You don't need the investing acumen of Warren Buffett or the riches of a trust fund baby to achieve financial success.

Since the stock market is your best hope for realizing your 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 stocks 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 in the previous quarter, and forecasts for long-term earnings growth potential of at least 15%. We'll filter our findings through the collective investing wisdom of the 170,000 members in our Motley Fool CAPS community. If the best and brightest CAPS players think these stocks hold potential, we ought to take notice, too.

Here are some of the stocks this simple screen found:


Market Cap

EPS Surprise

Avg. Analyst
5-Year EPS Est.

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Energy Conversion Devices (Nasdaq: ENER)

$215 million

($0.40) vs. ($0.60)



Sonic Solutions (Nasdaq: SNIC)

$255 million

$0.02 vs. ($0.02)*



Wendy's/Arby's (NYSE: WEN)

$1.8 billion

$0.06 vs. $0.05



Sources: Yahoo! Finance and Motley Fool CAPS. *Adjusted earnings

Of course, this is not a list of stocks to buy -- just a starting point for more research. We need to look more closely at these companies to see whether analysts' faith in them is well-founded. Still, since the CAPS community's helping us out, their favorite selections might be a good place to begin.

An alternative opportunity
Last year Energy Conversion Devices gave hope to investors that it would be able to weather the changing dynamics in the solar industry by signing new deals, like the one it inked with Coca-Cola to provide three megawatts of power from its thin-film panels for two Coke buildings in Spain. And last quarter solar product and system sales were $81.3 million, compared with $46 million in the year-ago period, helping to boost the stock.

Yet with PV panel prices expected to decline, even if by not the same margin previously anticipated, ECD will still be burning through cash at a pretty fast clip.

The CAPS community keeps a sunny disposition on the company, though, as 92% of the nearly 1,300 members rating the solar shop believe it will outperform the market. Add Energy Conversion Devices to your My Watchlist page and get all the Foolish news and analysis aggregated in one place.

I'll drink to that
Some might question Sonic Solutions' ability to help companies deliver premium movie content through its CinemaNow technology, considering it couldn't help Blockbuster stave off bankruptcy, but that likely has more to do with the movie rental chain's business model as it faced off with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) than it does with Sonic's technology offerings.

Certainly, Sonic faces stiff competition from the Netflix-Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) partnership for video on demand, but it's not ceding any ground to its rivals, as it's buying video software and compression company DivX to bolster its presence in the Internet TV market.

CAPS member spadiator thinks a Sonic partnership of its own with Redbox operator Coinstar (Nasdaq: CSTR) would help meet the challenges it faces. It would certainly be a novel approach and would help Redbox avoid eventual obsolescence when the DVD model ultimately dies.

Share your views on the Sonic Solutions CAPS page on how the content service provider can still stay relevant.

Man the ramparts
It's the fast-food chain Sonic that has people salivating over the juicy potential another burger tie-up would present after Burger King's going-private deal. But Wendy's/Arby's shows the problems that could confront a burger mash-up, and if it weren't for Arby's sluggish performance that chain might have been a candidate all on its own. After all, Wendy's did say it had someone sniffing around the company earlier this summer.

Highly rated CAPS All-Star llgrout thinks the burger-and-roast beef sandwich company can still make a go of it on its own.

Fast food continues to sell even when the economy sucks, and in actuality, even more. Fast food is what folks who were eating at real restaurants must now turn to once their wallet is light. So despite the state of the economy, this stuff will continue to sell. Add to this a good price right now, and you have an excellent value pick. People must always eat, and let's face it, who doesn't like Wendy's?

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!

Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Apple and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor choices. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Apple and Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey currently does not own any stocks as you can see here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.