The 25 Hottest Small Companies In America

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This article was originally published by 24/7 Wall St.

For the first time, 24/7 Wall St. presents the 25 Best Small Companies in America. To be considered, companies had to be publicly traded with more than $5 million and less than $1 billion in revenue. 24/7 Wall St.’s inaugural 25 Best Small Companies in America is comprised of America’s best publicly traded companies marked by outsized revenue, growth and innovation. Data for the analysis was provided by S&P Capital IQ.

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The initial list was based on the universe of public corporations with less than $1 billion in revenue. These companies are among the best for their size because they have increased revenue over the period covered by our analysis. Their relatively small sizes and robust sales expansion rates also makes it likely many will continue to grow even further, if the record of public company expansion is any example. Past growth does not mean all of these firms will prosper, but most on this list have been consistently profitable, which adds to the chances of future progress.

Small companies, our research shows, usually have one or two specialised divisions and are focused on one core market. For instance, Steve Madden, True Religion and rue 21 have all carved out a niche segment in the apparel and footwear market. Their lack of diversity could be a drawback because the companies rely completely on one set of products, but it can also mean that management can be laser focused on a single opportunity.

Another industry which is well represented on this list is niche healthcare. Once again, most of the firms in this sector which made the list are in only one business. Mesa Labs makes manufacturing quality control products for medical devices. It is a narrow market, and there is no guarantee that a large device manufacturer might not attack the same sector. Bio-Reference Laboratories provides testing services. Cantel Medical provides infection prevention and control devices. This infection prevention business appears to be a relatively small one, but the overall medical industry in the US is expanding at such a rapid rate and regulations are changing so quickly that some of these companies will prosper because of these changes. Given the state of American healthcare costs, not many people would be surprised to see healthcare firms on a list of fast growing companies

These corporations are also often willing to take calculated risks, in some case, as they strive to expand their bases. Retailers are a good example.  Steve Madden, one of our companies, was started in 1990 with $1,100. The company has consistently added lines of apparel since then to increase revenue

Another reason to create this list is that 24/7 Wall St. recognises that smaller companies continue to be a backbone of job growth. Corporations that are highly successful are roadmaps for the sort of industries, managements, and products and services which have done well recently. As recent access to capital has improved compared with access during the recession, well targeted and well run smaller businesses stand a much better chance of doing extremely well because they can tap pools of funding.  

Methodology: We ranked these companies largely based on their growth rates as well as on how they have performed financially in the recent past. The pace of these growth rates allowed us to make a final selection and rank the companies when growth was combined with eight other categories. The 25 companies on our list had a median 20% sales growth and 30% earnings per share growth over the last 12 months. Similarly, the median stock price return for the latest year for this group was 16%, which is double the return of the S&P 500 index over the same time.

While stock market performance is one of our ranking criteria, we did not remove companies for poor performance because smaller companies tend to have greater price swings than the overall market. We should point out that this is not an investment list for value seekers. Maintaining these lofty growth rates is not an easy task.

S&P Capital IQ provided us with corporate information, financial data and rankings based on a series of metrics. We started with a universe of 1,200 publicly traded, small companies, which we defined as having between $5 million and $1 billion in revenue over the last 12 months. To narrow this group down, we required that sales growth, earnings per share growth and return on equity to be greater than zero for both the latest 12 months and over the companies’ last five fiscal years. We also excluded companies whose stock price is lower than $5. This brought the size of the list to 164.

The criteria we used to allow us to winnow the list to 25 companies based on a few items which included stock price. We then assigned a rank based on all of the above growth metrics and stock price returns over one and five years. For companies whose shares were not traded for five years, we used annualized figures from their first trade date. From these category rankings, each company was given an overall score that was used to produce the list.

The financial data is from the latest available reporting period and price change is as of March 21, 2012.

25. Mesa Laboratories Inc

  • Revenue: $37 million
  • Market Cap: $162 million
  • CEO: Sullivan, John
  • Industry: Electronic Equipment, Instruments and Components
  • Headquarters: Lakewood, Colorado
  • Year Founded: 1982
  • Ticker: MLAB (get quote)

Mesa Laboratories, Inc. designs, manufactures, and markets instruments and disposable products utilized primarily in healthcare, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, medical device, and petrochemical industries.

Mesa Laboratories, Inc. was founded in 1982 and is headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado.

24. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc

  • Revenue: $952 million
  • Market Cap: $1.4 billion
  • CEO: Black, R.
  • Industry: Specialty Retail
  • HQ: Hampstead, MD
  • Year Founded: 1905
  • Ticker: JOSB (get quote)

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc. engages in designing, manufacturing, retailing, and direct marketing men's tailored and casual clothing, and accessories in the United States.

Its product offerings include tuxedos, suits, shirts, vests, ties, sport coats, pants, sportswear, overcoats, sweaters, belts and braces, socks, and underwear.

It also sells branded shoes from various vendors; and operates as a retailer of tuxedo rental products. As of January 28, 2012, it operated 556 retail stores, which include 516 full-line stores, 25 outlet and factory stores, and 15 stores franchise stores in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

The company was founded in 1905 and is based in Hampstead, Maryland.

23. Middleby Corp (The)

  • Revenue: $856 million
  • Market Cap: $2 billion
  • CEO: Bassoul, Selim
  • Industry: Machinery
  • Headquarters: Elgin, Illinois
  • Year Founded: 1888
  • Ticker: MIDD (get quote)

The Middleby Corporation, through its subsidiaries, engages in the design, manufacture, marketing, distribution, and service of commercial foodservice and food processing equipment in the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

The Middleby Corporation was founded in 1888 and is based in Elgin, Illinois.

22. Vitamin Shoppe Inc

  • Revenue: $857 million
  • Market Cap: $1.3 billion
  • CEO: Truesdale, Anthony
  • Industry: Specialty Retail
  • Headquarters: North Bergen, New Jersey
  • Year Founded: 1977
  • Ticker: VSI (get quote)

Vitamin Shoppe, Inc., through its subsidiaries, operates as a specialty retailer and direct marketer of nutritional products in the United States. It offers vitamins, minerals, herbs, and homeopathic remedies; specialty supplements, such as fish oil, probiotics, glucosamine, and Co Q10; and sports nutrition and weight management products, as well as natural bath and beauty, pet supplements, and options for a home.

Vitamin Shoppe sells its products through its retail stores, mail order catalogues, and Internet, primarily at vitaminshoppe.com. As of January 28, 2012, it operated 533 stores in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The company was formerly known as VS Holdings, Inc. and changed its name to Vitamin Shoppe, Inc. in November 2009.

Vitamin Shoppe, Inc. was founded in 1977 and is headquartered in North Bergen, New Jersey.

21. America's Car-Mart Inc

  • Revenue: $378 million
  • Market Cap: $422 million
  • CEO: Henderson, William
  • Industry: Specialty Retail
  • Headquarters: Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Year Founded: 1981
  • Ticker: CRMT (get quote)

America's Car-Mart, Inc., through its subsidiaries, operates as an automotive retailer in the United States. It primarily sells older model used vehicles and provides financing for its customers.

As of February 3, 2012, the company operated 112 automotive dealerships in 9 states.

The company was founded in 1981 and is based in Bentonville, Arkansas.

20. Ebix Inc

  • Revenue: $169 million
  • Market Cap: $844 million
  • CEO: Raina, Robin
  • Industry: Software
  • Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Year Founded: 1976
  • Ticker: EBIX (get quote)

Ebix, Inc. provides on-demand software and e-commerce solutions to the insurance industry. The company operates data exchanges, which connects multiple entities within the insurance markets and enables the participant to carry and process data from one end to another in the areas of life insurance, annuities, employee health benefits, risk management, workers compensation, and property and casualty (P&C) insurance.

Ebix, Inc. was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

19. IEC Electronics Corp

  • Revenue: $139 million
  • Market Cap: $54 million
  • CEO: Gilbert, W.
  • Industry: Electronic Equipment, Instruments and Components
  • Headquarters: Newark, New York
  • Year Founded: 1966
  • Ticker: IEC (get quote)

IEC Electronics Corp. provides electronic contract manufacturing services to advanced technology companies in the United States. It specialises in the custom manufacture of complex circuit cards and system-level assemblies; an array of cable and wire harness assemblies; and precision sheet metal components.

The company was founded in 1966 and is headquartered in Newark, New York.

18. Boston Beer Co Inc. (The)

  • Revenue: $513 million
  • Market Cap: $1.4 billion
  • CEO: Roper, Martin
  • Industry: Beverages
  • Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Year Founded: 1984
  • Ticker: SAM (get quote)

The Boston Beer Company, Inc. engages in the production and sale of alcohol beverages primarily in the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, the Caribbean, the Pacific Rim, and Mexico.

The company sells approximately 50 beers under the Samuel Adams or the Sam Adams brand names.

The Boston Beer Company, Inc. was founded in 1984 and is based in Boston, Massachusetts.

17. Quality Systems Inc

  • Revenue: $418 million
  • Market Cap: $3 billion
  • CEO: Plochocki, Steven
  • Industry: Health Care Technology
  • Headquarters: Irvine, California
  • Year Founded: 1974
  • Ticker: QSII (get quote)

Quality Systems, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, develops and markets healthcare information systems in the United States. The company operates through four divisions: QSI Dental, NextGen, Inpatient Solutions, and Practice Solutions.

The company was founded in 1974 and is headquartered in Irvine, California.

16. FleetCor Technologies Inc

  • Revenue: $520 million
  • Market Cap: $3.2 billion
  • CEO: Clarke, Ronald
  • Industry: IT Services
  • Headquarters: Norcross, Georgia
  • Year Founded: 1986
  • Ticker: FLT (get quote)

FleetCor Technologies, Inc. provides specialised payment products and services to businesses, commercial fleets, oil companies, petroleum marketers, and government entities in North America, Europe, South Africa, and Asia.

It sells a range of customised fleet and lodging payment programs; and offers various card products to purchase fuel, lodging, and related products and services at participating locations.

FleetCor Technologies, Inc. was founded in 1986 and is headquartered in Norcross, Georgia.

15. American Public Education Inc

  • Revenue: $260 million
  • Market Cap: $680 million
  • CEO: Boston, Wallace
  • Industry: Diversified Consumer Services
  • Headquarters: Charles Town, West Virginia
  • Year Founded: 1991
  • Ticker: APEI (get quote)

American Public Education, Inc., together with its subsidiary, American Public University System, Inc., provides online postsecondary education focusing on the needs of the military and public service communities. The company operates through two universities, American Military University (AMU) and American Public University (APU) serving approximately 110,000 students in the United States and internationally.

The universities share a common faculty and curriculum, which includes 87 degree programs and 69 certificate programs.

The company was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in Charles Town, West Virginia.

14. rue21 Inc

  • Revenue: $760 million
  • Market Cap: $718 million
  • CEO: Fisch, Robert
  • Industry: Specialty Retail
  • HQ: Warrendale, PA
  • Year Founded: 1976
  • Ticker: RUE (get quote)

rue21, inc. operates as a specialty apparel retailer in the United States. It provides fashion apparel and accessories for girls and guys, including graphic T-shirts, denim, dresses, shirts, hoodies, belts, jewelry, handbags, footwear, intimate apparel, and other accessories.

As of January 28, 2012, it operated 755 stores in 713 cities in 46 states. rue21, inc. was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Warrendale, Pennsylvania.

13. Wright Express Corp

  • Revenue: $553 million
  • Market Cap: $3 billion
  • CEO: Dubyak, Michael
  • Industry: IT Services
  • Headquarters: South Portland, Maine
  • Year Founded: 1983
  • Ticker: WXS (get quote)

Wright Express Corporation provides business payment processing and information management solutions in North America, the Asia Pacific, and Europe. It operates in two segments, Fleet Payment Solutions and Other Payment Solutions.

The Fleet Payment Solutions segment offers payment and transaction processing, and account and information management services to commercial and government fleets. This segment markets its products and services directly and indirectly through co-branded, affinity, distributor, or private label relationships.

The company was founded in 1983 and is headquartered in South Portland, Maine.

12. Gordmans Stores Inc

  • Revenue: $558 million
  • Market Cap: $420 million
  • CEO: Gordman, Jeffrey
  • Industry: Multiline Retail
  • Headquarters: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Year Founded: 1915
  • Ticker: GMAN (get quote)

Gordmans Stores, Inc. operates department stores under the Gordmans name in the United States. Its merchandise selection includes a range of apparel, footwear, home fashions products, and accessories, including fragrances.

The company offers apparels, including young men's, men's, juniors', women's, team, plus sizes, maternity, and children's clothing.

As of January 28, 2012, the company operated 74 stores located in various shopping centre developments, including regional enclosed shopping malls, lifestyle centres, and power centres in 16 Midwestern states.

Gordmans Stores, Inc. was founded in 1915 and is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.

11. Vera Bradley Inc

  • Revenue: $461 million
  • Market Cap: $1.2 billion
  • CEO: Ray, Michael
  • Industry: Textiles, Apparel and Luxury Goods
  • Headquarters: Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Year Founded: 1982
  • Ticker: VRA (get quote)

Vera Bradley, Inc., through its subsidiary, Vera Bradley Designs, Inc., engages in the design, production, marketing, and retail of stylish and functional accessories for women under the 'Vera Bradley' brand. Its products include a range of handbags, accessories, and travel and leisure items.

The company sells its products to specialty retailers primarily in the United States, as well as to national retailers and third party e-commerce sites.

The company was founded in 1982 and is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

10. Winmark Corp

  • Revenue: $51 million
  • Market Cap: $294 million
  • CEO: Morgan, John
  • Industry: Specialty Retail
  • Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Year Founded: 1988
  • Ticker: WINA (get quote)

Winmark Corporation operates as a franchisor of four retail store concepts that buy, sell, trade, and consign merchandise. The company franchises retail stores under the 'Plato's Closet' name that sell and buy used clothing and accessories geared toward the teenage and young adult market; and under the 'Play It Again Sports' name.

IAs of September 24, 2011, the company had 923 franchises in operation.

Winmark Corporation was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

9. LSB Industries Inc

  • Revenue: $805 million
  • Market Cap: $869 million
  • CEO: Golsen, Jack
  • Industry: Chemicals
  • Headquarters: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Year Founded: 1968
  • Ticker: LXU (get quote)

LSB Industries, Inc., through its subsidiaries, engages in the manufacture and sale of geothermal and water source heat pumps, air handling products, and chemical products.

The company operates in two segments, Climate Control Business and Chemical Business.

The company was founded in 1968 and is based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

8. Grand Canyon Education Inc

  • Revenue: $427 million
  • Market Cap: $799 million
  • CEO: Mueller, Brian
  • Industry: Diversified Consumer Services
  • Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona
  • Year Founded: 1949
  • Ticker: LOPE (get quote)

Grand Canyon Education, Inc. provides postsecondary education services in the United States and Canada. It focuses on offering graduate and undergraduate degree programs in education, healthcare, business, and liberal arts disciplines.

The company provides its courses through traditional ground campus in Phoenix, Arizona; online; and onsite at the facilities of employers. As of December 31, 2011, it had 43,917 students enrolled in its courses.

The company was formerly known as Significant Education, Inc. and changed its name to Grand Canyon Education, Inc. in May 2008.

Grand Canyon Education, Inc. was founded in 1949 and is based in Phoenix, Arizona.

7. Buffalo Wild Wings Inc

  • Revenue: $784 million
  • Market Cap: $2 billion
  • CEO: Smith, Sally
  • Industry: Hotels, Restaurants and Leisure
  • Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Year Founded: 1982
  • Ticker: BWLD (get quote)

Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. engages in the ownership, operation, and franchise of restaurants primarily in the United States. The company offers chicken and various food and beverage items, as well as serves bottled beers, wines, and liquor.

It operates its restaurants under Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar brand name. As of February 07, 2012, the company had 827 Buffalo Wild Wings locations across 47 states in the United States, as well as in Canada.

Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. was founded in 1982 and is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

6. IPG Photonics Corp

  • Revenue: $474 million
  • Market Cap: $2.5 billion
  • CEO: Gapontsev, Valentin
  • Industry: Electronic Equipment, Instruments and Components
  • Headquarters: Oxford, Massachusetts
  • Year Founded: 1990
  • Ticker: IPGP (get quote)

IPG Photonics Corporation develops and manufactures fibre lasers, fibre amplifiers, and diode lasers.

Its laser products include low, medium, and high output power lasers from 0.5 to 2 microns in wavelength.

IPG Photonics Corporation was founded in 1990 and is headquartered in Oxford, Massachusetts.

5. Accretive Health Inc

  • Revenue: $826 million
  • Market Cap: $2 billion
  • CEO: Tolan, Mary
  • Industry: Healthcare Providers and Services
  • Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Ticker: AH (get quote)

Accretive Health, Inc. provides revenue cycle management services for hospitals and healthcare providers in the United States.

It offers integrated revenue cycle management services that help healthcare providers to manage their revenue cycles, which encompass patient registration, insurance and benefit verification, medical treatment documentation and coding, bill preparation, and collections; quality and total cost of care services.

Accretive Health, Inc. was founded in 2003 and is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

4. Steven Madden Ltd

  • Revenue: $987 million
  • Market Cap: $2 billion
  • CEO: Rosenfeld, Edward
  • Industry: Textiles, Apparel and Luxury Goods
  • Headquarters: Long Island City, New York
  • Year Founded: 1990
  • Ticker: SHOO (get quote)

Steven Madden, Ltd., together with its subsidiaries, designs, sources, markets, and sells fashion-forward name brand and private label footwear for women, men, and children.

As of December 31, 2011, it operated 84 retail stores, including 73 Steve Madden full price stores, 6 Steve Madden outlet stores, 3 Steven stores, 1 Report store, and 1 e-commerce Website. In addition, the company licenses its Steve Madden and Steven by Steve Madden trademarks for use in connection with the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of cold weather accessories.

The company was founded in 1990 and is headquartered in Long Island City, New York.

3. Sturm Ruger & Co Inc.

  • Revenue: $329 million
  • Market Cap: $940 million
  • CEO: Fifer, Michael
  • Industry: Leisure Equipment and Products
  • Headquarters: Southport, Connecticut
  • Year Founded: 1948
  • Ticker: RGR (get quote)

Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. engages in the design, manufacture, and sale of firearms in the United States. It offers single-shot, autoloading, bolt-action, and sporting rifles; shotguns; rim fire autoloading and centre fire autoloading pistols; and single-action and double-action revolvers.

The company also manufactures and sells accessories and replacement parts for its firearms. In addition, it provides investment castings made from steel alloys directly or through manufacturers' representatives.

Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. was founded in 1948 and is based in Southport, Connecticut.

2. SolarWinds Inc

  • Revenue: $198 million
  • Market Cap: $3 billion
  • CEO: Thompson, Kevin
  • Industry: Software
  • Headquarters: Austin, Texas
  • Year Founded: 1999
  • Ticker: SWI (get quote)

SolarWinds, Inc. designs, develops, markets, sells, and supports enterprise information technology (IT) infrastructure management software for IT professionals in various organisations in the United States and internationally.

The company was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

1. Bridgepoint Education Inc

  • Revenue: $933 million
  • Market Cap: $1.3 billion
  • CEO: Clark, Andrew
  • Industry: Diversified Consumer Services
  • Headquarters: San Diego, California
  • Year Founded: 1999
  • Ticker: BPI (get quote)

Bridgepoint Education, Inc. provides postsecondary education services. It offers associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in the disciplines of business, education, psychology, social sciences, and health sciences.

The company offers its programs at campuses of its Ashford University located in Clinton, Iowa; and University of the Rockies located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as well as through online. As of December 31, 2011, it provided approximately 1,430 courses, 85 degree programs, and 140 specialisations; and had 86,642 total enrolled students.

Bridgepoint Education, Inc. was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in San Diego, California.

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