Here at Entrepreneur, we were on the lookout for the latest and greatest businesses long before the world in general, and the Silicon Valley in particular, labeled entrepreneurship a craze. Five years ago, we decided to quantify our longtime quest for America's hottest new entrepreneurs. We enlisted the help of Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), the world's top research-based business information provider, and began searching for America's Hot 100 entrepreneurs. It's now one of our most rewarding endeavors-a chance to sneak-preview some of tomorrow's Microsofts and Starbucks.

What did we find this year? It's a tech, tech, tech, tech world. In our final Hot 100 of the millennium, many of the companies (in fact, our top five) are tech-based. Internet companies, which made their first appearance in last year's rankings, continued to score big, while more "old-fashioned" tech companies, such as computer wholesalers and retail hardware stores, rose in the ranks.

Less tech-y, and arguably less sexy firms, including food distributors, a rubber manufacturer and a specialty valve engineering firm, accounted for a respectable portion of the Hot 100. Other businesses that made the cut were just plain cool: a commercial greenhouse manufacturer, a DVD producer and a company that constructs golf courses.

Diversity in our Hot 100 isn't restricted to industry-our fast-growing start-ups come from both humble beginnings and big money. Our No. 1 start-up, for example, began with $20,000 and makes more than $100 million today.

But these entrepreneurs are more than just names, numbers, sales and start-up costs. They're people who've poured their entire beings into their businesses. For a look at the businesses-and the beings behind them-we present the following ranking and profiles of a few Hot 100 finalists.