Category Archives: Enterpreneurship

Something each and every enterpreneur needs

No, it’s not start-up capital. I mean, yes, of course, we all need a venture capitalist willing to prop our idea with an overstuffed wallet. It’s something else, something I have not considered until I started probing Alibaba.com for possible manufacturer partners of my yet-to-be-revealed toy of awesomeness. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat, vaguely aware of some dream in which Velcro yet again stole my idea. I have started the trademarking process with Australian IP Headstart, but it doesn’t hurt to have another bodyguard.

A non-disclosure agreement. NDA for short.

Ever had to sign such a thing? Maybe for an employer, promising not to talk about their dirty secrets in exchange for a wage and medical benefits? In this case, I want a manufacturer to say that they won’t use my design to sell toys to whomever else offers a buck. I know what you gonna say, that an unscrupulous company would sign whatever agreement and then proceed to ignore it. There’s also an argument that I’m in no danger of being copied unless my “thang” goes viral. The way I figured my current state of anxiety could be expressed by the following formula:

f (losing IP) / f (making it big) = trademark * NDA / blue moon

In other words, I don’t know what I’m doing. That means I might as well get an NDA. Question is, how do you get one without paying much/anything for it? Especially when your husband reminds you on a daily basis not to lose the house and/or enquires as to how much money you plan to sink into the new venture.

I started by asking all 5 shortlisted companies on Alibaba if they would sign one. Two immediately replied yes and one sent me theirs. Half of it was in Mandarin, so it means I have to write one. And that means I need help.

As per usual, I started with my free consultant, Google. I searched for a “non-disclosure agreement” and the first search result was from legalcontracts.com. They offered to create free NDAs for my employment, contract work, sale or even an invention. Bingo! It looked good until they asked me to pay for it or get a free week trial, after which I would get trapped into a monthly subscription. Next!

I have added “free” to the search and Legal Vision promised to create free NDAs for Australian businesses. Of course, mine is between me in Australia and some phantom company in China, but at this point, I figured a free NDA is better than no NDA.

And wouldn’t you know it? A free NDA is exactly what arrived in my inbox after a filled in a form! Undoubtedly, it will be followed by overenthusiastic phonecalls from Legal Vision sales department, which I will politely decline by yelling into the phone in an extra thick accent: “No Ana here thankyoumuchhavagoodday!”

My next thought was that “Government should provide these for free!” Turns out it does. Of course, now I have to look at the half-mandarin, commercial freebie and the government handout together and figure out which clauses I want to keep. But that’s what I get for being a cheapskate.

I ain’t losing my house, y’all!

 

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Thank you, Arnold.

Hi everybody.

So, ahm, how’s everyone? I know…I don’t write, I don’t call. I post a motivational message full of plans and commitments and then proceed to fall off the face of the Earth. I’m sorry.

I do have excuses, plenty of them. Shortly after that last post my father died, which was a huge shock to my whole family. The Iron Man had a nagging cough that twenty doctors couldn’t diagnose or cure, but nobody expected him to just be gone in a blink of an eye. I wanted to post something when it happened but just couldn’t find the right words. Instead, I jumped into IVF, something that I have meant to do for over a year, but didn’t have the guts. When that didn’t work, I went on a shopping spree – well, not a spree per se, I only bought one house. While the bills piled up, I continued working in my awesome new job, which was slowly killing me with stress.

It shouldn’t come as a shock then, that as of last week, and probably for many months prior, I was not happy. Not the entire time, mind you – I was riding a rollercoaster of ups and downs, the bumpiest few months yet. I’ve done so much over those months, including tons of writing, except none of it was for fun. Plenty of reports, emails, and responses to customers, but not one sentence for the new book or the blog. I have even let the twitter feed die. I have not run a single promotion (except for “always on” Amazon Marketing Services, which I have to write about next). As a result, the book sales have been pitiful, yet my career was going stronger than ever. I could almost see the vortex forming, at the end of which I would be promoted to the next, even more stressful level. That would mean a full stop to my writing dreams, but what options did I have when I became an owner of a house and a mother to a frozen embryo?

The only thing that has been consistently awesome throughout those months was my relationship. Josh has helped me manage all of the above by putting a coffee  into my blind hand every single morning so that I could start yet another stressful day, packing a lunch for me so that I could stay at my desk, and making dinners so that I could crash on the couch.  I do wash dishes and massage him, I’m not completely spoiled, but it didn’t seem enough to show him how special his constant care made me feel. So when I saw that Arnold Schwarzenegger was flying to Melbourne to host bodybuilding events and speak at a business summit, I knew I had to get tickets. I love Arnie too, but mostly for his blockbusters. I didn’t expect to gain anything from the talk, other than a few happy snaps of Josh smiling ear to ear.

It turns out I have a lot more in common with Arnie than our respective, too-easy-to-make-fun-of accents. We have both left our respective countries for the greener pastures of the US. We share the same drive to see how much we could lift, both physically and figuratively. Yet listening to him made me realize that lately, I have lost the lust for life and that spark that would drive me to persist in the face of overwhelming odds. That was the first epiphany of the evening.

The second one came when Arnold mentioned that early on he had invested his bodybuilding winnings into real estate with the sole purpose of providing him with income when he started to pursue his acting career. The steady flow of cash enabled him to only choose the roles he wanted (yes, I know, that means he wanted Hercules in New York. Maybe that was before the rent started coming in). And that’s when I had my second epiphany.

I’ve been working so hard for the last few years, trying to squeeze writing in the few empty spaces in the sleep-eat-work-repeat cycle. I have taken five months off that rat race and it enabled me to complete the second book, but it also wiped out my long service leave (I’m once again sorry to Americans for even mentioning such a luxury). It will take about seven years of spinning the hamster wheel before I can do it again. Other authors have replaced the office work hamster wheel with writing hamster wheel, producing a book each month to make a living, but I just can’t do it. There has to be another way.

Like Arnie, I have invested in real estate. Unfortunately, it only tied me closer to the office desk. I have also dreamed about how I’m going to write a bestseller while on maternity leave, J.K. Rowling style, but that dream is quickly dissipating too. The only answer left is to build some kind of business that would be flexible enough to give me the money I need to continue eating regularly and the time I need to be creative. The only question remained, what is that business?

I thought of leveraging even more debt to buy a franchise, but that idea was quickly poo-pooed by the family committee. I thought of getting a similar but less stressful job, but it seems like more of the same and could be even worse if I got a nasty boss. Then I remembered how much I love to invent stuff. Did I tell you about the time I invented the new and improved Velcro? I used this in Shizzle, Inc, but that did happen to me. One day, about fifteen years ago, I bought two flexible pet hair brushes on sale. They got stuck together in the shopping bag, the rubber bristles perfectly sliding in between bristles on the other brush. When I pulled them apart, I had this flash of an idea to miniaturise them to make new Velcro that didn’t rely on fragile loops. I drew the picture in an idea book I keep to this day, but I was poor and insecure and I didn’t pursue it. About a year or two later, Velcro came out with Poster Strips and made millions. I made nothing, other than the joke for my book.

So what am I going to invent now, you ask? Color Post-Its? Or a new Miracle Mop? Not quite, although it’s a bit of a “better mouse trap” improvement on an existing product. In euphoria following Arnold’s talk, I have already invented a new adult toy. Not the kind you’re thinking! More of a gag gift – it’s funny (I think) and it could take off (I think). I wish I could tell you what it is, but I’m afraid Velcro might find out about it so I will wait until I apply for a trademark, which should be in a matter of weeks. This time around I have a bit of money and a lot more gumption, so let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, I will be posting blogs on my experience, mainly so that I don’t forget how I did things, and so that I am accountable to myself. I have a lot to do:

  1. Trademark the concept. I have done some research already and will begin by trademarking in Australia via Early Start service, then adding China and USA. No lawyers. Wish me luck!
  2. Develop a prototype – I have drawn up the idea and have contacted several manufacturers via Alibaba, who are willing to develop a prototype for about $150USD.
  3. Market research, for which I need the above prototype. My limited research with drawings has had great feedback – everyone wants this toy! They are my friends, though, so I will need to figure out other ways to understand the market potential. One of them may be via this blog.
  4. Website. I have already bought two domains and I know some basics from running this blog, but this time around I need a website with a shopping cart so it will be a challenge.
  5. Marketing. I already know some basics, but I will need to take it to a whole new level. I have already enrolled in a couple of webinars and will read a pile of books, which I will review here.

So there I go, on a pursuit of passive income that will allow me to write whatever I please. Wish me luck.

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