Each year, Inc. endeavors to capture the success stories of great entrepreneurs and explore the trends and issues that all business owners should be aware of. In 2012, that goal yielded many memorable stories, from the return of American manufacturing to the export of American tech brands. We've chosen some of our favorites.



The April issue of Inc. included Tom Foster's feature story on the eccentric organic-soap company Dr. Bronner's. Its itinerant founder, Emanuel Bronner, operated the company as a mere sideline for decades, but his son, Jim, and grandson, David, breathed new life into the company. By embracing the company's hippie-ish leanings, David has led the company's push into organics and fair-trade products--resulting in $44 million in sales.

For our June issue, Max Chafkin wrote a profile of German entrepreneur Oliver Samwer, who identifies hot companies like Airbnb and Groupon--and then clones them in other markets. Samwer's incubator, Rocket Internet, may not be a master of innovation, but it is certainly one of execution: Its copycat businesses have generated billions of dollars in sales, and several have been acquired by their original counterparts.

Many companies experience rifts among their founders, but YouSendIt's story turned out to be especially brutal, as Burt Helm wrote in Inc.'s March story on the file-sharing company. After YouSendIt co-founder Khalid Shaikh was forced out of the company, he launched an attack that took the company's site down for hours--and prompted an FBI investigation. Shaikh was eventually sentenced to six months in a halfway house and three years of probation.

Contrary to popular conception, most small businesses generate close to zero net growth in the number of jobs. In the cover story for our October issue, Bo Burlingham examined where the jobs really come from: primarily young companies, both large and small, known as gazelles. Using recent research and examples of successful local initiatives, Burlingham identified a few suggestions for how to create more gazelles.

For our June issue, Leigh Buchanan traveled to Kampala, Uganda, the headquarters of Moses Kizza Musaazi's Technology for Tomorrow. To address the high incidence of girls dropping out of school at puberty--often because they could not afford sanitary pads--Musaazi developed the MakaPad, which is a third of the cost of most global brands. With the MakaPad and other products, he is creating a new model for addressing poverty in Africa.

Former inmates often have a tough time entering the job market upon their release. In our June issue, Kris Frieswick wrote about Defy Ventures, which teaches ex-cons how to start their own businesses. Defy's founder, Catherine Rohr, was forced to resign in scandal from the first nonprofit she founded--making Defy as much a personal comeback for her as for her students.

For years, China has been the final word in manufacturing. But more and more companies are bringing back production to the U.S., as Eric Markowitz reported in a March feature for Inc.com. As labor costs have risen in China, and improved automation equipment has become accessible, domestic manufacturing has become more affordable. Markowitz spoke with several entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of the shift.

Lorraine Gordon has been close to the business of jazz for most of her life. She had a hand in discovering Thelonious Monk, through whom she met her husband, Max Gordon, the founder of the iconic jazz club the Village Vanguard. When her husband died in 1989, Lorraine took over the club, and she has kept it a vibrant space to this day. In the February issue of Inc., she told April Joyner how she did it.

How do employees really use their company-issued phones? According to the stats, compiled in an infographic by Maeghan Ouimet, most companies are paying for much more than work-related calls and emails. Businesses pony up tens of thousands of dollars in overage charges each year for employees who download ringtones and spend too much time browsing the Web on their phones.

Should you entrust your social media to an entry-level employee--a newly minted college grad, no less? Inc. columnist Hollis Thomases provides 11 reasons why you shouldn't. They apply not only to Gen Y staffers but to employees of all ages. The bottom line, she notes, is that entrepreneurs cannot simply outsource such a critical piece of their company's marketing; they need to have an active hand in it.


Published on: Dec 18, 2012