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:

Gravity Guidance

(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.

Sevenson Construction

(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.

E-mu Systems

(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.

Presentation Group

(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.