Achieving financial success doesn't require you to have the investing acumen of Warren Buffett or be a trust-fund baby to start securing your financial future.

Since the stock market is our best hope for realizing our dreams, start investing today by putting away small sums of money every month. Then seek out undervalued small-cap stocks for your greatest returns. I like these because they offer opportunities for growth, while still being mostly overlooked by the big investors.

To find these future giants, we'll screen for stocks with market values less than $3 billion, an earnings surprise of 15% or more last quarter, and a forecast of long-term earnings growth potential of at least 15%. We'll filter our findings through the collective investing wisdom of the 160,000 members in our Motley Fool CAPS community. If the best and brightest CAPS players think these stocks hold potential, then we ought to take notice, too.

Here are some of the stocks this simple screen found:

Company

Market Cap

EPS Surprise

Average Analyst
5-Year EPS Est.

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Chico's FAS (NYSE: CHS)

$2.7 billion

$0.10 vs. $0.05

17%

**

Sierra Wireless (Nasdaq: SWIR)

$237 million

$0.13 vs. $0.11

22%

****

Under Armour (NYSE: UA)

$1.7 billion

$0.14 vs. $0.10

22%

****

Source: Yahoo.com and Motley Fool CAPS.

Of course, this is not a list of stocks to buy. This is a starting point for more research. We need to look more closely at these companies to see if analysts' faith in them is well-founded, but we've got the CAPS community helping us here, so let's start with their favorites.

An alternative opportunity
Of the three women's retailers Chico's FAS, Ann Taylor (NYSE: ANN), and Talbots (NYSE: TLB) that have all successfully turned their businesses around this year, only Chico's has yet to savor market acceptance of its achievement. Ann Taylor's shares have jumped 81%, Talbots has almost doubled, but Chico's FAS is up less than 10% year to date.

When it reports earnings tomorrow, analysts are forecasting a 73% increase in profits on a 14% rise in sales. Having instituted a dividend last quarter, Chico's is arguably in a much better financial position than its rivals and offers a more attractive value based on forward earnings estimates.

I find myself agreeing with CAPS member pickemblind, who suggests the turnaround effort under way at Chico's will yield tangible results in the years ahead.

Chico's new head merchant and updated marketing program have been successful over the last year in revamping the brand to better appeal to the core customer. Expect new sourcing efforts to continue to drive gross margin expansion in the coming years.

Basking in luxury
I also think the market is reading wrong the second-quarter guidance from wireless hardware maker Sierra Wireless. No doubt everyone liked the higher first-quarter revenues and profits that came in ahead of analyst forecasts, but its suggestion that profits would amount to somewhere between $0.05 to $0.12 a share disappointed Wall Street, which was looking for $0.15 a stub.

The guidance is predicated on Sierra expecting a higher percentage of revenues coming from its AirCard products, the mobile hot spot cards encroaching on the MiFi products Novatel Wireless had a hard time gaining traction with. With wireless carriers Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint (NYSE: S) amping up their mobile hot spot offerings, we might see Sierra stealing market share from Novatel and turning this into a big growth segment.

CAPS member earlvv has it right that Sierra Wireless will be able to leverage its technology into a bigger slice of pie.

Low debt, potential to leverage and expand market share. wireless market will expand with new services, M2M will provide a number of new market segments.
Consumer growth will continue to climb as economies recover.

When you're all thumbs
Under Armour is another one that impressed investors with what it achieved only to underwhelm everyone with what it says it was going to do next, surprising because it also raised its full-year guidance. That's apparently what happens when you're too good: Analysts want even more out of you and you look like the villain when you fail to hit those marks.

When the stock price falls as Under Armour's did afterwards, it smells like a buying opportunity to me. With a better balance sheet underfoot and better growth prospects ahead, the market will eventually realize the error of its ways and bid Under Armour's shares back up.

Although possibly a bit premature, comparisons with Nike are inevitable, and CAPS member Clint35 thinks it should be valued like the footwear giant as a result.

This a very good company with solid fundamentals and a very good CEO. Eventually it will sell around the same price as Nike or more. It will also match or beat Nike in terms of worldwide sales.

Foolish final thoughts
Stock investing is not brain surgery. Finding good, undervalued companies is not as difficult as the professionals want you to think. You just have to commit to starting now, and do so regularly. Now's the time to begin!

Sprint Nextel is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Under Armour is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick and a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Under Armour. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.