SOUTHFIELD -- An entrepreneur selling the toffee that his dad used to make for his fellow Detroit firefighters won $30,000 in cash and marketing services Thursday at the final Lawrence Technological University - WWJ Newsradio 950 Leaders & Innovators event of the school year, held Thursday on the LTU campus.
Andrew Chmielewiski told the panel of judges that he dropped out of college to start his candy company, called Dave’s Sweet Tooth in honor of his father, using his father’s recipes. Starting out at home, Chmielewski said the candy is now made in a 5,000-square-foot plant in Harrison Township and the company will break $1 million in sales this year.
Chmielewski said he’ll use the prize -- $10,000 in cash, $10,000 in advertising on WWJ and $10,000 in advertising in Corp! magazine – to expand his business. It’s already selling at almost 5,000 stores around the country.
Before the pitch contest, a lively panel discussion explored the concept of work-life balance. Jeff Shane, president of Allison & Taylor Inc., a Rochester-based reference and background checking company, noted that work life balance concepts like flextime and remote work can be a double-edged sword – being able to work from anywhere means you can be asked to work at any time.
His advice for employees and employers: “In the interviewing process, know what you want, and understand what they are looking for on the other end, so there are no unpleasant surprises.”
Sally Seymour, manager of wellness and health promotion for the insurer Health Alliance Plan, said overwork can be a major health problem, and that her employer offers resources for helping both employers and employees work around balance issues. She also said statistics show one in five people misses a workday a month due to personal-life conflicts.
Moderator Murray Feldman, WWJ business editor, also pointed out that there’s a disconnect between what employers and employees believe about work-life balance, with a 2016 survey showing that 63 percent of managers believe their employees have a good balance, but only 34 percent of employees believing it.
And Robin Ankton, regional vice president at the staffing firm Robert Half International, noted that the very technology that makes people so productive can be a major distraction in the workplace.
Other finalists in the pitch competition were: