Anyone in the startup scene knows that it goes far beyond a typical 9-5 job. Between the long hours, the endless networking, the pitching and promoting, there never seems to be enough time in the day to do everything. Now let’s throw some kids in the mix, and you can go ahead and kiss sleeping goodbye.
This is all too familiar for both genders, but I have some good news for the ladies. If you have a business and a baby, now you also have a support system.
The Founding Moms is a monthly meet up group for entrepreneurial mothers to get together and talk shop, and it’s not just in Chicago—the business is rapidly expanding, with chapters all over the U.S. and many more overseas.
We talked to Jill Salzman, the mind behind the movement, about her dream of running a successful business, helping mom-trepreneurs get together, and one day meeting Stephen Colbert.
What was the inspiration behind Founding Moms?
At the end of 2009 I was running two different businesses simultaneously and found out I was pregnant with my second child. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know anybody else who was in that situation, so I started a group on MeetUp thinking that maybe there were a few other women in Chicago who knew what I was going through.
The meetings started with ten women, and after six months our numbers grew to 200. I saw there was a real need for a support group like this so I called friends in New York and L.A. and got them to start local groups, and from there the numbers just took off.
Now we have 40 participating cities with 4,000 members. We just launched in Singapore and Poland and we’re about to open a chapter in Croatia.
What kind of support do you give to members?
We meet monthly at what we call “exchanges” to discuss one topic, which ranges from chapter to chapter. It could be about anything, from how to manage finances to better handling social media. Lots of women bring their kids, but the kids are never the topic of conversation—we keep it strictly business-related.
Anyone can come to the meetings, but we also have a paid membership, and a lot of women who don’t have kids have joined up just because they love what we offer.
On December 19 we launched what we call Founding Kits, which are packages that help our members get their businesses started. They can have the basic package Founding Kit which is kind of a “how-to” guide for running a business, they can get what we call a Kit and Caboodle, which is the “how-to” guide plus some professional services, or they can opt for the First Aid Kit which allows them to customize their experience.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
When I knew I needed Eddie Vedder to marry me. I was 16 and found out he was going to be inducting Neil Young into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, 20 minutes from my house.
I called the Waldorf and asked to be transferred to the person who was in charge of the event and told the woman on the phone I was an expert florist and—what a coincidence! On the night of the event I was offering a discount service. The woman hung up, so I called back and told her that I was an expert waitress and—what a coincidence! I was available the night of the event so if she needed extra wait staff I was her girl. Click. Determined, I called her back and said that I was a member of the press and what do I need to do to get a press pass? She gave me the information: fax a press pass request on a letterhead and we’ll consider you; here’s the fax number.
I sat in the kitchen with my mother that night creating a letterhead for Zip Magazine to send this press pass request in, and the next day (after telling my whole school that they could soon call me Mrs. Eddie Vedder) I receieved a fax back telling me I had been approved. I was in!
I got to go to the Hall of Fame induction and meet Al Green, and Allman Brothers, and what turned out not to be my future husband, Eddie Vedder.
That experience taught me two things: my mother is brilliant for helping a 16-year-old girl finagle her way into a hotel full of rock stars, and that moms make the best entrepreneurs.
If you could give that 16-year-old girl one piece of advice, what would it be?
The same advice I give grown-ups: if you have an idea, DO IT. Try it out and see what happens, and don’t listen to any adult who says you can’t do it.
What’s next for you and Founding Moms?
I want to keep doing what I’m doing now, but with more cities. I also want to organize a conference so moms from all over the world can get together and talk shop, network, and see how much support they have.
I also want to meet Stephen Colbert soon. We’re doing all we can to make that happen, and I’m not giving up on Mission: Colbert!