Company: Bombinizz, Pelham, New York
Biz whiz: Maria Rosell, 47
Works with: Daughters Erika, 16, Katie, 13, and Kimberly, 10; Maria's mom, Betty Rodriguez, 78
Big idea: Bags large enough to hold bed pillows to take on sleepovers
Sales: $7,000, since late 2011
Inspiration: When Maria's girls packed for sleepovers, the pillows that never fit in their backpacks or duffles ended up on the floor of the car—which made Mom crazy. Aiming to keep their gear together and clean, Maria sketched a long rectangular bag with handles on a Post-It note and asked her mother, Betty, to sew some before an upcoming Girl Scouts overnight. Betty created lightweight, roomy red bags big enough for the pillows, adding extra pockets for toiletries and cell phones. "Where'd you get those?" asked troop moms, offering to pay $30 for one. Maria realized they just might have a business.
Teaming up: Betty was willing to make more for test marketing, and Maria's daughters picked fabrics based on personal preference and friends' feedback. They gave bags as birthday presents, which led to calls for more. We'd better give this thing a name, thought Maria. She settled on Bombini—a scientific term for "bumblebee"—after one buzzed by her window. The girls suggested adding two z's at the end to signify catching zzz's, and pronounced it bom-BEAN-eez. Erika, an aspiring graphic designer, created the logo. A lawyer buddy filed for trademarks and patents, and a photographer pal shot publicity photos of Katie, Kimberly, and friends with the bags. Betty kept sewing so they'd have enough to sell at the 2010 Pelham Fall Fest, a new neighborhood street fair.
Growing strong: Holiday boutique organizers and a local retailer expressed interest in Bombinizz. But to be able to fill bigger orders, Maria knew she'd need a manufacturer and more business knowledge. She spent most of 2011 doing research and using ThomasNet.com to find a reliable production facility. That Christmas season Bombinizz sold briskly locally. In early 2012 Maria debuted the bags at an Atlanta trade show, attracting attention from monogramming stores and hospital gift shops. Her wish is for the bag to be carried in Bed Bath & Beyond, with a line of travel products—and her kids are committed to getting her there. "Though junior year is really busy, I love that I can use my graphic skills to help Mom while building my college portfolio," says Erika. According to Maria, the key to getting the kids' cooperation is to ask, not demand, and involve them in decisions. Kimberly agrees. "This is our company," she says proudly.