Jill Salzman had started two businesses, a music management firm in 2005 and a baby jewelry company after that, when she had the inspiration to start a third one to help female entrepreneurs like herself. Entrepreneur ideas come and go, but The Founding Moms turned out to be a stroke of genius, a way for a female entrepreneur to meet other women like her, who have both companies and kids.
"I was pregnant with my second child and I wondered how I would run both of my companies. I needed to meet women who had companies and babies, so I launched a group in my hometown outside Chicago," Salzman says. "We had 20 women show up at the first one."
The women wanted to meet every month, so that's what they did. "Six months in we had 200 members in our little town. One woman drove from Chicago, and she asked me if we could start a chapter there. I realized I can do it anywhere. That was the lightbulb," Salzman says. She called friends in New York and Los Angeles, and the program began to expand. "We launched New York in 2010. As The Founding Moms began to build steam, Salzman closed down her music company and sold her baby jewelry company to concentrate on her newest venture.
"We're at 3,500 people now, should hit 4,000 in the next few months. I hope to keep opening in different cities. We have our first exchange in Mexico: Mexico City. The woman who started that group is launching in other Latin American cities. We have groups in the Netherlands, Australia and Canada, and we're looking toward India."
And lest you think this is a gathering of twentysomethings with newborns, Salzman is quick to emphasize the range of her audience. There are young, new moms, but also grandmas, all exploring what it's like to run a company and have a family. Most are in the first five years of owning a business.
"We have a sounding board discussion one month, then invite an expert to speak the next month. Some cities charge $5 a head, others don't," Salzman says. She's created starter kits to help businesses launch or grow, and has written a book, Found It. A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs. She's creating revenue streams for The Founding Moms by selling copies, and attracting sponsors for her newsletter. "So far, it's a labor of love, but it's quite rewarding."
Some members show up to network. Others come for the education. "We talk about marketing, legal, and accounting — all the basics of being an entrepreneur. We don't talk about our babies, as it turns out, and people only bring kids if they can't find day care," Salzman says. "It sounds cocky when it comes from me, but it's truly amazing."
The Founding Moms website has an online community, webinars with experts, and other tools and resources for women entrepreneurs.