What new mother of a baby girl doesn't want to put a
cute barrette into those wispy tuffs of fine hair? And what mother
doesn't fight frustration when the clip quickly slips out?
Cindy Twomey knows the feeling. But her frustrations turned her
into a mother of invention. Not one to merely groan or grimace each
time a hair clip failed to stay put, she devised a solution - a
solution that has caught on with a growing number of doting mothers,
grandmothers, aunts and others who shop for the kiddie market.
No Slippy Hair Clippy™, Twomey's clever product, uses a small magnet
placed on the bottom portion of a metal hair clip to help draw the
top portion down. The magnet is covered with velvet ribbon, which
creates "friction" when it comes in contact with fine
hair, thus reducing the tendency to slip out.
that basic "system" was established, Twomey went to town
on embellishments - adding everything from gingham bows and beaded
hearts, to organza butterflies and crocheted bunnies. Now, four
years later, Twomey has hundreds of styles and colors to choose
from, a patent pending on her creation, a full-time production employee,
a business partner and a group of sales reps who have helped place
the hair clips in hundreds of upscale retailers around the country.
Still, No Slippy grew out of humble beginnings. A single mother,
Twomey was living in her parent's suburban San Francisco home in
2000, collecting welfare and caring for her mother, who was struggling
with Lou Gehrig's disease, when her 10-month-old daughter's hair
presented that fateful styling challenge.
Her clever clips worked beautifully on her daughter's fine hair
and were an instant hit with the other mothers in her circle of
friends. That prompted her to pitch them to a high-end children's
boutique in the area. When the store placed an order for the clips,
Twomey's business was born.
Her clips, which generally retail for about $8-25 each, today are
sold in hundreds of stores nationwide. Business, she points out,
tripled between 2002 and 2003, and could triple again in 2004.
Sound a bit like a fairy tale - or a dream come true? Indeed, Twomey
once described her company's origins with a story on her Web site
(www.hairclippy.com) that began: "Once upon a time …"
Yet there's been no fairy godmother to guide her business. Rather,
she's relied on innate creativity, family encouragement, support
from a microenterprise organization and her own pluck to establish
artistic, Twomey demonstrated her entrepreneurial bent by the time
she was a teenager by making and selling greeting cards. She was
equally adept at sales. "As a Girl Scout, I always sold more
cookies than anyone else. I won all the prizes," she recalls.
Still, by the time she entered college, studying business was a
still-unheard calling. Instead, she earned a bachelor's degree in
science and planed a career as a dietitian. But a short stint working
as a hospital dietitian proved unsatisfying. More to her liking,
she discovered, was working in sales for a company that paid her
on commission. "I'm really self-motivated," she explains.
"And I like sales."
A strong streak of confidence, coupled with an equally strong belief
in her product, made it easy for Twomey to approach shopkeepers,
demonstrate what makes her clips unique and rack up sales accounts
for her company. In fact, she had several area children's boutiques
as customers by 2001 when she discovered Women's Initiative for
Self Employment (WI), which helps low-income women start and grow
"Women's Initiative was good for me. I already had the ball
rolling, but I really needed to grow and expand," she says.
"I gained knowledge of how to develop a business, how to define
my market better."
took full advantage of the numerous classes and seminars offered
by Women's Initiative, and twice used WI's loan program to borrow
funds to build her inventory. "I definitely think Women's Initiative
helped me catapult to the next level."
Along the way Twomey has made some calculated and wise moves. Her
Web site, for instance, is primarily a marketing tool for stores
interested in buying wholesale - not a vehicle for individuals to
purchase directly from her. Individuals who want to buy a few clips
can purchase them from one of the stores she supplies. Her Web site
has a "store locator" and names "Concept Stores"
willing to process mail orders from individual customers. Adopting
this approach has allowed Twomey to avoid the hassles of handling
small direct orders.
Although her business has moved along at a good clip, Twomey is
eager to see even more growth. "I want to see the company grow
to the point where my clips are sold in all the major department
stores and children's stores. I want to be a main staple of the
children's hair market."