Insights From the 2021 Inc. 5000: Part 2

We further explored Inc. 5000 rapidly growing businesses to see changes in the overall entrepreneurial landscape, emerging business opportunities, and more.

Last month we talked about business opportunities from 2021 Inc. 500 companies, where we talked about how you can build on their success. But, if you observe it from a different perspective, you will realize that Inc. 500 is more than only a list of rapidly growing companies. 

You can get insights into the status and health of the business ecosystem. It can give you inspiration, business ideas, and opportunities you can monetize. 

Inc’s fastest-growing company this year was Human Bees (1), a temporary workforce recruiting company that grew over 48,385% over the past three years to more than 50 million USD (23).

When you look at the list more closely, you will know more stories are buried under those numbers.

Interesting opportunities by going deeper into the data. 

(1) Fast-Growing Businesses are Not Limited to Major Cities

If you compare this year’s list with the last year, you will see that California and New York had the biggest declines in businesses on the list, while rising cities such as Tennessee, Virginia, and Utah gained the most. Other impressive climbers include Mississippi (it doubled its Inc. 5000 companies from five to ten), Connecticut, Delaware, and Missouri (they rose three ranks from their previous positions).

The cities that grew the most were Denver and Nashville, which gained 15 and 13 new appearances, respectively. 

In the list, there are also over 485 new towns mentioned this year, indicating that the ability to create a rapidly growing business is not limited to bigger cities. 

We can say that the situation is also similar in India. The India of 2021 is dramatically different from early 2020. The changes are not only there because of a massive health crisis the world is struggling against but also because of the generational shift over the past year thanks to explosive digital transformation (4). 

Overnight we figured out that moving our operations online is not only the need of the hour but a transformative opportunity as we advance. 

With over 700 million people accessing the internet, most of them coming online in only the last four years, India is brimming with new business ideas, waiting to be converted into business opportunities. We believe this landscape will continue to evolve with emerging new technologies like AI, quantum computing, and 5G as more people enter the web world. 

Small businesses emerging from rural India contribute 30% of the nation’s GDP and become drivers of innovation, entrepreneurship, and employment. It is worth highlighting that employment within medium, small, and micro enterprises increased from 23.9 million in the 2000s to nearly 111 million in the 2020s. In short, India will witness explosive economic growth as the next 300 million businesses from pan India bring their operations online, driving new business models (5). 

Business Opportunities from notable players of rising regions include:

Shopworn, a New York-based business with over 12 million USD a year revenue, buys and resells display models from luxury jewelry from shops worldwide, offering people brand-new merchandise near pre-owned prices (6). You can translate this same model to designer fashion, electronics, appliances, furniture, and more. 

Legacy Touch, a Missouri-based company making over 18 million USD a year, modernizes death care by memorializing lost loved ones with jewelry and keepsakes engraved with fingerprints (7). You can also replicate this model to commemorate other life events such as birth with baby footprints, pets with paw prints, and even weddings and anniversaries. 

Legacy Touch
Source: Legacy Touch

BrüMate, a five-year-old company based in Denver, makes more than 110 million USD a year by selling insulated drinkware is also worth mentioning here (8). 


(2) There are Significant Changes in Top Industries

If you compare the list with the previous year’s, you will see a significant change in the cross-section of industries. 

Top 10 Categories on the INC 5000
Source: Data from the Inc. 5000

The category to witness the most growth is the Business Products and Services, with 112 additional winners on the list compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, the IT Management and Ads and Marketing category shrank the most compared to 2020. 

If you see the top 5000 companies on the list, the Food and Beverage category increased over double in size, rising nine ranks on the list of most popular industries. Manufacturing is another area to double, growing from 12 companies in 2020 to 21 this year.

We found some interesting opportunities from three emerging categories: 

Business Products and Services: Cannabis

While Cannabis is going mainstream, it is still a controlled substance in most areas across the world. There were 21 cannabis companies, 40% more than the previous year in Inc. 5000, split about 50-50 between business services and retailers. 

Some of the business services for the cannabis industry include: 

  • Springbig: a customer loyalty software for cannabis retailers generate over 15 million USD revenue
  • Green Rush Packagingproprietary packaging developer for the cannabis industry makes more than 11 million USD
  • TreezAn enterprise platform for supply chain and compliance, generating over six million USD in revenue
  • MainStem: Supply purchasing platform for cannabis companies making more than 3 million USD in revenue
  • Point Seven: A Management consulting firm for the commercial cannabis space, making over 2 million USD in revenue

For more on this industry, be sure to check out our previous story, The Lucrative Business Opportunities in Hemp.

Food and Beverage: Aluminum Containers For Water

Three companies selling bottled water in aluminum containers have also been made into the list (Proud Source; 9 million USD, Path; 8.5 million USD, Open; 3.5 million USD). Unlike plastic bottles, aluminum is fully recyclables and gaining traction among eco-conscious consumers. 

Proud Source
Source: Proud Source

There has also been similar reusable bottles trending in Europe. You can also leverage the same for other food and beverages.

Manufacturing: Body Armor

Among several manufacturers, the most interesting ones we found are body armor manufacturers. The list includes AspettoMatbockDarley, and Safe Life. Another company named ExploTrain, generates over 4 million USD a year, making fake IEDs, improvised explosive devices for training simulations. 


(3) Green is Getting Greener

Among the top 15 companies in the Inc. 5000 list, five were energy companies focused on either reducing people’s energy consumption or solar installation. 

It includes:

  • Paxon Energy (#9, over 34 million USD revenue in 2020, and 22742% three-year growth)
  • Budderfly (#10, about 25 million USD, 22,486%)
  • Texas Solar (#11, 37 million USD, 22,381%)
  • Solgen Power (#12, 33 million USD, 21,790%)
  • Solar Bear (#14, 30 million USD, 19,218%)

It is also worth mentioning that in 2020, there were 93 energy companies on the Inc. 5000 list, including multiple of them focusing on mineral rights and infrastructure for the gas and oil industry. 

Most of them have disappeared this year.

Of the 62 energy businesses on 2021’s list, virtually all of them are focused on either improving energy efficiency or renewables, except for Instafuel, which refuels trucks, Tyle Fuel, a regional gas stations chain, and a few businesses supporting oil and gas companies. 

Other companies to keep an eye out for include Urbint’s AI software that assesses workplace safety (9). It observes utility projects and suggests different interventions to stop accidents before they even happen. The most injury-prone industries, including hospitals, wood product makers, building material suppliers, can use similar software (10).

Another business landscape includes lead generations. Three different entities (Solar Direct Marketing; 4 million USD, Solar Lead Factory; 13 million USD, Solar Investments; 24 million USD) on the list are minting millions of dollars by focusing on lead generation for solar installers. 

Check out our previous stories Soaring Eco-Friendly Trend is Paving Infinite Ways for Entrepreneurs to Capitalize, and Sustainable Agriculture and The Next Green Revolution to know more about the green movement. 


(4) Further Business Opportunities to Explore

There is Profit in Serving Nonprofits

It is a common belief that nonprofits are always cash-strapped. However, it is not true in certain cases. The LSAT, for instance, a standardized law school entrance exam administered by a nonprofit called LSAC, the Law School Admissions Council, generates over 67 million USD a year in its program revenue (11). Notably, their president is paid over 865k USD a year.

This year’s list has several winners indicating that there are big profits in helping nonprofits solve business problems such as: 

Landing Grants: Google offers over 10k USD a month ad grants to charities. However, over 78% of quality nonprofit organizations miss out. Nonprofit Megaphone made 2 million USD helping charities get what is already theirs (12). 

Another example is online fundraising. RallyUp offers a suite of software that helps nonprofits run auctions and crowdfunding events online. While they don’t charge anything for their service, they offer donors an option to tip. Notably, they made more than 3.4 million USD in revenue last year (13).

There are still several nonprofits raising money via the old-fashioned way, via mail. There is an industry named “caging” or “lock boxing” with companies such as Engage USA, which makes more than 12 million USD a year. They collect and sort mails, scan donation cheques, and manage mailing lists for charities (14).  

Affinity Marketing is Still a Big Thing

When it comes to affinity marketing, there doesn’t seem to be any limit on its application. There is an opportunity for it, from everything to electronics accessories to niche fashion. 

Some notable examples from this year’s Inc. 5000 list include: 

  • Fresh Prints: It makes 11 million USD revenue a year by franchising swag businesses to college students who sell shirts to sorority and fraternity members on more than 500 campuses across the United States. There are about 4k colleges in the US and so many more in India and worldwide. Meaning there is plenty of room in this space for other players.
  • Dugout MugsThis company makes more than eight million USD a year by selling mugs that look like baseball bats, emblazoning them with team logos. 
  • Charlie Hustle: This company makes over seven million USD in revenue by printing classic-themed t-shirts for colleges and sports teams across different states in the US. 


Cash in On Mass Migration

There is an entire billions of dollars of industry on employee relocation. And this year’s Inc. 5000 list indicates that people are still moving, with dozens of companies making in the list. 

There are two companies we found particularly interesting since they cater to specific niches: 

  • Black Tie Moving: This company offers luxury moving to celebrities and provides concierge services such as managing utility startups, pet moving, and changing addresses with the post office. They made about 15.6 million USD revenue a year. 
  • The Dingman GroupThis company relocates coaches, athletes, and support staff of professional sports teams. It makes more than e7 million USD in revenue by schlepping boxes, purchasing and selling real estate, finding short-term rentals, and moving clients’ vehicles. 

Notably, celebrities and athletes are not the only people with unique requirements when they move. You can use the same catering strategy to specific consumers such as single parents, traveling nurses, remote workers, immigrants, and other demographics.

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Rucha Joshi, currently managing a team of over 20 content writers at TimesNext is fueled by her passion for creative writing. She is eager to turn information into action. With her hunger for knowledge, she considers herself a forever student and a passionate leader.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article have been curated for our audience and does not warrant a 100% accuracy. All the information mentioned in the article is subject to change according to the changing viewpoints. Feel free to reach us at [email protected] for any change or copyright issues.

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Team Rucha Joshi
Team Rucha Joshi
Rucha Joshi, currently managing a team of over 20 content writers at TimesNext is fueled by her passion for creative writing. She is eager to turn information into action. With her hunger for knowledge, she considers herself a forever student and a passionate leader.

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