From the February 2000 issue of Startups

When Abbie Lynn Kearse, 34, was offered a chance to emerge from her behind-the-scenes job at MTV and become an on-air reporter, she turned the seeming dream job down. The reason? A warped body image and personal insecurities. "I wanted to be on the air, but I wasn't ready to deal with being under a microscope," explains Kearse, whose full figure initially hindered her from TV stardom.

But six years later, after turning 30 and experiencing the life-altering loss of her grandmother, Kearse decided to toss apprehension aside and ask her bosses for another shot at 15 minutes of fame. The only problem? Though equipped with a newfound confidence, Kearse couldn't find any fun, hip clothing to fit her plus-size figure. "They'd usually hand me something from Bill Bellamy's wardrobe, like an oversized windbreaker," says Kearse. Not wanting to dress like a rapper every day, Kearse was determined to find clothes to reflect her girlie, glam-rock image.

"Nothing represented what I was about," says Kearse, "and there wasn't anybody going out of their way to help me, so it fell into my hands." Diligently studying fashion magazines, Kearse sketched designs and had tailors whip them up. In 1998, when MTV didn't renew the on-air portion of her contract, she left her salary behind and stopped working.

At home, living off of savings, Kearse read books on design, researched the Internet and schooled herself in e-commerce. She bought fabrics and trim for a line of six dresses, hired a Web team, registered her domain name and contracted an artist to design her logo. Eight months and $14,000 later, she launched abbie lynn usa, selling funky dress designs in sizes L, XL and XXL via her Web site, http://www.abbielynn.com With no money for advertising, she sent out self-written press releases and bios, relying on editorial coverage to promote awareness.

Since the spring/summer collection debuted in May 1999, http://www.abbielynn.com has climbed to 2,000 hits per day. The Web site features more than just her clothing line; editorial content, with music reviews and interviews written by Kearse, rounds it out. At press time, she was also planning negotiations with potential investors to expand her product line.

"I just want to make sure my vision doesn't get distorted," says Kearse. "That's the one thing I like about being my own boss--I only have to answer to myself. It is so cool!"