From the May 2008 issue of Startups

What: Paper clip with a sticky note
Who: Janet Lau of Clip-rite Inc.
Where: Hayward, California
When: Started in 2007
Startup costs:
$100,000

For years, Janet Lau organized her papers with sticky notes and paper clips but was constantly frustrated by the messiness that would ensue. Then, in 2004, she decided to fuse the two office supplies together, and Clip-Tabs were born. "You think about it for days and months, and that's when it hits you and you wake up," recalls Lau of the moment her idea came to life.

Her brother Max, who was living in China at the time, was able to help her search for potential manufacturers while she lined up deals in the U.S. with buyers such as Office Depot, Office Max and Staples. The paper clips, which are attached to a durable, double-sided note and come in a variety of bright colors, hit stores last year and sell for about $3 a package.

Clip-rite Inc. isn't Lau's first entrepreneurial endeavor, however. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, with an engineering degree, she spent some time working at Intel before launching Ficcare, a line of high-end hair accessories that she still manages today.

With Clip-rite's 2008 sales projections hitting $500,000, Lau, 38, has plans to provide a major line of office supply solutions for consumers within the next few years. She also hopes to start distributing Clip-rite products to a variety of retail outlets beyond office supply stores, such as grocery stores and Target.

As for aspiring entrepreneurs, Lau emphasizes that anybody with a good idea should start by determining how it will play out in the marketplace. "Everyone is thinking of a product or service to enhance people's lives, and if you have that passion for it, make sure you do your homework before you dive into it," she explains. "I did a lot of research for my product and felt I really had something unique."