Serial entrepreneur Brad Oberwager founded Sundia (No. 130) in Oakland, California, in 2004 with the goal of creating the first national watermelon brand. To that end, he began licensing the Sundia brand to watermelon distributors, including Timco Worldwide, which packages and transports the fruit grown on this 5,000-acre farm in Bakersfield, California. Distributors, in turn, benefit from Sundia's nationwide promotional campaigns, deals on bulk packaging, and other perks. In the past year, the $6.1 million company has shifted its focus to sales of fruit cups, none of which feature watermelon, in stores such as Kroger and A&P. "Watermelons got us here," Oberwager says. "But we are bigger than them now."
Some 8,400 yellow cabs in New York City sport rooftop advertisements, more than a third of them installed by Show Media (No. 236). John Amato and Laurence Hallier founded the company in New York City in 2005. Originally focused on traditional billboards, they turned their attention to taxi ads in 2007, acting as a middleman between ad agencies and cab companies. Show Media's iconic taxi toppers, pictured below in Times Square, are crafted using the same polycarbonate resin thermoplastic used to make the helmets worn by Apollo astronauts. The company has $9.2 million in revenue and more than 400 clients, including companies such as Vitamin Water and LVMH and Broadway shows like West Side Story. It also wraps vehicles in ads for events around the country.
The state of New Jersey is in the process of replacing half a million streetlights with energy-efficient models. US Lighting Tech (No. 336), a $14.9 million company based in Irvine, California, recently landed a $50 million contract to replace more than 100,000 of them. The company's induction lights, shown here in Teaneck, New Jersey, consume half as much power as the high-intensity discharge lights used in many American cities. Induction lights also produce natural, white light instead of an orange glow. CEO Richard Ham spun off US Lighting Tech from his family's consumer lighting company, US Energy Technologies, in 2006. Today, the business sells lighting fixtures to businesses and municipalities for use in warehouses, parking garages, and outdoor areas.
Soldiers in a war zone who understand the languages and cultural nuances tend to be better equipped on the ground. Each year, a few thousand U.S. troops spend three weeks in one of several villages designed by Lexicon Consulting (No. 4) to simulate life in a war-torn nation. The Afghan-style village shown here, located at the Army's national training center in Fort Irwin, California, features authentic scenarios and actors posing as locals. "We hire amputees to fall out of a moving vehicle after an explosion. It's that realistic," says Jamie Arundell-Latshaw, who co-founded the $14.4 million Defense Department contractor in El Cajon, California, in 2005 with her husband, Leroy Latshaw. The retired Army officers met while stationed in Macedonia during the Kosovo War.
To prevent flooding on a river walk being built along the Trinity River in Fort Worth, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tapped the Penna Group (No. 13) to excavate 1 million cubic yards of soil for several retention ponds, including the one shown here. Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga founded the $15.5 million general contractor, which is based in Fort Worth, in 2006. He says his 12 years as an appellate and trial lawyer taught him the importance of managing risk in such vast projects. That's a good thing, because heavy rains stalled work on the first pond for six weeks. Penna also halted digging briefly when it unearthed some bones. "They turned out to be just buffalo bones," says Evangelista-Ysasaga, who was honored by a local archaeological society for his vigilance.