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Aina Cherry, 30: President of A. Cherry Handbags

Why did you start making bags?
For convenience. I was studying architecture at Northeastern University in Boston. One day I was getting on the bus with all my stuff in a backpack, and I had to take the entire bag off just to find my change. People behind me were yelling. I thought, 'There has to be a better way.' So I pulled out my sketch pad and drew a bag.

And how did you make the bag into a business?
That Christmas I got about $1,000 in gifts. So I opened the Yellow Pages and started calling manufacturers. I used the money to make five samples that I could bring around to stores.

When did you know you'd made it?
In graduate school, I had really good grades, but I was so busy with my company that I wasn't around much. One of my guidance counselors said, 'I don't know what you're doing, but we're not happy.' And then he mentioned that he liked the bag I was carrying—one of mine. So I said, 'You really want to know what I've been doing?' All of a sudden he thought I was the best student in the world.