Fast, Faster, Fastest Entrepreneur and Dun & Bradstreet's fifth annual hot 100--the fastest-growing new businesses in America

By Geoff Williams

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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.

Tech Barons

Thinking small helped these entrepreneurs get the number-oneranking on our list.

If most of us owned a company worth more than $100 million,we'd be jetting off to Paris. Chances are, we'd be lookinginto buying Paris. But Louis Hazim, 29, and Michael Perez, 30, theowners of number-one-ranked Technologix Inc. in Kirkland,Washington, are low-key about their success. "Well, we went toHawaii, of course," says Hazim, when asked if he's goneanywhere exciting now that he's rich. "And we do a lot oftrips to Phoenix, where one of our main distributors islocated." With all due respect to our fine readers in thecapital of the 48th state: Phoenix? Well, never mind. Most peopleare encouraged to think big, but because Perez and Hazim thinksmall, they've become big . . . very big. And, thus,Technologix ranks No. 1 in our list of the 100 hottest new smallbusinesses.

It was April 1997 when the computer solutions provider openedits doors to the public (that would be Perez's master bedroomdoor and his garage door, which led to the company's"office" and "warehouse"). But despite a shakystart-their $20,000 in start-up costs came from maxed-out creditcards-Technologix earned $264,000 during its first year inbusiness. In 1998, they crossed the $100 million mark and now have21 employees.

Their incredible growth is a surprise even to Hazim and Perez.With a long list of potential clients, they and their three salesreps cold-called thousands of companies throughout most of 1998."We tried to get a lot of big companies," says Perez."We [told them] customer service is our core value. And wetried to appear to be a larger company than we reallywere."

Although Hazim and Perez provide technological solutions forcompanies like Microsoft and government giants like the FBI and theIRS, Technologix specializes in serving companies most peopleprobably haven't heard of. Perez, who is co-president and theCEO, says he still goes on sales calls himself, quite frequently tosmall, independent outfits. "A lot of people don'tunderstand that small and midsized businesses are the future,"he says. "That's where the money is right now."

Hazim and Perez met in Seattle, where they both worked in thetech industry. Continuing their friendship as they both went on tobecome successful salesmen, they decided to venture out on theirown. They knew many companies needed help with technology issues,from software problems to the challenges of e-commerce, and theybelieved they could ease other entrepreneurs' tech burdens. Sobefore quitting their jobs, they interviewed potential customers,says Perez. "We asked people what they wanted," he says."Our company is based on what our customerswant-it's not about what we should give them, but whatthey want, what they need."

Perhaps Hazim and Perez can still think small because theyrecently were small. After all, during the first several monthsthey were in business, Hazim and Perez were earning nothing. Hazimhad left a $30,000 job, and Perez, one with a $100,000 salary. Eachhad a wife and children to support. "It was scary, but I guessyou don't learn if you don't take a chance," musesPerez. "That's the bottom line."

And a great bottom line, at that.

Accessthe Hot 100

Making Her Day

This golf clothing company's star power puts it abovepar.

In 1996, when Nancy Haley, 49, retired from Sport-Haley Inc.,the publicly owned golf clothing company she founded, she thoughtshe was through with business. But Haley's husband had anacquaintance who suggested they start a new golf clothingcompany.

You don't say no to Clint Eastwood.

After he proposed the idea that would become Glendale,California's Prime Golf USA LLC/Tehama (No. 53), Haley says,"They had to pick me up off the floor." The businesswomanand the actor raised $2.5 million, and both she and Eastwoodcontributed an equal amount of seed money; to protectEastwood's privacy, Haley declined to say how much. Haley, theCEO, runs the day-to-day affairs, including helping design theclothes. Meanwhile, Eastwood, 69, takes care of the publicity."You should see how everybody reacts at the trade shows,"says Haley.

Golfers are reacting, too. In 1998, the company's secondyear in business, it brought in nearly $7.5 million in sales; 1999expectations have sales topping $11 million. "We'retalking about the whole gamut," says Haley of thecompany's golfwear, "from shorts, shirts, jackets andpants to sweaters, sweater vests, hats and visors-everything thatcould be in a sportswear line."

Their line is called Tehama, which is also the name of a golfcourse Eastwood is building in Carmel, California. It's thename of an extinct American Indian tribe, meaning "beautifulmountains, valleys and streams filled with salmon." Thegolfwear is sold in country clubs and resorts, and in upscaledepartment stores, including Macy's and Nord-strom. The lookhas a '40s inspiration, yet it's been updated to fit thenew-millennium mind-set. "[Eastwood] didn't want it to beflashy," Haley says. "He doesn't want to be theMichael Jordan of the golf industry. So between my expertise andhis name, we felt we could build something really strong andspecial." That it is, and the logo on the golf cap is pureClint: Fac diem meam. That's Latin for "Make myday."

Which leads us to our last question, and you knew we had to ask:Nancy Haley, do you feel lucky?

"Big time," she says.

Accessthe Hot 100

Playing Dress-Up

These entrepreneurs have found that creating kids'clothing isn't child's play.

When she was a young girl, Joanne Terranova-Bickford would modelthe clothes her mother designed for her. Now as a mother herself,her little tot will do the same.

Then again, maybe not. Terranova-Bickford has a 4-year-old son,Zeke. But at the rate her children's clothing company, Zeke n Zoe (No. 69),is growing, she may need his help whether he likes it or not.

The 36-year-old entrepreneur manages the creative end of thebusiness, while Jack Hidary, the 44-year-old CEO, handles thenot-so-creative stuff. And it's a dual effort that would makeany adult want to be a kid again: Zeke n Zoe brought in $804,000 inits debut year of 1997, $5,742,000 by 1998, and ought to finish offthe last year of the century with $12 million. The shirts andshorts and such are colorful and playful, with many of the prints(everything from flowers to frogs) having a textured feel.They're perfect for parents who want their children to looklike children.

When Hidary met Terranova-Bickford, he had left a successfulchildren's clothing enterprise, while she had left a failedone. But Hidary, who had come from a family business and wanted tostart his own company, realized all Terranova-Bickford needed wassome good financial backing and an economic mindset, and since hedidn't know how to design clothes . . .

The two were (pun intended) a perfect fit. In fact, the New YorkCity company has grown so much, almost all Hidary can do is hangon. "When you grow slowly, you have time to think,"explains Hidary, who should be used to growth by now: He has threeboys and one girl, ages 11 to 21.

Meanwhile, Terranova-Bickford is awaiting the August arrival ofher second son. She'd genuinely like to have a daughter, sowill she try again? "I think I'll try one more time for aZoe, and if that doesn't work out, I'm just going to leaveit to everybody's imagination as to who Zoe is," theexpectant mother says. "Maybe I'll just get a Lab orsomething and name her Zoe."

Accessthe Hot 100

Making the Cut

This is how it all begins: Culling from its massive database,Dun & Bradstreet provides Entrepreneur with an initial list offast-growing companies. Entrepreneur mails each company a form,which the entrepreneurs must complete and submit along with currentfinancial statements. We then measure the company's salesgrowth from the date of inception, listing the businesses in growthorder.

In order for a business to be considered, it must meet thefollowing criteria

  • Founder is actively involved in daily operations and controlsat least 51 percent of the business.
  • Business was founded no earlier than 1996.
  • Annual sales exceeded $1 million in 1998.
  • Company meets the SBA's definition of a small business,based on the number of employees and sales figures. These numbersvary according to industry.

Dun & Bradstreet research by Steve Hess; Entrepreneurresearch by Liza Potter, Bowen Park and Meredith Russell

Accessthe Hot 100

About Dun & Bradstreet

Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), with the world's largestbusiness information database, tracks 49 million companiesworldwide, 11 million in the United States alone. Businesses useD&B's services to find new customers and evaluate theircreditworthiness, identify potential suppliers, and collect overduereceivables.

Through face-to-face and telephone interviews and public-recordssearches, more than 200 million financial transactions are addedannually to D&B's files in the United States alone. D&Bupdates its information base continually-an average of 950,000times each business day.

When businesses are entered in the D&B database, they areissued D-U-N-S numbers (similar to Social Security numbers forcompanies). The U.S. federal government requires companies to havethis number to bid for government contracts. Also used by theUnited Nations and the European Union, the D&B D-U-N-S numberis quickly becoming the universal standard for identifyingbusinesses on the Web as well.

For more information about D&B, call (800) 234-3867 or visitthe D&B Web site at To register for a D-U-N-S number,call (800) 333-0505.

Wavy Line

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.

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