Fortune Small Business:
Zero to $1 Billion  
49 companies batting a billion
These big hitters started off small, but reached $1 billion in sales last year. See the full list, including revenues and stock returns for each company.
by Richard McGill Murphy, FSB senior editor

NEW YORK (FORTUNE Small Business) - What do a cheesecake chain, an online broker, a green energy company and a medical software firm have in common? They are among 49 U.S. companies that hit a special milestone last year: $1 billion in annual sales.

Many of these superstars are companies you've probably heard of - like restaurant The Cheesecake Factory (Research) and broker Ameritrade (Research).

FSB: Zero to $1 Billion

Others are less well-known, such as Headwaters (Research), an alternative energy company in Salt Lake City, and Cerner (Research), a medical software firm in Kansas City.

All 49 of these businesses started small, grew rapidly and profitably, and - while in vastly different industries - followed many of the same seven management practices, says David Thomson, a former technology executive and management consultant, who spent the past three years of his life figuring out exactly what it takes for a startup company to reach that magic revenue threshold of a billion dollars.

Could you build a billion-dollar business? Take the quiz.

Thomson, 52, calls these fast-track firms Blueprint companies in his new book Blueprint to a Billion, because his research revealed that they all followed a similar plan for growth.

Thomson found Blueprint companies in nearly every industry, although the top three sectors were consumer goods (26%), information technology (18%) and financial services (15%), closely followed by health care (13%).

The key: Each Blueprint company operated in a market big enough and fast-growing enough to support more than one billion-dollar enterprise.

Below is the class of 2005. Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.