Phuong Mai launched her handbag business, P.MAI, after ditching an unfulfilling corporate job. But in a way, her old career inspired her new one. “As a professional woman, I wanted to feel polished yet comfortable wherever I was going,” she told us, but the chic one-shoulder work bag she carried caused her pain. “I knew a backpack would be a smarter option, but grew frustrated when I couldn’t find one that truly combined form and function.”

Her desire for an attractive backpack was a shared one — P.MAI sold out its original offering and is selling a new line of backpacks, available in several colors. The business also received press attention from the likes of Women’s Wear Daily and Inc., and Mai says her firm is on-track to hit several of its short-term growth goals. Looking ahead, she hopes to “continue to create beautiful, functional products,” and may one day branch out from bags.

Though she started up in San Francisco, Mai is now based in Berlin, after a trip to Europe introduced her to a new network of entrepreneurs — as well as her boyfriend. Since relocating, she has taken advantage of the opportunity to visit nearby dream destinations in Italy, France and elsewhere. “Changing my surroundings is a great source for inspiration, both professionally and personally,” she says.