BarbieBarbie and Crayola have joined forces to further inspire creativity and imagination. By Bianca Herron

When Vice President of Global Marketing for Barbie, Sejal Shah Miller looked to reinvent Barbie’s fashion activity line in 2016, she knew the iconic brand had to team up with a best-in-class partner in the arts and crafts industry.

Ultimately Mattel chose to partner with Crayola, the brand whose products have sparked the creative spirit in children for nearly 115 years. The two iconic brands will launch a new product line this holiday season, combining the No. 1 fashion doll with the No. 1 worldwide producer of arts and crafts products.

Although Barbie and Crayola have a longstanding relationship in a variety of categories, including coloring books and Color Alive, this is the first time the brands are joining forces in the doll aisle.

Busy BeaverBusy Beaver’s CEO aims to re-energize the company with a new strategic plan. By Kat Zeman

After more than 50 years in business, Busy Beaver was one of the few surviving home improvement retailers in a market dominated by giants like Home Depot and Lowe’s. But even by its own reckoning, Busy Beaver had become “the forgotten brand.”

In 2013, Joe Kallen, an executive with an extensive background in retail and real estate development, purchased a majority of the company’s shares and became its president and CEO. Since then, his objective has been to recapture the relevance of the Busy Beaver brand as “your neighborhood home improvement center, priced and assorted to meet the needs of the value conscious do-it-yourselfers as well as the professional remodeler,” Kallen says.

Pittsburg-based Busy Beaver operates 18 home improvement stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia and employs more than 350 people. For the past four years, Kallen has been working to re-energize the company brand through the implementation of a new strategic plan that focuses on three pillars: engage, enhance and expand.

PharmacaPharmaca is focused on growth and escalating the customer experience. By Alan Dorich

When customers come to a Pharmaca store, they can be confident in the products it sells. “The people at the home office and those managing our stores have a passion for making sure we’re putting the best thing on the shelf,” President and CEO Richard Willis declares. “That’s what sets Pharmaca apart.”

Based in Boulder, Colo., the company’s locations sell both pharmaceutical medicines and alternative and wellness products. Founder Barry Perzow started Pharmaca 17 years ago, after traveling in Europe.

“He had the idea of combining a pharmacy with a retail store that would also sell alternative and wellness medicines,” Willis explains. Perzow bought a pharmacy in Boulder and followed it up by constructing the company’s first full-service location.

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Beacon BridgeBeacon & Bridge Market serves its communities and state by selling products from local suppliers. By Tim O’Connor

In a state known as the center of the auto industry, where American-made is a way of life for millions of blue collar workers, Beacon & Bridge Market replicates that homegrown pride on an even more local scale. The chain of convenience store gas stations purchases products from Michigan suppliers and manufactures whenever possible, keeping its spending in-state and helping fellow Michigan businesses grow.

“We pride ourselves on being a Michigan company,” Vice President Scott Nelson says. “We’re trying to carry as many Michigan-made products as possible.”

Benzer PharmacyBenzer Pharmacy’s new CFO introduced processes and technologies to improve operations and support accelerated growth. By Tim O’Connor

On the march to 200 stores, Benzer Pharmacy is creating a cohesive brand known for expert service from dedicated pharmacists. Going forward, the collection of independent retail pharmacies will all use the Benzer name, the same technology and standard processes. “We want to get the philosophy across the whole company,” CFO Bob Shatanoff says. “It’s one Benzer.”

Where large competitors try to be all-in-one retailers that sell groceries and greeting cards alongside prescription drugs, Benzer sets itself apart as a pure pharmacy dedicated to personal service. When customers enter the building, they are greeted by a pharmacist who knows their history and will take the time to answer any questions they have. “We don’t have a lot of brick and mortar,” Shatanoff explains. “We don’t want a 10,000-square-foot store. We want a 2,500-square-foot pharmacy with a pharmacist.” 

MonopriceAs the No. 1 3D printer brand in the world, Monoprice aims to capture more customers globally. By Bianca Herron

Monoprice was founded in 2002 with one goal in mind: to sell premium products at an affordable price. Founder Seong Hong found success by eliminating layers of markup within the supply chain and selling products in a direct-to-consumer model via a website: Monoprice.com. He continued to grow the company, emphasizing cables, adapters and wall mounts as its core business.

In 2013, Hong sold Monoprice to Blucora Inc., a provider of technology-enabled financial solutions to consumers, small businesses and tax professionals. Around that time, the retail environment was being dramatically altered by increased competition from notable brands - including Amazon, Walmart, and eBay – that were creating or expanding online marketplaces.

This ultimately made it easy for small and overseas businesses to sell affordable products directly to consumers. Simultaneously, there was a rise in white-label manufacturing by large brands including the introduction of AmazonBasics by Amazon.

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FFO Home FFO Home prides itself on consistently providing its customers with outstanding quality products at the most affordable prices. By Bianca Herron

FFO Home was originally founded as Furniture Factory Outlet more than 30 years ago with a focus on good quality products at the lowest price. The Whitmire family owned and operated the growing business until 2007 when they sold it to Alpine-Investors Inc.

A few years later, Larry Zigerelli joined the company as president and CEO in 2012. It was at that time the company changed its name to FFO Home and Zigerelli developed a strategy that would not only continue offering superior value to its customers, but also meet their unique needs by providing a larger selection of products and affordable financing options for every customer.

McAneny BrothersMcAneny Brothers offers everything a c-store needs plus fresh produce, meats, deli, dairy, frozen and more for independent groceries. By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

It was a leap of faith McAneny Brothers’ parents took back in 1979 when they put their family home on the line to secure the bank loan three of their sons needed to buy a small wholesale business from the family’s next door neighbors.

Steve McAneny remembers, “It was asking a lot. Our parents believed in us enough to literally put up everything they had. We were young. I was 24 years old, my brother Tom was 22 and Joe was just graduating high school at 18 years old.”

“We paid off that first loan, and now 38 years later, we’re still growing, continuing to work hard,” McAneny says. “My parents instilled a work ethic in us and I think that’s a good part of what helped us. My brothers and I worked after school and summers for our neighbors, Harry and Mary Jo Helsel. When we bought Helsel Wholesale, it was a one-room storefront that was no more than 3,000 square feet. We sold tobacco, confections, novelties, and fundraising games to local stores and organizations. That was our focus for the first several years.”

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