If you have kids and you’d like to launch your own business, then you need to know Jill Salzman, the Chicago mom and entrepreneur who started The Founding Moms, a unique networking organization that provides resources for small business owners.
The idea behind the group is to connect so-called “mompreneurs” (women who are actively juggling raising children and getting a business off the ground). Salzman prefers the straightforward descriptor “mom entrepreneur” over the cutesy “mompreneur.”
“I love being called a ‘mom entrepreneur,’” Salzman says. “I have children, I like to acknowledge that they exist — and I actually think they have added to my business, not taken away from it.”
Salzman encourages women to embrace the fact that they are both mothers and business owners rather than to try to keep their two worlds separate, and The Founding Moms helps them to do that. Monthly meetings are kid-friendly and the dress code is casual, removing some of the barriers that might keep entrepreneurial moms away from networking events.
The Founding Moms was started — as many of the most interesting things are — almost by accident. In 2010, shortly after she gave birth to her second daughter, Salzman was looking for guidance on juggling two babies and two small businesses. So, she took to the internet and started a group on Meetup.com, hoping she might find some mentors.
“I had a brand new baby, and I was like, ‘How do you do this with two babies?’” Salzman recalls. “So I was literally saying [to other entrepreneurs with kids], ‘Can you please come have coffee with me and tell me how you do it?’”
It turns out that many other women were looking for the same kind of support. Within six months, the original Meetup group had 200 members, and people in other cities were interested in forming similar networks. Today, The Founding Moms has about 10,000 members operating networking groups for women in cities all over the country, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as in other countries such as Mexico, Croatia and Australia. The organization creates unique opportunities for mom entrepreneurs to connect with one another for inspiration and practical guidance.
Of course, the women discuss the challenges and frustrations of juggling motherhood with a small business, but The Founding Moms also offers them information on the nuts and bolts of building a successful company. Meetings typically feature an expert speaking on a topic of interest to small business owners, such as sales, marketing or business law.
“We’re all sitting around the table and we grill the speaker with our questions because we are all savvy, sophisticated women,” Salzman says. “Our brains did not come out with the baby.”
Getting all kinds of entrepreneurial moms in a room together leads to powerful outcomes, Salzman says. The Founding Moms members frequently hire one another or barter services to help grow their businesses. Salzman says members have collaborated with one another to write books. And some of the mom entrepreneurs, inspired by the unique networking group, have gone on to secure millions of dollars in funding for their businesses.
One success story to come out of the group is a company called Kiesque that makes a product called Liquid Palisade, which helps women do neater at-home manicures. The creator joined The Founding Moms when she was just getting started, and now her product is sold by Sephora, Amazon and other major retailers.
“We’ve had some big amazing things happen to our members,” Salzman says. “There’s a lot of partnering and inspiration.”
While combining business ownership and motherhood is certainly a complex balancing act, Salzman says moms can actually be some of the best entrepreneurs. Raising children and starting a business have more in common than we might think. For starters, both require you to multitask, whether you like it or not. And, Salzman points out that parenthood has a way of throwing us curveballs, not unlike startup businesses.
“We are presented with lots of challenges from our kids — just when you get used to the baby’s nap schedule, then it changes,” Salzman says. “There are constant changes with kids, and it’s the same with small businesses.”
Entrepreneurs also have to be able to tolerate a lot of uncertainty and learn quickly. Incidentally, raising children can be an excellent way to hone both of those skills.
“As moms, we can handle things when we know what we’re doing, but we’re also good at handling things when we don’t know what we’re doing,” Salzman says.
Jill Salzman’s Top 10 Tips for Aspiring “Mom Entrepreneurs”
1. Start somewhere. But you have to start. No more thinking, weighing, or analyzing whether or not to move forward in your small business.
2. Ask people. Have a great idea? A marketing plan you’d like to try? An accounting trick you’d like to test? Ask fellow entrepreneurs whether they’ve done it or how they do it.
3. Test things. I’ve seen too many entrepreneurs put together entire businesses and upon launch, realize that they’ve never asked a single customer if he or she would buy it. Test your sales by selling small and seeing if folks bite.
4. Use more photo apps. Think you need to hire a designer? Think again. There are too many free photo apps not to become a semi-pro yourself.
5. Barter. There are too many things that other people can do better than you. So why not use their skills and let them tap yours?
6. Hire virtual assistants. They’re everywhere now and they could not be more helpful. Start at Upwork.com and see the millions of options at your fingertips.
7. Listen to a business podcast. Spoiler alert: The Breaking Down Your Business podcast is the most entertaining business podcast in the world. So while you’re driving or getting the dishes done, keep boning up on solid business advice offered up by small business consultant and genius Brad Farris who shouts alongside yours truly.
8. Sleep more. It will get done. I promise. But it will be mediocre, stress-filled, and not what you want to put out there if you don’t sleep.
9. Stop staring at the competition. They can never do it the way that you will. No more comparing. Heads down and get to work.
10. Follow me! I’m @foundingmom on Instagram and Twitter and look forward to it.
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