Makes and sells Amsterdam-style "stroopwafels" in a variety of flavors.
When Rip Pruisken and Marco De Leon started testing recipes for their Amsterdam-style stroopwafels (thin waffles with sweet flavoring), they were students living in Brown University's dorm and often blew out the power in the building with their industrial press. Pruisken kept the machine--made of two 15-pound cast-iron plates--in his room so the co-founders could tinker with the ingredients and sample them with friends. "The irons are really hot, so I've lost a lot of the sensation in my fingertips," says Pruisken, who grew up eating stroopwafels in Amsterdam. "I guess that's a good thing when I hold a hot cup of coffee."
Now, the co-founders are making their Rip Van Wafels in a proper facility and have raised $3.8 million from private investors to grow their Brooklyn-based company. And thanks to a key deal with Starbucks in 2016, Rip Van's revenue jumped 76 percent by the next year. The company's waffles come in eight flavors, including chocolate brownie, vanilla, and strawberry. What's more, the products are low in sugar and made from natural ingredients--two factors that Pruisken and De Leon value. The co-founders plan on expanding to other packaged food projects in the next two years. --Emily Canal
Acquires and renovates multifamily properties turns them into investment platforms.
Not long ago, Scott Everett, the founder of Dallas-based real estate firm S2 Capital, was on government assistance and waiting tables to support his family. He was also teaching himself the real estate business, and trying a number of different ideas before hitting on a business model that worked: investing in distressed or underperforming apartment complexes. He founded S2 in 2012 and completed just one deal, but his volume would soon begin to increase rapidly. To date, the company has acquired roughly 17,000 units at around $1.6 billion in portfolio value, and has averaged better than 40 percent returns for its investors.
As S2's deals have increased, so has its revenue. The 250-employee company made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. the past two years. It generated $89.5 million in 2017, and Everett says the company is on track for $160 million this year. Everett, who has never raised funding from outside sources and retains 100 percent ownership of S2, now has his eye on new territories. The company has recently invested in properties in Florida, and plans to expand to Arizona and Nevada soon. --Doug Cantor
Sells protein shakes, acai bowls, yogurt, sandwiches, and wraps at nine locations.
Kevin Gelfand and Martin Reiman, both 28, met when they pledged the same fraternity in college, and back then, they didn’t expect to start a company together. But they saw a need for affordable, quick, and healthy foods on college campuses and in 2011, during their junior year, they launched Shake Smart at their school, San Diego State University. "The gym is definitely one of the most popular areas on campus, but the food options never really matched that," Reiman says. "We would exist off [pre-made] protein drinks for most of our time there and most of them are awful--that was never really a great experience." Their San Diego-based startup makes and sells protein shakes, sandwiches, wraps, acai bowls, and cold brew coffee, all for between $3 and $7. Customers use the company’s proprietary self-order system, which keeps hiring costs low and ensures that menu prices fit within the budget of most college students. Last year, the company saw more than $3.6 million in revenue, expanded to 10 restaurants on campuses in California, Texas, and Florida, and employed more than 150 people. The co-founders raised nearly $1.5 million in total funding from friends and family, personal savings, and loans. --Emily Canal
Manufactures nicotine liquid for e-cigarettes and vaporizers.
Solace Technologies' first year of business was about what you'd expect from a startup--funds were tight and the company's founders, who didn't take a salary for 12 months, worked from a basement in an office building in downtown Los Angeles. But they stuck with it. The nicotine liquid manufacturer has grown mightily since then, reaching $3.7 million in 2017 revenue. And soon it will move into a 40,000-square-foot facility north of the city.
Amid stiff competition, in 2016, the company began producing a different formula of nicotine liquid, which is used inside vaporizers and e-cigarettes. Its new product, made with nicotine salt, is considered more satisfying for people addicted to nicotine, as it mimics the buzz of a cigarette. More and more distributors began carrying their products and Solace started making nicotine salt liquid for a couple of big tobacco companies. With the recent acquisition of its contract manufacturer, Solace estimates it will bring in $18.1 million in annual revenue by the end of 2018. --Will Yakowicz