A family owned convenience store chain that has continued to evolve in the Midwest over the past 40-plus years, Chuckles Convenience Stores has worked hard to establish the quality of its brand. Today, Chuckles (also known as C. E. Taylor Oil) has 29 locations throughout southern Indiana and western Kentucky.

“The company was started in 1967 by my grandfather, Charles Taylor Sr.,” Merchandiser and Buyer Layne Stuckey says. “At the beginning, we just hard service stations but started to add convenience stores into the mix in the mid-1980s.”

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Before + Again founding partner Peter Daneyko says starting a new clothing company from scratch in 2008 with partners Joe Werner and Jon Rianhard seemed to be a fool’s errand. But within one year, the company established its niche and the label took off by catering to the needs of specialty boutiques.

“We reviewed specialty boutiques and looked at the challenges specific to them for a possible sweet spot,” Daneyko says. “It was really about asking what their problems were and they told us it was choice, quick turns, bigger selections and low minimums. We built a system that allowed us to mitigate the risk of poor sellers in the store, gave them choice and no minimums.” 

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Who says profits just make rich people richer? Not when they are going to seven charities that help people with substance and domestic abuse, adolescent adjustment and family care challenges in the United States. That is the mission of America’s Thrift Stores’ 18 store locations in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, which process up to 2 million donations of clothing and hard goods monthly from more than 2,300 locations. 

Each store stocks and displays thousands of “gently used” items, approximately 70 percent of which are clothing and the rest is hard goods. “The range is from 4,000 items at the small store level to 15,000 at one of our larger stores,” CEO Ken Sobaski says. “The way the thrift business works is if it hasn’t sold within four weeks, it’s not going to sell. So the number of items in the store fully rotates in four weeks.”

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Anyone who’s ever tried out a Yogibo knows that you don’t just sit on a Yogibo, you experience it. It’s a beanbag, yes, but it’s also so much more. The stretch fabric technology filled with frictionless beans allows the Yogibo to transform and mold to the user’s body, always resulting in the perfect fit, or, as one customer put it, a “shockingly comfortable” experience.

“When people see the Yogibo they think it’s a bean bag, but when they try it, they realize it’s not,” says Eyal Levy, founder of Yogibo. “They don’t anticipate it to be as comfortable as it is.”

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There is never a foot that walks into a Town Shoes Ltd. store that can’t be paired with its perfect match. As the largest branded footwear retailer in Canada, Town Shoes Ltd.’s supply chain ensures its customer service is top-notch and merchandise is always available at any store because of its efficient supply chain.

The Toronto-based company has been providing footwear, handbags and accessories since 1952 under the umbrella of four brands: Town Shoes, The Shoe Co., Shoe Warehouse and Sterling. Its merchandise varies by banner ranging from luxury to affordable. “In Canada, we are the largest branded footwear retailer and that gives us an edge in the marketplace,” Vice President of Planning and Supply Chain Ilona Williams says. “We pride ourselves on offering world-class customer service. It’s one of our key pillars both in the field at the store level and in our support center.”

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T-Mobile, the fourth-largest cell phone and wireless network provider in the country, is aggressively working to win new customers away from its competitors – AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint – with its year-old “Un-carrier” strategy. And it’s working. T-Mobile added 4.4 million customers in 2013, making it the fastest-growing U.S. telecom last year.

T-Mobile experienced two other boons last year: It became an iPhone carrier and merged with Metro PCS, a prepaid wireless service. With business booming, there’s tremendous pressure on the supply chain to meet demand and operate efficiently. Companies dream of having this kind of “problem” — even the guy in charge of managing the supply chain. 

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In the burgeoning craft beer segment, it is better to create trends than follow them, says Tomme Arthur, director of brewery operations and co-founder of Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey. “We’ve done a really good job of what we call being ahead of the curve,” Arthur declares. “We never look at the trend. We’re always evolving. One of the goals of the company for us is to not be concerned about what others are doing, but concentrate on what we are doing. If we focus our energy on what we can do, we should be OK. My point is that we don’t tend to react to trends or look to be a part of them.”

Port Brewing and Lost Abbey does not reason backwards by trying to find out what style of beer people want to drink and then brewing a product that matches consumers’ tastes. Rather, the brewery has proceeded confidently to brew what it likes and assume that drinkers will follow its lead.

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From its Knoxville, Tenn., headquarters, Pilot Flying J has become the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Today, it has more than 650 locations in the United States and Canada, while its Pilot Logistics Services subsidiary is one of the fastest-growing energy logistics companies in North America. The company is the top seller of over-the-road diesel fuel in the nation and one of the 40-largest private carriers in the country. Recently, it has reinvested hundreds of millions of dollars into existing facilities, remodeling travel plazas and renovating shower facilities.  

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