Michael Pirron imagined a different profit motive when he spawned his I.T. consulting firm, Impact Makers, in 2006. It's a "competitive social venture" that gives the company's profits to community causes — $50,000 so far to two partner organizations.
Patsy Arnett's speakers bureau, Arnett & Associates, began in a spare bedroom of her house about five years ago. Two years ago she outgrew the home office. Today, her company has about 600 speakers on hand, with links to a network of 10,000-plus.
Chef Gene Castellucio , president and co-owner of Personal Chef To Go, started the gourmet-delivery business in 2003 with partner Chef Blair Grossman. The formally trained chefs prepare healthy gourmet meals, ordered by Web and phone, and ship them fresh nationwide.
David Wilson parlayed 10 years of business consulting experience into ProTech Payment Systems, which he started in 2006. He coaches businesses through credit-card processing decisions and works with restaurants, government contractors and retailers, among other clients.
Joel Erb , the CEO of marketing agency INM United, started a Web-design business when he was 15 years old and soon won a major New York client. Now 25, he runs a downtown firm with more than 200 clients.
Pamela Trent and husband Keith founded the vanpool service K&K Connections in 2005 when Keith, who commutes daily to a government job in Washington, D.C., saw a growing market. They started with one van and today have a fleet of about 20.
Dr. Richard Atkinson has spent the bulk of his medical career studying the obesity virus. In 2004, he founded the life-science company Obetech, which has developed a test for diagnosing the virus — known as adenovirus 36 — in humans and animals.
Jocelyn Tice was eating leftover food in her kitchen one day when she realized the containers were all petroleum-based. This epiphany spurred her to create ShopGreenDuck.com, an online ordering service for biodegradable food containers and other packaging.