Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs.
A graduate of Brown University and law school after that, she started Paperwork Media LLC, a music management firm and her first entrepreneurial venture. (Her parents still wonder why she opted for the music business over the seductive and alluring career of a bankruptcy attorney.)
She went on to create The Bumble Brand, LLC, to sell Bumble Bells, audible anklewear for the newest of human beings (she sold it in 2011.) Having built two successful companies, she launched The Founding Moms to connect mom entrepreneurs around the globe with one another.
A sought-after speaker, Jill has been featured in national media outlets including CNN’s Headline News, People Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Daily Candy Kids, Business Matters, WGN TV and WAHM Talk Radio. Her TED talk, Why Moms Make The Best Entrepreneurs (see below), received rave reviews. She was recently named one of the Top 50 Women To Watch In Tech and Top 100 Champion Small Business Influencer.
Jill’s been profiled in several books: The Solopreneur Life: 42 Solo-Business Owners Speak the Truth on Dreaming Big, Failing Forward, and Calling Your Own Shots, A Cup of Cappuccino for The Entrepreneur’s Spirit, Volume II, CRAVE Chicago and was recently featured in a film on social media.
Jill currently writes for NBC5′s small business blog, Inc. Well, and she’s been published in The New York Times and eHow.com. She released her first book, Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs, published on January 12, 2012 through Piggott Press.
In December of 2012, Jill launched The Founding Kit to help entrepreneurs launch their businesses using affordable, spectacular services. In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, traveling to small towns, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.
Naaree.com caught up with Jill to find out what makes her tick.
What inspired to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?
I think I always knew I’d be an entrepreneur. It didn’t take much to get me to launch my first company, which I decided to do out of a home office in preparation of the day I’d have kids. I knew I’d want to be around them.
When do you know that it is no longer just an idea in your mind, and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?
Testing it out on the market is always the first step for me. I’ve had more than several ideas that I thought were brilliant but when I asked around, discovered that I was clearly the only one who thought so.
One of my businesses, selling imported baby jewelry, took off because I was approached so many times about it I knew the market could bear bringing that business to fruition. Since then, I grow companies by market interest, and in having grown three companies to date, this rule of thumb hasn’t let me down yet.
What inspired you to start out on your own or with your partners? What learning lessons can you share from your startup experience?
I went solo for my first two companies. I didn’t think others would have the passion for my company that I did. I also assumed that no one would work at the pace I wanted to, and working with someone else just sounded like a lot of extra work to me.
It wasn’t until two years ago that I took on my first business partner – and boy do I regret not doing it sooner. There’s an entire new dimension to business that’s added with another perspective.
And those silly assumptions I made about speed & passion? Very silly indeed. I now have four business partners on four different projects within my current organization and I couldn’t be happier about all of them.
What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?
Money is always a challenge, particularly at the start. I’ve always bootstrapped and never asked for funds from an investor, so I’ve had to create something out of nothing. It’s worked, but not without a lot of sweat and anxiety.
Although that’s the catch-22 about entrepreneurship: Is it the drive to make the business work (i.e. create profitability) that inspires me to build a better company, or is it the fear of failure that pushes me forward? I’d like to think it’s the former.
And really, there is no greater challenge than wanting to make your company work – my advice to women entrepreneurs to overcome that challenge is to dive in and do it. Just do it.
Don’t think much about the what-ifs and the business plans you should be editing every day. It takes away from the joy that is entrepreneurship. And if failure is not an option – which is a choice you can make – then it will take off at some point. It’s just a matter of staying smart and keeping your ears and eyes open.
What are all the things that a woman entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? I.e. apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?
You need to be armed constantly with updated information about your industry and social media trends. In my view, you can’t really be a player in the business world in this day and age without understanding the basic ins and outs of social media, and obviously to grow your business you need to know what your market desires and where things are headed.
While you could spend all day Googling these matters, I usually recommend leaving your home or office and meeting up with fellow entrepreneurs. Usually, and often casually, they will talk about the latest phone apps or social media tools that helped their businesses, as well as tools that help them stay on top of trends. Get out and chat with others!
Do women entrepreneurs find it tougher to get funding for businesses? If yes, why do you think that is?
I’m not informed enough to answer this properly. I’ve met many women who find funding, and many who do not. Same for men. And since I’ve not sought out funding, I cannot say. I do know that the Pipeline Fellowship is an amazing organization that helps train women to fund women – may be worth checking out.
Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?
Absolutely. I’m not sure it’s only necessary at the start – many years in, I still like talking with mentors. Like business partners, they bring great perspective to the table – and years of experience, to boot.
My favorite website to find them is MicroMentor.org but I’m sure there are others to find great mentors. And talking to people in your circles who could help tremendously are a bonus – add them to your mentor roster, too.
How did you recruit your first team? How difficult was it to get people on board during the initial stages?
I didn’t! I’ve never recruited a team.
What are 3 key things that you have learned as an entrepreneur?
1. That you think you understand your market, especially if you are your market, but that you don’t.
2. That there is no one regular day and at a moment’s notice, everything can change.
3. That if we entrepreneurs band together, we can make things even bigger and better.
How important is social media in building a business today? How has it played a role in helping you build yours?
Social media has played such a huge role in building my business, and plenty of others’ businesses, that I can’t see folks going without it. It’s imperative. It’s free. It enables entrepreneurs to connect with potential sponsors, investors, partners, clients, customers and more. It’s pretty amazing and I’m its biggest fan!
Can you share some tips for women entrepreneurs to maintain a balance between work and family life?
Not really. It’s different for everyone. And I’m not sure I believe in balance – or at least, I’m not trying to achieve it. I love the imbalance and imperfection of raising my 2 kids and running my business – it’s a challenge that makes me a better mother and a better entrepreneur.
Think you know what personality type makes for the best entrepreneur? You might be surprised. Jill Salzman tells her story—with cameos from Eddie Vedder and Gwen Stefani — and along the way makes the case for why moms make the best entrepreneurs.