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 of 15% or more 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:

Company

Market Cap

EPS Surprise

Average Analyst 5-Year EPS Estimate

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

MIPS Technologies (Nasdaq: MIPS) $686 million $0.17 vs. $0.10 19% **
Sotheby's (NYSE: BID) $3.0 billion ($0.29) vs. ($0.42) 19% ***
Tri-Tech Holding (Nasdaq: TRIT) $104 million $0.19 vs. $0.13 25% **

Sources: Yahoo.com and Motley Fool CAPS.

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, because the CAPS community is helping us out, its favorite selections might be a good place to begin.

An alternative opportunity
It's likely that one of the first companies a tech investor thinks of for connections in the electronic living room is Broadcom (Nasdaq: BCRM), whose systems-on-a-chip and software enable delivery of voice, video, and data across consumer electronics platforms. That company recently reported record third-quarter results. Yet dig a little deeper and you find that it's really chip designer MIPS Technologies that helps drive that performance. Broadcom is MIPS Technologies' biggest customer, accounting for about 15% of revenues.

MIPS Technologies licenses its processor architecture to semiconductor companies like Broadcom, Atheros Communications (Nasdaq: ATHR), and Sigma Designs (Nasdaq: SIGM). The output finds itself in set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, and digital TVs. Mobile handsets are a new market for this potential rule breaker, one that could provide its next avenue of growth.

CAPS member LoveMeSomeGreen appreciates the higher profile afforded MIPS Technologies.

Been long ol' Mipsy since the $4.50 range in April. Jim Cramer made my day a couple weeks back when he had [CEO] Sandeep Vij on Mad Money for a 10 minute segment about how fantastic this company is. The best processor architecture there is out there. [Mergers and acquisitions] potential. Earnings growth. What else can you say?

I'll drink to that
The rich are different from you and me, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said. Sure, they have more money, as Ernest Hemingway supposedly retorted, but they also like to spend it on baubles you and I can only shake our heads at. Art auction house Sotheby's recently sold an Andy Warhol painting of a Coca-Cola bottle for $35 million: Not even a long recession stops the conspicuous consumption. In fact, Sotheby's, Christie's, and tiny auctioneer Phillips de Pury sold more than $1 billion worth of art over the past two weeks.

CAPS member Populist looks at it as the wealthy investing in something more tangible than a weakening dollar, and 93% of the nearly 600 CAPS members rating Sotheby's pick it to continue to capitalize on the willingness of the rich to spend a lot. You can add Sotheby's to your watchlist page to get all the Foolish news and analysis about it in one place.

Man the ramparts
Maybe it was the market downturn in general, or perhaps it was the fraud accusations leveled against industry peer RINO International (Nasdaq: RINO), but the shares of Chinese wastewater treatment specialist Tri-Tech Holding were 10% lower this week after a nice run-up in the summer.

Tri-Tech Holding is smaller than either RINO International or Duoyuan Global Water, yet investors have warmed up to it after it signed a deal with oil giant Sinopec that could generate $32 million for it over the life of the contract.

CAPS member mdavis166 writes that Tri-Tech finds itself in the right place at the right time.

Tritech is in a perfect position to take advantage of this influx of government money as it specializes in [exactly] the kind of service which every province, city, and town will need if they are to continue with expansion/modernization.

With fewer than 50 CAPS members weighing in on Tri-Tech, it is still flying under the radar of much of the investing community. So head over to the Tri-Tech Holding CAPS page and treat us to your own opinion on its prospects.

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.

Sigma Designs is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Atheros Communications and Sotheby's are Motley Fool Hidden Gems picks. The Fool owns shares of Atheros Communications. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. 

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