It’s time for our next small business SHE feature! Meet Maria Spear Ollis, owner and founder of Spear IP. Maria grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She received her Bachelor’s of Music from University of Ann Arbor and her Juris Doctor degree from from Pace University School of Law. She currently lives in East Nashville, TN, with her husband Matt, cat Poseidon, and dog Aria. Maria is also a member of the Nashville Fashion Alliance Advisory Committee, the Nashville Symphony Chorus, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association IP Law Practice Management Committee, and Advisor at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. When she’s not making sure your intellectual property, brand, and copyrights are protected, Maria likes cooking (especially Greek food), calligraphy, barre, and singing.
Name: Maria Spear Ollis
Company: Spear IP
Industry: Legal Services (Intellectual Property)
SHEroines: My mom. She is the strongest and kindest woman I know. And also Kate Winslet – she has a fearlessness and poise that I admire.
Tell us about your business: who are you, when did you start, what do you do?
I am an intellectual property and business attorney at Spear IP, my solo law practice. “IP” is short for “intellectual property,” and it consists of copyright (which protects creative works like graphic design and literature), trademark (which protects brand names and logos), and trade secret (which protects valuable, secret information, like recipes). I launched Spear IP in 2015 after practicing for about six years, and it was the best decision I’ve made in my career. My practice focuses on the fashion, new media + tech, and hospitality industries.
What was your path to owning your own small business?
It’s funny, it wasn’t until I took my now-husband home for Thanksgiving for the first time the he pointed out all of the entrepreneurs in my family: my mom and dad own a coffee and wine distribution company, my grandfather came to the states from Greece as a teenager, didn’t know the language, put himself through school and opened his own mechanical engineering firm, and all my uncles and aunts are entrepreneurs. It’s definitely safe to say entrepreneurship is in my genes – it’s always been the norm for my family!
Meanwhile, I went to the University of Michigan and majored in voice performance with the desire to be an opera singer. That desire evolved into a desire to perform musical theater and jazz, and eventually I decided I’d like to go to law school. iTunes was fairly new at the time, and I thought I wanted to fight music piracy. Fast forward a few years, and after law school I worked at CMT on contracts for various awards shows. I then worked for a law firm in Nashville practicing entertainment law and intellectual property, doing litigation and transactional work. It was never a goal of mine to open my own law practice but things just fell into place, the timing was right, and I wanted to take a risk. I knew that when I started Spear IP, I no longer wanted to practice entertainment law – I love hearing clients’ ideas and talking them through protecting their brands, and the music business just doesn’t do it for me anymore.
What about being a small business owner brings you the most joy?
Freedom, baby. The freedom to take on certain clients (or not), and the freedom to work from Nashville or Detroit or Santa Barbara. I also really love marketing and design, so it’s fun to work on graphics, marketing materials, and tweaking my website.
What’s the most difficult part of being a small business owner?
The most difficult part is the inability to turn my brain off at the end of the day, though I am getting through it. I’ve started getting into the habit of turning off email at 6:30 and stopped checking my email on the weekends. Boundaries are important!
What’s the most exciting thing happening at your company or in your industry?
Right now, my license to practice law in the state of Michigan is pending. I am so excited to serve my hometown, the city of Detroit, and all of the incredible entrepreneurs that are contributing to its renaissance. I’m also very excited that a program proposal I submitted to the American Bar Association for its 33rd Annual Intellectual Property Conference was accepted, so I will be traveling to D.C. in April to participate and meet IP lawyers from across the country.
What has motivated you the most in your small business journey?
Honestly, the (maybe selfish) desire to feel accomplished. I want to look back ten and twenty and forty years from now without regrets, knowing that I worked hard to contribute to my family.
If you could go back to just before you launched your business and offer yourself sixty seconds of advice, what would you say?
I am a worry wart at heart and internalized a lot of stress in the first three to four months of Spear IP’s existence. So, my advice would be short and sweet: Don’t worry so much!
What are you looking forward to the most in your personal or professional future?
Currently, my husband and I have two “children”: Aria (our Doberman puppy) and Poseidon (my 4-year-old cat). I’m very much looking forward to being a mom (to human children) while still working. I have always appreciated how hard my parents work and I want to pass the work ethic down to my children as well.