Maria Peevey, 39
SimplyShe Inc., San Francisco
Projected 2008 sales: $50 million
Description: Manufacturer of fashion products, especially pet fashions
Puppy love: It started when Maria Peevey's golden retriever inspired her to write SimplyDog, a book full of humorous life lessons. "I quickly realized that there were no fashion-based products for pets," says Peevey. "A light went off in my head." SimplyShe had designed products for women since 1999, but in 2004 the SimplyDog line of pet fashions and accessories was born.
Learning curve: Peevey had great success selling SimplyShe products to high-end boutiques, but she knew the burgeoning pet products industry had mass-market appeal. "We got our chops wet in servicing the boutique market," she says. "I had a great foundation in terms of creating and launching products."
Big dogs: In a bold move, Peevey pitched her SimplyDog line to a vice president of merchandising at Petco in 2005 and gained the retailer as her first big account. Armed with that success, she pitched and won a contract with retail giant Wal-Mart in 2006. "There was such a huge opportunity," says Peevey, whose pet products run the gamut from dresses, jackets and necklaces to beds, carriers and toys. "[With] pet fashions, nobody had really implemented a multiproduct fashion-based offering in the mass market. And that's what we did."
World domination: Today the company has a national presence, with brands that include SimplyDog, SimplyCat, SimplyShe and SimplyWee, a line of infant and toddler apparel and accessories, as well as plans to expand internationally.
Follow her lead: Don't let uncertainty hold you back from approaching large retail chains.
What is your secret to success?
Peevey: Having the guts to go for it.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
Peevey: Don't think; just do. People spend way too much time worrying about how it's not going to work out and not enough time focusing on how it is going to work out.
When did you know you'd "made it"?
Peevey: When I really felt like I made it was when I walked into Wal-Mart and saw an entire aisle dedicated to SimplyShe pet fashion.
What was the first toy or reward you bought for yourself when you became successful?
Peevey: A diamond ring. On the friendship finger. Diamonds are a girl's best friend.