I love a good underdog story—it’s such an uplifting feeling to root for “the little guy” as he goes up against the odds, wins the big fight or beats the undefeated team.

In our economy, small businesses are the underdogs. Their founders and owners are, many times, putting everything on the line to pursue their life-long dream. And it’s a tough road to take. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) says about half will survive five years or longer and only a third will make it past the 10-year mark.

But small businesses are worth rooting for. The SBA also says between 1992 until the third quarter of 2013, small businesses accounted for 63.3 percent of net new jobs.

In this issue, we are honored to bring you our 3rd Annual Small Businesses on the Rise feature. The nine, local small businesses we chose are unique, offering different services, products and skills to our local community. But they have one thing in common—a passion that, so far, is setting their business apart from the rest. From building expansions to major new contracts, read about their successes starting on page 24. Also, in our Legal department on page 35, two attorneys from Woods Rogers highlight a legal checklist every potential owner should use before launching their small business.

While it’s easy for businesses to focus on staying out of the red and in the black, this issue highlights ways to incorporate more “green” into your work culture. Look for some tips for your break room on page 11.

We are also spotlighting mailing service company BMS Direct for their incredible investment in renewable energy; they recently installed 722 solar panels on their roof. Hear from the owner about why he decided to make such a big investment and how it’s going so far on page 16. And looking at “going green” from a different angle, Marketing columnist Victor Clarke has some very honest advice about Greenwashing. (That’s when companies try to act or portray themselves like they are “green” but aren’t really doing any good in the long run.)

Finally, if you truly love a good underdog story like I do, hopefully you’ve heard about the movie Shoeless Wonders, based on the former Presbyterian Home, that’s being filmed in Lynchburg this year. Producer Sara Timmins, this issue’s Leading Lady, talks about the movie and her career path on page 48.

To any returning readers, as always, I’m so glad you picked up this publication. But to those who have never flipped through the pages but saw the words “small business” on the cover and thought, “Hey, that’s what I want to do,” I’m thrilled.

I hope you are inspired, informed and, one day, finally get your big break.

And when you do, remember—we’re all rooting for you.

Shelley Basinger, Managing Editor