You’ll find engrossing stories in this year’s W100 about underdogs, grinders, comeback artists and trailblazers who have built flourishing firms. You’ll also find a wealth of proven strategies that you can apply in your own role as a business leader.

View the full 2013 ranking

This year, we doubled the space for the W100 winners list in our November 2013 issue in order to offer rich helpings of smart ideas and insights. You can read about the widely dissed method that Sonya Meloff (No. 34) used at Sales Talent Agency to land hundreds of clients after the company launched with none. Nancy Mudford (No. 60) of Spa Boutique explains how her firm avoids the horror of running out of cash. And Shantal Feltham (No. 94) of Stiris Research shares the key thing she did right in order to land a banking relationship that’s been a big boon to her operation.

These leaders, like all the entrepreneurs honoured here, were ranked according to a formula that combines the sales, three-year growth rate and profitability of their businesses. All growth rates were based on a base-year revenue of at least $200,000, and PROFIT verified figures through financial statements. To qualify, the candidates must be owners or significant stakeholders who at least share chief decision-making responsibilities. PROFIT and Chatelaine ran broad outreach programs to solicit entries. (For more W100 success stories, read the December issue of Chatelaine.)

The companies run by the W100 boast impressive performance numbers, as you can see in the stats above. This year’s honourees are especially entitled to bragging rights: their average three-year revenue growth of 222% is one of the highest in the ranking’s 15-year history.

At a time when women everywhere are wondering how to “lean in,” the W100 features leaders who are doing so with gusto. Many of them have thrived in sectors that have long been bastions of the other gender. If you’re a mining company undertaking exploratory work in remote areas with no roads, Laura Araneda (No. 78) of Vic Progressive Diamond Drilling can chopper in a portable modular drill to your site. Consumer-electronics giants developing ultra-high-def TVs turn to Sally Daub (No. 46) of ViXS Systems to supply the advanced semiconductors that drive these devices. And chore-loathing folks everywhere have a friend in Sandra Fradet (No. 44) of RobotShop Distribution, which sells—how cool is this?—domestic robots that will clean your windows, mow your lawn or even give you a massage.

Kelsey Ramsden of Belvedere Place Development tops the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking for the second straight year. Read about how cancer forced her to stop working around the clock and find a better way to manage her business and her family of five.

W100 leaders also are showing how to stand out in female-dominated sectors such as human resources and public relations.

On the list, you can read about how Sherri Stevens (No. 31) at SRG leveraged client relationships in Canada to expand successfully into Kentucky. And you can marvel at the coup that Marie-Josée Gagnon (No. 63) at Casacom achieved: her PR agency beat out far bigger rivals to work on what became Canada’s most successful brand launch of 2012.

W100 leaders have taken divergent paths. But one thing they share is how hard-won their success has been—and how worth it. “Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life,” Alina Martin (No. 61) at Danatec Educational Services advises fellow entrepreneurs, “and to love almost every minute of it. There is nothing—nothing!—like running your own show.”

View the full 2013 ranking

Read more W100 success stories and tips and tactics

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