Investing in stocks is a great way to have your hard-earned money work for you. Owning and holding growth stocks over long periods of time can create returns that significantly outpace the market. The fast-casual burrito restaurant, Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) is one example that has rewarded its longtime shareholders with tremendous returns.

In 1993, Steve Ells opened his first Chipotle restaurant in Denver with money he borrowed from his father. In the 26 years since, the company has grown to 2,546 stores and 73,000 employees, selling over $15 million of food and beverages daily. Revenue over the last 12 months exceeded $5.3 billion and its net income reached the $1 billion mark.

CMG Revenue (TTM) Chart

CMG Revenue (TTM) data by YCharts

By any measure, this is an amazing growth story. Luckily, investors have been able to share in the success by owning shares along the way.

12 ever larger stacks of coins with a hand adding another coin to the tallest stack.

Investors who bought Chipotle at the IPO have earned a lot of coin. Source: Getty Images

How have the IPO stockholders fared?  

Not too many people know that before Chipotle went public in 2006, it was actually a part of McDonald's. The burger-giant financed the early growth years from 13 stores in 1998 to almost 500 when it became a stand-alone company.

On its IPO day, January 26, 2006, shares were priced at $22. Fast-forward to today and the stock is trading around $735, almost 33 times its original price. A starting investment of $100 would have bought about 4 1/2 shares at IPO, and would be worth $3,340 today. This would equate to returns of 29% annually, which is significantly better than the S&P 500, a standard measure of the market, with annualized average returns of 9% over that same time period. This is a great result, but the journey wasn't a straight line. 

A winding road to incredible returns

In order to achieve a 33-bagger, shareholders have had to hold through some turbulent times. On the first day of trading, IPO investors were rewarded with an initial double by closing at $44. From there, it rocketed to over $150 in December 2007 only to fall back to below $44 in November 2008.

The next seven years provided stellar growth to shareholders and the stock came close to hitting $750 in August 2015. But the chain stumbled with E.coli and norovirus events causing some burrito fans to get sick. With national media attention and slow response from management, customers decided to avoid the chain and eat elsewhere until it got its act together. The stock dropped all the way to $255 in February 2018. A month later the company announced a new CEO, Brian Niccol, who took the reins from the founder. He's made management changes, initiated a restaurant basics approach, and accelerated its digital efforts. Customers are coming back and its stock has returned close to all-time highs.

Even with several huge drops with the stock over its history, patient investors have been rewarded with a solid market-beating investment.