In 2010, when Anson Belt & Buckle was just getting on its feet in North Myrtle Beach as a fledgling entrepreneurial e-commerce startup, online shopping was very much in its infancy.
"It was still slow going and slow growing," said David Ferree, who helps run the family-owned seller of micro-adjustable, holeless belts he co-founded with his father, Frank Ferree.
With the rise of Amazon, consumer behavior began to shift about five years ago. And Anson Belt has been riding the e-commerce wave ever since, booking its best revenue year to date in 2017, when it pulled in about $2.7 million.
"The rising tide raises all ships," the younger Ferree said. "It definitely raised ours."
With its sales up by 456 percent over the past three years, Grand Strand-headquartered Anson Belt is a member of the class of 2018 on the newly released Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing independent U.S. small businesses, at No. 1,084.
In all, 54 South Carolina companies of all shapes and sizes made the grade, down slightly from last year.
Of those, 22 weren't on the 2017 list, including first-timer The Hiring Group. The Greer-based technical staffing and recruiting firm reported sales growth since 2014 of about 3,000 percent, reaching $3.6 million last year.
Brooks Israel, who co-founded The Hiring Group with Chris Yarrow, attributed the firm's ascent to its "completely opposite" business model. One of the hallmarks is the benefits and other workplace incentives it offers the contract workers that it sends to fill openings. That resonates with clients, he said.
"With unemployment being so close to zero, they're focused on retention, and no other staffing company has focused on retention like we have," Israel said Friday.
At the front of the South Carolina Inc. 5000 pack was Parrish & Partners, a Columbia-based engineering firm with offices in Charleston, Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh. It reported that its revenue has swelled more than 3,400 percent over the past three years to $18.6 million, enough to notch the No. 114 spot overall.
In all, 22 Charleston-area small businesses made the cut this year, outpacing all other regions in the state. The fastest-growing among them was Gotcha Media Holdings, a collegiate-focused advertising and marketing firm run by CEO Sean Flood. Its sales have grown to about $6.3 million, or 1,955 percent. It was ranked at No. 249.
The Greenville-Spartanburg region accounted for 16 spots and the Midlands had 11 representatives. Four of the firms are from the Rock Hill area and two are based along the Grand Strand.
By revenue, the largest South Carolina-based firm on the list was Indian Land-based home loan lender Movement Mortgage, which had nearly $604 million in annual sales last year.
Charleston marketing consultant Baron Hanson described the Inc. rankings as an "annual check mark for South Carolina entrepreneurs and executives seeking new capital, the very best employees, national media coverage, or proof of industry leadership — all of which impact revenue growth."
Companies nominate themselves and submit normally confidential financial information to the magazine, which reserves the right to reject applicants. Among other requirements, businesses must be independently owned and privately held. Also, they must have generated at least $2 million in revenue last year and at least $100,000 in 2014 to be eligible for inclusion.
"If your company is on the Inc. 5000, it's unparalleled recognition of your years of hard work and sacrifice," Inc. editor in chief James Ledbetter said in a written statement. "The lines of business may come and go, or come and stay. What doesn't change is the way entrepreneurs create and accelerate the forces that shape our lives."