Remember the TopsyTail(TM)? How could you forget? The best-selling hair accessory in history had a ubiquitous infomercial in the 1990’s that set the standard for other fashion accessory products to follow. TopsyTail(TM) sold over $100 million in a short period of time. Meanwhile, other successful products Hairdini(TM), Whirl-a-Style(TM) and FanTail(TM) have enjoyed longer market longevity, and evolving product lines. All products were invented by women, who got into the business for different reasons in unique ways.
FanTail(TM)- consistently a best seller at Ulta stores for over five years.
For Sandra Lunde, the inventor of the FanTail(TM) (which inserts in the hair to make a spiky ponytail), an actual dream about inventing something for the hair was the epiphany she needed to get into the business. “The dream was so real that I knew I just had to invent something and make it come true”, Sandra recalls. She always enjoyed doing hair as a child, and even did her mother’s hair, while dreaming of a future as a hairstylist. She notes that she would have gone into another creative field, such as graphic or interior design, had she not done this. She was quite the fashionista as well, reading beauty magazines and shopping for the latest trends in clothing. She has long, straight hair that, while plain when worn down, works well with her FanTail(TM) product, especially during the summers.
She attributes “perseverance, a positive attitude and wanting to succeed” as personal traits that led to her success. She invested her own money in the product, and while she got frustrated at times, “kept going” no matter what. The inspiration for the product’s circular pronged shape came during a night of ordering in- “We got a pizza to go and there was a plastic thing inside the box, it was to hold the box from sticking to the pizza…and from that I got a basic shape for my product. Kind of weird I know!” Had she done anything differently, she would have tried to get a licensing agreement with an outside company for her first product, Clip-N-Lift, and collect royalties, instead of making and marketing the product herself. With the FanTail(TM) she got it right, and decided to go with a licensing agreement through Accessory Brainstorms. She tells future inventors to “believe that you can do anything and never give up!”
TopsyTail(TM) – dominated the marketplace from 1991-93, selling over $100 million.
Tomima Edmark, the inventor of TopsyTail(TM) (which turns a ponytail inside out to make interesting hairdos), simply put, wanted to be her own boss. She had climbed as high as she could and reached the glass ceiling at IBM, but tired of working for other people. She was interested in hair out of necessity; she had always had long hair and “was always looking for quick solutions”. Fashion was always in her mind growing up, and she “always wanted to be a fashion designer or do something artsy-creative. I designed a hanger to hold clothing matched with accessories that came with instructions on how to make four or five outfits out of the things held by the hanger. With my surge machine I made matching placemats and napkins for football, soccer and baseball teams”. While she didn’t consider herself a fashionista in the traditional sense, she remembers “I certainly had my own strange sense of fashion. While other kids were wearing sloppy, grungy clothes in Seattle, I made my own clothes, many of them in batik, macramé, crocheted or knitted. And I had 20 different hats!” She’s still not a heavy shopper, but prefers spicing up classics with accessories- “they make your clothing trendy”, she notes She funded and reinvested in TopsyTail(TM) herself.
The inspiration for the product design came from a circular knitting needle, which she one day discovered she could create hairstyles with. She gave it an ergonomic handle shaped like a toothbrush, and chose the color red because “you will always see it in a drawer”. She still uses her TopsyTail(TM) daily to create dozens of different hairdos. Life after TopsyTail(TM) wasn’t perfect- “hair jewelry for the TopsyTail(TM), the Bowrette and the Halo Hat all broke even but were essentially failures”, she laments. She reminds inventors that “95% of the game is showing up! I research and test carefully, then I go for it. Most people give up. I suggest not to over think, when you believe in it, stick with it. Assume that you will have to be responsible for everything yourself”. The only thing she would have done differently with TopsyTail(TM) is being more on guard about “knock-offs” and suing the retailers who carried them as opposed to the manufacturers, because retailers would have removed the copies from the stores fast. Ever the entrepreneur, had she not developed TopsyTail(TM), she would have done exactly what she’s doing now- developing and running an online business, in this case, herroom.com, one of the first sites for women’s intimate apparel. She selected intimate apparel because it is something everyone needs, creates a lot of reorders and can’t become obsolete.