As the mother of two grown daughters, Linda Houston knows firsthand how important and how difficult it can be to schedule a family portrait. The professional photographer has been helping memorialize images of loved ones since 1988, capturing in-studio portraits and on-location shoots for weddings and other special events. The team's unhurried style translates into dynamic senior shots, endearing black-and-white images, and frame-worthy prints of beloved family pets and horses.
Since 1985, the Michigan Institute of Real Estate has aided real estate agents, brokers, and builders in fulfilling licensing requirements and enriching knowledge of their field. President Namir K. George and fellow experts illuminate the requisites necessary for career paths such as mortgage-loan officer, home inspector, real-estate salesperson, or appraiser. In addition to classroom sessions, Michigan Institute of Real Estate permits pupils to complete coursework online or through home study, so they can complete academics from the comfort of their home or behind the shirts in their crush's walk-in closet. The agency also supplies students with abundant study tools, including flashcards, training CDs, and DVDs.
Founded by ice-cream enthusiasts Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone Creamery has grown to more than 1,400 locations across North America. Each day, the shop's scoopers mix up fresh batches of ice cream, yogurt, and sorbet, which are served by the scoop, piled high in sundaes, and blended into shakes. After customers choose their desired flavor, the staffers toss the chilly sustenance upon a slab of frozen granite and fold in a smorgasbord of candy and nuts to achieve the ideal ice-cream-to-add-in ratio. Customers can dream up their own creations or opt for a signature masterpiece, sampling one of more than 11.5 million possible flavor combinations, which still await a brave conqueror to unlock them all. To accommodate sweets cravings at celebrations, staff members also dish out ready-made treats, such as ice-cream cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.
Slumber expert Roger Wardell staffs each of his Sleep Doctor Mattress Stores with knowledgeable employees who help to match shoppers with surfaces that complement their dozing styles. A full-size basic firm mattress by American Pedic ($219) supports stomach sleepers with memory foam, and Serta's twin-size Dura Pillowsoft ($499) cuddles tired muscles with inner springs and a 6-foot spoon.
Lori Taylor finds it easy to sum up what's unique about her photography business—"We want people to not only love their photos, but also to love their photographers." Initially, the lifelong photography hobbyist spent 20 years as a restaurant manager, learning the value of personalized customer service. It's a value system she still practices, diligently manning the LA's Photography phones seven days a week in addition to running photo shoots. Each of the photographers on Lori's team of photographers specializes in a particular kind of photography that ensure each of the studio's yearly 150–200 graduation gigs, 45–65 weddings, and multitude of family portraits shines uniquely. Lori personally listens to clients describe their needs before matching them up with the specific photographer on staff whose skills are best suited to the occasion in mind. The resulting harmonious relationship between subject and photographer seems to be what drives the company's wealth of referral business. "We've never really needed to advertise," says the cheerful owner, who mostly acquires clientele via word of mouth and by defeating other photographers with her darkroom jujitsu.