Growing Strong

Top 50: 21-30

21. MNJ Technologies Direct
Computer hardware/software, Buffalo Grove, IL

Susan Kozak
Began: 2002
Initial Investment: $500,000
2002 sales: $4 million
2006 sales: $34 million

Best Advice:
"In your business plan, take whatever you think your budget needs to be, and double it. Don't be too conservative in what you think your [startup] costs will be."

"We started MNJ because we are passionate about technology. Our customers understand the value of a well-defined technology plan and how it can positively impact their business."

22. PeopleServe
Technology staffing, Chestnut Hill, MA

Linda Moraski
Began: 1999
Initial Investment: $1,000
2002 sales: $425,000
2006 sales: $9.4 million

Biggest Challenge:
"One of the best things I've done is join a CEO forum of 8 to 10 noncompeting women business owners. We [advise] each other, learn from each other and push each other outside of our comfort zones."

Success Secret:
"Persistence. Don't give up. One of my best clients today would not take my phone calls for over 8 months. I never gave up calling. We just did under $400K in business with them last year."

23. Zorch International
Branding agency, Chicago

Nicole Loftus
Initial Investment: $50,000
2002 sales: $200,000
2006 sales: $6 million

"I started my business to create a platform from which I could [encourage] change in the world for women. We entrepreneurs need to use our collective strength to do good things."

Success Secret:
"Make everyone else's success the priority and you will be successful. It is the female mentality!"

24. RCC Associates
General contractor, Deerfield Beach, FL

Beverly Raphael
Began: 1971
Initial Investment: $5,000
2002 sales: $22.8 million
2006 sales: $83.4 million

Best Advice:
"We strive to be better by learning from our failures as well as our successes. Hopefully we can pass that knowledge on to others to make their roads a bit smoother."

Success Secret:
"Listening and learning, and making the right decisions--no matter how difficult the consequences --are my key messages. Understand that there are resources, opportunities and allies available to assist you as you establish and grow your careers."

25. Search Wizards
Consulting firm, Snellville, GA

Leslie O'Connor
Initial Investment: $0
2002 sales: $91,000
2006 sales: $3.9 million

Success Secret:
"My success is based on a few core values: treating everyone with respect; attention to detail, particularly personal details; and treating people as individuals and understanding their personal needs."

Best Advice:
"You need to be prepared to make the sacrifice of yourself to be successful. No one can build your business better than you, nor will anyone have the passion that you bring to the table. You need to be prepared for many long days."

26. The Saxon Group
Industrial construction, Sugar Hill, GA

Jeni Bogdan
Began: 1995
Initial Investment: $100,000
2002 sales: $4.3 million
2006 sales: $30.5 million

Success Secret:
"A company is only as strong as the people behind it. Our management team makes every effort to work closely on a personal level with both clients and employees."

Biggest Challenge:
"To overcome this challenge [of higher construction costs and employee demand] Saxon began a new training program to train young people to work in the construction industry. Additionally, we have increased wages and benefits. More importantly, we have listened to our employees and have included their ideas and suggestions into our business plan and benefits program."

27. LetterLogic
Mailing services, Nashville, TN

Sherry Stewart
Initial Investment: $50,000
2002 sales: $321,000
2006 sales: $7.4 million

Best Advice:
"Know your numbers! Know what you need to know, and make sure that data flows to you daily."

"I worked for others in the industry and was frustrated by the 'status quo' when it came to quality of service we provided. Starting LetterLogic allowed me to create a culture for enthusiastically striving for excellence all day, every day."

28. The Bun Companies
Baked goods manufacturer, Nashville, TN

Cordia Harrington
Initial Investment: $17.8 million
2002 sales: $12 million
2006 sales: $55 million

Biggest Challenge:
"We have an aggressive training and recruiting program to get people hired and trained as our customers have greater demands. Last year we spent over $100,000 on training and preparing for growth."

"Embrace and encourage change in the workplace. Have passion and enthusiasm about your product--we all enjoy doing business with people who are excited about what they do!"

29. Big Communications
Health-care communications, Ferndale, MI

Lisa Stern
Initial Investment: $0
2002 sales: $875,000
2006 sales: $12.3 million

Biggest Challenge:
"9/11 put many of our clients out of business. We were forced to completely redefine our business. We successfully broke into a new industry, changed the way we did business and reinvented the company."

Success Secret:
"Determine what your culture is and hire, fire, review and reward based on those principles."

30. Global Advertising 1st
Advertising agency Lanham, MD

Jacquannette Lewis
Began: 2000
Initial Investment: $100,000
2002 sales: $83,000
2006 sales: $3.6 million

Biggest Challenge:
"My biggest challenge: being perceived as an African-American advertising agency instead of a full-service marketing firm. I overcame it by establishing a successful track record."

"After reaching the glass ceiling in the corporate world, I knew I had to move on because it was no longer a challenge. I knew that owning my own advertising agency would allow me to fulfill my dreams and give me the opportunity to do everything I've wanted in this industry."

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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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