Skating across the ice and stopping on a dime, soaring above an opponent’s heads for a game-winning slam dunk – the physical prowess of professional athletes seems almost otherworldly at times. And yet, the best sports teams connect with their fans in such a way that the fans don’t just feel like they are supporting the team, but are part of it. Perhaps that’s why the NBA’s Toronto Raptors newest media campaign is titled “We The North,” – effectively letting its fans know that although it is part of a league composed mainly of U.S.-based teams, the Raptors are proudly one with their fans.

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After nearly 50 years, Lueken’s Village Foods maintains the standards of its late co-founder, Joe Lueken. “He was renowned in our part of the world for his integrity, honesty and work ethic,” President and CEO Brent Sicard says. “That’s been really [the key to] our success.”

Based in Bemidji, Minn., Lueken’s operates three family owned supermarkets in its home city. Joe Lueken and his brother started the company in 1966 and gradually “built it up from nothing,” Sicard says. 

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Welch Foods is known for its 100 percent grape juice and grape jelly. In fact, in 1869, its founder invented the modern, unfermented juice version we drink today. But in recent years, the company has been extending its licensed portfolio into other products – ones that have a logical relationship to the Welch’s brand – through selective licensing partnerships.

“As an industry leader with an iconic brand, a 145-year history and more than 100 flavor profiles available to license, Welch’s has the ability to create strong partnerships,” says Glenn Hendricks, head of global licensing. “The toughest part is picking which companies to work with.”

The goal, Hendricks explains, is to build on the company’s heritage. “We want to tie every partnership back to our various core product lines; 100 percent, Chillers, Essentials, sparkling, soda, jam, jelly and spreads,” he says, “because we want to get the Welch’s brand in front of more people in more places.”

This past winter, Welch’s announced it was adding three new items to its licensed product portfolio: PB&J snacks, Fruit and Veggie Smoothie Kits and sparkling drink concentrates.

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A few years ago, people thought of convenience stores as merely places where they bought fuel and picked up a quick snack. But times have changed, and Sheetz Inc. has even been ahead of the curve with stores that offer a menu of items.

“We’re pretty progressive,” Executive Vice President of Operations Travis Sheetz says. “Foodservice is something a lot of convenience stores are getting into, [but] we’ve been into it for 25 years.”

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Back in 2009, Rovio Entertainment Ltd. hit it big with Angry Birds – a mobile game that became a worldwide sensation and has now permanently entered popular culture. Earning the title of the most downloaded game of all time with 2 billion downloads under its belt, Angry Birds is Rovio’s classic and beloved brand. But the company isn’t taking its success for granted. A hub of passionate artists, seasoned game developers and experienced business minds, Rovio has more than 800 employees worldwide but still operates as a start-up, constantly looking for ways to innovate and delight its fans with new offerings

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Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa has built its franchise brand over the past decade by delivering on the demand for a day spa where customers can receive a tremendous experience at an affordable price and at a convenient location. “You have a successful business with these three elements,” CEO Todd Leff says.

John Marco, a physical therapist for more than 25 years, founded the Hamilton, N.J.-based company in 2004 with the goal of making massage services more convenient and affordable. Leff joined Hand and Stone in 2009 after retiring as president and CEO of AAMCO Transmission Inc. in 2009. “After playing golf for 90 straight days, I started looking for a company to invest in and lead from a management position,” Leff recalls. “I met John, loved the concept of Hand and Stone, loved the industry and within 45 days I invested money and became the president and CEO.”

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Shoe Sensation is taking rural communities by storm as it opens its 100th store this year and celebrates 30 years of bringing well-known footwear brands to small-town America. “We have been able to survive through the thick and thin of the economy and expand our model currently to 14 states – 16 states come September,” CEO Mike Zawoysky says. “We have been able to deliver new stores each year and comparable store growth for each of the past six consecutive years.”

The Jeffersonville, Ind.-based company was founded by an entrepreneur whose vision was to open shoe stores in rural towns located 30 to 45 miles away from a regional mall. “He wanted to make it more convenient for the local community to come in and purchase branded, high-quality footwear,” Zawoysky says. “At the time, many family owned shoes stores in small-town America were closing.” 

Shoe Sensation took the idea of niche big-box retailers and designed a scaled-down branded concept for smaller communities. The company’s headquarters supports each location with 15,000 square feet of offices, a 50,000-square-foot distribution center and 800 employees. 

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After more than a century of service, Rexall has developed a reputation as one of the leading pharmacy brands in Canada. Established in 1904, Rexall has adapted over time from its beginnings as apothecary-style drugstores into a network of contemporary community pharmacies. It is a member of the Katz Group of Companies, a privately-held Canadian-owned and operated organization.

The company strives to help Canadian families and communities become healthier through increased accessibility to quality healthcare and products. Today, the company boasts a network of 425 Rexall and Rexall Pharma Plus locations. It has a staff of 8,600 staff serving 180 communities across Canada.

Rexall offers a wide array of pharmacy, health and wellness, beauty, daily living, seasonal, exclusive and online photo products and services. It also delivers special offers and coupons to its customer base. In addition, it operates Rexall Specialty Pharmacy, a division that aims to provide highly specialized clinical care and complex medication management services in the world of transitional care.

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