In the Bags

Hand-beaded accessories have treated Christiana Lapetina-Johnson almost as kindly as she treats her employees.
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Vital Statistics: Christiana Lapetina-Johnson, the 40-year-old founder and CEO of Chatsworth, California-based Christiana Enterprises Inc.

Company: Started in Lapetina-Johnson's garage in 1994, the company makes a collection of hand-beaded bags, home furnishings and apparel.

2002 Projections: $6 million to $8 million

Ready to Leave: "I was in the ready-to-wear business before 1994, working for a successful company out of India for five years. I did sportswear and started beading vests, but I got sick of that, so I thought, 'OK, I'll utilize my knowledge and contacts and try some beaded accessories.' "

"This business is competitive, and you've just got to keep your chin up and keep trying."

Oversaturation: "My quest was to reproduce antique bags; and then, as trends come around, beaded bags became all the rage with couture designers like Badgley Mischka and Valentino. Then the rest of the world catches on to the idea, and I have to face a tremendous amount of competition. At first, I was upset by it because then my business didn't seem special anymore, but I just decided to spend all my energy pushing forward and reinventing, trying to stay at the top of my game and experiment with different things."

On Roots: "Being from the Midwest [Kansas City] has helped me out in a lot of arenas-not just in being an easygoing person in business, but also in being able to work with my employees. You get a lot more with kindness than you would by being a real b****."

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Edition: June 2017

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