Nice guys don’t always finish last. In fact, for the Paul Mitchell Schools, being nice is the company culture. With more than 100 franchised cosmetology schools under the Paul Mitchell Schools’ name, the company has prospered and been an industry leader with its message of being nice. Winn Claybaugh, who is the dean of the school and co-founded it 27 years ago, has even published a successful book titled Be Nice (Or Else!), with foreword by Larry King.

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The King may be gone, but he is far from forgotten. Elvis Presley routinely ranks among the top earning deceased celebrities, and through Elvis Presley Enterprises, more than 250 companies are licensed to manufacture and sell Elvis products. The licensing of the King is not a new endeavor. Almost from the time he became a national sensation in the 1950s his manager, Col. Tom Parker, oversaw the licensing of Elvis’ image. 

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Kathy Ireland doesn’t just lend her name to the 15,000 or so products she licenses. To each item in the Kathy Ireland Worldwide catalog, the former model and lifetime entrepreneur gives a little piece of herself. “Our business model is different from others,” said the face of the world’s 28th largest licensor on License Global’s 2009 top 100 list. “Some people would like for me to go back to our old job description of shut-up-and-pose, and that’s not going to happen. I’m really curious, and I ask a lot of questions.” 

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Lucas Licensing is one of seven divisions operating within and supporting the Lucasfilm enterprise, the global corporation responsible for producing some of the most renowned films of all time, including “Star Wars” and the Indiana Jones trilogy, among many others. The privately held company was founded in 1971 by George Lucas and now generates approximately $3 billion in retail sales each year.  

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Woburn, Mass.-based solutions provider Kiva Systems has developed innovative technology that’s brought automated order fulfillment to a whole new level for retail merchandisers. CEO Mick Mountz, who founded the company in 2003, said that from the beginning, the team at Kiva has been wholly focused on solving the supply chain issues of retail merchandisers. 

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Most grocery shoppers today are looking for products that are lower in price and healthy yet still taste good.  Finding the right fit for each family can be a challenge, but Jason Cohen and Jerry Bello seem to have found the right mix with their brand of better-for-you snacks called Sensible Portions. “We set out to transform the snack category with sustainable, better-for-you products that weren’t part of an over hyped fad, said Cohen, president of World Gourmet, the parent company of the brand. “Portion control and the consumption of the right ingredients and nutrition are keys to improving overall health, and our products give consumers the same satisfaction they crave from unhealthier products.”

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When opportunity knocked, Furlani’s Food Corporation answered. Founded in 1984 as a small company producing garlic spread and chopped garlic, branching out into a related area helped the company expand its presence not only in Canada but the US as well. The company now resides in a 140,000-square-foot facility in Mississauga, Ontario. 

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Most retailers will agree: 2009 was a terrible year for business. But few were also hit with the largest single tax on a consumer product in the history of the US and an overhaul of federal regulations for the industry. Smoker Friendly, a national tobacco products retailer, was one of those few, but good planning, some luck, and an optimistic outlook helped maintain this Colorado-based retailer’s relatively strong position moving into 2010. 

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