David vs. Goliath: 3 small companies take on the big boys

Lice? Legal services? Finding security black holes? Here's how three small firms grew in the land of the giants.

Licenders vs. Rid (Bayer)
Licenders vs. Rid (Bayer)
The challenge: How do you grow in the shadow of big over-the-counter drug companies?

What they did: When her kids caught head lice, Adie Horowitz experimented with natural remedies made with peppermint oil. After other parents sought her help, Horowitz started Licenders in 1996. She joined a program in 2008 run by the nonprofit Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence to help woman-owned firms break the $1 million revenue mark. It helped. Horowitz has increased sales by about 50% since 2009 to $1.2 million. Licenders now runs two upscale treatment centers, in Manhattan and Stamford, Conn., has contracts with local schools to check students for lice, and recently started selling its products on the web. Demand is growing quickly -- thanks in part to a TV plug by customer Kelly Ripa. Horowitz plans to open 10 more facilities in the next 18 months.

By Elaine Pofeldt, contributor @FortuneMagazine - Last updated February 07 2012: 6:13 AM ET
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