Thomasine "Tommie" Tarsell, who started her business career in the late 1950s selling magazine subscriptions and candy bars in high school and went on to become the first woman in Maryland to start an insurance company, has
been selected by the Small Business Administration as the Women in Business Advocate of the Year.
The award is given to someone who has shown a commitment to the advancement of women's business ownership. Ms. Tarsell also was named the Women in Business Advocate for Maryland.
She will receive the state award today along with a number of other Maryland business leaders who won in other categories. She will receive the national award next week.
"It's certainly gratifying," Ms. Tarsell, 50, said yesterday. "I put an awful lot of personal time to promote the women in business, and not just the women in business but minorities as well. I've been a strong advocate for small business in general."
Ms. Tarsell is the founder and president of Tomco Insurance Corp. and Tomco Money Management Corp. in Towson.
She started in business while in high school selling for school projects. At 21, when her three-year marriage ended in divorce, she answered an ad in the newspaper to sell housewares to wholesalers. By the time she was 23, she was earning $80,000 to $90,000 a year.
In 1977, she opened an insurance agency, and eight years later she helped organize an all-woman trade mission to the United Kingdom, West Germany and Spain.
She has served on the national and local boards of directors of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
The Small Business Administration also named Dr. Robert J. Cirincione, a orthopedic surgeon and head of Mid-Atlantic Orthopedic Specialist Inc. as the Maryland Small Business Person of the Year.