51. Fishnet Security
Kansas City, Mo.
Fishnet provides services such as network security audits and vulnerability testing for 1,200 clients that range from small businesses to the federal government. Fishnet has a growing number of offices around the country, but founder Gary Fish plans to keep his headquarters in Kansas City.
52. Raining Rose
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Raining Rose got its start selling hemp-based cosmetics in 1997. After Chuck Hammond and a partner bought the company in 2002, they swapped the hemp for Iowa-grown soybean oil and expanded the product line to include soaps, lotions, and Raining Rose's best-selling lip balm, all available through the company's website and at a retail shop in downtown Cedar Rapids. Hammond rings a bell over the office intercom for every sale that tops $500. "I've heard that bell 15 times today," he says, "and I never get sick of it."
53. Benjamin Enterprises
In 1985, a back injury ended Michelle Benjamin's nursing career. While recuperating, she attended a business development seminar and got excited about entrepreneurship. She started out by providing friends with housekeepers. Today, her company offers commercial facility-support services that range from traffic control to cafeteria management.
54. Sneaker Villa
This chain of 14 mostly urban retail stores in Pennsylvania sells what its website describes as "top-of-the-line hip-hop apparel and an off-the-hook selection of footwear." CEO Jason Lutz says he hopes to double the number of Sneaker Villa stores in the next few years.
QX.net provides Internet service to both commercial and residential clients in the state of Kentucky. The company also runs a data center for business clients, who bring in their own servers, plug them into QX's network, and use them to run their websites, all under the protection of QX's network security.
56. Kaizen Direct
Sales are growing so fast, says CEO Jeff Rogers, that employee recruiting is the top priority at this direct mail and telemarketing company. In addition to tapping local college students, Rogers recently began hiring independent contractors from other cities.
57. City Lights Electrical
City Lights has been building the electrical guts of Boston's Big Dig, a major downtown revitalization project, for years. But as that $50 million contract winds down, Maryanne Cataldo is "nationalizing" her company by bidding for homeland security projects across the country.
58. Phyllis Wheatley Education Centers
Working as the human resources director for an inner city grocery chain in Baltimore, Thomas Hardnett thought about setting up a child care center for his employees. That plan never materialized, so instead he started this business, which operates four child care centers. During the start-up phase, Hardnett worked nights teaching adult education classes to make ends meet. Now, he's launching another business -- a center to provide job training for welfare recipients.
59. Moo Roo
Mary Norton moved to Charleston in 1990, after working as a production coordinator in Hollywood. The old connections came in handy when she launched a line of handbags (now priced from $400 to $1,500) and managed to place them in the hands of actresses on Sex and the City and in the movie A Cinderella Story.
60. A.M.E.'s Uniforms
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Mark Forst's company sells postal uniforms that must adhere to U.S. Postal Service design specifications, so there's not much room for creativity. But he manages to differentiate his uniforms. Incorporating feedback from postal workers, A.M.E.'s makes sure its pants have double pockets strong enough to hold large key rings, and triple-stitched crotches that are less likely to rip as carriers get in and out of mail trucks.