From the January 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

Description: manufacturer and distributor of body-care products

Startup: less than $5,000 in 1999

Projected 2005 sales: $20 million

Alchemist's solution: In 1998, Rosie Herman was $75,000 in debt from years of fertility treatments and was desperately looking for a way to make money while staying at home with her twins. Using her 20 years of experience as a manicurist to guide her, Herman set out to create her own body-care product by mixing a combination of oils, sea salts and organic products. Six months later, she knew the mixture was perfect when she used the lotion to treat her own skin, which had become dry and cracked from extensive exposure to chemicals and water during her work as a manicurist.

Undercover debt: To get her new product to market, Herman used her sister's credit cards to purchase supplies, worked from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. while her daughters were sleeping, and exchanged food for use of her neighbor's computer. Meanwhile, she kept her growing pile of bills a secret from her husband, Neal. "All he knew was that he had to go to work and bring home money," Herman explains. He has since been let in on the secret and is now a full-time partner in the business.

Baby steps:One Minute Manicure not only healed Herman's hands; it also relieved her of debt. Originally sold at craft shows, her products are now available in salons including J.C. Penney, Trade Secret and Ulta. She also has a new hair product that will be launched both nationally and internationally by mid-2005. What's her formula for success? "Just take small baby steps," she advises. "That's what I did. I thought 'I don't want to go over the cliff, but I'll hang on the side.'"