The 10 Best Small Businesses of 2014

With over 50 percent of the working population employed by small businesses, it’s easy to see why the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy calls small businesses “the heart of the American economy.”

These startups are the perfect representation of our nation’s excellence in innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity and it’s important that they are recognized. These 10 businesses stood out amongst the crowd of the 28 million small businesses currently operating in America based on the following qualifications:

  • Quality - Devotion to quality products and outstanding customer experience.
  • Uniqueness - The ability to cut through the clutter with a unique offering.
  • Newsworthiness - Fans don't just quietly enjoy these small businesses - they gush about them at parties, in elevators, or on Facebook.

1) Apt2B

Apt2B is your virtual store next door and winner of multiple best small business awards. Based in Los Angeles, Apt2B has no brick and mortar stores, and instead operates as an online-only retailer (now shipping nationwide) that is shaking up a tired furniture industry.

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With a heavy emphasis on hustle, local partnerships and fun social media posts, Apt2B has cultivated a loyal following by posting behind-the-scenes photos and exclusive offers for fans – giving people a reason to pay attention - and shop.


2) Mile High Organics

Founder Michael Joseph grew up passionate about food transparency and desired to give people the ability to make informed decisions about what they eat. He turned this passion into America’s first certified organic online grocery store – the only of its kind to offer 100 percent organic and GMO-free food delivered directly to your front door.

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Based in Denver, Mile High Organics connects with the community by obtaining most of its produce from local farmers to ensure it’s environmentally and economically friendly.

3) Welcome Diner

Welcome Diner in Phoenix, AZ, is one of the most unexpected gourmet culinary experiences around. This 9-stool diner was built in 1945 in Wichita, Kansas and moved to Williams, AZ 10 years later where it operated for 24 years on Route 66. It made its way to the current location in 1980, but remained vacant until its reopening in 2004.

Welcome Diner image

A quick look at Yelp will show you that fans have nothing but praise for the menu, “The fried chicken sandwich is a thing of beauty, if you can unhinge your jaw to take it on,” says user Chris C. By using locally sourced ingredients, making homemade sauces and dressings, and offering a unique vintage atmosphere, Welcome Diner has become a standout choice for downtown diners.

4) Twice

Twice is offering a new twist on the Craigslist and eBay experience giving thrift shoppers the online store of their dreams. This secondhand clothing marketplace for women sources clothing and accessories from users who send in items from brands like Anthropologie, J.Crew and BCBG directly to the company itself.

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Once there, the clothing is then reviewed, measured, photographed and placed online for resale. All merchandising and photos are professionally done with average price points of $20.

5) Do-Rite Donuts

Much has been said about the cupcake craze and the subsequent surge of indulgent, $3+ donuts. One shop that rises to the top of the list is Do-Rite Donuts in Chicago. Who would’ve guessed that gluten-free and vegan donuts could taste better than regular ones?

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Do-Rite is also unique in that they only make batches of 36 donuts at a time to ensure their customers always receive the freshest quality donuts possible.


6) Union Pizza & Space

Part suburban homage to stellar cuisine usually reserved for big-city life, part killer music venue attracting talent ranging from Gary Clarke Jr. to Rickie Lee Jones.

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The formula? Pair perfect brick oven pizza with a casual vibe that welcomes a mix of stroller-touting families to university hipsters (Northwestern University is down the street), add in the fact that you can catch music nightly in a small, intimate setting with amazing sound and you have a solid example of why Union Pizza and Space is packed nightly and ranks high on this year's list.

7) Milled

A forth-generation carpenter, Matt Voight, and his wife Hillary make simple, high quality handcrafted wood products at their home in Michigan that they then sell online.

Milled Carpenter image

Their stunning line of furniture is made out of reclaimed wood and each piece is individually handmade. They also offer unique home décor pieces such as customizable one-of-a-kind cheese boards that are constructed from hard maple and finished by hand. To add an extra special touch to their orders, each item is shipped with a handwritten thank you note.

See how By the Yard, a sustainable outdoor furniture company, increased their business using digital marketing. View the case study ›

8) Sword & Plough

Inspired by her service in the U.S. Army, Emily Nunez had the idea to recycle and repurpose old canvas military tents by turning them into fashionable totes, messenger bags, and backpacks. Along with her sister, Betsy, and a successful Kickstarter fund, Nunez was able to turn this idea into a profitable online commerce site.

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Their motto is “Repurposed for a purpose” and the sisters are using their success to help give back to military members. They work with three manufacturers that hire veterans to create their products and they also donate 10 percent of their profits to Veteran Green Jobs and the Wounded Warrior Project.

9) Throne Watches

By offering affordable watches with a dash of character, Throne Watches is bringing the romanticism of wearing watches back to life. Based out of their shop in Brooklyn, the six founders pair restored vintage timepieces with handmade leather straps, giving them a contemporary yet classic style.

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The pairing of old, new, craft and kitsch works well, and the fact they are crafted out of Williamsburg adds to the authenticity of the brand.

10) Mendez Fuel

How does Mendez Fuel stand out from the big, billion-dollar gas station conglomerates? By crafting local, engaging content that is relevant and drives engagement and traffic in-store. The company has four gas stations in South Florida and is active on Twitter and Instagram, setting them apart from the bigger chains.

Mendez Fuel image

Owner Michael Mendez keeps the buzz about his stations alive by taking advantage of consumer trends such as the Paleo diet and craft beers and then making sure to stock his store with relevant products and posting about them online to his over 6000 Twitter followers.


Some Final Thoughts

These businesses use creativity, resourcefulness, and a desire to connect with their customers to create a business that people will flock to, proving that you don’t have to be a big name brand to create a solid fan base.


Click here for additional ideas to help grow your small business, or check out our blog, Is a Branded Keyword Strategy Right for My Business?

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