Today we’d like to introduce you to Monique and Justin Honaman.
Monique and Justin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
“Every winner started as a contender.” That mantra is what inspired us to convert our creative and entrepreneurial ideas and energy into a new concept-to consumer business called Contender Brands.
Like many other people, we find ourselves regularly saying, ‘You know what the world really needs is xyz…or if we only had this product or service we could…” but then we wouldn’t do anything about it. Later, we would see that great idea, or something similar to it, sitting on a retail shelf or in the market and we would kick ourselves for not acting.
We had several ideas bouncing around in our heads for a few years, before we finally decided in 2015 to quit talking, and start taking action. We formalized a product development company called Contender Brands and set about learning how to take an idea from concept to consumer (C2C).
The entrepreneurial and creative bent isn’t totally new for us. Monique’s day job is leading ISHR Group, a global leadership development firm she founded 18 years ago.
She also founded High Road Less Traffic which serves as a writing and speaking platform for her two books on taking the high road when it comes to marriage and divorce. By day, Justin is a Managing Director in Digital Technology at Accenture. He has also written two books on leadership and personal branding, writes Country and Christian music, and hosts the ContenderCast leadership podcast. Monique and Justin are active in our community too. We both volunteer weekly at Gwinnett Church, and are actively involved as alumnae of Leadership Atlanta. Monique serves on the Board of the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, and Justin is on the Board for the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award.
Launching Contender Brands was our first collaborative effort. We work really well together. We know each other’s strengths, and our limitations, and only occasionally step on each other’s toes! Our idea is to not only launch our own ideas from concept to consumer, but to also help others who want to bring their ideas to life, We have navigated the process and can help others who have not ever engaged in the product development or publishing space. We have figured out how to work with a designer to convert a paper idea into structured design, how to develop a prototype, how to file legal patents and trademarks, get product produced locally or overseas, develop a marketing plan, and most importantly, how to have a conversation with a retailer looking for new and different product concepts.
So far, we have launched three products. All three products are completely different, but there is one thing that ties them together and that is a focus on building relationships and bringing people together. Our mission at Contender Brands is to develop and cultivate ideas that bring simplicity, joy and laughter to others.
Our first product, Cocktail Farty™, is the ultimate get-to-know-you card game. F.A.R.T. stands for “friends admitting real truths” and the game is designed to generate great conversations and laughter between family and friends. Our test market included 8-year-olds to 80-year-olds and everyone laughed and talked! We learned new things about old friends. It’s a great conversation-starter.
Our second product is a fully-illustrated children’s book called “BONUS Dad! BONUS Mom! A Child’s Guide to the Role of a Step-parent.™ Justin is a Bonus Dad to Monique’s two kids, and our goal in writing the book was to rewrite the narrative that all step-parents are evil or wicked. This book, with its colorful and whimsical drawings of characters who are yellow-labs, highlights Bonus parents engaged in normal day-to-day activities.
Our favorite part is that each page also features a ‘value’ word embedded in the drawing to further illustrate what the Bonus parent is role-modeling. The book is designed so that when you read it forward the Bonus Dad is featured, but when you flip the book over and read it the other way, it features the Bonus Mom. While designed for children ages 3-13, the book is really a keepsake for a Bonus child of any age, and features a place for the Bonus parent to write a letter to the Bonus child.
The third product is something that Monique thought about for years. I’m a busy mom, a business owner, and a frequent traveler. I also love my wedding rings and the meaning they hold. I would get frustrated when I would look down and see my rings looking all dingy. You can’t travel with those jars of cleaning fluid that you get when you buy a ring.
I wanted something I could travel with, and also something I could keep in my car, my office, my briefcase. I looked around the marketplace and realized that a portable ring cleaner didn’t exist. There was no way to “clean your ring on the go” and, voila, the idea for Ringo™ took root and after several iterations with prototypes, it is finally in the manufacturing cycle.
Three products to market in less than 24 months is daunting! Our biggest challenge hasn’t been designing and manufacturing the products. That’s the easy part! The hard part is now getting the word out that the products are available and getting them into national retailers, but that is also the fun part.
We believe that “every winner started as a contender” and we are having fun together coming up with new “contending” ideas and launching products.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We would be lying if we said it was a smooth road. Some of the struggles include our own level of impatience!
We want things to move quicker than they really do. This primarily applies to things like the product design and product manufacturing processes. People assume that the hard part is designing products, but that is actually the easy part. The more difficult part starts once the products have arrived and it’s time to get them to market. You have to be confident with making big asks, and be OK with hearing no.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Our kids! We have two teens and they have been on board from day one. We had them sign a confidentiality agreement when we first started talking about our products so that they would feel legally involved in the process. Since then, they have been great at providing insight, observations and advice about each product (especially Cocktail Farty and BONUS Dad! BONUS Mom!) It’s been fabulous to have the next generation provide perspective.
- Cocktail Farty $19.95
- BONUS Dad! BONUS Mom! A child’s guide to the role of a step-parent $15.00
- Ringo $19.95
- Website: www.contenderbrands.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: @contenderbrands, @cocktailfarty, @ringocleaner
- Twitter: @contenderbrands, @cocktailfarty, @ringocleaner