When the 111th Congress gathers this month in Washington, D.C., at least five business owners are expected to be sworn in as freshman lawmakers. Among them: Jared Polis, a Democrat who represents the Boulder, Colorado, area. Polis, 33, is the founder of several Web companies, including the greeting-card site BlueMountain.com and ProFlowers.com, which ranked No. 7 on the Inc. 500 in 2003.

A few years ago, Polis left the business world to chair the state board of education and launch charter schools that serve immigrants and homeless youth. What ethos does he intend to bring to Capitol Hill? "I think anybody with an entrepreneurial background is wary of large, centralized solutions," he says. "People like me want to see government deployed at the level closest to the people and with the most flexibility."