Q&A with Jill Salzman of The Founding Moms

The Founding Moms is the worlds first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meet-ups for mom entrepreneurs. Since it’s launch, The Founding Moms has spread to over 30 cities around the world, becoming a live, local, monthly meet-up where mom entrepreneurs around the globe can hang out, exchange ideas, connect and learn from each other.

Jill Salzman, an entrepreneur who previously founded Paperwork Media, a music management firm and Bumble Bells, ankle jewelry that doubles as a baby tracking device, is the founder of the rapidly growing group. An expert at blending her roles as a businessness woman and a mom, Salzman has recently published Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs.

We caught up with Salzman via email to discuss the benefits of building your business through an external platform and having an active social media profile. She also shared her inspirations and a few simple tips on how to quickly and successfully scale your business.

1. How did Founding Moms get started?
The Founding Moms started from a very selfish place. I was running two companies and on my way to having my second baby. I didn’t know a single other woman who had kids and was running her own company. I wanted to meet one, or two, even possibly three. So, I started a meetup through Meetup.com and invited anyone who self-identified as a mom entrepreneur to meet up with me. In about six months, we had 200 members online. I knew I was onto something. About that time, someone asked me to open up a Founding Moms’ Exchange (or Meet-up) in her city and I realized I could open it up in any city around the world. Two years later, we’re in 30 cities, 3 countries, and growing fast.

2. How has using Meetup helped to grow your company?
I don’t even consider us as “using” Meetup.com. I consider them a full-on partner of The Founding Moms. Although I started the organization essentially by accident, we would not exist without Meetup.com. Each of our cities’ Founding Moms’ Exchanges uses its own Meetup.com page, so we are essentially built on the Meetup.com platform. It’s an incredibly powerful one, and without it I’m not sure we would have grown to so many cities, or so many members, in the short amount of time that we have. You can also hear about how I accidentally met the founder of Meetup.com in my TED talk.

3. How does the use of social media to influence your brand today?
It’s an active participant in our brand. In fact, just the other day I was thinking about taking a social media break (note: I take a full tech break for 1 week/year and love it.) But it was in a moment of, “Am I using social media too much? Is the joy it brings me, and my members, not really serving our community and business properly?” And after only 24 hours away, I realized that social media influences our business growth so positively that we can’t proceed without it. It does too much good.

4. What inspires you?
Mom entrepreneurs. Chocolate. Ultrarunners. I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.

5. How do you inspire other mothers?
By doing it. Building companies, meeting other mom entrepreneurs, and showing them lots of pictures of wires.

6. How do you manage groups in 30 cities around the world?
I have a unique team made up of hosts for each of our Founding Moms’ Exchanges. I don’t open an Exchange anywhere unless there is a local mom entrepreneur ready to pave the way for her community there. I vet them by having them apply, chatting with them, really feeling out whether they’re right for the job. After 2 years of working with good and bad picks, I definitely have a strong sense for what our hosts look like.

7. How did you successfully scale your business?
Through the power of a platform like Meetup.com, incredible hosts and working around the clock to make sure everything’s going smoothly (it never is) we have scaled quickly. I think any business that really helps people solve problems, or introduces aid to them in some way, is scalable.

8. How do you monetize your business?
Sponsorships. Speaking opportunities. And while our offline memberships are free or very low cost, we have an online membership platform as well at Community.FoundingMoms.com.

9. You seem focused on the experience you provide for your members. Do you have any tips for creating a positive customer experience in an online community?
Listen. Listen, listen and listen some more. Not just to what the conversation is, but to what your community reacts to, what they like or don’t like…and I ask a lot of questions. A LOT of questions.

10. What is the most important lesson being an entrepreneur has taught you?
Patience. The typical entrepreneur, myself included, wants everything to happen yesterday. But faster. And if even after an entire year your company’s not where you want it to be, you must keep moving forward…with patience. Once you realize that’s all it takes, it changes your perspective and things get a lot better. But I have to remind myself of that pretty often.

11. If you could give an aspiring entrepreneur one piece of advice what would it be?
Stop thinking and start doing. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle but if you think, plan, map and outline a whole bunch without actually trying the darn thing, you won’t really know. You wont know if there’s a market for your product, or newest feature. You won’t know what people will be buzzing about if you are by yourself with pen and paper. Get it out there and try it.

12. What are you working on right now? Plans for the future?
I’m working on roughly 327 things right now. Growing The Founding Moms to new cities (and new countries — The Netherlands is up next!). Finding new members. Building our social media presence. Growing our online community. Writing the next book. Speaking a lot more. Meeting new people. Involving a lot more jazz hands.

Filed in: Startup Community