Susan Handley had no design experience when she launched Beijo Bags LLC in 2002. Nor did she have a marketing plan--until her first customers inspired one. "I was in a no-win job, unfulfilled spiritually and financially," explains Handley, 34, on the impetus to launch her Santa Monica, California, handbag and accessories business. Armed with a small loan from her mother, Handley set off for China to establish manufacturing connections. On the trip, she fell in love with a unique fabric and says, "I knew this was it. I could make this work."
With or without a business plan, Handley knew her handbags would appeal to women. She sold her first 300 bags at a holiday fair, and her customers were so ecstatic, they clamored for ways to share the bags with friends. Thanks in part to these early fans, sales have hit $10 million and the bags are now primarily distributed at homebased parties by sales reps, many of whom are stay-at-home moms.