Imagine being dropped into an unfamiliar city. No business contacts. No friends or family. No assets. No place to stay. Just $100 in your pocket and a mission to build a million-dollar company in 90 days.
At this point, many people might think that such an unlikely and audacious scenario has to be the plot of a reality television program — and they’d be right. The show, in its second season on Discovery, is Undercover Billionaire.
The first season of the show saw self-made business professional Glenn Stearns dropped into unfamiliar surroundings in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he built his business, Underdog BBQ, in just 90 days. Following on the heels of that success, the second season — due to premiere Jan. 6 — will feature three new entrepreneurs thrust into similar circumstances.
These entrepreneurs include Grant Cardone, an author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and real estate investor; Elaine Culotti, an interior designer, builder, real estate investor, and founder of House of Rock; and Monique Idlett-Mosley, a music-industry executive and CEO of Reign Ventures.
While it is still unknown where two of the intrepid soon-to-be reality-TV stars ended up, South Sound Business was informed in early December that Idlett-Mosley had been plucked from her Miami home, and left to build a business right here in the South Sound, a move she didn’t even know about until she was on her way to the Pacific Northwest.
“I just knew that I would possibly be on Pacific Standard Time,” Idlett- Mosley said with a laugh. “And I’d never been to Tacoma.”
Prior to this endeavor, which began filming in July, Idlett-Mosley had much success in business, identifying herself as a “problem solver and a disruptor.”
“I started my career in my young 20s as the youngest and first African American female executive at USA Today,” she said. While at the internationally distributed newspaper, Idlett-Mosley founded her first company and met her now-ex-husband, Tim “Timbaland” Mosley. The two built a music label together, and Idlett-Mosley was responsible for managing the careers of artists like OneRepublic, Nelly Furtado, and Chris Cornell. The now-46-year-old also was the executive music producer and fashion consultant for the first three seasons of the television show Empire.
Later, Idlett-Mosley founded Reign Ventures when she saw a need in the industry. “Based on my experience with angel investing … I saw a real problem with women and people of color being underfunded and definitely undervalued, if they could even get to a pitch meeting,” she recalled. “So, instead of trying to find people to listen to them, I just started listening to them and said, ‘I’ll invest my own money.’”
So, when a talent firm contacted Idlett- Mosley about participating in a Discovery reality show that tasks entrepreneurs with launching a new business on a tight timetable, she said she felt that she was up for the challenge.
“I believe the evolution of self is this amazing thing and should be a forever thing,” she said, “and it speaks to why I feel so comfortable challenging myself in my career.”
Idlett-Mosley’s first impressions of Tacoma were positive: She said she was dazzled by the city, water, and evergreen trees — and it didn’t hurt that the mountain was out, either. However, the reality of what she’d gotten herself into set in quickly.
“I had $100, an old truck, a cell phone, and a clear little plastic pouch,” Idlett-Mosley recalled of her first hours in Tacoma. “The first moment you’re there, it’s all about survival; you’re finding shelter. I absolutely had to walk in faith and trust my faith to make sure that I found (a place to stay) as a No. 1 priority.”
While Idlett-Mosley and the team at Discovery were tight-lipped in an early December interview about the business she founded — she would say only that it was a business model that didn’t previously exist in Tacoma — or the outcome of her endeavor, she was able to share her impressions of the community.
“I don’t think I could have accomplished starting and finishing in any other city,” she said. “I believe that because I started during COVID and ended during COVID that you truly are relying on the community that you have been put into. Tacoma is kind and strong and just super community-driven; it truly is amazing.”
Due to the circumstances Idlett-Mosley was handed, she said she owes any success she’s experienced to the skills she’s picked up in her previous business endeavors and to the people she met in Tacoma.
“If you’re in tune, you understand that you can’t even get through the challenge without the community,” she said. “They are the real winners. To me, the community in Tacoma, they’re the stars. They’re the champions.”
When Idlett-Mosley returned to Florida 90 days later, she did so with what we can assume (hope) is a successful business, a host of new friends and business contacts, and what Idlett-Mosley said was greater self-awareness.
“I learned so much about myself,” she said. “The things I need to improve on, the things I’m actually good at. … (This experience) is basically you against you; that’s what it boils down to.”
Find out more about Idlett-Mosley and her fellow entrepreneurs during the Jan. 6 premiere of Undercover Billionaire beginning at 8 p.m. on Discovery. The program is immediately followed by the premiere of Undercover Billionaire: Comeback City, a new show in which Glenn Stearns of season 1 will return to Erie and help rescue small businesses that are struggling due to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.