Lightning 50: This Year’s Top 10 US Brands Uncovered

The results are in! America’s fastest-growing online businesses have just been revealed in Brightpearl’s annual Lightning 50 league table.

Researchers tracked growth rates for hundreds of companies across the United States to find the fastest growing e-commerce brands of the last year. Each of the businesses that made the list achieved impressive growth against the turbulent backdrop of rising prices, supply chain struggles and wavering consumer demand.

However, the US brands that ranked from first to tenth place made extraordinary progress, registering a combined revenue of $101,581,806 for 2021, and an average growth rate of 226%.

Analysis: Female-led, Tech-powered, Southern-based

So what do the top 10 US-based brands on the Lightning 50 have in common? 

  • The list is dominated by companies based in Southern states, including Kentucky, Texas, Georgia and Missouri
  • Every brand on the top 10 has flagged the invaluable role that technology plays in driving their growth – from using Brightpearl as their Retail Operating System to implementing the latest shopping channels, like livestream and Pinterest 
  • A notable number of the top 10 companies are female-led
  • Certain sectors performed particularly well – two of the three fastest growing brands belong to the sports, leisure and hobbies sector and half are retailers of so-called ‘softgoods’, belonging to the fashion, baby & toddler and homewares industries. 

Sara Arthrell, VP of Product at Brightpearl, says the percentage growth increases for the brands in the top 10 of this year’s Lightning 50 are astronomical. 

Sara says: “It’s awesome to see female-led brands getting the recognition they deserve, and to see brands from Southern states seizing the opportunity to shine. 

“The top 10 results also clearly prove that a slick, flexible tech stack is the key to growing fearlessly and we’re excited to see what these companies will achieve next.”

Meet the brands

1. Hunt USA Inc.

USA winner | America’s Fastest Growing Sports, Leisure & Hobbies Company  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 1,357%

In 2020, weeks before the pandemic hit, online-only DTC brand Hunt USA launched in America. The business quickly grew a loyal and enthusiastic fanbase of passionate cyclists.

This year, its revenue hit almost $11M after a remarkable 13x sales boom – earning the company the coveted top spot on the Lightning 50 USA and the title of America’s Fastest Growing Sports, Leisure & Hobbies Company.

Hunt attributes its significant growth to successfully leveraging strong e-commerce platforms, inventory planning tools and technology to strengthen their retail operations, along with the service they provide as well as their relationships with customers.

The brand has opted for the proven combination of using Shopify Plus to power its e-commerce store and Brightpearl as its retail operating system. 

Samuel Johnson, the brand’s General Market Manager, says: “Finding technology that can grow with us – rather than get in our way – has been crucial to our success. Brightpearl is the nucleus of our whole business. It connects seamlessly with our Shopify Plus store and acts as our single central operating system. It’s the one place we go for everything from inventory management to accounting.

“We’ve worked incredibly hard to get the business off the ground in the USA – winning the Lightning 50 feels like validation.”

2. J. Brooks Boutique

America’s Fastest Growing Online Fashion Store  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 170%

Female-led, black-owned DTC fashion brand J. Brooks Boutique sailed into second place on the Lightning 50 USA after achieving 170% growth in a year. It was also crowned America’s Fastest Growing Online Fashion Store.

Inventory Planner and Shopify Advanced have underpinned the brand’s success, along with livestream selling and SMS marketing.

Founder Jes Brooks says: “Inventory Planner analyzes your data and gives you a reliable breakdown of exactly what to order and when to order it to avoid running out and having too much stock. It means I can spend my time on more important things – like growing the business and designing new items.

“SMS and email marketing has been great for us but one of the biggest barriers to shopping with an e-commerce brand is still the ‘know, like, trust’ factor. Inserting a customer touchpoint via live selling has eliminated the barriers to purchasing for first-time customers. 

“It’s a huge thrill to be recognized in the Lightning 50.”

3. Analog Cases LLC

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 141%

Analog Cases is the first case company for mobile music producers. Founded in 2018 in Los Angeles, the DTC brand’s collection of lightweight and durable cases are now used by musicians worldwide.

After committing to developing its email marketing, and focussing on international expansion, Analog Cases achieved a revenue growth rate of 141%, which secured the Shopify-powered brand third place on this year’s Lightning 50 USA. 

Founder Greg Pritchard says: “By sponsoring several giveaways of music gear over the last year, we were able to increase our email list from 5,000 music producers to over 35,000, who are all currently active. We have increased the revenue from our email marketing channel from virtually zero one year ago to now being above 30%.”

4. Caden Lane

America’s Fastest Growing Baby & Toddler Company  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 132%

While big-name baby brands have folded, Texas-based Caden Lane has just reported a 132% growth rate – earning the company 4th place on Brightpearl’s annual Lightning 50 league table of the fastest growing online brands. 

The brand, which is known for its celebrity-endorsed range of personalized newborn clothing along with nursery decor, is female-led, which Founder and CEO Katy Mimari says has helped drive its success, along with the use of Inventory Planner. 

She says: “Being female-run gives us a unique advantage over our competitors because we’re able to relate to and connect with our customers in a meaningful, community-like way.

“Baby and nursery trends used to change every couple of months, now it’s every day or two. 

“To help us accurately forecast demand, we use Inventory Planner, connected to our Shopify-powered store. It helps us predict how much we need to order of every item – even new products – in order to meet our revenue goals.

5. Build4less LLC

America’s Fastest Growing DIY & Gardening Company  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 100%

Build4Less is a Delaware-based DIY and gardening brand that sells insulation and roofing materials both wholesale and DTC, via its Insulation4US and Roofing4US website. 

Thanks to a tech stack built around the winning combo of Shopify and Brightpearl, Build4Less achieved a 100% growth rate and catapulted to fifth place on the Lightning 50.

The company has focussed on market capture via online channels in the last year, building on a tried-and-tested marketing strategy. 

6. Wexel Art

America’s Fastest Growing Homewares Company  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 89%

Texas-based Wexel Art offers contemporary art displays, including frames, 3D art and shadow boxes, which are designed to look great with any decor.

The business credits Brightpearl, SPS Commerce and Shopify as the key tech tools that have helped it achieve an impressive 89% growth rate and earn a top-10 spot on the Lightning 50 USA, as well as being named America’s Fastest Growing Homewares Company. 

Co-founder Morgan Doherty says: “Our customers come back to us again and again because of how efficiently we run our business. Using Brightpearl, we’re able to see real time inventory, along with what is on the way so we can meet customer deadlines. Our key customers are interior designers and meeting their deadlines is critical. They have come to rely on Wexel Art as a reliable vendor who can meet their demanding deadlines.”

7. Pluck LLC dba Keep Supply

America’s Fastest Growing Electronics & Components Company  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 78%

Keep Supply ditched QuickBooks to join Brightpearl, and hasn’t looked back. The decision to implement Brightpearl as its Retail Operating System is one of the reasons a year-on-year growth rate of 78% was achieved during a challenging year for e-commerce. 

A Magento-powered webstore and Amazon sales have also boosted revenue for the Missouri-based brand, along with a commitment to customer service

Director of Brand and Marketing Jeff Hedrick says: “We are in an industry that is not driven by e-commerce, but we’ve used it to show there’s a better way to buy parts. Our mission is to ‘be the best part’ so we focus on taking care of our customers throughout the buying journey.

8. Good Start Packaging

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 71%

As the climate crisis deepens, demand for sustainable packaging has soared – and New Hampshire-based Good Start Packaging has seized the opportunity to fulfill it. 

The B2B brand specializes in innovative, plastic-free packaging made from renewable plant-based materials like wheat straw fiber, sugarcane, and corn. The range includes compostable take out containers, recycled food bags and compostable coffee cups. 

During 2020-21, the company’s revenue jumped by 71% thanks to improved paid and organic search performance alongside a tech stack that includes BigCommerce, Brightpearl and Hubspot.

9. Hoven

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 64%

California-based Hoven is a retail and wholesale brand that specializes in eyewear and casual apparel. 

After swapping outdated ERP Netsuite for Brightpearl, and focussing on marketing backed up by grassroots marketing and tight distribution, Hoven achieved a 64% growth rate over the last year to take ninth place on the Lightning 50 USA

The business is deep-rooted in the West Coast action, sport and lifestyle market and takes pride in ‘creating excellent products at compelling price points to passionate professionals and amateurs alike’. 

10. Prima Coffee Equipment

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 56%

The Kentucky-based Prima Coffee’s top quality coffee kit – which includes grinders, filters and a huge selection of coffee machines – has proved so popular that the brand’s revenue jumped by 56% in the last year. 

After switching from Skuvault to Brightpearl, Prima Coffee has built a loyal following of commercial and consumer customers and added multiple sales channels that include several websites alongside Amazon, Discount Bandit and Facebook. 

Jordan Kavuma, Director of Marketing, says: “Before Brightpearl, we were getting bogged down by repetitive manual tasks and spending all our time dealing with inefficiencies.

“Brightpearl’s Automation Engine has helped us speed up our order processing by around 50%, giving us back the freedom to innovate and focus on our ideas for growing the business.”

Want to know which other brands made the Lightning 50? Check out the full list here.

The Lightning 50 was open to all e-commerce businesses with annual turnovers from £/$1M-250M. Entry was free and applicants were asked to submit two full years of revenue data for 2020 and 2021 to be considered.