Yes, what it says is "penny stocks," but what we see is "get rich quick." At least, that's what penny stock companies hope investors see, and buy in on the promise of a high risk/high reward scenario.

Here's the thing, though: There are ways to chase a high reward and big growth with less risk than many penny stocks offer. If you don't mind a bit of risk, you may find big reward potential in NextDecade (NASDAQ:NEXT)iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT), and DuPont (NYSE:DD). Here's how these stocks could grow your money.

A row of progressively larger piggy banks wearing glasses with a man's hand about to insert a coin in the largest.

There are plenty of other top choices than penny stocks to help your portfolio outperform. Image source: Getty Images.

Betting big on LNG

Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, wasn't on many people's radar screens a couple of decades ago. That's because most of the gas produced in the U.S. stayed in this country to either be used as a home heating fuel or to be refined into other petroleum products.

But then, thanks in large part to the fracking boom, domestic natural gas production skyrocketed. Now companies are looking to export all that gas, but in order to put it on a ship to get it to lucrative overseas markets, it needs to be transported, liquefied, and loaded at an export terminal. 

Enter NextDecade. The fledgling LNG company has big plans to build a pipeline in Texas to ship gas to an export terminal that it also plans to build. If things go as anticipated, NextDecade expects to be able to buy gas very cheaply from the Permian Basin -- a major hub of gas activity -- and ship more of it than its competitors, thanks to its pipeline's proposed route far from population centers. 

However, there are some hurdles for NextDecade before it starts shipping LNG overseas. First, not only is nothing built yet, nothing has even started to be built. The company has lined up a builder (the reliable construction firm Bechtel), but is waiting on a pesky final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Once it gets that decision -- hopefully before the month is out -- it will need to make a final investment decision, then actually secure partners and payment for the project. 

In other words, we're a long, long way from that first LNG shipment (and from significant cash flow for investors), which won't happen until at least 2023. But buying in now before some of these risks are resolved could lead to a big payout if things go as planned.

Short-term jitters, long-term buy

An absolutely horrible set of circumstances has pulverized the stock of robotic vacuum manufacturer iRobot this year. Shares are down 27.3% since the start of 2019. But these drops may represent a buying opportunity, because they were more the result of broad economic conditions than weakness in the company itself.

In April, the company's Q1 earnings report caused the stock to drop, despite an earnings beat. Wall Street didn't think the company's revenue growth was measuring up to its projections. But iRobot's management -- which doesn't offer quarterly guidance -- stated that the growth was in line with its own internal projections. 

In July, history repeated itself: The Q2 earnings report didn't measure up to Wall Street's lofty expectations, although management indicated that it had met internal projections. And this time, there was an added twist: iRobot lowered its 2019 guidance as a result of the trade war with China and its related tariffs. 

The trade war is messy, to be sure, and likely to put a damper on iRobot's performance. But the company's superior position in a rapidly growing market puts it in position to take off once trade tensions subside. How long that will take is anyone's guess. In the meantime, now looks like a good time to scoop up shares of the beaten-down manufacturer.

Unleashing the growth

With the first two companies on the list being fairly young, you might be surprised to see DuPont -- more than a century old -- along with them. But the DuPont of today is very different from the gunpowder manufacturer founded by E.I. du Pont de Nemours in the early 1800s. It's even different from the DuPont of just a year ago!

In 2017, the major U.S. chemical companies -- and rivals -- DuPont and Dow Chemical merged to form DowDuPont. This was a temporary move that would allow the two to combine their collective product portfolios into three separate business lines that could then be spun off. Which company got what product line is complicated to explain, but basically, new spinoff Corteva got the agriscience portfolio, Dow got the portfolio of stalwart "performance" chemicals, and DuPont kept the high-margin "specialty products" portfolio. 

That last portfolio includes the popular Tyvek construction wrap (probably the most recognizable brand of any of the portfolios), the hot seal-making polymer Kalrez (possibly the product with the best growth prospects in any of the portfolios, used in semiconductor and chemical processing), and many, many more. The company believes that, on the strength of this portfolio and thanks to cost-saving synergies related to the merger and spinoff, its margins could hit 25%, exceeding those of the other two companies. It also expects rapid growth in many of its product lines.

Of course, the spinoff is still new (it only happened back in June), so things might not work out as planned. But for those looking for a low-risk business with good growth prospects (and even a bit of a dividend!), DuPont looks like a company to keep an eye on.

The better bet

Penny stocks sometimes pay off, but more often don't. That's why even risk-tolerant investors in search of growth are better off looking elsewhere. NextDecade, iRobot, and DuPont all offer growth prospects and some risk, but a better investment proposition than most penny stocks. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.