At long last, entrepreneurs have pulled up to the red carpet. If you're the brains, the intuition, the voice behind a new and fast-growing business, you're considered a superstar of the American economy.
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 techy, 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.
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.