Launching Your Dream
Think now is not the time to start a business? Think again, says Mom Invented founder, Tamara Monosoff.
Illustraion by Phil Hankinson
Walnut Creek’s Tamara Monosoff knows a lot about career reinvention. Once the chief of staff for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education in the Clinton Administration, Monosoff is also an author, entrepreneur, inventor, online marketer, and mother of two. Her Mom Invented website has helped dozens of women produce and market their inventions, and a few have even been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America.
This year, Monosoff published two books on how to blaze a career path in the new economy. The first, The One Page Business Plan for Women in Business, is a workbook she coauthored with One Page Business Plan Company president Jim Horan to help readers create an effective business proposal. The second, Your Million Dollar Dream, offers strategies to help you find your career calling, or, better yet, create a new business. Clearly, Monosoff’s advice is of interest: Your Million Dollar Dream rocketed to the number-one slot on three Amazon business category best-seller lists just after its May release. Diablo spoke with her about starting a business in today’s economy.
Diablo: Isn’t this a tough time to start a business?
Tamara Monosoff: Obviously, the economy is scary and unpredictable. But this is such an incredible time to be your own boss. With today’s technology, you can send out newsletters and have an awesome website; you can market your services in ways you couldn’t just a few years ago.
Also, companies are more likely to contract with small businesses these days, while a few years ago they had a staff to do that work. Why not create your own service and business, and put yourself in a good position to get snapped up by a bigger company?
Health care is a big deal as well. By starting a small business, you can buy into a health plan and not have to deal with nearly as many issues as you would trying to get individual coverage for yourself.
So many people have become suddenly, unexpectedly unemployed. What advice do you give to people who want to reinvent their careers?
The first thing is, do what you know. Create a business around a skill that you have. Take time to examine your skill sets. What are you passionate about? What are you doing in your free time? Sometimes, it is something so obvious that you think it couldn’t possibly be a career, but the answer might be right in front of you.
In The One Page Business Plan, I profile Clarine Hardesty, a schoolteacher from Lafayette who loved baking cookies. She makes the best Florentine cookie that I have ever tasted. She realized that people loved them and started selling them to specialty stores such as Diablo Foods. Now, she’s got her own commercial cooking space, and her business, Clarine’s Florentines, is growing much faster than she ever dreamed it would.
What if someone can’t identify her true skill or fears that she would be gambling on a pipe dream?
Another approach is to identify what others do well—and then do it a little differently. Or you can look at solving a problem by creating a niche product. Look at all the builders using green building materials now. That was missing in the market just a few years ago. Finding a niche is how I started: I invented the toilet paper saver to help moms keep their kids and pets from unraveling the toilet paper roll. That’s how I started the Mom Invented brand and invited other moms to license, manufacture, and distribute their products nationwide.
Your Million Dollar Dream has good examples of start-up entrepreneurs, such as Jayne Spiegelman, who transformed her interest in storing digital photos into Shutterfly, a web service she developed into a $350 million company. But businesses need funding: If you don’t have the money, how do you get someone to front the dough for your dream?
There are a number of resources for funding, from microloans to grants to professional angel investors. But the one thing that I can’t overemphasize is how important it is to start by giving social networks a try. They are so easy to use, and they’re just amazing as communication and marketing tools. My book shows you exactly how to get signed up and get involved, and how you can use these tools to get funding for your product.
Aren’t social networks just a way for people to tell their friends what they had for dinner?
That’s what I thought for a while, until I signed up for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and realized that my customers and competitors were already there. I said, “My gosh, this is all going on without me.”
It’s impossible to not use these social networks now. You have to create a Facebook fan page for your business even if you have just started because it will put you into close contact with clients and customers. I do more business transactions on Twitter than any other place. Social networks allow you to talk about your business with conviction and without apology.
What one thing should people remember before they take the plunge into a business?
Adopt a service mind-set. Bob Burg is the coauthor of a great business book, The Go-Giver, and his philosophy is simple: You have to offer value and be in service to others. If you do this, the business will come. This is more than just offering a service; it’s how you communicate with people, offering a little more to your customers than they expect, and making an effort to give back to the community. These things will really help you build your business in thoughtful and unexpected ways.Monosoff hosts free webinars about marketing and business on her website, yourmilliondollardream.com, the first Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. CLICK HERE to get Monosoff's "10 Instant Internet Marketing Tips." To read the first 17 pages of the book, see the "Get a Sneak Peek!" section on the left-hand side of Monosoff's website.