Jill Salzman is founder of Founding Moms, a Chicago-based network that connects thousands of mom entrepreneurs with one another through a digital community, online learning and in-person events around the world. (Find a city near you here.)
We talked to her as part of our #MotherlyMakers series, highlighting the women remaking our world.
Our big takeaway? You’ll never know if you can do it—until you try. ?
Why did you believe you needed to create Founding Moms? What was going on in your life—and the culture at large?
I started the very first meetup for mom entrepreneurs purely out of self-interest. I was running two unrelated businesses at the same time and was pregnant with my second baby.
How on Earth was I going to run two businesses with two babies in one home office?
I was mortified, scared senseless, and needed to know how other women were doing it because I didn’t know a single one.
When 15 women attended the first meetup and then that number grew each month that we got together, I knew I was onto something and followed attendees’ desires from there on out.
That’s essentially how I built The Founding Moms and how I continue to grow the brand — I base most of our decisions on what the collective of mom entrepreneurs needs. We went from 15 women at that first meeting to nearly 10,000 mom entrepreneurs worldwide (nearly 50 cities in 10 countries.)
So there’s that.
Was there a single moment when you decided to take the leap?
About six months into hosting a neighborhood meetup for mom entrepreneurs — where I strapped my baby to myself every time — I did have one of those lightbulb moments. A woman asked me to open a second chapter so she wouldn’t have to drive so far. I agreed. When I sat down to open up the second chapter, I realized that I could open up a chapter in any city — not just the one she wanted — because the Internet is a wonderful thing.
So I did.
I kept opening up in cities where I could find a fellow mom entrepreneur who believed in our mission.
And I still do.
Why is it that so many women become entrepreneurs after motherhood, even in the mom and baby space?
Building a business and raising a family are very much the same thing. It involves feeding, growing and nurturing an unknown. A thing that can literally throw something in your lap at any minute. Something that can vomit all over itself or throw a tantrum or give you stress or joy or pain or abundant love at any second of the day.
It’s a wild and risky ride that all moms are familiar with to some degree.
So it is fitting for moms to become entrepreneurs — by raising a child, they are part of the entrepreneurial sort already.
I see more moms becoming entrepreneurs in spaces that they’re familiar with—lawyers, accountants, marketing experts, etc. — but plenty launch mom- or baby-industry businesses because they are in it all the time after they give birth and they’re passionate about it, too.
You have started several successful ventures, all while raising a family. What are your secrets for integrating work and family?
But it’s not a secret! I’m doing what I see most mom entrepreneurs do. I don’t strive to integrate or find that silly “balance” thing.
I just do it.
I integrate my work with my kids and don’t feel guilty about it (anymore) and don’t make up excuses to other people about it. If I have to get to an emergency email or phone call, I hand my kids the stapler and paper and have them staple “important things.” If there’s a sick kiddo and a meeting I just can’t miss (which is extremely rare,) the kiddo comes with me. As long as my kids are involved, they feel attended to and loved and I get my work done.
On the flipside, I try very hard not to do any work around them if at all possible, especially since it is easier now that they are school-aged. But they know mama needs to work and that she is a happy version of herself because of it.
We love hearing from other women about how they make it all work. Can you give us a little glimpse into a day-in-the-life?
At 6: 30 am. . .
I am still sleeping. And if you so much as breathe loudly I will be very, very unhappy with you.
At 7:45 am. . .
Making sure that my kids are eating their oatmeal so they can throw their clothes on and get into the car for school.
At 10:00 am. . .
I’m working out, prepping dinner and getting household stuff in order before diving into work.
At 1:00 pm. . .
Diving into work. This is usually the start of my work day — taking meetings, phone calls, doing the big kid stuff we founders are supposed to be doing.
At 3:00 pm. . .
At 5:00 pm. . .
picking up my kiddos from their after school program, heading straight to dinner, bath, bed.
At 9:00 pm. . .
back at work, filling out interviews for incredible series like Motherly Makers.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Raise your prices. (My podcast partner, Brad Farris, tells me this often and repeats it in our weekly podcast, Breaking Down Your Business. He’s a genius.)
Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to that’s helped to shape you as a woman and a mother?
Too many to count. Every member of The Founding Moms is an inspiration to me and has pushed me in a direction that has helped me build a brand and land me where I am today.
And Stephen Colbert.
Tell us about your daughters. How have they transformed your career?
I have two girls, now in Kindergarten and the third grade. I used to feel so guilty when they were babies about doing the work I really wanted to do. I pushed through that—and by talking to them about what I do and how I work hard to make sure they feel included—they have helped elevate my sense of self-when-at-work and have been such positive lights in what I do that I can genuinely say I couldn’t do this without them.
I want them to grow up to be incredible mom entrepreneurs, too, so here’s hoping I can be a solid example.
What gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you inspired and excited about life?
My alarm clock gets me out of bed and my members keep me going. They are awesome. Really.
We’d love to hear—what would you tell other mamas who want to turn their passions into their professions?
Just do it. No hemming and hawing. You won’t know until you dive in and try it, and you can very easily talk and plan your way right out of ever getting going. Just do it.
What are your big dreams for Founding Moms?
That we become a central hub for mom entrepreneurs to help each other build businesses, make money and grow local economies in every city around the world. We need the support, and there are so many of us dreaming big, why not do it together?
What do you hope your daughters learn from your career?
That they don’t have to choose between two things they love.
What does it mean to you to be “Motherly”?
To be motherly is to nurture externally — whether it be a company or a family — while simultaneously nurturing yourself.