After they graduated from college in 2006, sisters Angela Carr and Christina Cummings started a business selling a product their father had created: an absorbent, fitted hair towel called the Turbie Twist. Carr recently spoke to Inc. about how the sisters turned the towel, which retails for $10 to $15, into a national sensation, with sales of $6.5 million and the No. 789 spot on the 2010 Inc. 5000.
Our dad, who ran a contract manufacturing company called Pittsburgh Plastics, wanted Christina and me to stay in Pittsburgh after we graduated. So he said, "Why don't you two take over Turbie Twist?"
Running a business is all I ever wanted to do. I had worked in the family business since I was a kid. I can remember my dad sitting me down with the yellow pages and telling me, "Sell something."
In an Italian family like ours, the loudest person wins. And being 13 months older gave me an advantage. That's why I am CEO. Plus, I'm more wired for sales, while my sister is very methodical and detail oriented.
We went knocking on doors to get started, and our mantra was, "No means maybe, and maybe means yes."
We got our big break with QVC in 2006, which gave us exposure to new customers, as well as the credibility to talk with big retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond. Just five minutes on QVC is like spending $100,000 on advertising.
All our products are made in Asia. We brought in about four million Turbies last year. We have 11 employees. But for a long time, it was just the two of us, unloading containers and loading trucks. It's nice to have some help.
Our dad, who passed away in 2009, was the consummate entrepreneur and teacher. But there is also some competition, since he made the Inc. 500 in 1995, ranking No. 400. We want to beat that, so we still have some work to do.
DARREN DAHL is a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, NC.