Twice, Silicon Valley almost did Jeffery Winn (front, right) in. Two decades ago, the then graphic designer lost his job with a software startup three weeks shy of the birth of his first child. The second time was when the dot-com bust left the by-then established remodeler holding $3 million in bankrupt design contracts. “I went from looking at a really good year to a really bad year,” he says.

Today, Winn and the Valley get along just fine. The area's high-tech orientation inspired him to pioneer Web sites for remodelers in 1996. More recently, its eco-friendly policies prompted his certification in green building; his company itself is certified green by Santa Clara County. City and county incentives make it easy to recycle construction debris, he says. “It's a sweet handshake and really great for the environment. Plus, it gives us a competitive edge.”

In another example of Winn's pioneering ways, he “leases” his employees —including his wife, co-owner and marketing director Carol (front, left) — through a professional employer organization. Advantages include handling Winn's payroll, offering discounted health insurance, and reducing his liability.