During a Beijing layover in 1996, Northwest flight attendant Jeremy Shepherd bought a set of pearls for $25. When a U.S. appraiser valued the pearls at $600, Shepherd emptied his bank account, returned to China, and bought 200 strands to sell on eBay. He now sells $5 million in jewelry a year through Santa Monica-based Pearl Paradise. Buying in bulk and with cash, Shepherd negotiates cheap prices with pearl farmers, so the firm can sell the jewelry at a 60% discount from retail.

Biometric sensors work perfectly in Alias plot lines, but when fingers are greasy or rough, they can't always be read. Now Scott Moody and Dale Setlak, founders of Melbourne, Fla.'s AuthenTec, have created an aspirin-size sensor that reads the fingerprint pattern of the skin's subsurface living layer. More than two million AuthenTec sensors are used on Chinese cell phones; this summer, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba will introduce AuthenTec-equipped PCs in the U.S.

Kiante Young, at the tender age of 25, is quickly becoming an authority on urban fashion. His New York City-based magazine, Young & Doinit, mixes stories like "How to Become a Stockbroker" with profiles of LL Cool J and Kanye West. He distributes 100,000 copies to local retailers, and attracted $100,000 in advertising in his first full year of sales. Next up: Young plans to roll down the Eastern Seaboard.