11. Pinnacle Petroleum
Petroleum products, Huntington Beach, CA
Initial Investment: $150,000
2002 sales: $20.9 million
2006 sales: $120 million
"Proving the company's legitimacy was key. Once you acquire one good flagship account, you are on your way. A supportive banking relationship can provide instant credibility as well."
"Accounts Receivable management is critical. For that reason, the type of client you pursue is key. Bad debt will kill you in your start-up period. And of course, don't give up! Hard work always pays off!"
12. Cavanagh Services Group
Project management/logistics, Salt Lake City
Susan P. Rice
Began: 2002 Initial
2002 sales: $108,000
2006 sales: $7.2 million
"Always speak positively and act confidently about yourself and your company. All people, including customers, want to be associated with a positive force."
"Hitting your first 'valley' after years of 'peaks'! Look for a new niche to balance out the services your company offers. It minimizes the 'peaks' and 'valleys.'"
Legal staffing, Houston
Lisa Moore Turano, Jackie Bebczuk, Beverly Mattocks
Initial Investment: Did not disclose
2002 sales: $961,000
2006 sales: $20.5 million
"Challenging the status quo has been one key to our success; if you're not asking clients and employees to do something different and better, you run the risk of being seen as a 'me too.'"
"Ask yourself, 'Which part of my business creates the most value for my clients?' Then build your core message, investment strategy and operational tools around the highest-value functions in your business. If your people understand their importance to you and to the clients, they'll feel great about why they come to work each day."
Health-care data reporting, Charlottesville, VA
Wanda Kochhar, Kelly Monical
Initial Investment: $60,000
2002 sales: $629,000
2006 sales: $16.1 million
"Hiring the right people is probably the hardest part, but it has the most impact on your success. Find energetic people with integrity and brains."
15. Pinnacle Technical Resources
IT staffing, Dallas
Nina G. Vaca
Initial Investment: $300
2002 sales: $4 million
2006 sales: $42 million
16. Constant Contact
Online communications, Waltham, MA
Initial Investment: $37.9 million
2002 sales: $1.9 million
2006 sales: $27.6 million
"Make sure you know the answers to the following three questions: Who are/will be your customers? What problem will you solve for them? Will they pay enough for you to make money?"
"In 1999 to 1999, it became very clear that the internet was going to help small business look like big businesses. We wanted to provide them with a new set of tools to help them look professional and give them a way to easily, effectively, and affordably communicate with their customers."
17. EMC Venues
Meeting management, Annapolis, MD
Initial Investment: $450,000
2002 sales: $807,000
2006 sales: $16.6 million
"Get better before getting bigger. I made the mistake of growing too fast in the beginning, and it was overwhelming for my team and the customers. Focus on delivery and customer service."
"Passion is key.You must be energized by your own passion and be ready to bring on new ideas and find the solutions to overcome your challenges. I feel lucky that I have found my passion. I enjoy my work every minute of everyday, even when the going gets tough."
Translation services, New York City
Elizabeth Elting, Shirley Shawe
Initial Investment: $5,000
2002 sales: $28.7 million
2006 sales: $112.8 million
"Finding, developing and retaining the best talent in the world is an ongoing challenge, but we continually redefine and customize our incentive packages to help accomplish this critical objective."
"After working at a translation company after college, I recognized a real gap between what clients needed and what was available in the industry. Given the increasing globalization of business, it was clear to my partner and me that there was a huge need for a top-notch language services provider."
Freight forwarder, El Paso, TX
Initial Investment: $29,000
2002 sales: $878,000
2006 sales: $15 million
"Remember the saying, 'If you don't know it, hire someone who does.' We would not be where we are today if we did not have such a great staff."
"We began operation on October first of 2001, right after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Most transportation companies were down sizing, due to changes in the industry, but we had nowhere to go but up. Our cash flow was a small family loan.My faith definitely helped me to overcome the challenges of those first few months!"
20. Milagro Packaging
Packaging solutions, Dundee, MI
Initial Investment: Did not disclose
2002 sales: $2 million
2006 sales: $23.4 million