Tomima Edmark knew her noose-shaped hairstyling device would sell better with some explaining, but she couldn't afford an infomercial -- the 1990s-style demo.

Edmark had invented TopsyTail in 1989 while she was a marketing rep at IBM. Mail-order sales averaged $2,500 a month until a March 1992 Glamour magazine item mentioned it and inspired sales of $100,000 in only three weeks -- enough to prompt Edmark to leave Big Blue. Within a few months Edmark had TopsyTail in the Accessory Lady chain and in several beauty-supply stores.

Confident that more information would help consumers, she decided to produce a video for retailers. She penned a 12-minute script and hired a cameraman, a crew, a stylist, and a makeup artist. That chewed up most of her $18,000 budget, so she recruited long-maned friends for actresses.

To ensure a return on her video investment, Edmark supplied the Dallas Accessory Lady store with a TV/VCR. The video's remarkable effect prompted Accessory Lady to put a VCR in each of its 114 stores. "It was phenomenal, probably the most successful single item we've ever carried," says Accessory Lady's Ben Lentini. -- Robina A. Gangemi

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