The winner of the Best Financial Performers category, Tempe, Ariz.-based nurse-staffing company Medical Solutions International, and the runner up, Surefire Marketing of Potomac, Md., are both virtual operations that rely heavily, if not completely, on technology.
This trend redefines home-based businesses, really, by adding employees to what was once a largely go-it-alone business sector. And these companies are generating millions of dollars in revenue.
Outsourcing also looms large as a business practice used by the best financial performers in our ranking. It seems like almost anything can be contracted out these days, making a home-based enterprise a more sane and elegant operation that can be run effectively from an extra bedroom. Accounting services, manufacturing, telephone answering, Web site design and maintenance – the sky’s the limit – even lunch, outsourced to the local pizza parlor and provided to you by express delivery, are all candidates.
That’s not to say that the 2007 submissions didn’t offer their share of surprises and differences within the individual Top Ten categories.
If there were a word wackier than “wacky,” it very well might have described some of the outrageous contenders in this category, which proved the most difficult for our judges to pick a winner.
At StartupNation, we labored over whether the world’s largest water bottle or a service that lets you enjoy happy hour with your dog should win. Of course, a “tech-gear” entrepreneur, with a whole new level of pocket-protector geek fashion, was also worthy, pitted against an accessories line inspired by an evil-eye talisman (don’t ask). And then there was the home-based entrepreneur that sells the 10-foot-long drill bits made for routing wires from an attic to a crawl space, and the handicap school bus converted into a mobile workout gym that pulls up in front of your house. If you ever questioned whether American innovation was alive and kicking, you’ll take heart in the finalists of the “Wackiest” category. Eventually we selected Nashville Lappy Hour, a Nashville, Tenn., event company that allows folks to share cocktails with their canines.
That’s not to say that it was easy to choose winners in the other Top Ten categories. Submissions for the greenest were aplenty. We selected a company called Sweet Onion Creations of Bozeman, Mont., which makes environmentally friendly building models for architectural firms.
Our “Grungiest” selection also qualified as a green business, but since Northwest Redworms of Camas, Wash., deals with worms and compost, we had to place it in the former category. The “Most Slacker-Friendly” was a little easier. We picked Snoloha, a Traverse City, Mich., clothing company inspired by Jimmy Buffett.
For the “Most Innovative,” our challenge was making a clear case for one company over another – the vast majority of entries were innovative to their core. To overcome this challenge, we awarded a company that was not only innovative but important to families. Our judges selected Child Shield, U.S.A., of Tucson, Ariz., which offers a service aiming to educate and protect children and families from child predators.
Another takeaway from the submissions—perhaps the most surprising—was that almost no one wanted to boast about how much money his or her company made. Getting those stats was next to impossible. Like the bragging-right revenue stats you find in other rankings, we figured that giving home-based entrepreneurs the opportunity to flaunt their success would be a huge hit. However, that was the last thing they wanted published. Releasing that information publicly is often OK, even encouraged, in traditional business circles. But for home-based entrepreneurs, this treads on the personal and private. There are limits to what they’re comfortable allowing the public to know about them financially. Respecting the finalists’ privacy, we publicly released the financial performance of only the winner and runner-up “Best Financial Performer.”
So why did they enter the HB 100 competition in the first place? Because they want a piece of the spotlight. In any way other than financially, home-based entrepreneurs flooded us with their attributes and tales of their exploits – things they were thrilled to brag about, like their achievements, their breakthroughs, their environmentally sustainable practices, or the screaming needs they address.
Finally, on a promising note for entrepreneurs based at home, we were surprised by the amount of support this first ranking of home-based businesses received from major corporations. For years, the big companies made other big companies their sole priority. But no longer. They’ve woken up to the fact that huge growth potential exists in serving the relatively untapped market of small business and the millions of home-based businesses within that sector. Nameplate brands such as Microsoft Office Live Small Business, Dell, and Southwest Airlines all jumped on board to encourage participation and support the ranking. It proves that these corporations now see home-based entrepreneurs as a priority. That means more solutions, more products, and more services are being made available to home-based businesses today---and even more options will be available in the future.
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