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Startups and Downs: The Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs, with Mona Bijoor

The biggest lesson I want readers to learn is that with the right frame of mind anything is really possible. Life seems to be less about developing the right tactical skills to succeed — it’s really about training your mind to work through any type of situation life or business throws at you. As part of my interview […]

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The biggest lesson I want readers to learn is that with the right frame of mind anything is really possible. Life seems to be less about developing the right tactical skills to succeed — it’s really about training your mind to work through any type of situation life or business throws at you.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mona Bijoor, author, startup advisor, Partner at King Circle Capital and Founder of JOOR, an online global B2B marketplace for wholesale buying. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, Mona lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters. Mona’s first book, Startups and Downs: Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs, will be released on September 30th.


Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

My first job out of college, I worked as a management consultant. I had been a biology major and I was surrounded by a bunch of business majors. I’d never used excel or PowerPoint and was intimidated by all my peers. My manager was super hard on me — pushing me to level up. I’d come home every night feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be there. I remember telling myself, Things might be painful now, but I have to figure out how to get good at this job and enjoy it. I kept showing up for work each morning ready for the deluge of tasks that I didn’t know how to do. Eventually I taught myself the skills I needed, mimicked the consultants that were superstars and learned the rules of engagement. And three years later, that boss who was tough on me wrote me a great recommendation for business school.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made early in my career was not really knowing how to ask questions. I wouldn’t even ask simple questions like can I use the milk in the fridge for my tea. I was afraid to speak up for things that I wanted. I had a mentor who gave me great advice. He told me to start thinking about asking for things as a game. Don’t think of it as a chore but rather a strategic test. Use asking for things as a way to get more strategic about getting people to say yes. In retrospect it’s silly now because I am the exact opposite. Today speak my mind, state my opinions and ask lots of questions.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

My current book, Startups and Downs is about describing the mental fortitude that successful entrepreneurs use to thrive. Now I am working on a book from the investor’s perspective. I am interviewing top investors to see how they vet companies and, more importantly, how they evaluate the people that they invest in.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I started a blog back in 2009 and I forced myself to write everyday. I’m not sure that anyone read my blog but I stuck with the daily habit for a year. Then I began to guest write for other publications, which further developed my style. That initial discipline helped me to find my voice.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

I interviewed Annie Jackson, Founder of Credo Beauty. A few months after launch she lost her co-founder to cancer. She talks about the juxtaposition of dealing with the death of her friend and partner while simultaneously still birthing her company. I learned so much about how to mentally deal with loss from Annie.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

The biggest lesson I want readers to learn is that with the right frame of mind anything is really possible. Life seems to be less about developing the right tactical skills to succeed — it’s really about training your mind to work through any type of situation life or business throws at you.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

The publishing world is very different than the business world. The publishing process is not transparent to a first time author. My biggest challenge is figuring out how the system works — the contracts, the distribution, the marketing, and the publicity. It’s a game where you need to understand the rules and once you do, then you can be successful. Talk to as many authors who have done it before is my best advice!

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I read a lot of different types of books and magazines. This year I have been inspired by The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin, and Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman. I am most interested in reading books from a wide array of disciplines. I enjoy applying spiritual tenets, scientific theories and medical principles to the business world. I like forming those analogies in my head to make me a stronger leader.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

I hope that by sharing my experiences and those that I profile — people will avoid making the same mistakes that have made before.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

I got great advice when I was starting my first book. I was worried that what I wanted to write about had already been written before. Then one of my mentors told me that no one can really tell your story and tell it in your voice. And if your story can resonate with even a small cohort of people then it’s worth doing.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) Do research on your publisher. I called several authors to learn the good, bad and ugly on my publisher. It helped frame the way I wanted to build my relationship with the publishing team.

2) Understand the publishing process. There is a lot of information on how the publishing process and timeline works online. Read it and talk to other authors to avoid making mistakes during the process.

3) Get a good editor. The publishing house may provide you with an editor but it helps to have one that can work to further develop your voice and clarify your message.

4) Write when you’re inspired. Early on I forced myself to write early in the morning but I am inspired in the evening — even though I might get less words on the page.

5) Finishing your book is just the start. It takes about a year to get your book in stores, although writing the book may only take a few months. Make sure you have enough energy left to market your book to your audience.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’d advocate to train kids on building mental fortitude. Most people achieve greatness because they pushed passed their negative thoughts and didn’t quit. They figured out how to be resourceful when others thought there were constraints. The ability to control your mind is a great gift.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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