Growing Strong

Top 50: 1-10

1. Salo LLC
Senior-level finance/accounting staffing, Minneapolis

Amy Langer
Began: 2002
Initial Investment: $100,000
2002 sales: $55,000
2006 sales: $32.1 million

Biggest Challenge:
"By hiring the right management team and building a strong infrastructure, I can focus on the longer-term strategic aspects of growing our business."

Best advice:
"I feel very strongly that it is essential to create a clear vision for our business and to hire great people to help execute. This allows the founder to successfully work 'on' the business rather than 'in' it."

2. Koni Corp.
Hospitality industry window treatments and linens, San Diego

Koni Kim
Initial Investment: $50,000
2002 sales: $60,000
2006 sales: $13.7 million

Biggest Challenge:
"Quality people are the company's best assets. A good skill set is only part of the equation. Their hearts, passion and outlook on life can be the most important elements in finding great associates."

Best Advice:
"Success is a state of mind. Everyday offers new opportunities to succeed. Share and enjoy the success with others."

3. Circles
Marketing solutions, Boston

Janet Kraus, Kathy Sherbrooke
Began: 1996
Initial Investment:
$26.9 million
2002 sales: $1.7 million
2006 sales:
$44.4 million

Best Advice:
"Communicate incessantly and consistently what you are trying to achieve. As the company grows, communication needs to become formalized."

Success Secret:
"Getting the right people on the team is the only way to a certain point they have to have people work for them that can make business critical decisions in real time without 'checking with the boss.'"

4. Windsor Quality Food Co. Ltd.
Food manufacturing, Houston

Anne M. Smalling, Phyllis S. Hojel, Kathryn M. Geib
Began: 1990
Initial Investment: $12 million
2002 sales: $221 million
2006 sales: $697 million

Best Advice:
"Face your issues/problems head-on and quickly. They do not go away; they just get worse if you are not willing to deal with them."

Success Secret:
"Not a secret, but certainly our belief: Our people are our greatest asset and we value honesty and integrity above all else."

5. Mexus Transport
Trucking company, Northville, MI

Alba R. McConnell
Began: 2003
Initial Investment: $300,000
2002 sales: $115,000
2006 sales : $9.4 million

Success Secret:
"Keep your eye on the ball, always remembering there are many paths that will lead you to your goal. You have to want it bad! If self-sacrifice is not one of your virtues, you will most likely fail."

Best Advice:
"Have pride in what you are doing, whether you are alone at the beginning of the enterprise or with a staff as you grow. Always remember that every day you go to work, you are helping others to have a quality of life that we all deserve."

6. Temporary Housing Directory
Temporary housing/hotel placements Plano, TX

Teresa Vidger
Began: 2001
Initial Investment: $100,000
2002 sales: $400,000
2006 sales: $17 million

Success Secret:
"We have most of our employees work from home offices. With the right people and technology, this is a great way to keep your employees happy and to be more productive."

Best Advice:
"I have found it is very important to listen to your customers and be willing to change the way you do business based on their feedback. Try not to be too rigid in your business model so you can adapt to changes when needed and you can constantly improve your service."

7. Lanmark Technology
IT/administrative services, Fairfax, VA

Lani Hay
Began: 2000
Initial Investment: $6,000
2002 sales: $151,000
2006 sales: $10.1 million

Success Secret:
"Always portray where you are going in life, not where you came from. Dare to dream, and create the life you want to live."

"Prior to forming my company, I found that my professional growth opportunities were limited by people's perception of my talents. This led me to creating a company built on the foundation of my personal values with no corporate ladder to climb and no glass ceiling to break."

8. Sun Coast Resources
Petroleum products, Houston

Kathy Lehne
Began: 1985
Initial Investment: $2,000
2002 sales: $373.7 million
2006 sales: $864.2 million

Best Advice:
"Know what you want. Know where you are headed. Ask for help. Give everything you have to accomplish your goals."

Success Secret:
"Never let anything but succeeding cloud your pursuit of excellence."

9. Morpheus Media
Advertising and marketing agency, New York City

Shenan Reed
Initial Investment: $0
2002 sales : $800,000
2006 sales: $22.6 million

Best Advice:
"Never get too big for your britches. In a fast-growing entrepreneurial company, there is no job too big or too small for any member of the team, including the leader."

Biggest Challenge:
"As the founders, we were the ones who started everything--the methods, reasoning, thinking, processes--by which Morpheus Media operates.It's extremely hard to trust others to do the work as well, if not better, than you would do it. I've surrounded myself with extremely talented, intelligent people who have that same entrepreneurial spirit, trained them well and set them free to do the work."

10. Cenergy Corp.
Energy solutions, Houston

June R. Coldren
Began: 1996
Initial Investment: $50,000
2002 sales: $3.9 million
2006 sales: $47.6 million

"I was a very driven mother of three. I wanted to make a difference somewhere but needed flex-ibility with my schedule. I saw this niche opportunity and decided to run with it!"

Success Secret:
"We try to become an integral part of our clients' team which opens up new opportunities for us."

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This article was originally published in the November 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Growing Strong.

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