Over the past 25 years, the vast majority of Inc. 500 companies have flourished in expanding industries or exploited shrewd new twists in mature markets. But a few have achieved prominence in the wake of a public event that cast a spotlight on a heretofore anonymous product or service. Some examples:
(No. 2, 1983): The maker of gravity boots found its sales trends inverted when Richard Gere used its product to hang upside down in the 1980 hit movie American Gigolo.
(No. 54, 1985): Not since the Beverly Hillbillies have anyone's fortunes been so affected by black goo bubbling out of the ground. This sleepy family construction business thrived as a hazardous waste remediation service once Love Canal started doing its thing five miles from the company's Niagara Falls, N.Y., headquarters.
(No. 97, 1987): The company's founder had Fawn Hall, Oliver North, and the Iran-Contra scandal to thank for boosting shredding machine sales in the mid-'80s. Suddenly, owning an evidence-destruction system became a corporate status symbol.
(No. 468, 1988): Sales at this maker of electronic musical instruments went to the moon after Michael Jackson used its experimental synthesizer to create Thriller, released in 1982.
(No. 346, 2000): This legal exhibits company attracted buzz in 1999 when it generated enlarged document scans and other attention-grabbing evidence for President Clinton's impeachment trial.