No. 1 in Education

3,648.2% Three-Year Growth
Revenue: $10.1 Million
Employees: 17
CEO: Than Merrill
Founded: 2005
Overall RANK: No. 62
San Diego

Than Merrill's career with the Chicago Bears was cut short by injury. His next gig, as the owner of a restaurant near the campus of Yale, his alma mater, wasn't nearly as lucrative. After reading books on real estate and attending industry seminars, Merrill decided to launch his own firm with two close friends. They became skilled in restoring distressed properties and selling them at a profit, and soon Merrill was regularly invited to speak at conferences about his success. The demand for his expertise led him to start FortuneBuilders, which offers seminars on real estate and business management. Initially, Merrill was hesitant about giving away his trade secrets, but the new business actually helped him find more real estate deals. In the past three years, FortuneBuilders has received a big boost in publicity through Merrill's appearances on A&E's Flip This House.