Should having a family keep you from starting your own successful company?
Jill Salzman, the self-proclaimed Momtrepreneur Maven, says no. In fact, Salzman thinks parents make the best entrepreneurs. Being a mom hasn’t slowed her down; instead, she’s embraced having an extra set of little hands to get work done while pursuing new business ideas. A Brown University grad and JD, Salzman founded music-media firm Paperwork Media LLC and went on to co-create The Bumble Brand, LLC, which currently sells Bumble Bells – audible anklewear for babies.
Salzman recently sat down with RingCentral to talk about balancing family and work. To learn more about Salzman, visit her website (http://foundingmoms.com).
How long have you been an entrepreneur, and what inspired you to start your various businesses?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since the age of 4, when I used to sell my parents my leftover dinner in the nightly game of “restaurant.” Then it was collecting and selling stamps. Skipped the lemonade stage and moved straight onto DJing parties in elementary school, then selling fanzines in high school. In college I started a non-governmental organization in South Africa while studying abroad. So after a corporate gig and grad school, it was only right to start my own company in an industry I was interested in and knew a lot about – the music business. After starting my first “grown-up” business in ’05, I launched a baby jewelry company in ’07 (while still running my first company) so that I could make a bit of money on the side. Then … while running two companies and moving onto baby number two, I was approached by mom friends who wanted help starting their own companies. So I started a meetup for mom entrepreneurs thinking it would be a local hangout … and two years later, we’re called The Founding Moms. We’re in 30 cities with over 2,200 members, and growing!
How did you do it while juggling the demands of your own family?
I don’t fight it. There definitely is a juggling act but at this point, it’s all relative – I don’t remember what it’s like running a company without kids around. I work out of a home office and often hand over the stapler, the tape or another item off my desk and put the kids to work. Several days a week they are off in daycare and then I get twice as much done, but I do notice that as long as the kids know that mom has to work, we’re all A-OK and I can get things done.
What advice do you have for moms who have a desire to start their own business, but don’t know how to get started?
Two things: first, figure out what really makes you tick. Forget the stuff you love to do but that no one would pay you for. Forget the stuff that you’re great at doing that people pay you for but that you just hate doing. Find the hobby, craft, business idea or activity that you could do all day every day, or that you could market and promote all day every day. Second, talk to people. Go out and find friends, find neighbors, find strangers, and ask them if they’d buy the product or service you’ll be selling. Without a market, no matter how much you love the idea, there won’t be a thriving business. If you talk to a pile of people and they all give you the nod, you’re onto something and it’s time to get down to business.
Is there an “ideal” time to start a business when you have a family? What has worked for the mom entrepreneurs you know?
Nope. I’ve met every kind of mom entrepreneur there is. Some have four kids and launch a company while pregnant with the fifth. Some wait until the kiddo is in kindergarten to really lay out the plans. Generally there’s a lot of waiting that a lot of women do until the “right time” and there’s no such thing. It’s a myth. So the ideal time is really when you’re ready – it’s all on you.
What tips do you have for women that can help them “get down to business”?
Make lists. Talk to people. Don’t start by writing a business plan. Sleep more. Go out and meet people doing what you do, or what you want to be doing. Be bold. Do something that you would not normally do. Get that website up today, not tomorrow. And stop stressing – it’s just business. It’ll never be perfect, so stop waiting.
Are there any products or services that you use that you recommend to other mom entrepreneurs?
Evernote! I heart Evernote! (I’m new to it so my excitement is still very fresh.) I love LessAccounting.com. Just starting to understand Highrise. MadMimi is my favorite newsletter provider. And Nutella.
You’ve said that moms make the best entrepreneurs, how and why?
Can I broaden that to say that parents make the best entrepreneurs? We know how to handle much more than folks without children. We learn how to take the good with the bad, and how to deal with surprises (in the diaper and out) on a whim and do it with ease. Children draw out the patience in you, the understanding in you and the empathy in you. Translate that to a business setting and we’re ready to go!
What advice do you have for young girls and young women who have yet to choose a career path regarding taking the path of entrepreneurship and building their own business?
Great question. We all recommend what we know, and what I know is that I appreciate tremendously the practice that I got in the hundreds of internships I did throughout high school and college; the corporate job I had for a few years after college taught me a LOT about running my own business, as well. If there are opportunities to intern or apprentice or work for folks who already run companies, go and learn from them. Be a sponge. Soak it in and *then* go off and start a company when it feels right. You will know when that is. Promise.