Donna Salyers’ enterprise and energy has saved countless animals from destruction, created more than 60 jobs for local women, and garnered abundant national media attention for fashion design — a field usually dominated by designers in places like New York City.

Not bad for a woman with no formal business education.

“Enthusiasm and passion can take you a long way,” says Salyers, founder and president of Covington-based Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs. “I knew nothing about running a business. What’s exciting to me is that there’s always something new and exciting to learn.”

When Salyers designed her first full-length faux fur coat in her basement in 1984, she had no idea she was sewing a coat that would become the inspiration for what is now the 11th largest female-owned business in the region. It wasn’t until Salyers wore the coat out and received compliments from a number of people that she realized just how marketable faux fur coats could be. “I never told (that the coat was made of faux fur). I just said thank you,” Salyers says. “I’m thinking 4,000 people tried it on.”

Donna Salyers made $300,000 in 1989 — her first year of business — by assembling and selling kits for people who wanted to sew their own faux fur coats. She and her husband, Jim, were amazed at their success. Since then, Fabulous-Furs has evolved from a basement-run mail-order service into an upscale studio where Salyers designs coats, bags, shoes and other accessories. “I’ve created a new category in the market,” Salyers says.

Salyers’ pieces have been featured everywhere, from the pages ofVogue to the 2008 Miss Universe competition, where each of the 15 semifinalists wore a Fabulous-Fur before an estimated worldwide audience of 250 million.

The British Ministry of Defense is considering swapping its traditional bearskin hats for Fabulous-Furs. If the swap goes through, it would end a 240-year tradition.

Outside of Fabulous-Furs, Salyers is heavily involved in the community. She sits on several boards, including U.S. Bank’s Northern Kentucky Board of Advisers, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, and the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.

In 2006, Salyers was honored as Northern Kentucky University’s Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2007, the Northern Kentucky Chamber chose Fabulous-Furs for the fifth consecutive year as one of the fastest-growing small businesses in Northern Kentucky through its “Emerging 30” program.

Salyers also has become active in animal compassion, which was the initial inspiration for her first faux coat. Fabulous-Furs supports The Angel Fund, which is dedicated to cheetah conservation, as well as Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary, which cares for abused and abandoned exotic animals. Salyers also supports breast cancer research by selling pink mink faux fur scarves and donating $10 from each scarf sold to cancer research. On community service, Salyers comments, “I always felt I had five times more breaks and luck than a person can expect, so I have an enormous debt. I’m tickled to death to help other organizations.”