We can all learn something from Tamara Monosoff. As a best-selling author, social entrepreneur, and mother of two, Tamara is one hard-working woman who enjoys motivating and inspiring entrepreneurs to reach their goals.
Over the last 10 years, Tamara has written six business books, launched several products and founded her own web-based community and consumer brand, Mom Invented—with the mission to “inspire, inform and boldly promote women in business.”
Her most recent literary release is the 2nd Edition to her 2005 best-seller, The Mom Inventor’s Handbook: How to Turn Your Great Idea into the Next Big Thing, which provides step-by-step advice for taking an invention to market.
She doesn’t stop there. Tamara frequently speaks to entrepreneurs on topics, such as starting a business, product development, leadership and much more in a series of live mentoring programs she hosts on her website, TamaraMonosoff.com.
In part one of our interview, Tamara shares her knowledge on these subjects by reflecting on her experience as an entrepreneur and offering insight into the obstacles startup businesses face and how to overcome them. She also extends valuable advice on the necessity of business planning, how to protect inventions through patent applications and non-disclosure agreements, and the importance of written agreements in business relationships.
Above all, you’ll see how Tamara’s passion for inspiring entrepreneurs has not only resulted in her personal success, but also the success of many others who she has graciously helped achieve their dreams.
Q: What inspired Mom Invented?
Tamara: When I invented my first product in 2003, I was a new mom. When I launched it, I was astounded by how many other moms reached out to me with remarkably innovative product ideas and asked me for advice. This ultimately led me to write the first edition of the Mom Inventors Handbook in 2005. During my research for that book, I read Mothers and Daughters of Invention by Autumn Stanley. Through that I learned that women, and presumably moms, had been very inventive throughout history, yet it was common for others to take credit for their inventions. So I decided to license products from other moms and credit them by putting their picture on the package of a “Mom Invented” product. This translates into a brand with tremendous depth in its meaning: It celebrates the innovation and creativity of moms while also connecting with its target customer. I have now shifted my focus to teaching and mentoring so I no longer license products from others.
Q: What are some ways in which Mom Invented supports or highlights woman entrepreneurs? And how important is community to the Mom Invented brand?
Tamara: The Mom Inventors Handbook is unique in its community orientation as a book. There are over 50 QR codes that link to videos of entrepreneurs who share their own tips and challenges, often relating to the content where their QR code is printed. The value and excitement of this approach is the best way to illustrate the positive impact this has had. Many posts on social media with women sharing their victories and stories have been both inspiring and informative. I have now transitioned my focus from the Mom Invented business to teaching and mentoring at tamaramonosoff.com.
Q: What is one major challenge or obstacle you see startups facing today? How can they overcome this challenge?
Tamara: One major challenge is the unknown. Most people who start businesses are taking a risk of some kind. Whether it is in leaving a job or career, investing in the new endeavor, the criticism of others, or simply the time and energy that will be expended in doing so.
The best way to overcome this challenge is by taking the time to research the business opportunity and market and to create a plan of action.
Q: What question do entrepreneurs ask you the most? How do you respond?
Tamara: “Can you take a look at my product and tell me if it is a good idea?”
“I can’t answer this question. You need to figure out who your prospective customers will be, how many there are, if they like the idea, and how much they would pay for it.” Then I advise them to research the financial investment needed, the likely profit margin they can earn, how they would sell it, what the competitive landscape looks like, and any other challenges and risks such as product safety regulations and liability insurance. I teach them how to do this in detail in my LIVE and Self-Paced Power Mentoring Programs. After they go through the process, I ask them to tell me whether it is a good idea or not.
Q: Your 2010 book, The One Page Business Plan for Woman in Business, provides advice and prompts for business planning. Why do you think most entrepreneurs “get a knot in their stomach” at the thought of business planning? Why is it so essential?
Tamara: Most people get a knot in their stomach because they either have a bad experience in the past with business planning, or perhaps they have a misconception as to what the process of creating a business plan means. When I started out, I was worried that I would need to create complicated spreadsheets and need to use business jargon that I didn’t understand. This is not the case with the One Page Business Planning Process. This is a useful document that you create with your own words that provides an ongoing roadmap to follow.
This is why I wanted to do this project; because the process of creating a business plan is both critical to success and does not have to be complex or unpleasant. The One Page Business Plan system was created by my friend Jim Horan. In the book, the process of creating the plan is broken into 5 key components: Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Action Plans. The fill-in-the-blanks approach makes it possible for an entrepreneur to create a first draft of a powerful plan within a couple of hours.
Also note that I used the word “process”. A business plan is not ever “done” but is a living document that helps clarify what is being built, why it is being built, how success will be measured, how the results will be achieved, and what steps will be taken to do so. However, the document evolves as the business evolves.
Q: What can entrepreneurs do to protect their intellectual property during early stages of product development? When should entrepreneurs use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)?
Tamara: Most product entrepreneurs are extremely concerned that someone will want to copy or steal their idea if they share it. In my experience, ideas are almost never copied at this stage. Ideas are not typically copied until they have shown promise in the market. However, when developing a new product for which an entrepreneur may ultimately elect to file a patent, she will want to maintain confidentiality in order to preserve future patent rights.
A non-disclosure agreement is a good way to prove that discussions about the product were done with confidentiality. Provisional Patent Applications (PPA) are another useful tool that locks in a date for future patent filing. I am often asked for a copy of a non-disclosure agreement or other agreements. For this reason, LawDepot.com should be a resource that every entrepreneur has in his or her toolbox.
Q: How important are written contracts (as opposed to oral agreements) when working with others?
Tamara: For people who have never run a business, disagreements and conflicts are difficult to imagine. However, since most arrangements between businesses involve money, misunderstandings and disagreements about money can escalate quickly and have major implications.
I have seen this occur when people have hired vendors who agreed to deliver products or designs of a certain quality or within a specified time-frame that have fallen short of expectations. Unless the consequences of this kind of outcome are outlined in an agreement, a conflict is possible. I have also seen or heard many situations where partnerships sour due to a lack of a legal agreement. Friends who could not have imagined ever having a conflict can end up in a bitter dispute if the management roles and financial aspects of the business are not clearly outlined in a legal document. I have even seen this happen between family members as well. For peace of mind, it’s important to clearly articulate partnerships with legal documents.
…Check out Part II of Tamara’s interview for more helpful business advice, including how to utilize online marketing tools and her final advice to entrepreneurs.