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How This Entrepreneur Thrives in a Culture of Hard Work and Innovation

The founder of SampleServe says Michigan is perhaps the best place to do business in all the U.S.
How This Entrepreneur Thrives in a Culture of Hard Work and Innovation
Image credit: Courtesy of SampleServe

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Situated at the heart of the Great Lakes, Michigan has Lake Michigan to its west and Lakes Huron and Erie to its east. Living in a state that is almost completely surrounded by the largest freshwater system in the world, it’s no wonder why Russell Schindler, a professional geologist, set out to make it easier to protect the environment.

Based in Traverse City, the company he founded is called SampleServe. Schindler and his team developed a digital project management tool that allows environmental workers to streamline operations, and easily track and use data without the need of outdated paper forms.

“Environmental professionals spend about 40 percent of their time compiling data [via hand-written notes] so they can generate graphics which detail where the contamination is, where it isn't, what the concentrations are, and which direction it is heading,” Schindler explains. “The SampleServe solution to these outdated practices is a software platform that ties together all the different users with one database.”

SampleServe consists of a web-based project management tool that saves time on scheduling and communication. From the web app, project information is pushed to a mobile field app which allows the digital collection of all relevant data and creates QR-coded sample bottle labels in the field. For the lab, the QR-coded labels and SampleServe’s patented digital chain-of-custody allows them to receive samples, saving costs on data entry. When all lab analysis is complete, SampleServe can generate all of the required graphical reports, customized to the user’s preferences, in a matter of seconds.

“We save the typical user about 60 percent of their previous costs on sampling and reporting,” Schindler says.

A culture that’s built for business.

Schindler says there’s no better place he’d rather be or for SampleServe to be based. Building things and working hard is simply part of the culture in Michigan, he says. That’s how businesses thrive.

“Even as a kid, my friends and I would constantly be modifying our bicycles and as we got older, we would do the same thing to our cars,” he says. “This culture and associated traditions are handed down from one generation to the next.”

Turns out, he might be onto something. Michigan has more than 130,000 engineers statewide, the highest concentration of engineers in the nation. Michigan also ranks in the top 10 for its number of workers in the skilled trades.

“We have some of the best educational institutions in the country,” Schindler. “Michigan imports way more students that come here for college than it exports. People from all over the world come to one of the many great colleges in Michigan to get an education.”

Community of entrepreneurs, supporting entrepreneurs.

On the state level, organizations like the Michigan Economic Development Corporation offer programs and numerous services to help businesses start up or relocate to the Wolverine State. Schindler says Michigan is also well populated with investment groups and investment companies that can “spot hard work and innovation and are willing to bet on certain individuals that have great ideas for solutions to complex problems. Most of these investors are people former entrepreneurs that started on the ground floor and know what it takes.”

So far, SampleServe has received investment from 14 investors—all from the Midwest and most of them from Michigan. One of those investments came from a client SampleServe had been working with. The client, an oil company, “understood that our software was saving them money and would likely save other similar customers money as well,” Schindler recalls. “They saw that we had a good idea and that we're a group of hard-working individuals and recognize an opportunity to help and possibly make money at the same time.”

This is a perfect example of investor-entrepreneur culture that has helped grow Schindler’s own business, as well as countless others in the state. “Every single investor that has made an investment in SampleServe has a background in entrepreneurship and building businesses from the ground up,” he says. “Whether it's a manufacturing solution, a hardware solution or a tech solution, the process is the same. Find good people with good ideas and help them. It’s an entire Midwest culture and thrives in particular in Michigan.”  

For more information from the Michigan Economic Development Corp, click here.

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