Susan Handley first started designing handbags when she was ten years old. At that time, the ideas remained strictly in her imagination. Today, they’ve grown up to become a very real part of her adult life. As the founder and sole designer of Beijo, Susan is not only watching her own dream come true, but is also the creative force behind a growing success story for women all across the country. As a single mom struggling just to make ends meet, Susan started Beijo with no prior business experience. Instead, she had the encouragement of her friends and family, and the desire to make a better life for herself and her young son, Kyle. It was Kyle, in fact, who provided the name for his mom’s company. “Beijo,” which means “kiss” in Portuguese, was Kyle’s second spoken word, one that the toddler often repeated when asking for a “beijo, Mama, beijo.” From that kiss for luck was born the inspiration for Susan to begin selling—at first by the armload out of her car—the Beijo bags that, only three years later, are now sold by the tens of thousands at home parties. Having declined department store offers to carry her bags nationwide, Susan is committed to her vision that home parties remain the core of her company. Many of the women who host Beijo parties are in the process of gaining their first measure of financial independence. These women are, as Susan says, “Exactly like myself, who can do something to make money and feel good and still be there at the bus stop at 2:00 when their children get home.”
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