Six Northern Nevada companies land on 2021 Inc. 5000 list

Lauren Stowell, cofounder and CEO of American Duchess, models historical shoes designed and manufactured by the Reno-based small business.

Lauren Stowell, cofounder and CEO of American Duchess, models historical shoes designed and manufactured by the Reno-based small business.
Photo: American Duchess Company


In 2012, a year after launching their niche business making historical women’s shoes, American Duchess Company cofounders Lauren and Chris Stowell subscribed to Inc. magazine.

Soon after, they received the issue unveiling that year’s Inc. 5000 list, an annual ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States.


“It was immediately a goal to make the list,” Lauren Stowell, cofounder and CEO of American Duchess, said in an email to the NNBW. “I considered it a far-flung goal — more of a dream, really — because of the requirements.”


Specifically, Stowell pointed to the fact eligible companies must generate a minimum of $2 million in revenue in 2020.


“Chris and I both didn’t believe our business could ever be that big with the weird, very niche shoes that we sell,” she said.


They were wrong.


Nine years after setting that far-flung goal, American Duchess — which has grown into an international supplier of historical shoes and accessories to everything from the ballet and opera to TV and film to historic sites and cosplayers — was recently named to the 2021 Inc. 5000 list for the first time.


With its revenue growing 356% from 2017 through 2020, the Reno-based company landed on the Inc. 5000 list at No. 1,336 — the top ranking of any Northern Nevada business.


“It was an amazing feeling of pride in our team and how far we’ve come, to be recognized in this way,” Stowell said.


American Duchess’ growth came despite the fact its sales were significantly tripped up early in the pandemic. The historic shoemaker’s business dropped 70% in the spring of 2020, said Stowell, noting they were in the process of searching for a new factory when COVID swept in.


When they got back up and running in August 2020, American Duchess “went from fire to flood” as they navigated the challenges of spiking demand while supplies were low, manufacturing was delayed, and freight delivery was stalled, Stowell said.


Eventually, American Duchess found its stride.


“It’s been very, very tough,” Stowell said. “That being said, I think the collective feeling of nostalgia for a simpler time, a desire to support small businesses struggling through the pandemic, and a sense of ‘the world is ending, buy the pretty shoes,’ have all contributed to the big turnaround we experienced in 2020, and ultimately landed us on the Inc. 5000 list.”


American Duchess isn’t the only small business in Northern Nevada that’s seen significant growth over the past few years.


KPS3, a Reno-based marketing and digital communications firm, ranked No. 4,335 in the 2021 list, with a three-year sales growth of 65%. It was the second time KPS3 was named to the Inc. 5000 list, debuting in 2015 at No. 1,026.


“Our sustained growth is a testament to the KPS3 team,” Rob Gaedtke, president and CEO of KPS3, said in an email to the NNBW. “They not only demand the highest quality results, but they have a relentless drive to keep leveling up. This, combined with the right offerings and a diverse client base, is a clear recipe for growth.”


Inc. Authority in Reno, which offers free online LLC registration services, came in at No. 1,500 after flexing a three-year growth spurt of 315%.


Reno-based KP Aviation Holdings, which supplies advanced technology solutions for the commercial aviation industry, grew 75% to land at No. 4,056, marking its second straight year on the list.


Bluewhale Research, an advertising and marketing company in Reno, reeled in a ranking of No. 4,868 with a three-year growth of 44%.


Combined, the five Reno-area companies showed a median three-year revenue growth of 75% while adding a total of 58 jobs to the market.


“Reno is booming,” Stowell said. “A lot of businesses are moving in here from out of state, but there are also a lot of new startups.”


Added Gaedtke: “Reno has always been a powerhouse filled with untapped opportunities. The only difference now is that people outside of our circle are noticing.”


The only company in Northern Nevada outside of Reno to get recognized was New Law Business Model in Minden. The firm, which teaches lawyers to provide legacy planning services and small business counsel, made its second straight appearance on the Inc. 5000, ranking No. 2,808 with 141% growth.


The top-ranked business in the Silver State was Las Vegas-based Peak Performance Life, which came in at No. 187. A producer of organic superfoods and high-quality nutritional supplements, Peak Performance Life saw its sales grow 2,270% over three years.


Meanwhile, Lathrop, California-based Human Bees — a company that supplies talent for temporary workforce needs — was the top company on the 2021 list, boasting a staggering three-year-growth spurt of 48,345%.


Go to 
inc.com/inc5000 to view the full list.

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