to be environmentally friendly, and people like that," Miller said. "But they also want value. We're in line with brand-name cleaners, but not bargain-basement.''
Miller, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant, said he will need outside equity investors to finance growth in 2012. Miller and his father, Bill, a semiretired technology company executive, capitalized Mulberrys in 2009 and launched with the help of a bank loan.
Mulberrys' business model is heavy on ancillary services such as wooden hangers, recyclable opaque plastic bag, in-store Starbucks coffee and several new wrinkles designed to increase efficiency and lower cost from dropoff through the cleaning process.
"The workload is higher than being a consultant," Miller said. "When you're a consultant, it's kind of like poker with matchsticks. You're advising somebody else who is taking the risk. When it's your business, your financial well-being is on the line.''
BRIGHTER DAYS FOR CIRRUS
The skies appear brighter under new owners at Cirrus Aircraft, which says shipments in the third quarter increased 11 percent, besting industry trends.
The Duluth-based manufacturer shipped 68 planes in the quarter, bringing its year-to-date total to 186. That's down slightly from the 188 it shipped during the first nine months of 2010 but soars compared with the 10 percent decline in piston airplane shipments for the industry as a whole, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).
Cirrus and other aircraft makers still are struggling to recover from a recession-induced meltdown. GAMA says that shipments by U.S. aircraft companies plummeted 48 percent in 2009 and another 16 percent last year.
Earlier this year, Cirrus was sold to China Aviation Industry General Aircraft in a deal motivated by Cirrus' need for more funding to develop a jet for the personal aircraft market. At the time of the Chinese deal, Cirrus, owned previously by private equity firm Arcapita and individual shareholders, was pinched by the layoff-inducing recession and the estimated development costs of about $140 million for the jet.
Cirrus, which had revenue last year of about $200 million, has become the biggest U.S. producer of single-engine, piston-powered aircraft.
BOOST GETS A BOOST
Boost, a marketing agency with roots in consumer loyalty programs and design, has been acquired by Dallas-based Hawkeye, a customer-development agency that employs 300 in several U.S. cities, the United Kingdom, London and Singapore.
"Hawkeye works like we do, with a hands-on, client-focused approach ... and an intensity we find familiar and exciting," said John Monte, managing partner and a co-founder of Boost in 2000. "This is going to be fun, interesting and it's going to be great for our clients."
Terms of the deal, which gets expanding Hawkeye into the Twin Cities market, were not revealed, nor would Boost disclose its revenue. The eight-person boutique will continue to operate out of its Uptown office.
Boost clients include Cargill and Hallmark's Business Connections unit. Hawkeye has worked with American Airlines, BASF, the North Face, and TV host Regis Philbin.
BIKES FOR KIDS
Free Bikes 4 Kidz, a nonprofit started by cycling enthusiasts who struck a partnership with Allina Hospitals & Clinics and others, is headed toward a record 5,000 bikes that will be donated, restored and provided to needy families this holiday season -- up from 1,500 last year.
"Many of our employees are avid cyclists, and we want to help make it possible for every child to participate in this healthy, fun and environmentally friendly activity," said Allina CEO Ken Paulus, whose headquarters is adjacent to the bike-crazy Midtown Greenway in south Minneapolis.
In October, Allina employees collected nearly 4,000 bikes at its 90 locations.
Used bikes are still being accepted at any Penn Cycle or Bachman's Flower and Garden Center.
Volunteers of all skill levels are needed to ready these bikes for delivery through participating nonprofit agencies. Allina is throwing in a helmet with every bike. This worthy work is underway at eight sites, seven days a week. More information: www.FB4K.com.