Fast Company

25 Top Women Business Builders

Meet the winners of our first-ever awards for women business owners. They're a dynamic, inspiring group -- with lots to teach us all.

20. Nancy J. Connolly

52, founder and CEO
Lasertone, Littleton, Massachusetts

After spending a decade launching new initiatives for oil giant Exxon, Nancy Connolly knew startups. So when a friend pitched the idea of launching a business based on remanufactured laser-printer cartridges, Connolly -- by then a stay-at-home mom -- didn't hesitate. They each invested $5,000 and positioned their cartridges as environmentally friendly. In the 15 years since that first kitchen-table conversation, Lasertone has become a $13.6 million, 63-person business. Last November, Connolly started a new company called Smart Page Technologies, which leases office equipment, such as copiers, laser printers, and fax machines. -- RU

21. Elaine Osgood

50, president and CEO
Atlas Travel International, Milford, Massachusetts

Elaine Osgood books business travel for busy road warriors. And she pays close heed to what customers need. "You have to ask questions, actively listen, and then act," she says. That's how Osgood came up with her TravelPolicy Plus, a rewards program that ensures travelers are complying with their employers' policies by awarding them points that can be redeemed for pretty much anything. It's innovations like these that have helped Osgood more than triple her company's revenue from $19 million in 2001 to $65 million in 2004. -- JV

22. Cheryle Pingel and Misty Locke

40 and 28, chairman and president, respectively, cofounders
Range Online Media, Forth Worth, Texas

It seemed crazy for Cheryle Pingel and Misty Locke to start a search-engine marketing firm in the depths of 2001's bust, even if Google was a big supporter. Four years later, though, it's clear they were ahead of their time: Search marketing remains a shining light in the ad industry and Range's revenue ballooned to $24.5 million in 2004 from $4.7 million in 2002. Range's next challenge is to differentiate itself in a crowded field. -- MP

23. Angela Drummond

37, president and CEO
SiloSmashers, Fairfax, Virginia

Sure, you could call Angela Drummond's 77-employee SiloSmashers a "consultancy," but marketing director Sue Liblong says it better: "We put people in a room, and in a matter of four hours we get them to agree about things they've been stuck on for months." Each seat in SiloSmashers' conference room is equipped with a slide-out keyboard and stealthy screen embedded in the table. Clients type anonymously and results are viewed by all. It's a hierarchy-flattening formula, and Drummond's brand of collaborative corporate therapy is catching on: Since 2001, revenue has rocketed from $3 million to nearly $17 million. -- LC

24. Ranjini Poddar

36, president
Artech Information Systems, Morristown, New Jersey

Ranjini Poddar has found a classic recipe for success in the boom-and-bust tech world: a diversified revenue stream. Her $26 million consulting firm, which provides offshore tech services from applications development to help-desk staffing, targets both government and private-sector clients, companies large and small, and makes a point of recruiting customers in multiple industries. "We focus on broadening our client base so that we are not dependent on any one sector," Poddar says. That client base includes several U.S. government agencies, SBC Communications, and Liberty Mutual bank. -- DR

25. Rebecca Boenigk

41, CEO
Neutral Posture, Bryan, Texas

Rebecca Boenigk owns an ergonomic-seating company, but she's done anything but sit pretty. In 1989, the 25-year-old rolled the lessons of her parents' failed chair-manufacturing company into Neutral Posture, which became the first woman-owned company to trade on Nasdaq. But by 2001, layoffs in corporate America left a sea of empty office chairs and sent Neutral Posture's stock price plummeting. Booted from Nasdaq's national market, Boenigk bought her company back for $3.5 million. "It was so nice to know that the decision-making process was ours again," says Boenigk. Clearly, it's a comfortable fit: Today Neutral Posture sells 50,000 chairs annually to such clients as the U.S. Department of Defense, the IRS, UPS, and Pepsi. -- Danielle Sacks

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