Inventor-entrepreneur Tomima Edmark left a successful career in marketing in 1989 when she launched her blockbuster hair accessory, the Topsy Tail. This extraordinary product earned her instant fame among the nation’s small-business set and put Edmark on an entrepreneurial path that continues to this day. She has since developed a series of additional consumer products, written several successful books, and created a variety of e-commerce websites.
Born in Seattle, Wash. in 1957, Edmark earned a BA degree from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri in 1979. From there, she entered the University of Texas, Austin, where she completed an MBA degree in 1983. Edmark had been working as a marketing executive for IBM for several years when she became frustrated with the limited mobility she found in the male-dominated business world at the time. Starting her own business began to seem more and more appealing.
She started thinking of innovative product ideas and was inspired when she saw a woman wearing a French twist hairstyle in a movie theater. She thought other women might appreciate a hair accessory that would allow them to more easily create intricate hairstyles like these. Edmark began experimenting with simple materials such as masking tape and knitting needles. Before long, she had created a loop that easily enables the wearer to flip her (or his) ponytail inside out, creating an attractive new look.
Edmark perfected four different prototypes of her product in 1989 and dubbed it the Topsy Tail. She received a patent for her design in 1991 and established Topsy Tail Corp. to market and sell the product.
Meanwhile, she began advertising the Topsy Tail in hairstyling magazines and secured press coverage of the product in women’s fashion magazines, especially Glamour. Within months of her initial product launch, Edmark was selling the Topsy Tail to women across the country. The product became extremely popular among teenage girls in particular, leading Edmark to sell millions of units by 1992. Eventually, the product would account for more than $100 million in revenue, with more than 8 million units sold.
The experience inspired Edmark to continue inventing products, including the Bowrette, a barrette that turns scarves and ribbons into hair ornaments, and the Halo Hat, a collapsible rain-and-sun hat. She also created a kiss-enhancing machine using very low-voltage electricity. Her later inventions were not as successful as Topsy Tail, which she attributes to bad timing and her own over-eagerness. In addition, Edmark wrote a number of successful books on a broad range of topics, from kissing and romance to gender studies and even cigars.
Later, Edmark turned her attention to a new company, the Dallas-based Andra Group, which she runs e-commerce ventures (HerRoom.com and HisRoom.com) to sell undergarments to men and women. She has made dozens of media appearances and has been honored with a variety of awards, including being named to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.