Everyone has seen those oversize vending machines that sell headphones and phone chargers. Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene, 42, makes those–but fancier. Her “high IQ” kiosks use AI, biometrics and computer vision to enable retailers to retain customers through data stored on the blockchain. With $3.8 million in funding, Popcom’s $20,000 unit is in Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus’ soon to come additional shopping malls and beyond. “We are in a new world of retail,” she says.
Small businesses account for 99.9% of all U.S. businesses and some two-thirds of net new American jobs. The vast majority of these enterprises are bootstrapped via savings and credit cards. While venture-backed startups generally skew white, male and coastal, these Main Street enterprises actually look like—and drive—America. To shine a light on this new class of entrepreneurial hero, Forbes has created the Next 1000. This year-round initiative showcases the ambitious sole proprietors, self-funded shops and pre-revenue startups in every region of the country—all with under $10 million in revenue or funding but infinite drive and hustle. Fueled by your nominations and screened by top business minds and entrepreneurial superstars, at the year’s end, we’ll culminate with 1,000 new faces. Let’s get started with the first installment of 250 standouts who embody the best of the American dream right now.