At first she assembled keychains in her garage for a small marketing company. Before long, Van de Mark began experimenting with design, shunning most new technology in favor of a handmade look, and by last year she'd saved enough to equip a factory. Today, her products include book-shaped pushpins for Amazon.com Inc. and pewter sunglass cases for A/X Armani Exchange. What's next? Handcrafted gift and stationery products. Certainly she has something to write home about. By Naween A. Mangi
What drove Marie Van de Mark, 27, to become an entrepreneur? A rough childhood: She spent four years in a New York State group home before settling in securely at 16 with a foster family, and always felt owning a business would provide the stability she had lacked. Why promotional products? Simply because a friend introduced her to the trade when she moved to Los Angeles six years ago.