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WAHM success: Purse sales

Kelly Warfel had been scanning the booths at a business expo in April when she stumbled upon a product she knew could sell - a purse with interchangeable handles and materials.

While she isn't making gobs of money yet, Warfel has managed to create a work-from-home business selling the unique purses. She has made back her initial investment and says she has laid the groundwork for earning a steady income.

"I do home parties, I go to shows -- I try to let everyone I know see how easy and affordable it can be to be fashionable with handbags,'' Warfel says. Warfel, a Weston mother of a 6- and an 8-year-old, is a sales representative for Miche Bags.

Michelle Romero, who had become frustrated when having to transfer all her things from one purse to another, founded the company and now relies on distributors and representatives across the country to sell the bags. Warfel said she had criteria when looking for a work-at-home business:

"I wanted to sell something new and fresh at an affordable price point that I could get excited about.''

She said becoming a sales representative opened her eyes.

"I've realized I don't have to be part of corporate world to make a living.''

After having her first child, Warfel says she did some consulting work from home. More recently, she became the South Florida director of ewomennetwork, a networking group for businesswomen. Neither, she says, brought her the income she wanted.

Shiela Gomez, the South Florida distributor of the Miche Bags and Warfel's supplier, said the Weston mom makes great use of her connections to build her business. Unlike Avon or Mary Kay, Miche Bags is not a multi-level marketing business. Warfel doesn't sign up distributors. Her business comes from selling to customers.

The concept is the base bag remains the same but the outer shell is magnetic and can be swapped for different colors or patterns. The bag sells for $35 and the shells for $20.

The big benefits, Warfel discovered, is she didn't need to buy tons of inventory up front and she is able to sell mostly from brochures to other mothers during play dates or activities. Her samples are her own personal bags.

Warfel realizes she may have to confront an issue others face when they build a business from their home - finding balance. She plans to be cautious not to book too many evening house parties.

"Right now as I'm starting up, it's part-time income because I'm treating it like a part-time job,'' Warfel said. "If I treat it as a full-time job, I think it would yield full-time income.''