Discovery Channel’s “Undercover Billionaire” returns for a second season, this time sending three entrepreneurs to three different cities. Reign Ventures CEO Monique Idlett-Mosley is among them. She travels from her Miami home to Tacoma, where she’s given 90 days to start a $1 million business after being deposited in the town with a pickup truck, new phone and $100.
At the end of 90 days, Idlett-Mosley will reveal her true identity to the locals who helped her start the business.
Showrunner Tim Warren and executive producer Aengus James said several criteria went into the decision to pick Tacoma, from its Pacific Northwest location and diversity — both in population and businesses — to its relative lack of national TV exposure.
“We try to pick cities that you’ve heard about but maybe don’t know a lot about,” Warren says. “We look at cities that often have gotten a bad rap … it’s a city that at one point had prosperity and experienced growth but had fallen on hard times but now is rebuilding and coming on the upswing.”
Producers also try to choose a location where the billionaire is unlikely to be recognized.
“A place like Seattle, they’re much likelier to run into someone they know,” James says.
Idlett-Mosley is best known as one of the forces behind Mosley Music Group (which has managed One Republic, Nelly Furtado and Chris Cornell), founded by her now ex-husband Tim “Timbaland” Mosley. She says she thought a lot about why it would be worth spending three months filming “Undercover Billionaire” and creating a business far from her home during a pandemic. (Producers said some portions were filmed pre-pandemic.)
“If at least one person could watch this and see a woman and also a woman of color, maybe some biases could change,” Idlett-Mosley says. “Maybe it could inspire a woman who maybe thought it wasn’t safe to go follow her dreams.”
To explain away the film crew following her on “Undercover Billionaire” (8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6), Idlett-Mosley tells people the cameras are for a documentary following people looking to start small businesses.
“The hardest part was not being honest every day,” says Idlett-Mosley, who uses an alias when she arrives in Tacoma. “I was struggling with that more than [worrying about] if they were onto something [about my real identity].”
Idlett-Mosley had never visited Tacoma before “Undercover Billionaire,” but she’s already been back once since filming ended in late October.
“Whatever company was created, it’s based in Tacoma,” she says, “No matter how large it scales and grows, the flagship is never moving from Tacoma.”
“Undercover Billionaire” producers won’t say what kind of business Idlett-Mosley started (in the premiere she considers a juice business but it’s unclear if she’ll stick with that). She had no specific business plan when she arrived, but she did have an idea of how to get by. Her mother is a non-denominational pastor and she knows churches support members of the community in need.
“The community of Tacoma absolutely made the most difficult challenge I have ever participated in a lot more seamless,” says Idlett-Mosley, who got assistance from a church pastor, Startup253, the Tacoma Public Library and T’wina Nobles, president of the Tacoma Urban League who was elected to the Washington state Senate in November.
Idlett-Mosley was never recognized, but she did have to take a deep breath when a Tacoma resident suggested she should be a music producer.
“I actually looked down,” she says. “I was [later] told by my camera producer he wished I would have given him ‘a fourth wall’ [reaction like on ‘The Office’] but I didn’t know what a fourth wall was.”