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Member Profile: Dutton Farm and Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics

December 17, 2023

Their Continued Quest to Change People’s Lives

We always find it inspiring to revisit previously highlighted Member Profile businesses to get updates on what’s been happening with their companies. This time, we’re checking in with Dutton Farm and Anew Life.

As you may recall, Dutton Farm empowers and supports adults with disabilities to live full and purposeful lives. And Anew Life is a boutique, full spectrum, state of the art prosthetic and orthotic provider. Both are passionate about their businesses, and continue to make a significant difference in people’s lives.

We caught up with each of them asking questions about how they’ve changed as owners, what the state of small business in Michigan looks like, and things they’re looking forward to.

Focus: Tell us a few highlights since we last interviewed you in 2021.

Casteel: We have added HAP (Health Alliance Plan) insurance to our list of partners/insurance companies, which offers access to quality, affordable health care. And we continue to have a great working relationship with our other insurance companies. We’ve also expanded our 3D printing and scanning, and have added silicone products such as noses, toes and fingers.

We also partnered with Design Core the last few years and participated in adaptive design and manufacturing, involving regional and College for Creative Studies design students during the Detroit Month of Design. Just an FYI: Detroit is the first and ONLY city in the U.S. with the UNESCO City of Design designation. We expanded into working with more artists and local community groups on 3D scanning and printing projects, in addition to networking with other organizations to coordinate care services.

Focus: How has Michigan’s business climate changed over the past two years?

Casteel: Costs have greatly increased for virtually everything (shipping, products, insurance and materials, labor, etc.), and there are additional hurdles in orthotics and prosthetic care. We’re still paying a three percent sequestration tax on all Medicare services from the government shutdown in 2013.

Michigan auto law litigation and appeals have further impeded health care for those injured in auto accidents, limiting care for patients. Insurance companies and industry manufacturers are constantly merging, changing policies and procedures or otherwise making it increasingly difficult for providers to offer appropriate, timely and cost-effective care. Prior authorizations have further delayed patient care by extending time prior to care.

Michigan Medicaid limits miscellaneous codes to 17 percent over invoice cost which often doesn’t cover costs associated with regulatory requirements, let alone any profit. Patients are slow or unable to pay, don’t understand their health care plan, and we are spending much more time explaining their insurance benefits to them and notifying them why an item is or isn’t covered.

The labor market continues to challenge us when we’re looking for qualified candidates. Unfortunately, interest rates, regulatory issues and the current political climate have delayed our plans for expansion.

Focus: When a drone strike hit a nearby car, a young boy was hit with shrapnel and lost part of his leg. Please share how you helped him and others in similar situations.

Casteel: We have been assisting PCRF (Palestine Children’s Relief Fund) for several years, volunteering our time and donating products to assist several children who have lost limbs from war related disputes in Gaza and other countries. We’ve provided services and prosthetic legs and components to them. We also received donated products from several of our vendors, who’ve assisted us in the past. It’s been great working with PCRF to help these resilient young children and give them the ability to walk again.

Focus: Anything new and exciting on the horizon for your business?

Casteel: Our goal is to continue utilizing and expanding our 3DP and 3D scanning technology, including silicone noses and other prosthetic devices, creating more custom and specialized products. We’ll also continue working with local community organizations and artists, assisting them with their 3DP and scanning for various projects. Eventually, we’d love to expand our floorspace when the climate is right.

Focus: We’re so happy to highlight the great work that Dutton Farms continues to do. Give us a few quick updates.

Brown: We’ve placed 50 individuals in jobs so far this year, all above minimum wage! And job retention for all of our supported employees is 94 percent!

We support employees in 13 industries, including retail, landscaping, churches, senior living, municipalities, restaurants, animal care, logistics, universities, manufacturing/production, janitorial, hospitals/healthcare and construction.

We’re also in the middle of two expansion projects, expanding our capacity for our job training and upskilling program at our Oakland facility and launching a new site in Northern Macomb county. We’re thrilled to have partnered with Mi Works! over the summer to provide internships for job seekers who are enrolled in Mi Works! programming.

Focus: Tell readers about your partnership with Meijer.

Brown: Brian Calley held the MI Hidden Talent conference this year where Rick Keyes was the keynote speaker. Brian was kind enough to introduce the two of us after Rick’s address, and we exchanged business cards. I reached out to Rick via email about placing our products in Meijer’s local markets, and he connected me right away with their team in Royal Oak to get the process started. It took about three months to get everything up and rolling, but we’re now on the shelves in Royal Oak! The next step is to work with the team to roll out in their other local markets. We are very grateful and excited!

Focus: How has this partnership benefitted you and Meijer?

Brown: This partnership benefits our social enterprise significantly through validation of the quality of our products and increases respect for the work that our employees do. This partnership also improves our financial position, allowing us to continue making an impact to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

We hope our partnership has benefitted Meijer by adding a local partner that consistently delivers quality products to their customers, while also confirming the core values of Meijer by supporting local businesses and making a difference in the communities where they do business.

Focus: Since your last interview, how have you changed as a business owner?

Brown: I have changed in so many ways since the last interview. Growth in business also demands personal growth as a leader. Some of the ways I have changed is in learning how to lead differently as our team grows—leading with a team of 30 is much different than leading a team of 75!

I’m also focusing on developing strong internal structure, using an EOS system and other leadership tools to enhance and maintain culture while also ensuring that we hit our goals and maximize our impact for the people we serve. As a business owner that is focused on growth, I’ve learned that’s incredibly important to provide the training, resources and tools that your future leaders need to be successful, and to keep your business/organization moving in the right direction.

Focus: What’s in the works for Dutton?

Brown: We’re launching a location in Macomb County, and we’re adding Art Therapy to our program. We hope to have an art studio in Oakland County in 2024! We’re in the middle of a capital campaign in Oakland County, as well, to build capacity for those in need of our services. This campaign includes assembling a Victorian-style greenhouse shipped from Great Britain. We really have a lot of exciting things going on that keep us busy.


By Bona Van Dis; originally published in SBAM’s November/December 2023 issue of Focus magazine

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