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Forget the stock market. The best way to build wealth is to invest in your own company. And now's the time to show the world what your business is made of.

This story appears in the July 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

While the wealth of the stock market exploded during the 1990s, the wealth of entrepreneurs fizzled. As the decade dawned, small firms held just over 59 percent of the $5.7 trillion in total value of U.S. businesses, according to a study by the SBA. By 2000, that share had fallen to 42 percent as soaring stock valuations more than doubled big public valuations during the decade.

A lot has changed since then, and one of the changes is a switch in the relative performance of small and big companies. The $11 trillion in big-company value seen in 2000 had slumped 25 percent to $8.3 trillion by the middle of 2002, the latest period for which figures are available. Meanwhile, small-company value had fallen just 4 percent, to $4.1 trillion. What happened? "Big companies have been hurt by the stock market. Most small companies are not public. That's why the small-business share rose the last couple of years," says Kathryn Kobe, chief economist at Joel Popkin and Co., the Washington, DC, research firm that conducted the SBA study.

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