How to get rich in America

A dozen entrepreneurs, a dozen success stories: proof that you don't need a lot of money to make a go of it, but you do have to be smart about how you invest your energy.

Lean cuisine
Michael Mischer's chocolates may be sumptuous, but his budget is bare bones.
Lean cuisine
Michael Mischer, 48
Oakland
Lesson: You'll amaze yourself at how cheaply you can run a business when it's yours

You can get some start-ups moving with hardly any money. But Michael Mischer has been racing against high fixed costs from Day One. In 2004 he opened a store to sell chocolates he makes, and that 1,700-square-foot space, Michael Mischer Chocolates, came with an unavoidable rental price tag of $2,800 a month. That gave him 2,800 reasons to keep the rest of his expenses as low as possible. "I was very confident I could get this going with what I had," he says.

Mischer spent $75,000 to remake the former office space. About half went into electrical and plumbing systems, both of which had to be installed by professionals to meet local codes. Mischer did as much dirty work as he could, saving $2,000, for instance, by yanking out old carpeting. Fortunately for his budget, Mischer prefers "the lean look" in store design. Rather than shelling out for fancy glass cases, he displays his sweets on white plates. The one exception: He spent $12,000 on a showcase for gelato.

He's stayed stingy with his operating budget. He has yet to hire a full-time employee, although he's got three part-timers to mind the counter. He prefers to be in the back, where he makes the chocolates using machinery that is mostly left over from an earlier bakery venture. That business didn't last, but things look good for the former pastry chef's latest venture. It has annual revenue of about $250,000 and is already profitable.

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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 LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. 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.