The New Enterprise Forum’s annual Unusual Entrepreneurs program celebrates the wondrous diversity of entrepreneurial businesses, whether their “unusualness” is a wacky idea, an offbeat product or service, or a timing-is-everything mode of success.

The NEF searches all year to find a group that’s sure to be fun, yet has instructive stories to tell. This year’s panelists:

Philip Olla wants to take safe sex to a whole new level as co-founder and CEO of Stratus Global, which makes Smodnoc (, an “innovative barrier protection device.” Our lips are sealed about what that means; if you want to hear the rest, well, you’ll just have to attend.

John Loomis comes by his profession honestly: His dad worked for Sealtest Dairy in Detroit, and Loomis got his first taste of the business working summer jobs there. He stuck with it, running his own cheese company in Manchester, before joining Zingerman’s in 1994. Five years later he partnered up with Zingerman’s to form the Zingerman’s Creamery (, which crafts hand-made cheese and gelato using traditional methods.

John Wood, a former University of Michigan football player, takes his cue from the strongmen of days gone by, who could twist a horseshoe into a pretzel or cow a 90-pound weakling on the beach. His Web site,, teaches us modern folks how to cast aside fancy exercise gear and train our inner strongman. On the site you’ll find books, DVDs and equipment to make you stronger, the old-fashioned way.

This year’s Unusual Entrepreneurs moderator is Jesse Bernstein, a consultant for non-profits and startups who has long been active in and around Ann Arbor. The event’s stakeholder sponsor is Menlo Innovations.

Also, each month, NEF highlights emerging companies. This month our Showcase presenters will be Naren Balasubramaniam of GCI Global, which is working to reduce the cost of elective surgeries by offering international alternatives; and Carole Johnson of CYJ Enterprises, which produces a medical device designed to improve emergency intubation by less skilled practitioners.

The 2011 Unusual Entrepreneurs program will take place at 5:45 p.m. July 28 at the Holiday Inn North Campus, 3600 Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor. Admission is free for NEF members, $20 for non-members and $5 for students.

NEF partners with the Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest to deliver educational business programs and networking events for new companies and entrepreneurs. In addition, NEF partners with the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce to provide additional resources and services for our members.

  1. tommyhossar says:

    I don’t live in NY, but there are a few people in my city camping out near the buildings downtown. It’s right at the bus stop downtown. Last night I rode my bike to work (~8 miles!) and when I came out it was raining, which I hadn’t expected that evening. I decided to ride the bus back home. I first had to take the bus toward downtown and then get on another one and take it home. While waiting at the crossover there was nowhere to have cover from the rain. The ‘Occupy Wall Streeters’ had a big walk in tent set up next to their sleeping tents. I asked if I could come inside while waiting. They said ‘no’. As I was walking away I heard one of them say ‘as I was saying, people really need to have more trust…’

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