RakutenRakuten Kobo experiences steady growth and introduces audiobooks to its product portfolio. by Kat Zeman

As tablets and smartphones grew in popularity, many people predicted the death of the e-reader. They were wrong. E-readers have millions of dedicated fans, especially among avid readers 45 years and older.

Rakuten Kobo, the second-largest manufacturer of e-reading devices and accessories in the world, can testify to that. The Toronto-based company, which introduced audiobooks to its portfolio in September, has been enjoying a steady revenue stream in recent years. It has also been studying readers and their habits. It segments them across a number of data points to glean who they are, how old they are and how they decide to buy and what motivates them.

It has found that its thriving business is driven partially by middle-aged adults and people in retirement age. Why? E-readers give them the ability to change font size to suit tired eyes or diminished eyesight, they are much lighter than the weight of most books and they offer instant access to books without having to venture outside of the home.

CostaCosta Del Mar plans to be a world-class organization by investing in its people, technology and partnerships. By Bianca Herron

After growing tired of wearing sunglasses that didn’t stand up to the elements, a group of dedicated fishermen decided to create their own. In 1983, Costa Del Mar was born. Its founders were inspired to develop a specific lens technology that not only provided the ultimate clarity and color enhancement, but protected the eyes as well - and sunglasses that stood up to even their harshest pursuits.

Still today, Costa remains true to its commitment to producing the world’s clearest polarized performance sunglasses, including prescription sunglasses, with unparalleled fit and durability – for life on and off the water.

The Daytona Beach, Fla.-based company is located “just up the road” from where it was founded 35 years ago in Ormond Beach, Fla. and prides itself on building their sunglasses here in the United States. “From product design and development, to manufacturing and distribution, it’s all done here in Florida,” CEO Holly Rush says.

GerberGerber continues to prioritize its standards after 90 years, even as it changes to meet the needs of today’s parents and babies. By Bianca Herron

After the arduous daily task of straining peas for her seven-month-old daughter, Sally, Dorothy Gerber asked her husband to come up with a convenient and consistent way to puree high-quality fruits and vegetables for their child. In 1927, Dorothy and Dan were inspired to make canned baby food.

The husband-and-wife duo introduced Gerber Baby Food in 1928 in Fremont, Mich. It was the first baby food sold in grocery stores. Initial varieties included strained peas, carrots, spinach, prunes and vegetable soup.

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 LandmarkLandmark Industries prepares for future growth and celebrates its 35th anniversary. By Kat Zeman

Business is booming for Landmark Industries. The Houston-based company, which celebrated its 35th anniversary in December, owns and operates 218 convenience stores throughout Texas under its Timewise brand.

“We’ve been in a substantial growth mode in the past year,” General Manager Marshall Dujka says. “There is an influx of people coming into the Houston area. Houston is a booming town and there are a lot of properties available if you know where to look.”

Last year, the company opened six new locations in the Houston metropolitan area. It has 15 locations on the drawing board and plans to open four to six new stores this year. Aside from the growing market, the company attributes its success to the way it does business.

Fun ExpressFun Express sees growing interest in customized and licensed party merchandise. By Kat Zeman

When it comes to fun and games, Fun Express is the bees knees. Need a few thousand whoopee cushions or cans of silly string? Not a problem. How about whistles, noisemakers, puzzle games and magic toys? It can be arranged. Remember those orange and black spider rings? Yep. They’ve got them too.

Fun Express, founded more than 80 years ago to service the carnival industry, is in the business of wholesale funtertainment. Its endless supply of party swag is hard to match. The Omaha, Neb.-based company has more than 40,000 funnecessary items in stock at its 1.2-million-square-foot storage facility, which it calls its fulfillment center. “When it comes to fun, we’re all business,” says Mark Naylon, director of retail and wholesale. “We sell fun and we live by that motto.”

Thousands of orders of wholesale toys, novelties, favors and gifts stream from the fulfillment center every day. Known for consistently maintaining an industry-leading 95 percent-plus fill rate, the center houses a plethora of crafts, hats, costumes, jewelry, party supplies, toys and novelties, electronics, candies, balls and light-ups.

Retail MWith its expansion into the United Kingdom, Retail Monster aims to become the No. 1 preferred brand extension and licensing company. By Bianca Herron

In the nearly two years since Retail Monster launched, the brand extension and licensing company has become a force to be reckoned with. The U.S-based company assists brands, retailers and licensors looking for solutions for brand extensions and licensing opportunities.

Retail Monster has offices strategically located near big retailers in Los Angeles, New York City, Delaware, and Bentonville, Ark., and recently expanded to the United Kingdom with its London office.

Pursuing Opportunity

Retail Monster aims to make every brand it takes on the best in class in its industry. The company’s goal hasn’t changed with its U.K. expansion, which launched in September. Just like its U.S. offices, Retail Monster U.K. is focused on branding and licensing efforts in four key areas: traditional licensing, retail sales and marketing, licensee consulting, and intellectual property (IP) development and franchise management.

Foot SolutionsFoot Solutions continues to find new ways to grow its brand and sales, including with new stores and licensing concepts. By Jim Harris

For more than 15 years, Foot Solutions has lived up to its name by offering assistance and specialized products to people who need relief when they’re on their feet.

The Atlanta-based company is a leading international retailer specializing in personalized assessments, stylish high-performance footwear, and custom-fitted and custom-crafted arch supports and accessories.

Most of Foot Solutions’ customers are people over the age of 40 who’ve started experiencing foot and heel pain as the result of their arches collapsing with age. This causes the foot to spread out and ultimately increase in shoe size, and pulls ligaments away from the heel bone, causing sharp pain, founder and CEO Ray Margiano says.

“As a person ages, especially females – easily 65 to 70 percent of our customers are female – [they] start developing foot issues they never had before,” he adds. “That’s why we focus on that market – they have issues we can solve pretty easily.”

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