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:


Market Cap

EPS Surprise

Avg. Analyst 5-Yr EPS Est.

CAPS Rating

Brigham Exploration (Nasdaq: BEXP)

$2.9 billion

$0.15 vs. $0.10



Isilon Systems (Nasdaq: ISLN)

$2.2 billion

$0.09 vs. $0.05



JinkoSolar (NYSE: JKS)

$566 million

$1.75 vs. $0.96



Source: 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, since the CAPS community's helping us out, their favorite selections might be a good place to begin.

Back in the Bakken
Production in the Bakken shale formation is going according to plan for Brigham Exploration. For the third quarter, it produced more than 8,500 barrels of oil equivalent, and it expects that figure to grow to as much as 10,800 BOE in the fourth.

With oil around $85 a barrel, everyone wants to produce more. SandRidge Energy (NYSE: SD), for example, posted record production numbers, though its own earnings effort was hurt by derivative-related losses. And Williams Cos. just paid $925 million for acreage in the Bakken that it estimates represents about 185 million BOE in total net reserves.

Brigham has been bringing superior technology to the Bakken to assist its efforts, and the current higher price of oil -- it averaged only $67 a barrel in the third quarter -- will likely boost profits further. 

As the Fed pursues policies to diminish the dollar, CAPS All-Star member marc64 thinks Brigham's programs will pay off: "Further weakening dollar will drive US investors to beneficiaries connected to exports and basic materials. (At this point, why are we not talking about a "crash" in the dollar? If that happens, the small investor reaction will be significant.)"

File under "profitable"
We've maintained that storage sector bears close watching, as M&A activity there has provided investors with significant returns. Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ) purchase of 3Par got the ball rolling in a big way, and EMC (NYSE: EMC) continues that trend with its tender offer for all outstanding shares of Isilon Systems at a $33.85 buyout price. Building on its purchase of Data Domain last year, EMC continues its growth by acquisition strategy. NetApp, which lost out to EMC in the Data Domain battle, says it might want to make a $1 billion-or-larger buyout, too.

Isilon Systems's unique building-blocks program to combine various storage pieces into one unit attracted CAPS member mtfishmaster: "market demand for File based storage is accelerating and the only scale-out solution that meets the demand is ISLN."

EMC has a dual-track program of acquiring just as much as it invests in R&D. You can add the storage specialist to your watchlist, and get all the Foolish news and analysis about it compiled together in one place.

A brilliant idea
Chinese solar specialist JinkoSolar reported hot earnings earlier this month, but analysts downgrading First Solar, Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL), and other players in the space have worn Jinko down, too. The changing role of government support of the sector leads many investors to predict dark days ahead for solar shops.

Still, Jinko expects production capacity to grow 30% next year. Despite tight competition, it says fourth-quarter shipments will be in the area of 130 to 140 megawatts, about the same as it was able to ship in the third quarter.

While All-Star throwerw considers Jinko an easy $100-a-share stock, the other CAPS All-Stars rating it are about evenly split on its prospects. Head over to the JinkoSolar CAPS page and shine a light on your own opinion of 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!

First Solar is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. 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 here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.