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 Act. vs. Est.

Avg. Analyst 5-Year 
EPS Est.

CAPS Rating 
(out of 5)

Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX)

$1.5 billion

$0.05 vs. $0.02



Rubicon Technology (Nasdaq: RBCN)

$563 million

$0.64 vs. $0.50



SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA)

$1.7 billion

$1.36 vs. $1.05



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.

An alternative opportunity
Silly-shoe maker Crocs not only beat Wall Street expectations on earnings and revenues in the fourth quarter, but the effort marked the first time since 2007 that the plastic-shoe cobbler was profitable in all four quarters of the year. It is a pretty amazing turnaround for a company that has been lambasted as little more than a purveyor of faddish style, even if certain industries find the footwear indispensible.

Part of the resurgence has been focusing on its strengths. Not the iconic holey appearance, but rather comfort and -- dare I say it? -- style. Whatever the looks of Crocs shoes, wearers have raved about their comfort. The company has taken that message and made it central to its marketing, along with new styles, such as its loafers.

Ugg boots from Decker Outdoors (Nasdaq: DECK) risked the danger of faddishness but for their uber-comfortable styling. Rising Star portfolio star Timberland is attempting to transcend the bane of being just trendy, eco-friendly footwear and bringing together form and function as well. Taking a page from those playbooks is key to Crocs becoming a lasting value.

Highly rated CAPS All-Star SaintCroix says Crocs still has its haters, but uses them as a contrarian bullish signal.

Ha ha, my feet are so happy. Your feet are miserable. Your feet have no idea. I feel sorry for your poor, sad little feet. Your cramped unhappiness. And you take out all your foot unhappiness on this stock, and it just makes you more unhappy. It makes your wallet unhappy. Now your feet hurt and your wallet hurt.

Green means go!
From Veeco Instruments (Nasdaq: VECO) to Aixtron (Nasdaq: AIXG) to Rubicon Technology, the LED lighting business has been lighting up the charts. Collectively these three specialists have run 46% higher over the past year. Only Cree (Nasdaq: CREE) has been the lone holdout, falling more than 20% in the same time frame.

One Citibank analyst believes the party is over for the entire industry, at least for the time being, because China is ending its subsidy program that has propped the industry up. As a result, the eye-popping earnings the LED industry has turned in won't be around much longer.

All-Star Gtrinvestor says momentum is with companies like Rubicon right now and should maintain the strength they've had at least for a little while.

Their earnings blew past expectations, and their CEO seemed to be pretty optimistic. With so many shorts on this stock I'm expecting some type of pop for this quarter, and an really big pop next quarter if they are able to maintain these No. 's. Long term may be another story, but for now...

Add Rubicon Technology to your watchlist and see if it's able to keep switching on the earnings growth momentum.

Man the ramparts
The subsidy argument sounds a lot like the thesis surrounding solar stocks like SunPower when governments globally started slashing industry subsidies. Spain, Germany, Italy, and the U.S. all dramatically reduced or eliminated the sop they were giving to solar power companies as austerity reigned supreme. Solar stocks were hammered in the aftermath, but other macroeconomic and geopolitical events have made solar and other alternative energy sources a necessary and even viable solution again.

CAPS member jargonific says investors need to rise up against the tyranny of the forces holding back solar players like SunPower, which smash through estimates but still trade weakly.

Short sellers, hedge funds, margin calls, and oil interests. This stock has been artificially held down for years. Time to resist the power, organize, get active, get out into the streets, and well, form a whole new organized investment group. The People!

Investors of the world unite on the SunPower CAPS page, you have nothing to lose but your carbon footprint!

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!

Timberland is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of SunPower and Timberland. 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 owns shares of Aixtron but does not have a financial interest in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.