If you’ve ever decried the littering of the world with cigarette butts and despaired of any end to the blight, TerraCycle has discovered a use for them if they have filters. “TerraCycle has now launched in five countries programs to collect and recycle cigarette butts [filters],” announces Albe Zakes, global vice president of communications. “They are the No. 1 most-littered item in the world. We’re the first company to offer global solutions to collect and recycle cigarette butts.”

What possible reuse could there be in smelly cigarette butts? They are made from cellulose acetate, which is a fire-retardant plastic. “Because it is resistant to fire, it is an ideal additive to new plastic decking and lumber,” Zakes notes. “We have partnered with the second-largest plastic decking manufacturer, TimberTek. We are now producing millions of pounds of recycled plastic lumber and decking that has the cellulose acetate as an additive. It’s actually providing a trait that will make a superior product. Now an environmental improvement isn’t coming at the cost of efficiency but is in fact increasing the efficiency.”

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While designers flood the saturated albeit profitable women’s clothing market, Oved Apparel is proving that there is great success to be had in the menswear market. In 1981, brothers Isaac, David, Ronnie and Mike Oved created an original line of four men’s shirts. The enterprising group went door to door to specialty stores in the New York City area. 

David Oved says in the beginning it was a hand-to-mouth business, but as Oved Apparel began to gain traction, it developed new in-house brands and became a licensee for existing brands. Eight years ago it brought children’s wear into the portfolio with the help of kidswear expert Albert Pardo. Two years ago they took on the license for Ecko Cut & Sew and RocaWear and started a big and tall division. Now, 32 years later, the brothers run a successful men’s, children’s and big and tall apparel company representing 14 lines with a 50/50 split between in-house brands and licensed brands. 

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Stage Stores and its family of fashion retailers, including Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal and Peebles, got their start in the industry guided by the idea that no market is too small to warrant their attention. In recent years, the company has found that there is also no market too big. 

“In our history, we have typically targeted stores that have a population of less than 50,000 within a 10-mile radius,” Executive Vice President of Stores Russ Lundy explains. “These are smaller towns that are underserved by retailers or have maybe one or two other competitors in the market. We’re one of the few retailers able to bring a department store with national brands to towns with our smaller footprints. Our average store size is around 18,000 square feet.” 

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Finding good employees is frequently cited by retailers and restaurateurs as one of their biggest challenges, and PeopleMatter not only helps with that, but also follows up throughout the employment process. The company has software modules accessed in the cloud for hiring, training and managing not just employees, but what President and CEO Nate DaPore calls “talent.”

“We’re the only talent management company that provides a full talent management suite with a schedule embedded into it,” DaPore maintains. “There are other companies out there that do pieces of what we do, but there is not a company that does all the entire end-to-end suite with scheduling embedded into the applications.”

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Omega Sports’ approach to overcoming the challenge of national, big-box retailers in its markets is simple. “Our philosophy is that our company exists because the community allows us to exist,” says Thom Rock, co-owner of the Greensboro, N.C.-based retailer. “We’re very customer-centric: As long as we listen to the desires of our customers, we’ll be just fine.”

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In more than 90 franchised stores, Kilwins Chocolates Franchise specializes not only in fine chocolates that are hand-crafted in its 60,000-square-foot “Chocolate Kitchen” facility in Petoskey, Mich., but it also features its own original-recipe ice cream and specialty “made-in-store” products, such as fudge, caramel apples, brittles and caramel corns made right in each location, while customers watch.

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The John Deere tractor is more than just a piece of farm equipment – it’s an icon that has come to symbolize qualities like innovation, quality, hard work and durability. For the people who depend on their John Deere equipment for their livelihood, the brand’s familiar green and yellow color scheme is like the team colors of a beloved alma mater, and that’s a connection that the company’s global licensing operations take very seriously.

According to the Toy Global Licensing Manager Betsy Yenner, the John Deere brand is one that means something to millions of people, and that means anything bearing the brand has to live up to the same principles. “What it really comes down to is that it’s a brand that people trust,” Yenner says. 

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Construction and mining sites are probably not considered by many to be the most colorful of locations. However, for more than 85 years, bright yellow has shone brilliantly amidst the sea of grays and browns commonly associated with these sites, thanks to Caterpillar.

This manufacturer’s Cat® brand of signature yellow dozers, backhoes, excavators and hundreds of other pieces of heavy equipment is so well-accepted in the industries it serves that the company has earned its spot as the world’s leading construction and mining equipment maker. 

Read more: Caterpillar Inc.