Keith Alward is self-taught, at least when it comes to building. The owner of Alward Construction started working as a remodeler in 1979, shortly after earning a Ph.D. in psychology. He started out in construction as a teenager, worked in a lumberyard in college, and built boats after that.

Alward "got serious" -- obtaining a contractor's license and insurance -- in 1989. Since then his company has acquired a good reputation among Bay area architects, doing everything from $3 million whole-house remodels to many six-figure projects. Alward Construction has restored two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the Bay area.

"The company's grown slowly, because I don't just take anybody in," says Alward. "But there's enough business out there for us to be twice this size."