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Crafty Cause

Raising awareness for a cause helped this handbag-maker raise her profile.

What: Handbags made from jeans
Who: Chris Graham of Chris Graham Designs
Where: Marietta, Georgia
When: Started in 2004
Startup costs: $500

Chris Graham started her $2 million business on little more than the seat of her pants. In 2003, Graham was working as a court reporter when she decided to fashion an old pair of jeans into a bag. She gave the bag away as a gift and soon found herself fielding requests for more.

Still, she doubted her handmade bags would turn into a major success. When she was invited to sell them at AmericasMart, an Atlanta apparel show, she nearly turned it down for fear she would barely break even.

But that same year, her three-year-old son was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Armed with a desire to raise awareness, Graham reinvented her bags as the fashionable flagship for juvenile diabetes awareness and went forward with the AmericasMart show.

"We had no idea we would do so well at the show," says Graham, 38, who quit her job in 2004 to work solely on Bootie Bags. "People waited 45 minutes to place an order."

Graham attributes much of her success to word-of-mouth marketing and her work with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Each year, she donates a portion of the proceeds from Bootie Bags, which retail between $89 and $150, to JDRF. So far, she's raised over $60,000 and hopes to eventually hit $1 million.

In January, Graham changed the business name from Bootie Bags Inc. to Chris Graham Designs to make way for a new line of fashion accessories, but the Bootie Bags trend hasn't faded yet. Says Graham, "Every time we turn around, somebody else has heard about us. It's a nonstop thing."

This story appears in the May 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »