Why Moms Make the Best Entrepreneurs, with Jill Salzman
Episode 90: Why Moms Make the Best Entrepreneurs, with Jill Salzman
Jill Salzman, founder The Founding Moms, wants you to know that moms make the best entrepreneurs. As a mom and entrepreneur, she has had much experience balancing the two and bringing other mommy moguls together to support and encourage each other. After getting her law degree, she realize an office job was not for her and decided to pursue her first entrepreneurial venture. Now on her third venture, Jill is passionate about giving moms a space to be authentic and successful. In this episode, Jill discusses how kids make moms more innovative and creative, how authenticity helps business and why it’s important to showcase mom entrepreneurs.
00:00 Announcer: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations of Women Changing the Face of Business. And now, your hosts, Kristy Wallace and Maricella Herrera.
00:09 Maricella Herrera: Hello, and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I beat you to it.
00:15 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is your host, Kristy Wallace, here with my co-host, Maricella Herrera. And we're having a fun time today and getting ready to tell you about today's podcast, which we know you're gonna be excited about.
00:31 MH: You will, you will. I was trying to beat Kristy to the punch here with the welcome.
00:36 KW: You can start doing the welcome. I don't need to own that.
00:41 MH: No, I just find it really funny. Yeah, we have a great guest coming up today. I know you guys had some great conversation.
00:48 KW: We did. I think Jill's great, Jill Salzman. I first met her years ago at a conference for women entrepreneurs, the WE Festival in NYC, and Jill just has this persona that radiates. And she's fun, and she's engaging, and she's interesting. And she does some great things around supporting women as entrepreneurs, women as parents, and creating community around that as well as sharing her learnings along the way. So you're gonna have fun on this podcast today 'cause Jill shares some great things.
01:25 MH: That's very powerful, women as entrepreneurs, women as moms, all the great stuff.
01:30 KW: We did. It was a good time. We're buds now.
01:33 MH: Cool. Kristy, I'm gonna share some insights from our community with you.
01:38 KW: Great. What are you gonna share?
01:39 MH: We asked our members if they believe they have achieved work-life balance or integration. Do you think you've achieved work-life balance or integration? Apparently it's a thing now where it's integrated, not balanced.
01:53 KW: So I would agree it's never balanced because I think work and life are so dynamic that it's always ups and downs and challenges. But I think I've gotten much better at the integration part. And I've figured out how to outsource it, figured out the corners I can cut. My kids are also, as they're getting older, are helping me out more. My son will make breakfast for everyone in the morning and stuff. But the funny part about this, he can make breakfast because they eat frozen pancakes for breakfast. So that's part of the integration is there's no home-cooked breakfast, and I'm okay with that because then my son can throw the pancakes in the microwave.
02:36 MH: So, as you're saying all of this, I'm thinking to this week for you. You had three sick kids, waking up early, not sleeping, and kind of integrating the whole thing together.
02:54 KW: Yeah, I mean, you roll with it. All three of my kids were sick, I was sick, and my husband was traveling for business. And it's cold in New York City, which is just should be mentioned because it's terrible. But I don't know, you figure it out. And coffee is your best friend, as is wine, as are the women and men that support you in the workplace and at home. And it takes a village, and I'm very fortunate to have a pretty amazing one.
03:22 MH: Oh, that's so nice. So we did ask our members that same question if they believed they had achieved work-life balance or integration. And 34% said, "Not fully, but I've gotten close," which is sort of what you were saying right now. You roll with the punches, you figure it out. 24% said, "No, and I'm not okay with it," which I get it. You still have to try. 17% said yes. 16% said work-life balance is a myth. And 8% said, "No, but I'm okay with it," which is also a really good way to kind of understand where you're at and make the best of it.
04:04 KW: Yeah, absolutely. Well, let's get to my interview with Jill. We hope you all enjoy it. Let us know. You can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with us on social media. Also, if you check out our Instagram account, we've got tons of pictures from taping of the podcast, but we're also on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. And feel free to rate and review the podcast. It means a lot to us. It really helps the women and men to find the podcast through your amplification and support. So thanks again and enjoy the interview.
04:53 KW: So Jill, you've been called a mommy mogul by CNN Money, and some may also call you a serial entrepreneur. So what inspired you to start your own business, and how have you gotten to where you are today?
05:09 Jill Salzman: It was not my goal to become a mommy mogul. I still find that term very funny. But I, in fact, I didn't intend to start anything mom related at all whatsoever. I used to manage bands for a living. And then I started a baby jewelry company which are quite random in and of themselves. But I was very curious about to how run two businesses with soon to be two babies at the time and thought, "Well, who can tell me how to do my marketing and my sales and my accounting? I don't know what I'm doing, and I'm gonna go crazy." So I started the little meet up outside of Chicago and said, "If you're a mom and you have a business, come and tell me how you're doing it." And that was the beginning. So it really was not something I intended to grow or build. It was just a self-centered, please-help-me kind of meet up. But I followed the members, and here we are seven years later in 62 cities with almost 12,000 members. It's nuts.
06:11 KW: I mean, it's so impactful. We hear that all the time at Ellevate, how just having that community and people you can lean on and ask the million and ten questions that pop into your head at any given time of the day or night and get that support is so critical, so key. What was one of your favorite moments in building that community? What really resonated with you?
06:40 JS: I think all the stuff that you never really anticipate as a business owner is the most rewarding. I didn't realize, of course, because when I think anyone launches a business, you hope, "I wanna make money. I hope I make money. I hope the money comes in." And I didn't realize it would be so rewarding to have members of mine show up and communicate with each other about products they want to build together or feedback or emotional support that they would give each other. And that it was, in fact, me facilitating this conversation with all these women who needed the same help I did. To date, it's the most rewarding thing every single time. I love it. Almost like the money doesn't matter. I probably shouldn't even say that. [laughter]
07:22 KW: Money doesn't matter. [laughter] It matters.
07:26 JS: I mean, it does, but... It does, but I don't find that to be as rewarding. And they do say, the more you love it, and the more passionate you are about it, the more the money will follow. And that has also proven to be true, which has been a surprise. So, yeah, I love what I do, and thank goodness for our community 'cause I didn't realize how important they are until I started my own. [laughter]
07:50 KW: You did a TED Talk on why moms make the best entrepreneurs, and I get your newsletter, and you recently talked about in the newsletter...
07:58 JS: You do? Great!
08:00 KW: Of course I do. About how you don't even remember giving the TED Talk, which actually happens to me all the time, too. But can you just talk a little bit about the catalyst for that talk and why you think moms make the best entrepreneurs? 'Cause it really resonated with me, the message that you had.
08:23 JS: Oh, how funny. I thought you're gonna say, "And can you talk about why you lost your mind during that talk?" [laughter] I should preface all of this by saying that I have been a performer for a very long time. I'm extremely comfortable on stage. If you hand me a microphone, my favorite thing to do in the whole world is public speaking. So when I got on to that TED stage, I have such respect for TED and was so panicked about getting it right that I literally blacked out for 18 minutes and I don't... I watch it now going, "Was I even there?" [laughter]
08:58 JS: But I knew I needed a platform because I learned pretty quick early on that if you work with mom entrepreneurs, and you're reaching out to corporations or brands or the media to help you, support you, sponsor you, feature you, they don't care. 'Cause you're called a mom, and mom is not a sexy word. It does not say, "I am a capable woman who can run a pretty successful business." So I realized, I needed a platform to get the word out there that you all need to take us pretty seriously 'cause we're still people, too. So I pitched it to the guy who founded TEDx Neighbor Bill. His name is Arthur. He's a wonderful guy. He saw it, he understood how important this was. So I think I also blacked out 'cause I knew this is very permanent. It's gonna be on internet for a long time. And I did it on 11/11/11, so it was a really long time ago. And it's still, thankfully, something people talk about and watch because there aren't a lot of people talking about how moms make the best entrepreneurs. And, really, we do, don't you think? We do.
10:03 KW: Yes, we absolutely do. [laughter] No, I have three little ones at home, and I have become so good at not focusing on... Just ridding myself of the things that don't matter, outsourcing when I can outsource, and being super, super efficient with my time, and many other things.
10:28 JS: Yes, that's a great word. ' Cause I think kids make us really efficient.
10:30 KW: Yeah, they do.
10:31 JS: Like, by force. [chuckle]
10:33 KW: And it was really interesting, I was on a panel recently. And one of the panelists said something that, totally, I got, which is kids also make us more innovative and creative because they're adding this perspective that can really help to drive our businesses, particularly as entrepreneurs. It's this mindset, the way that kids look at the world, even getting into the technology that they use. But I think at a younger age, they see things in such black and white but with these crazy colors around it, and it really helps us as entrepreneurs to tap into that.
11:13 JS: Yeah, I never actually thought of that, but I realized in talking to entrepreneurs who don't have kids, they tend to get stuck in a place where they know everything or they think they know what their business is about, and they're less flexible than kids force us to be. So, I think, parenting is sort of... You gotta have an open mind when you're parenting, or you could lose your mind completely. [laughter] So I'm sort of the same thing in entrepreneurship.
11:36 KW: Exactly. You have such a personality, and it comes through... [laughter] No, I love it because you are your brand, right, you're... So much is...
11:49 JS: I sure am. I sure am.
11:50 KW: Is centered around you and your thought leadership. And we hear that all the time with entrepreneurs and who are looking for funding, and it's about the team, and who's on the team. How do you keep that going? It must be exhausting.
12:05 JS: I think, honestly, everything looks more exhausting than it actually is. Because as your own brand, you have to be out there. And when I say that, I basically mean anybody who runs a small business who is the face in any way, shape, or form, of their business, and you kind of have to be, today. It looks more exhausting 'cause it looks like I'm always out there, when in fact, really, I'm doing a lot of behind-the-work scenes behind the walls a lot of the time. So I'm not actually out there so much. But what I appreciate that you said is, is that it seems like I'm out there a lot, and my very energetic personality comes through 'cause I really am like that in person. I am very energetic. But I want that to come across because I think, particularly in the industry of business, people think it has to be super serious. And it has to be dark colors. And if you don't say something sternly, you won't be taken seriously as a business person, and I am trying to disprove all of that and make sure people know business doesn't have to be boring, and you can be really silly and wear moustaches on your webinars and still have good advice for people or run a business successfully.
13:14 KW: It's back to that network, that idea, relationships, and to have those authentic relationships and to create... And a lot of those relationships with your customers, with your followers, with your community, you have to be able to be able to be your authentic self and to put yourself out there.
13:32 JS: Sure. Absolutely. And the more authentic or transparent you are, the scarier it is to do, but the more positive feedback you get. Or that's been my experience 100%.
13:44 KW: How do you handle it if someone's not so nice? Because you are putting your full self out there, so it must hurt more?
13:57 JS: You know what? It's interesting that it's me that I'm putting out there. But I, for some reason, know very, very confidently that it's all business. So if somebody I heard... Actually a good friend would tell me, "I hate that you wear moustaches and get dressed up in funny colors for your business, in your work, in your photos, on your Instagram account, because I hate that you have to do that to make a living." And I always think, "But I don't have to. I love doing it. And that's the thing that ends up making me more money than less, anyway." And so I think for her, it makes her really uncomfortable. So when somebody shares with me that they're turned off in any way, I either, "Go ahead and unsubscribe and go away. That's fine." Or you can tell me all about it, but I need to know that it's not about me. It's really about you because it resonates to plenty of other people. But I don't really take it personally. I just know that for a lot of people, it shakes them to their business core in a way that they're not comfortable with. And then I think, "You know what? You're my community. Bye." So it's fine, really. [chuckle] That's not harsh. It's fine.
15:04 KW: Yeah. I agree. It is fine. And this is gonna sound really weird when I say this. It's sounding weird already in my head, but I remember the first time I ever met you. And it was probably about two years ago, at WE Festival in New York City, and you were leading a session. You're were speaking...
15:27 JS: That was two years ago. Damn.
15:29 KW: Yeah, it had to have been. Yeah. And I remember because you had such personality, because you were so authentic, because you really stood out. And I sat there in the audience, and I was like, "Oh, man. I wanna be her friend. She sounds... She just seems amazing, and she knows so many great things."
15:49 JS: Aw, that's awesome. That's awesome.
15:49 KW: So you started out as a lawyer, right? You went to law school?
15:57 JS: Well, I have a law degree. I sure did. I've never used the degree, but we can pretend I did.
16:05 KW: Well, given your philosophy on clothes and not conforming, it's probably a good thing that that didn't end up being a long-term career path.
16:17 JS: Bingo. Bingo. Yeah, no. I did work in a lawyer's office for two weeks. That's how long I lasted.
16:24 KW: And you knew right away it just wasn't for you?
16:27 JS: Well, the lawyer was playing a lot of Solitaire and gave me all the work. And I sat at the desk and realized, "I'm not a desk girl. I can't. I need more creative expression in my day." And man, I loved law school. But, boy, that's so boring to actually work in. For me. Not my cup of tea.
16:46 KW: I'm inspired by what you just said because how often do we feel that we start down a path, and we know it's not the right path, but we don't feel like we can veer off of it.
17:00 JS: Quit it.
17:01 KW: Yeah.
17:02 JS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. See, you're supposed to commit and not be a failure. I think, probably halfway through law school, I realized, "Oh, I'm not like everyone else here. They're very comfortable sitting and reading documents all day long." So I think I knew pretty early on, but I also, on the flip side of that, I use my law experience every day. Any time I need to read a contract, I can do it with ease. I can write up my own. Little things come into play. Honestly, during law school, I thought this is just something everyone should go learn 'cause it's all applicable to all of our lives. It's not like I was in med school, and then dropped out. You feel like it's very helpful even though I'm not a practicing lawyer.
17:51 KW: Yeah, absolutely.
17:53 JS: I'm a recovering lawyer.
17:56 KW: [chuckle] On your podcast, I know you have done hundreds of interviews. Which stand out as some of the more memorable?
18:05 JS: I wouldn't even call them interviews. We really ask only a couple of questions of our guests, [chuckle] and we end up... We want to be car talk for small business. So we end up just asking our guests what's one issue you're having in your business, and we attempt to fix it. And the most memorable... There are two kinds. There's either the guest who has some wacky, zany issue in their business, and we come up with an even wackier way to solve it. The other kind are the guests who come on and think they have no problems in their business. Because then we get to rip them to shreds on the air, and tell them, "Of course, you do." That's a lot of fun for me, but it's not as frequent. [chuckle]
18:48 KW: I would love an example of a zany way to solve a zany problem.
18:55 JS: Yeah. My favorite, favorite, favorite story, there is a woman in the world who invented a sauce called Not Ketchup. It was supposed to be an alternative to ketchup, but she... It's a real product. You can go Google it. She couldn't get the trademark to ketchup, so she created this product. It's different kinds of flavored sauces. And she called in to say that her problem was that she had hired a company to put those tables in the grocery stores. You know, the ones where you can walk by and taste the stuff, like at Costco?
19:27 KW: Mm-hmm.
19:28 JS: And she walked in to check on one of those tables, and people just weren't selling her product. And what could she do? Because one of the girls was actually not selling the product at the table. She was making out with her boyfriend, she explained to us. So as a joke, I said to her, "Well, Valentine's Day is coming up. Why don't you do a campaign where you put everyone in stores with their partners, have them all make out, and say that it tasted so good, it had us fall in love with each other all over again." Again, I suggested it as a joke, [chuckle] but she called us six months later to say that she had done the thing we suggested, and it worked. And she sold more products than she had previously. So it's fun that we get to do things like that on our show. We just come up with wild and crazy ideas, and sadly, most people take us up on them. But, fortunately, they work most of the time. [chuckle]
20:24 KW: That is great, Not Ketchup.
20:25 JS: It's pretty funny.
20:26 KW: I'm going to check it out.
20:27 JS: Not Ketchup. Definitely go check it out and buy her stuff and make out with your partner. [chuckle]
20:33 KW: You do a great job, through Founding Moms, of really highlighting, spotlighting other successful entrepreneurs and women that are doing amazing things. Why is that so important to you?
20:48 JS: I like mostly highlighting other folks because I want people who might be part of the community, or a part of the community, to know that we are a real community who support each other and clap for each other along the way, and make sure that if there's a bad day, we're there for them. But I also like to highlight it because the more we can see successful mom entrepreneurs in the world, the more that the Bill Gates and the Steve Jobs and the "top dogs in business" start dissipating, and we have more women who are represented. Because when I say to you, "Who's the most famous mom entrepreneur you can think of?" Often, when I ask that question, people can't think of anyone. Can you? I don't know.
21:30 KW: The ones that come to my mind are consumer brands like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba and...
21:40 JS: I was just going to say, and people think of Jessica Alba. And while I love what she's doing, she did not start out as a mere mom who built a business from scratch. She had an awful lot of funding, and she already had a brand name. So it was like... I love what she's doing, but I don't count it because there's a jump-start she has that most of us don't. So the struggles are not the same, and I want to highlight women who have really made something from absolutely nothing without a previously successful, very worldwide-ly famous film career. Which I'd love to have, but not all of us can have that. So, yay, Jessica. [chuckle]
22:23 KW: Yay, Jessica. But that's why what you're doing is so important because you're really highlighting the female mom role models that are doing it all and doing it well.
22:38 JS: There's so many of us. Yeah, people often think that because it's called Founding Moms, we're a pile of women who've come up with baby products. Or we all have toddlers who need new clothing, so we have new clothing lines. And in fact, we're actually lots of lawyers and accountants. We had a woman who came recently who is the founder of her own construction company. We had a woman who recently sold her own surfboard company. We have a woman who recently became a millionaire because she created a makeup product that sold through Sephoras around the world. So it's like we have real women doing real stuff. But they're so busy that they're not highlighted very often, and so I feel like it's my job to do that. And I love that most of all. And I need to do more of the highlighting. People need to know.
23:23 KW: They do need to know. Well, hopefully we're getting some of the word out about that here on the podcast today.
23:29 JS: I appreciate that. Thank you.
23:31 KW: Thank you so much for joining us. It was just so great to speak with you and to have you on the Ellevate podcast. And I appreciate the time.
23:40 JS: My pleasure. Thank you so much.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Join Ellevate Now
In our community of experts, you’ll meet professional women committed to helping you succeed. We use the power of community to help you take the next step in your career.
Already a Member?