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Baby Boom

When Jill McArthur needed a gift for her newborn twin nieces, she ended up making her own: matching red and green chili pepper bunting sets. The outfits were a hit, and a friend suggested she market her creations.

McArthur needed little prodding but she knew she needed to be smart about getting her business off the ground. Borrowing the business cards of a friend in the garment business, she bluffed her way into a trade show, where she wowed a sales rep with her creations.

That was three years ago. Today, McArthur is eliciting more than words of encouragement. Sales at her Los Angeles-based company, Tinis to Go, have nearly doubled in each of the past two years. Her clothes are available at Nordstrom and regional high-end boutiques, as well as through mail order. McArthur now has a booth of her own at trade shows, along with a brochure and a Web site: http://www.expresspages.com/t/tinistogo/index.html

Business really started to snowball, says McArthur, when she made good use of marketing opportunities. Through the clothing trade shows, she met a sales rep who agreed to distribute her clothing line, and another who suggested she place ads in apparel publications to subcontract the sewing to professionals. McArthur also befriended writers and editors of baby and children's magazines who've included her clothing line in their stories.

Adding eggplant, frog and sunflower designs to her clothing line, McArthur has realized that perhaps the most valuable marketing strategies are her offbeat creations themselves. As she points out, "Most of my competitors have cute clothing lines, but being both funny and cute really catches people's eyes."

How much does McArthur believe in her designs? So much so that last year she hand-delivered an outfit for Madonna's new baby. No order yet from the singer, but with McArthur's history of unconventional success, you never know.

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