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 (out of 5)

Open Table (Nasdaq: OPEN) $1.7 billion $0.23 vs. $0.15 51% *
ReneSola (NYSE: SOL) $710 million $0.70 vs. $0.52 21% ****
Telestone Technologies (Nasdaq: TSTC) $115 million $1.14 vs. $0.51 30% ****

Sources: Yahoo! Finance 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.

An alternative opportunity
Online reservation systems are something restaurants can do on their own, but OpenTable showed in its last quarterly report that a growing number of restaurants find it indispensible. The installed restaurant base grew 26% year over year, leading to a 52% increased in seated diners.

According to NPD Group, full-service restaurants bore the brunt of the recession and saw the weakest traffic patterns of any restaurant sector. So a service like OpenTable that can bring diners in the door is valuable even if it means having to pay fairly steep fees to belong. But if the economy turns, and diners once again come out in droves, restaurants might not be so willing to pay the hefty charges.

At 70 times next year's earnings, OpenTable isn't cheap, but if Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) can bid $5 billion for Groupon's deal-of-the-day coupon service, maybe it's not so far off the mark. CAPS members obviously aren't convinced, believing as Riskysam does that its competitive moat is not very wide or very deep:

will do well... until someone comes up with an free app for booking restaurants. Oh wait.. it is being done right now as we speak

You can reserve a spot in your watchlist for OpenTable and get all the Foolish news and analysis about it compiled together in one place.

I'll drink to that
If you looked at the performance of solar stocks over the past month, you'd think you would be hard pressed to find any good news, particularly if your first stop was Suntech Power (NYSE: STP), which burned investors with a disappointing quarterly earnings report. But Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL) actually was a hopeful report, and ReneSola, too, was optimistic about its future after a strong third quarter. The fact that ReneSola trades at one of the lowest valuations compared with its growth prospects suggests how low the sector has fallen.

CAPS member Futurenhldad also believes the market has overreacted to macro events and that ReneSola's future is bright indeed:

Stock has dropped over the last month despite another great earnings report. The stock is oversold at these levels. SOL is showing strength compared to the general market over the last week, and i believe it is formed a bottom and will move higher into the next Q report.

Shine a light on the ReneSola CAPS page telling us whether you think the stock will wilt further or regain its footing and brightly lead the way back up.

Man the ramparts
With investors beating down shares of Telestone Technologies over its decision to dilute them by issuing 1.7 million new shares, they're ignoring the long-term growth prospects the Chinese communications company has through its relationships with China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom (NYSE: CHU). Sales in professional services, which help the phone companies build networks on the country's current 3G technology, more than tripled to $25.6 million, while equipment sales jumped 58% year over year.

While the market may be turning against Telestone, CAPS members have not, and 92% of those rating the communications specialist believe it will go on to turn out market beating results in the future. You can add it to the Fool's free portfolio tracker to keep an eye on what other signals it's sending.

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!

Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google, OpenTable, and Suntech Power are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. The Fool owns shares of China Mobile and Google. 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.