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Fast Track Entrepreneur and Dun & Bradstreet pick the 100 hottest new small businesses in America.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When you start a business, it's natural to hope forphenomenal growth. For a select few, this hope doesn't dwindleinto a mere echo of ambition but swells into something greater:reality. For those rising stars chosen in Entrepreneur's thirdannual ranking of the nation's 100 fastest-growing smallbusinesses, the American dream is anything but an illusion.

This year's ranking has been our most challenging, not onlybecause there are more new businesses to choose from, but alsobecause the quality of today's business start-ups is so high."Small-business entrepreneurs are a lot more professional andeducated than they were years ago," says Larry Winters of Dun& Bradstreet, the world's leading provider of commercialcredit, business marketing information, and receivable managementservices. "These people aren't starting businesses out ofeconomic need because they can't get a job somewhereelse-they're starting businesses because they want to be[business owners]."

To assist us in our difficult task, Dun & Bradstreet combedits staggering database of business information. We narrowed thelist using the following criteria:

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