At one point she had only $13 in her bank account and now she runs a multimillion-dollar business.
Meet single mom turned entrepreneur Melissa Kieling—founder and CEO of PackIt, which makes freezable coolers that have attracted the attention of national retailers, like Wal-Mart and Target, as well as Hollywood stars.
Actresses Cameron Diaz and Ashley Olsen have been photographed carrying PackIt coolers. Kieling told CNBC Tuesday that Diaz "just happened to be a big fan," adding it does not hurt that PackIt is headquartered near Los Angeles.
Kieling said on "Squawk Box" she started on the PackIt project at her kitchen table five years ago, after years of searching in vain for ways to keep fresh the healthy lunches she packed for her three kids.
She built a prototype with a shower curtain lining—which she showed off during the interview—and got a couple of friends to invest $200,000 to manufacture 5,000 cloth coolers with freezable gel in the walls of the bags. The company says they keep food cool for 10 hours.
With product in hand, Kieling hit the trade show circuit. "Buyers loved the product."
But it also faced a challenge: "On the shelf it may look like any other product," she acknowledged—saying the real "aha moment" comes when people handle the PackIt coolers after they come right out the freezer ready to go.
To demonstrate the value of the PackIt, Kieling said: "We started a national direct response program, an informercial. We ran that for almost three years with our lunch bag."
Last year, PackIt had $11 million in sales with even bigger goals for this year. "We have a big number in our head. This year will be a good idea for international growth. We're in nearly 40 countries," Kieling said.
—By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere and Kirsten Chang