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.”

Elan PoloElan Polo leverages technology and customer service to connect with its customers – and better understand their needs. By Bianca Herron

Elan Polo International is a global organization that designs, sources and delivers millions of pairs of men's, women's, and children's shoes to retailers worldwide. The St. Louis-based company continues to operate and grow its private label business, which was implemented when Elan Polo was founded in 1976.

Its 15 offices across five continents not only allow it to leverage “economies of scale of worldwide footwear production, but also insight into a truly globalized economy,” Executive Vice President Jamie Bethke notes. “Along with our extensive reach and insight, we are structured in a way that we can act and react like a small business: flexible and adaptable to the market's demands,” Bethke says.

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Beverly HillsBy cultivating a family-oriented culture, the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company aims to be the go-to small plush company. By Bianca Herron

For more than two decades, the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear (BHTB) Company has been tapped by world-renowned organizations – including the Walt Disney Company and Wal-Mart – to design, create and manufacture in-line or value-added products such as custom, private-label and licensed toys.

“We develop safe, high-quality merchandise at price points designed to work across all channels of trade,” Founder and CEO David Socha says. “Our clients include toy companies, insurance companies, banks and promotional companies where they give product away to try and drive their business. We also oversee a couple websites, including plush.com and stuffedanimals.com.”

BHTB celebrates its 25-year anniversary this year, which Socha attributes to hard work and being “faith-filled.” “We give everything to God and have been very blessed to be in this fun toy business, and make millions of kids happy through stuffed animals or our figurines,” he says, noting the company’s reputation is what he is most proud of.

“We do what we say and say what we do,” Socha explains. “We all live in a crazy world and make mistakes, but as my pastor says, ‘It’s not the mistake you make, it’s what you do with it.’ We like to think we do the right thing.”

Home OilHome Oil’s Hobo Pantry stores pamper customers with strong service and knowledgeable employees.
By Tim O’Connor

In the face of an increasingly competitive retail environment dominated by giant companies, smaller family owned businesses often struggle to keep up. But Home Oil, an operator of gas stations and convenience stores in the Southeast, has found that the old standby – good service – can still set it apart from larger competitors.

“When we started seeing an influx of the super marketers and the Walmarts and the Murphy [USA]s, those people, we sat down as a corporation and made a conscientious decision we weren’t going to match them on pricing,” President Tim Shirley says. “We were going to be a branded marketer and focus on customer service.”

That sense of service trickles down to every level of the Alabama-based company. Employees are trained to not only greet customers every time they walk through the door, but also to educate the customer on the difference between branded and unbranded products, and the importance of keeping the pristine look of the stores. “We put a very attractive product out there,” Shirley says. “We maintain that product. If a light goes out we better fix it before dark.

AmloidAmloid’s co-branded toy lines with Crayola and Tonka propelled the more than 100-year-old company to record growth. By Jim Harris

For more than 100 years, Amloid Corp. has remained true to its original vision of creating quality toys at affordable prices. The company’s commitment to this vision, as well as its focus on innovation, enables Amloid to continue to grow and attract the attention of high-profile brand partners.

“We are vertically integrated in everything we do, including designing and developing brands, procuring plastic, manufacturing and distribution. We are the most streamlined company in the categories we work in,” CEO Michael Albarelli says. “What’s kept us ahead of the curve is our commitment to technology within our business. We use the latest and greatest infrastructure such as injection and blow molding to make our toys, and use CRM [customer relationship management] and ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems to help our information flow.

“We’re always on the cutting-edge of what’s new, which gives us the ability to provide products at the best cost and with the most reliability,” he adds. “Our technology and manufacturing processes are the backbone of our commitment and what allows us to grow at the trajectory we’re on.”

Hallmark CanadaHallmark Canada aims to help people emotionally connect with one another and build strong relationships for another 100 years and beyond. By Bianca Herron

Hallmark Canada has been helping Canadians express themselves for more than 100 years. Although the company’s core business is greeting cards, President Cindy Mahoney says Hallmark Canada is about much more than that. She adds that its product range also includes gift-wrap, keepsake ornaments, home décor, life celebration products and personal development activities. 

This year Hallmark Canada will celebrate its 101-year anniversary, an accomplishment the company does not take lightly. “Our Hallmark Gold Crown stores have also been a fixture in Canada for nearly 70 years,” Mahoney says proudly. “We’ve been an upstanding part of the Canada community.”

Mahoney attributes Hallmark Canada’s success to its innovation, noting that the company has developed a “test-and-learn” mindset over the course of its history. “We recognize that getting it right the first time is unlikely,” Mahoney explains. “Failure is a natural part of the process. As long as we fail fast and learn from our mistakes, we can move forward productively.

BrookstoneBy leveraging its key partnerships and employees, Brookstone aims to become an international product development brand. By Bianca Herron

Brookstone introduced itself to the world in 1965 in a small classified ad selling unique products in the pages of Popular Mechanics magazine. From that first consumer sales channel the specialty retailer went on to provide phone ordering and opened its first retail store in 1973.

Despite tapping into all of those channels, the Merrimack, N.H.-based company filed for Chapter 11 in 2014, and shortly after was acquired by the Chinese conglomerate Sanpower. Today, Brookstone is undergoing a transformation to become a product development company that is able to deliver more products to more people through more consumer sales channels.

This includes partnering with home shopping channels and expanding its presence overseas in China as well as Europe. “We currently have 76 stores in China,” CEO Steven Goldsmith says. “We’re also expanding in the United Kingdom right now and will continue that expansion. We want our brand to resonate elsewhere in the world and not just the United States.”

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