When Anne Kelly returned from going to school in London in the early ’90s, she noticed a couple of trends: the plus-sized female demographic had increased, and more people were beginning to understand the importance of activity at every size. She also noticed there was no clothing to support either of these trends, so she started researching the apparel industry. 

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Alan Homewood started 2Checkout.com in his house in 1999. In 2001, he added his first employee, and by the end of that year, he and his staff of five moved into their first office. By the end of 2002, they were in their second office, and by 2003, the company had expanded across the entire building. 

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Founded in 1987 as a Christian-themed T-shirt company, Kerusso has since emerged as the leader in apparel, gifts, and toys focused on spreading the word of Jesus. In the past few years, the company has seen average annual growth of 21%. Vic Kennett, president and CEO, believes a part of this growth comes from the company’s inherent need to continually push the bar higher to bring consumers what they want. 

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When Ted Cohen launched Hillside Candy’s brand of GoLightly sugar-free hard candies in 1980, he created an alternative to the candy diabetics or health-conscious customers couldn’t eat and the less-than-tasty existing sugar-free brand. Nearly 30 years later, Hillside is one of the industry leaders around the world for high quality, delicious, sugar-free candy, and Cohen and his team are replicating their success with the launch of the GoNaturally organic candy line.

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In 2008, Living Harvest grew 48%. This year, the company expects to grow more than 65%, and its numbers so far show it’s right on target. So what is this company selling that makes it almost an anomaly among the retail world? Hemp-based food products. 

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Two elements differentiate ODL from most manufacturers of home building products. The first: the company manufactures in the US, Mexico, and China. The second: innovation. And although other companies might tout quality as a third differentiator, according to Jeff Mulder, quality should be a given. 

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Social responsibility is ingrained in every aspect of business and culture at New York-based WAC Lighting. President Shelley Wang, whose family started the company 25 years ago, has taken steps to enhance the company’s care of its employees, manufacturing capabilities, and design  sensibilities to ensure it doesn’t stray from the vision her parents had in the beginning.

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As a company, Spoon Me bucks all sorts of conventions. Its unique name reflects the youthful and vibrant atmosphere its founders, one of which is CEO Ryan Combe, have created in its frozen yogurt restaurants. Combe and his team are not just aiming for a healthy bottom line but a healthy planet and healthy communities. The company’s ultimate goal is to create a more personal way of doing business that the fast food industry as a whole has rejected.

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