Mandy Coon, 35, head designer and CEO, Mandy Coon
Résumé: A former model, Coon lived all over the world before launching her line in 2009 from a tiny Manhattan studio with just $20,000. Six months later, she garnered instant acclaim at New York Fashion Week. Now she sells her edgy collections at 13 stores and to celebrity clients like Lady Gaga.
Background Check: "Growing up, I wanted to be a scientist; I collected bugs and grew mold. I ended up studying computer science at the University of Houston before leaving to model, but I still love insects. I even designed a fly brooch."
Big Break: "My fall/winter 2010 line was inspired by anatomy. During the fashion show, there were gasps for my padded charmeuse coat with chains. Then the Paris boutique Colette bought the line."
Runaway Bunny: "Our biggest hit was the bunny bag inspired by Shirley MacLaine in Some Came Running she carries a stuffed rabbit purse. I thought, I want a leather bunny! I made one and sold it for $435; people still ask for it."