“媽媽”發明家 If These Moms Can’t Find It,They Invent It

Eight years ago, Tamara Monosoff came up with an invention that she was sure mothers like herself would appreciate: a device that prevents children from 1)unspooling toilet paper from the roll. But she had no idea how to transform the concept into a 2)marketable product. When she turned to the Internet,“There was nothing—no road maps, no anything,” recalls Ms. Monosoff, who lives near San Francisco.

Fast-forward to today, and the term “mom inventors” 3)yields about 290,000 results on Google. There is Ms. Monosoff’s own Web site, Mom Invented, which supports aspiring“4)mompreneurs” and licenses and sells products under the Mom Invented brand, a 5)Good Housekeeping-like seal of approval. Other sites include the Mogul Mom, where mothers can satisfy their inner 6)Edison by reading 7)posts like“How Do I Get My Product in Stores?” and “Don’t Get Burned by Your Light Bulb Moment.” Not to mention the dozens and dozens of online stores, like the Busy Mom Boutique, that sell mom-made products.

What’s behind the growth in mom-generated creations? One factor is the rise of the Internet and social media, which allow child-raising women to exchange ideas without having to leave the house. Ms. Monosoff has nearly 6,000 followers on Twitter, and her Web site has a community of about 20,000 mothers, who exchange tips and offer support.“Someone will say they’re having a problem and they can’t find a 8)seamstress, and someone else will say, ‘I have someone who helped me,’ ” she says. “It’s instantaneous, whereas for me, I was looking in the 9)Yellow Pages.”

Inventing is also a means of 10)channeling energy for ambitious career women who suddenly find themselves changing diapers and searching for lost 11)sippy cups.

“They’re engaged, they’re smart, smart women,”says Ms. Monosoff, who has two daughters, ages 8 and 10. “Whether they have a business background or not, they have their whole life experience to bring to the table. That’s what I love. They’re not 12)constrained by 13)business jargon or business concepts. They’re like, ‘I’m making this thing; how do I sell it?’ ” Running Mom Invented, and writing books on inventing, is a full-time job that Ms. Monosoff 14)fits in while her girls are at school and in bed.

Linsay Chavez of Tucson, Ariz., quit her job as a marketing coordinator for a manufacturing company and started the Busy Mom Boutique this year. “A lot of moms need to support their families,” she says, “and while maybe they don’t 15)have it in them to go get a full-time job, seeing as they have their kids at home, they actually get the 16)momentum to turn ideas into reality.” She adds: “In many households, moms are the chief buyers. And in the new millennium, if they can’t find what they need, they just invent it themselves.”

That was true for Ms. Monosoff, who couldn’t figure out how to stop her 8-month-old daughter from 17)unrolling all of the toilet paper and stuffing it down the toilet. “I was like, ‘Okay, where’s the gadget?’ ”Ms. Monosoff recalls. “I was trying to figure out how to design something like that, but I really had no experience. Then I was buying shampoo at a beauty supply store, and I saw a 18)hair permanent rod, that little roller thing, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that might work!’ ”

She worked on a rough prototype of what would become the “TP Saver.” The basic concept is that a small, plastic rod—that grown-ups can lock into place—keeps the toilet paper from unspooling. Then she found a 19)machinist and an engineer to work out the design, 20)brainstormed with focus groups, hired a manufacturer in China, had the product 21)patented and safety tested and ultimately got it into 9,000 grocery stores nationwide.

Such stories are everywhere: a mom runs into a problem with her child and, unable to find a solution, invents one herself. That’s happened to Heather Allard of Providence, R.I., who before staying home with her children worked as a saleswoman and account coordinator for 22)Estée Lauder. When her second daughter was “23)busting out of every 24)swaddling blanket” while she was sleeping, she joked to her husband,“I wish I could make a little baby 25)straitjacket.”

“I told this to other moms, and said that would be really great, ” she says. After making a “primitive sketch on 26)loose leaf,” she worked with a seamstress on a prototype and had it patented. “There was a whole lot of trial and error, and a lot of expensive mistakes,” she says. For instance, the American manufacturer she first hired was costing her $16 a product. Then she switched to a Chinese company and reduced the cost to $5.85. In the end, she spent $50,000 to get her product to market. She 27)recouped the cost when she sold the rights to the product, the Swaddleaze, and its 28)follow-up, the Blankeaze—a wearable blanket with leg holes—for six figures in 2008. That same year, she started Mogul Mom.

Nowadays, she says, the landscape is much different for moms. “We’ve come so far. I think at this point, it’s never been easier to do this kind of thing,” she says, pointing to the 29)plethora of advice Web sites, coaching programs and even crowdfunding resources that help raise 30)seed money for products. Those developments, she says, have “coincided with the 31)rotten economy, so a lot of moms are out of jobs, they’re at home with the kids.”

She adds: “They say necessity is the mother of invention—well, that’s the case.”

八年前,塔瑪拉·莫諾索夫想出了一項她認為像她一樣的媽媽們都會欣賞的發明:一個能夠防止小孩將廁紙從卷筒上扯下來的裝置。但是,她不知道如何將這個想法轉變成一種有銷路的產品。當她求助于互聯網時,發現“什么都沒有——沒有相關的參考指導,任何東西都沒有,”居住在舊金山市附近的莫諾索夫女士回憶道。

時至今日,“媽媽發明家”這個詞語在谷歌搜索引擎上已經有近29萬條相關結果。這當中就包含莫諾索夫女士自己的網站“媽媽發明”,該網站支持有抱負的“媽媽企業家”并獲準銷售“媽媽發明”品牌下的系列產品, “媽媽發明”品牌就像是通過“好管家研究院”認證一樣的標記。其他網站包括“大人物媽媽”,在這個網站上,媽媽們可以通過瀏覽一些諸如《如何讓我的產品進駐商店》、《別錯過你靈光乍現的時刻》等帖子去滿足她們內心的創造需求。更不用說那許許多多如“繁忙媽媽精品小店”等出售媽媽們制造的產品的網上商店了。

這些由媽媽發明的創意產品涌現的背后暗含著什么呢?其中一個因素是,互聯網和社交網絡媒體的發展使得這些帶小孩的女士足不出戶便可以交流想法。莫諾索夫女士在推特上有將近六千名“粉絲”,而她的網站是一個有著將近兩萬名媽媽的網絡社區,媽媽們在此互相交換建議及提供幫助。“有些人會說她們遇到難題,找不到好的女裁縫,其他人就會說:‘我這里有人替我做過衣服,(可以推薦給你)’”她說,“那是即時性的,對我來說,我過去會在黃頁里尋找。”

發明創造也為那些原本雄心勃勃、卻突然發現自己的角色轉變成換尿片、給小孩四處找吸水杯的職業女性提供了一個發揮干勁的途徑。

“她們全情投入,是聰明且思維敏捷的女性,”有著兩個各八歲和十歲大女兒的莫諾索夫女士說,“不管她們有沒有商業背景,她們都有足夠的生活經驗可登大雅之堂。這是我所熱愛的東西。她們不拘泥于商業術語或者商業概念。她們傾向于想:‘我做出了這件東西,我怎么賣掉它呢?’。”當女兒們上學或在床上睡覺時,經營媽媽發明網、撰寫關于發明的書,便是莫諾索夫女士的全職工作。

來自亞利桑那州圖森市的林賽·查韋斯,放棄了她在一制造企業的市場協調員的工作,在今年創建了“繁忙媽媽精品小店”。“許多媽媽需要養家,”她說, “可能她們因為考慮到有小孩在家,所以沒有去找一份全職工作,事實上,她們有著把想法轉變成現實的動力。”她補充道:“在許多家庭里,媽媽是主要的購買者。在這個新千年里,如果媽媽們不能找到她們所需的東西,就只有自己發明了。”

這對莫諾索夫女士而言,確實如此。她找不到方法去制止她八個月大的女兒將廁紙扯出來塞進馬桶里。“那時候,我就想,“好吧,那小玩意在哪里?”莫諾索夫女士回憶道,“我想方設法去設計出那樣的東西,但是我真的沒有經驗。然后我在一家美容品商店買洗發露,剛好看到了一個卷發筒,像小小的滾軸一樣的東西,那時候,我就想,‘噢,我的天吶,這個可能行得通!’”

她開始著手研究后來成為“廁紙節約器”的樣品。其基本概念是一個小小的塑料棒——成人能夠用來鎖定——防止廁紙滾出來。后來,她找到一個機械師和一個工程師去完成這個設計,開展各種頭腦風暴式的小組討論,雇用了一家中國制造商,為這項產品申請了專利,進行了安全測試,最終將其推廣至全美國九千間雜貨店。

這樣的故事比比皆是:一位媽媽遇到她小孩引起的問題,找不到解決方法,就自己發明。這發生在來自羅德 島普羅維登斯的希瑟·阿拉德身上。留在家里照看小孩之前,她是雅詩蘭黛的銷售及客戶協調員。當她的二女兒睡覺之際“踢開每一張襁褓毛毯”時,她跟丈夫開玩笑道:“我真想做一件嬰兒緊身衣。”

“我把這個主意告訴其他媽媽,說這肯定會非常不錯,”她說。她在“活頁紙上畫了個原始草圖”之后,與一位女裁縫研究樣品,并申請了專利。“當中經過多次反復試驗,還有許多代價高昂的錯誤,”她說。例如,她剛開始雇用的美國制造商每一件產品收取她16美元。后來,她轉而與一家中國公司合作,將成本降至每件5.85美元。最后,她花了五萬美元將她的產品投入市場。2008年,她以六位數的金額出售了襁褓睡袋及其后續產品毛毯睡袋(一張可穿在身上、有褲洞的毛毯)的專利,收回了之前投入的成本。同一年,她創立了“大人物媽媽”網站。

現在,她說,對媽媽們來說,前景很不一樣。“我們走了這么遠。我認為,做這樣的事情從來沒有試過像現在這么容易,”她說,并指出建議類網站、指導性項目以及為開發產品籌集創業基金的籌資渠道有些泛濫。她接著說,這些事物的發展,“與蕭條的經濟不無關系,因而才會有這么多的媽媽失業,在家帶小孩。”

她補充道:“他們說需求是發明之母——嗯,事實確實如此。”