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Jim McCann — 1-800-FLOWERS.COM

Jim McCann was a bartender and a social worker looking for a way to supplement his income when he bought a flower shop for $10,000 in 1976. That led to 13 more stores in the New York metropolitan area, but it wasn’t until he acquired the 1-800-FLOWERS phone number in 1986 that business really bloomed. McCann’s was the first company to put an 800-telephone number in its name, and the simple marketing idea paid off.

He also made sure technology didn’t leave him behind, seizing on the Internet as an opportunity as early as 1991. In 1999, 1-800-FLOWERS went public and add the .COM to its name. The company, which has also expanded by acquiring companies like The Popcorn Factory and Fannie May, reported $689.8 millionin total revenue in fiscal year 2011.

Photo: Roger Kisby | Getty Images