26 Shirts began in 2013 as an initiative of “BillsMafia” co-founder Del Reid and Dan Gigante, founder of buy-one give-one t-shirt company, You and Who, to use the power of sports fandom as a force for good in the communities they serve. Del is a 2004 graduate of Buffalo State’s Computer Information Systems program.
$8 from each shirt sold during 26 Shirts’ 14-day fundraising campaigns is donated to a local organization or family in need. Over the past fourteen months, 26shirts.com has been wildly successful in Buffalo, having raised over $64,000 for needy foundations and families. They’ve had the opportunity to work with different professional athletes, media, and celebrities associated with the Western New York area. All for the sole purpose of channeling fandom and passion for local teams into good for the community, proving that pro sports doesn’t always have to be the “me first” culture it sometimes is portrayed to be.
The co-founders decided to take their enthusiasm for sports and sports fans, to this venture as a way to show that teams and athletes are as much about giving back as any group of individuals. Starting with You and Who’s designer t-shirts and seeing the success of that venture, they propelled into the sports world. You and Who has delivered over 16,000 shirts to people in need.
Initiatives like these need visibility, and through extensive marketing efforts, primarily through social media, they have been accepted as true innovators.
Having begun in Buffalo and succeeding beyond expectations, they have entered the Chicago market and have partnered with Chicago Black Hawks legend and Hall of Famer Denis Savard to kick off their first initiative there. The ultimate goal is to establish 26 Shirts lines in every major sports city in the U.S.
Just a little over a year and growth has been terrific.
Nuggets Brands Inc. produces and markets healthy, chef-created, delicious frozen snacks that dogs love licking and their people love giving. We provide a refreshing, long-lasting daily snacking experience based on “super food,” colorful, human-grade ingredients. We source the freshest ingredients, which are thoughtfully selected because of their ability to promote good canine health and help fight disease.
In May 2014, the company launched three innovative core products unlike anything else on the market. Today nearly a dozen retailers throughout Erie and Niagara County carry our Frozen Yogurt, Carrot & Sweet Potato Sorbet, and Hearty Bison Stew. Our goal is to become the leading national frozen snack brand for dogs and a strong, respected voice advocating for human-grade ingredients and production, and elimination of the highly-processed commercial foods that have dominated the industry for decades.
The billion dollar pet food/treats industry is changing as small, independent companies capture the hearts and minds of a segment of the market traditionally dominated by “giants” who, for decades, have sold highly-processed food lacking the nutritional value dogs need to thrive.
Walk the isles of any pet store today and there exists a huge number “treats” such as biscuits, jerky, chews, bones, etc. but no company is promoting healthy daily snacking (as opposed to treats) for dogs, similar to what we strive for as humans. A treat may or may not provide nutrients that help enhance a dog’s health and it is typically gone in seconds. Our frozen snacks provide convenient, nutritious, daily in-between-meal snacking and because dogs love to lick, the snacks give dogs a chance to slow down and enjoy their food. Our snacks last 20-45 minutes average. What’s more, freezers have become an important part of pet stores and the consumer experience because of the raw food trend; we are placing our products alongside these popular products (note our products are not raw) and developing innovative packaging unlike anything on the market.
Our value proposition is that our products are “fit for human consumption but made for dogs.” They are unique because they meet the FDA’s requirements of “Human Grade” status, which means not only are the ingredients human-grade, but so too is any kitchen or manufacturing facility we’ll ever use. Nothing we offer dogs isn’t good enough for us to eat!
We’re also the only brand to develop products and market them based on the extraordinary nutritional qualities that nature’s colors provide. For example, the orange and yellow color pigments in foods such as pumpkin, turmeric and squash, are well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties and for promoting tissue building/repair and immune system health, while greens such as kale and green beans offer detoxifying properties, supporting liver health. In addition, our yogurt is packed with probiotics, which help aid digestion and support the immune system. Ideally dogs should have a cup of our yogurt every day to ensure the ongoing presence of good cultures and enzymes in their systems.
Our customers seek peace of mind in knowing that they are feeding their dogs delicious, healthy foods. They want products that aid in improving the quality of their dog’s health and well-being. They want the pleasure and fun of watching their dogs lick away at something tasty and refreshing. They want to feel good about how they are caring for their dogs, while they also want this experience to be easy and convenient. They want to bond with their dogs through food, just as humans do with one another. They appreciate long-lasting snacks for their dogs so the dogs are occupied & entertained while the people can either watch and enjoy or get things done. This is the innovation we provide.
Personal experience cooking and caring for my nearly 14-year-old, 90-lb. lab/golden-mix rescue dog, Nugget.
Caring for Nugget, a cancer survivor and senior citizen dealing with limited mobility and the aches and pains of old age, I witnessed firsthand that food ingredient quality has an immediate and lasting effect. Nugget is with us today because nutrition has played a big role in his life.
For snacking, we searched for options Nugget could eat every day, and that also lasted longer than just a few seconds because being less active, we were looking to keep him mentally stimulated. We found nothing on the market that offered the type of nutrient-rich qualities we were looking for, so we started making him frozen snacks that he could sit with for a while and enjoy. And because Nugget is rather particular (no bananas, thank you very much), they had to be delicious!
By advocating for human-grade ingredients and production, along with elimination of the highly-processed commercial foods & treats that have dominated the dog food industry for decades, we’re on a mission to support the movement and trend that places an emphasis on quality ingredients in every dog’s diet. Our experiences have proven that (just like for humans) fresh, wholesome, real food that nature provides contributes to dogs living long, happy lives.
Scaling production and distribution is our biggest challenge; we are currently in discussions with several local commercial kitchens, food manufacturers and distributors to determine the next phase of production and distribution.
We will be talking with distributors toward the end of this year, which will present us with the opportunity to place our products on thousands of store shelves throughout the Northeast to kickoff our first expansion beyond local counties. Success will be measured by our ability to maintain the quality and integrity of our products, grow retail and consumer base regionally and then nationally, manage costs, and become profitable in 2015 in order to hire staff to help us achieve continued growth. We plan to become a national brand and a Buffalo business success story.
We launched the company in early 2014, with the first two products hitting the shelves Memorial Day weekend. Our third product was launched in retail stores in November of this year.
Modeling our “stackable, mini-crates” packaging after ice cream innovator Hay Rosie, from Brooklyn, NY.
Horn has led the effort to design, manufacture, and install a new design of a full-scale vehicle crash test facility. As a senior test engineer at Calspan Corporation, Horn has led the effort to create this design and install it for the government of India.
This vehicle crash test system is a new design that meets the unique needs and requirements of the Indian government. Primarily, it allows the Indian transportation regulatory agencies to run both United States- and European-type crash tests. This required unique adjustments to be made to the vehicle crash test system—including a new type of tow system, additional carts to accommodate collision types, and a sled-test system for child seat testing.
Horn undertook this project in his role as one of the chief engineers in Calspan’s Systems Engineering Group. He has worn many hats at Calspan—including lead vehicle component testing engineer, lead sled-test engineer (child seats), and chief engineer in the Systems Engineering Group. When the Systems Engineering Group began marketing its capabilities to India, Horn’s thirst for travel and new experiences took him there many times to meet with the customer, the regulatory agencies, and vendors to learn about how to implement this new design in India.
The obstacles to achieve success on this project were extensive. The obvious challenges of travel, cultural differences, and the like existed. Horn navigated these with ease—using this optimistic attitude and can-do spirit. Further, the customers were not familiar with the vehicle crash test business—so Horn provided extra effort with training and explainations. He, again, overcame these challenges with his trademark patience and optimistic attitude.
Success on this innovative vehicle crash test system will be judged by the ability of the Indian government to utilize the two systems that Calspan will install to make India a safer place for people to drive. India is one of the most dangerous places in the world to operate a vehicle—mostly due to poor regulation of passive safety features. The successful operation of these two labs will ensure that the Indian people are able to improve upon this statistic. The labs are scheduled for final commissioning in October 2014 and February 2015, respectively. Final commissioning will be deemed a success of Horn's efforts to date.
A long time!
Horn lead the company team that traveled to India in 2007 to begin the process of convincing the Indian government that they needed these government labs, and, later, that Calspan should be the company that provides them.
Later, Horn was instrumental in the 2008-2009 design of the one-of-a-kind aspects of the Calspan Passive Safety Lab system.
Since 2013, after significant delay from the Indian government, Horn has been involved in the installation and commissioning activities to get the labs installed and up and running (so the Indian government can begin the important research and development testing that the labs are meant to perform). The first lab is expected to be operational by the end of October 2014 and the second by January 2015.
Bill Horn was nominated by his co-worker, Ruthanne Armstrong
Kevin and Stephanie Lin and Sun Restaurant developed the first black rice bar and full black rice menu in the United States.
Black rice is native to Asia: it is produced in only a few countries of that area of the world, which include China, Thailand, and Indonesia. For this reason, it is exceedingly rare. With a favored taste, black rice became a highly valued food crop. In ancient China, the emperors nicknamed it “forbidden rice” because only they could eat it. Today, it is used in Asia for decoration of food, as well as for cooking noodles, pudding, and sushi.
The Lins have always been proud innovators who take to heart the old adage, "Don’t compete, but create!" The Lins understand that the restaurant business is risky and competitive. With this in mind, they have created several sustainable niches in an already crowded marketplace—each reaching success in a very short time frame. What has evolved is Sun Restaurant with its specialized and sophisticated Asian fusion theme and a business model that captures good food that is healthy and affordable. Unlike your traditional sushi bar, the black rice bar is a one of a kind in the United States serving black rice sun rolls and sun pods (better than sushi)
The Lin’s desire to incorporate dishes with the greatest health benefits led them to add black rice to their menu in 2012. This rare and nutritious grain, only served to the noble class, is high in antioxidants (same as blueberries), high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Within just six months they were very pleased with the positive response from the community.
High level of antioxidants
Good source of iron, B vitamins
Helps lower LDL (bad cholesterol)
Black rice extracts reduce risk of allergies and asthma
Contains double the amount of dietary fiber of brown rice
Only 1.5g of fat and 36g of carbohydrates per serving
Like all businesses there are obstacles.
Most the obstacles were navigated because of the tenacity and perseverance of the Lin’s to succeed and the education and talents that they acquired in the culinary business. They also found the right marketing person to help them position this niche in the market place. A good “sales tool” (presentation of menu) was developed, a marketing plan, and a public relations campaign and strategies were developed and executed.
The outcome has been measured by the increase of sales and awareness to the public. Many people are talking about black rice in the community and our POS system has reported the huge increase of the black rice Menu. The success is also measured by the increase of competition that is eating at the restaurant and asking questions. We see other restaurants trying to carry black rice also. This year we are remodeling to keep up with the demand and to Keep branding ourselves as the “Home of Black Rice”
This Innovation was developed July 2012
As an entrepreneur Kevin Lin is a concerned community leader, actively involved in the Burmese community of Buffalo. He is a real estate stakeholder providing affordable refurbished housing to many refugees. In 2013 Lin started the Burmese Community Support Center (BCSC), located on Buffalo’s West Side and run by the Burmese community. The center serves many of the more than 8,000 Burmese refugees living in Buffalo who need support, housing, jobs, health services, and connections to the wider Buffalo community. In addition, Kevin and his wife personally train and employ dozens of Burmese in their restaurant and through their Wegmans affiliation. They encourage Burmese families to attend English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and to strive for solid employment and home ownership. As their business grows the Lins will increase available jobs for Buffalo’s refugee population and other area residents.
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