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Published: Monday, 2/9/2009

Battle Creek Web design firm hitting its stride

Jonathan Shroyer, left, and Steven Pignataro, founders of CorePHP Web design, received a boost from BC Ventures, the technology development arm of Battle Creek Unlimited. Jonathan Shroyer, left, and Steven Pignataro, founders of CorePHP Web design, received a boost from BC Ventures, the technology development arm of Battle Creek Unlimited.

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. - Three years ago, Steven Pignataro and Jonathan Shroyer were two talented techies working out of a modest apartment.

Now, they're successful business owners who are sitting on a virtual gold mine - and seeing six-figure sales - in Battle Creek.

Mr. Shroyer, 36, and Mr. Pignataro, 25, are the co-owners of CorePHP, a Web design and programming firm they started in their homes.

After receiving a boost from BC Ventures, the technology recruitment and development arm of Battle Creek Unlimited, Mr. Shroyer and Mr. Pignataro transformed their talents into a rapidly expanding technology company that employs eight people and more than tripled its sales in 2008.

BC Ventures gave CorePHP office space in Battle Creek Unlimited's Brydges Cargo Center and, though it did not provide a capital investment, it provided entrepreneur training and in-kind legal and advisory services to the firm.

"We had the talent and the tools to do the work, but [Battle Creek Unlimited] gave us the room to grow and some of the skills we needed to learn to run a business and be an employer," said Mr. Shroyer. "Once we had a staff and an office, we really took off."

The company specializes in building Web sites under the Joomla program, which is a free open source content management and publishing system. Sites created with Joomla allow users to customize their interactive Web sites with drag and drop features.

"We are one of the top five companies in the world who are using Joomla technology and it's an area that is in huge demand," Mr. Shroyer said. "There's not much limit on what we can do."

CorePHP also designs and develops Web-based tools, such as weather trackers or mortgage calculators, that companies can add to their Web sites. But one of CorePHP's biggest projects, Mr. Pignataro said, is something they never expected they would get into: developing digital menu boards for fast-food restaurants.

CorePHP has signed a contract with an international Fortune 500 fast-food chain to create a digital menu board system. Because of contract clauses, Mr. Pignataro and Mr. Shroyer cannot reveal the name of the highly recognizable food chain, but the two said some of their menu boards are already in use.

By the end of 2009, the chain will be utilizing CorePHP's digital menu board system in all its U.S. locations.

"There is a big trend and this is the way most fast-food restaurants will be going, because it allows a franchisee to quickly update their menu right online," Mr. Shroyer said of the project, which he said will push their 2009 sales well past the million-dollar mark.

Mr. Shroyer said, "To be here, and to look ahead at what's coming, has been beyond my wildest imagination."

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