Founding Moms, Jill Salzman, Woman Entrepreneur

imgresAn email popped in my box from Jill Salzman.  She said that someone had told her to get in touch with me and wrote me a short synopsis about Founding Moms.  She wrote;  we’re a collective of offline meet-ups and online resources for mom entrepreneurs — now in 43 cities having kid-friendly monthly meet-ups for women (that’s 9 countries) and we’ve just hit 8,000 members in 4 years. We’re growing fast.  I went to the website and saw the photo of Jill and emailed her back with a time to talk.  Right up my alley.

Talking to Jill on the phone was like talking to someone I had known for years.  Her energy is amazing and she has taken on her career, motherhood and everything else with bravado and that positive entrepreneurial spirit.

Jill grew up in Englewood NJ.  Her father was an orthopedic surgeon and her mom was a lawyer.  Her mother had four kids by the time she was 28 years old, got bored and decided to go to law school in the midst of all of that.  She realized after her first year of law school that her kids were creating mayhem and she needed to return home.  She stayed home until they were all in school full time and returned to finish law school, practiced for year and then decided to return to full time motherhood again.  She continued to stay at  home with the kids until they went to college and then she became a divorce mediator.

Jill went to Brown University after graduating high school where she majored in brain and behavior with a degree in biology.  In 1999 she spent half a year in Capetown.  Apartheid had just ended 5 years before that so it was an interesting time to be there.  She traveled around after school and returned to Brown where she spent her last year singing in a jazz band while in school.

After graduation she went directly to NYC.  She slept on friends couches.  She had it in her head that she was going to work for a record label.  She landed a job in A & R at Electra Records.  She worked there three years literally seeing music every single night.  It was a really interesting time because technology was pushing down the throats of the large record labels companies.  Then 9/11 happened, her boyfriend was moving to LA to be a lawyer and she decided she was going too.

Jill got accepted into law school at Southwestern located in Koreatown in LA.  They are known for entertainment law.  She was so burnt out from the record label that she thought she should shift gears and perhaps become a bankruptcy lawyer.  She stuck is through law school but never really liked LA and they both left the second she graduated.  Her now husband and Jill decided to move to Chicago.  They had no friends, no job, no nothing but somehow decided Chicago was there spot.

Jill landed a job at a law firm and quickly realized that this was not her calling.  She decided to start her own company managing local bands in 2005.  She worked mostly with jazz and rhythm and blues bands.  Some of them started to take off and she was booking them locally, regionally and nationally.  Two years into this company she had her first daughter.  Around the same time she had been down in Thailand and found these ankle bracelets that she wore.  People loved them and Jill decided she could build another business selling these ankle bracelets while her bands were in the studio or on the road.  She began to import them and one ended up on Gwen Stefani’s ankle and the business exploded.

Jill decided she really hated selling stuff.  In 2008 she got pregnant with her second child and thought how do I run two businesses with two little kids?  She did not know any other women who ran businesses with two babies at home.  She knew guys in the music business and women in the jewelry business but nobody who was doing what she was doing.  She figured she would start a meet-up and see who would show up.  Maybe that would be the way to meet other like-minded women.  She said if you are like me then come to the meet-up.

The first meet-up 21 women showed up.  Six months later there are 600 members.  Women were asking Jill if they could start the same meet-up in their own town by creating chapters.  This was March 2010.  Jill realized this was bigger than anything else she had ever done.  She certainly did not think she’d be running women founder chapters across the globe but here she was.

Fast forward they are in 43 cities, although more than likely 53 since when we talked there were 10 more about to open up.  She has aggregated a lot of resources for these women who need help just like she did running a business.  Women bare their heart and soul when meeting face to face with other women who are in the same boat.  She wants to grow this to 1m cities around the globe.  When you are sitting in NYC or Chicago you don’t realize that there are women around the globe that can do business with you.  For a monthly fee you can have access to education and forums that are business focused.  She is also adding a funding section.

Jill had touched upon something that is making a big difference.  What she discovered by putting women together who are in need of other peers to help them in their businesses or just realize that they are not alone is empowering.  It is similar to what I have found at the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival.  There is something unique that happens when business women get together in a room and all the walls come down.

Jill is a dynamo.  She put on her first conference last year and Christie Hefner was her keynote.  I am looking forward to meeting Jill in person.  She is doing great work and I am quite confident that she will get the Founding Moms to 1m cities sooner than later.

Comments (Archived):

  1. zainabz

    Joanne, Jill’s story is so inspiring. There is another extraordinary woman in DC who is doing the exact same thing and building a very similar business like Founding Moms. It is called Her Corner (Fred) is an amazing entreprenuer and mom of three kids. She too is focused on empowering women who are trying to run households, families and businesses and keep it all together. Just wanted to give her a shout out.

    1. foundingmom

      Thanks very much, @zainabz:disqus! Had no idea about Her Corner, I’m off to check it out now — looks fantastic from what I can skim so far.

    2. Gotham Gal

      I will check it out

  2. foundingmom

    Honored to be featured by an inspiration herself. Thank you so much!!

  3. AG

    Great profile and love an Englewood hometown shout out.

  4. TroyHenikoff

    Joanne great to see you connected so well with Jill, she is so great! Keep tabs on her as there is more big stuff coming, I promise!!

    1. Gotham Gal

      No doubt there will be more coming.