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Big Plans for a Small Gadget

This inventor hopes to straighten out your knotty problem.

Julie Johnson Barkley loved her iPod but was frustrated by its frequently tangled earbud cords.

Determined to invent a solution, she raided her son's toy box and her sewing kit. Wielding a glue gun, the part-time Houston dental hygienist put together a homemade model of what would become the Earbud Yo-Yo.

Covington Creations, named for Barkley's Louisiana birthplace, was incorporated a year ago. By the end of 2009, Barkley expects her business to be in the black.

The Earbud Yo-Yo is a cable organizer, about 1 square inch in size, that retails from $11 to $17. It works on earbuds for any device -- an iPod, Nintendo DS or smart phone, for example. Barkley knew she was on to something when she took designs to a patent attorney. "Right away, there was a little frenzy in the office," she recalls.

From there it was on to a prototype maker in Austin, Tex., then a manufacturer in Taiwan. In between, Barkley made time for a two-night class on starting your own business. Joining the Consumer Electronics Association gave her the opportunity to show the Yo-Yo at the Consumer Electronics Show, tapping into the event's considerable publicity.


Designing the Yo-Yo, stocking inventory and setting up a Web site cost Barkley about $30,000 of her own savings, plus six figures more from a family friend. The payoff could be coming soon. The Earbud Yo-Yo is sold in 34 Fry's Electronics stores, and Barkley is hiring a national sales force. "I'd like to see it go worldwide. Right now, Best Buy is my goal."