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It's in the bag for this teen start-up

For some girls, buying clothes involves trying on stylish J. Crew outfits or examining the finer points of flowered flip flops at The Gap.

But Jessie Rymph prefers Goodwill, looking for the perfect old apron or Sunday dress. Call it market research.

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The assertive 16-year-old started her own business last year when she stitched together a pair of thrift-store pants into a handbag. She eventually sold a few to friends, and suddenly they became trendy at her school in Reston, Va.

Her patterned carryalls, which go for $15 apiece, are made from a mosaic of old thrift-store togs and swatches of new fabric that she sews together in a few hours.

While sales are still in their formative stages, she now packs her fabric-samples book wherever she goes. And she even developed, with help from her mom, a 30-second sales pitch.

Ms. Rymph attended camp Start-Up in Wellesley, Mass. last month, hoping to improve her business skills. She's always on the lookout for a potential buyer, and even pitched her wares to a store near Harvard University while on a camp field trip.

She's expanded, too. She now makes kerchiefs. A few girls at the camp bought kerchiefs - and then talked her into upping the price from $5 to $10. Her main competition? The Gap, which sells kerchiefs for about $12.

- Lane Hartill

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society