You don't need the investing acumen of Warren Buffett or the riches of a trust-fund baby to achieve financial success. Small sums of money invested monthly in undervalued small-cap stocks offer the best growth opportunities because the big investors mostly ignore them.

Below, we screen for stocks with less than a $3 billion market cap that served up earnings surprises of 15% or more in the previous quarter and have a long-term earnings growth forecast of at least 15%. We'll then filter our findings through the collective investing wisdom of the 170,000 members in our Motley Fool CAPS community.

Here are some of the stocks this simple screen found.


Market Cap

EPS Actual vs. Estimate

Average Analyst 5-Year EPS Estimate

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Fortress Investment Group (NYSE: FIG)

$893 million

$0.19 vs. $0.15



JinkoSolar (NYSE: JKS)

$605 million

$2.10 vs. $1.53



Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (NYSE: KKD)

$599 million

$0.13 vs. $0.09



Sources: 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.

An alternative opportunity
There's no surprise in the level of coziness that exists between hedge fund operators such as Fortress Investment Group, Harbinger Group, Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX), or SAC Capital. And as more of them go public, as Apollo Global Management did in March, we're going to see them nuzzling up against each other more often than they already do.

It was during their heyday that these players held what was called Hedgestock, where the uber-rich sipped champagne at the tony British castle Knebworth House while being entertained by the likes of Roger Daltrey of The Who. More recently, Fortress was part of a group of investors that bought $280 million worth of preferred shares in Harbinger.

They might not be holding hands and singing "Age of Aquarius" anymore, but they may want to find a higher level of consciousness to address their sagging performance. There's still some pagan darkness surrounding these financiers, and it's hard to recommend them as a viable investment, particularly when it's their own compensation that often matters most.

That could be why nearly 30% of all the CAPS All-Stars rating Fortress see it as underperforming the broad market averages. It might be best to simply follow this stock by adding it to your watchlist, but you can also head over to the Fortress Investment Group CAPS page and tell us whether you think it's best to hedge your bets.

Blair witch project
Analysts at William Blair believe that JinkoSolar can wring additional non-silicon costs out of its module production, primarily through capacity expansion and efficiency improvements, letting it reduce costs from the current $0.73 per watt down to $0.67 by the end of the year.

But others argue that achieving economies of scale is no sure thing. They point to Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE) as a case where, despite a consistent ramp-up of polysilicon production, significant and lasting cost reductions have been fleeting. Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL) has been no better at it, either, slashing all of a penny from its costs from last quarter. At $0.73 per watt, Trina's costs are the same as Jinko's and are at the same level as in last year's third quarter.

Yet CAPS member mdriver78 would tend to agree with the Blair analysts who see the solar shop achieving better results because of its top industry position: "Reportedly among the best operating margins in the sector. Company seems greatly underpriced based on current and expected earnings forecasts."

Some 83% of the 136 CAPS members rating Jinko see it beating the Street going forward. You can add it to the Fool's free portfolio tracker to keep an eye on how fast it can get there.

A hole in the story
I might also be wary of taking too big a bite out of doughnut maker Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, despite its hot glazed performance. It reported its best quarterly earnings report in seven years as revenues jumped 14% and profits more than doubled year over year. Over the past month, Krispy Kreme's shares surged by 62%, and its stock has more than doubled over the past year.

The risk, though, is glaringly obvious: It may have been a singular quarter for the company, so we need to see whether it can repeat the performance in future quarters. But CAPS member mitleg is willing to give Krispy Kreme the benefit of the doubt.

It has been on a tear, and has fantastic projected growth. I think all the bad times might well be behind it. It still has fantastic brand awareness, and an excellent product.

I can't argue with the brand and the taste, and its financial situation is markedly improved over the dark days of yesteryear. Management reaffirmed its full-year outlook, and with consumers seemingly willing to swallow higher prices -- Flowers Foods (NYSE: FLO) also reported better results by passing on higher costs -- repeating the tasty quarter just might be doable.

Head over to the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts CAPS page and tell us whether you think the stock is worth more than just a nibble at these prices.

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!

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.