Detroit Technology staffing
G 1,331.8% R $8.1 million E 150
David Segura launched VisionIT to address the dearth of minorities in tech-related jobs. Working with small businesses at first, he began landing bigger contracts such as Ballpark Brands, and bartered IT services for downtown office space. Last year Vision opened an office in Georgia and staffed projects in Great Britain and the Netherlands.
Denver Information technology consulting
G 1,262.4% R $6.4 million E 49
It's unavoidable: Large consulting companies sometimes have more consultants than they have work. Lisa Gunther and Douglas Payne thought that if they could hire people for projects and pay them hourly wages--plus benefits--they could control growth and avoid passing excess costs to clients. In 1999 they launched Günther Douglas to do just that. The key to high-quality work, they say, is rigorous screening of consultants.
Chester, Pennsylvania Insurance industry software
G 1,191.5% R $7.4 million E 47
Funny thing about insurance companies: They're often risk-averse. When Chris Doggett, a mainframe programmer and co-founder of AdminServer, started selling his software six years ago, he had to customize an entire system for his first client before the client would agree to buy. AdminServer's goal under new CEO Rick Connors, who joined in January, is to make its software the industry standard.
San Francisco Financial regulations training
G 1,166.6% R $2.8 million E 21
NASD has a pretty big footprint. More than 5,600 brokerages and 660,000 individual brokers fall under its jurisdiction, and failure to comply with its ever-denser thicket of rules and regulations can have very unpleasant consequences. So Juliana Lutzi has a motivated market for her online training and compliance products aimed at financial institutions. FIRE (the name is an acronym for Finance, Insurance, Regulation, Education) also offers test prep for securities exams and hosts compliance meetings over the Web.
Detroit Logistics management
G 1,089.2% R $112.8 million E 147
Scott Taylor worked for a company that sold semitrailers; then he bought a couple and started a small freight business. In 1991 he launched National Logistics Management to focus on premium freight shipments, working closely with the automakers. Enter the Internet, and the company developed a way for carriers to bid quickly on shipments, thus finding the highest-quality, lowest-cost service for customers.
Omaha Administrative legal services
G 946.1% R $3 million E 120
Even back-office tasks at legal firms require specialized skills and technology. Bret Cain founded Focus Legal Solutions to help lawyers manage documents in complex caseloads, create exhibits for trials, and collect evidence using proprietary software. The company is now reaching out to the legal departments in large corporations. Recently Focus has been finding employees among the Sudanese immigrants who are settling in Omaha.
Jackson, Mississippi Engineering
G 826.4% R $12.1 million E 300
John D. Calhoun met Rod L. Hill at Jackson State University, where Calhoun was a professor and Hill was a student. Hill told his friend he wanted to start an engineering firm, and Calhoun recalled that desire years later when, as an adviser to Jackson's mayor, he noticed a paucity of minority-owned firms bidding on public works. In 1996 Calhoun and Hill maxed out their credit cards to start IMS. Today the company has a portfolio of government and commercial projects, including logistics and light assembly for Nissan.
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts Printer cartridge remanufacturing
G 804.3% R $5.7 million E 14
Following in her late father's footsteps, Beth Williams continues to tend both her company and her neighborhood. Roxbury Technology, which has long enjoyed the support of Staples founder Tom Stemberg, became Staples' preferred minority supplier of printer cartridges last year. As the company does more manufacturing, it has expanded into a building owned by the Pine Street Inn, which provides housing and job training for homeless men and women in the area. Williams is collaborating with Pine Street on training and placement, and hopes to create 25 new jobs at Roxbury by 2007.
Dallas Technology services outsourcing
G 747.4% R $30.1 million E 327
Nina Vaca became a company owner at 17 when her father died, leaving the family travel agencies to her and her sister. Vaca sold the agencies, attended college, and went to work as a technology recruiter in New York. In 1996 she returned to Texas and started Pinnacle, which today subcontracts data warehousing, systems architecture, and other services to companies including Verizon, AT&T, and EDS. Hoping to turn Pinnacle into a holding company for multiple enterprises, Vaca launched a call-center staffing firm last year.
Albany, New York Telecom services
G 731% R $12.1 million E 54
Big changes in the Telecom Act forced big changes at Tech Valley last year: The company no longer relies on Verizon for its "last mile" connection to local customers but instead has built its own fiber-optic lines into hundreds of office buildings. Tech Valley is a survivor: It got through the tech bubble's burst (which took out eight local competitors) by keeping debt low and buying materials cheap as the industry contracted.
Leigh Buchanan is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan