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How To Build A Better Business: Go With Your Gut

How To Build A Better Business: Go With Your GutJill 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, she started a music management firm and then launched a baby jewelry company before creating her current venture. Jill has been featured in national media outlets including People Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Daily Candy Kids, NBC5 and WGN TV. She is the author of Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs, a columnist for NBC Chicago, has been published in The New York Times and gave her very own TED talk on 11/11/11. In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, baking, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.

What’s the best advice I ever got?

To take people’s advice with a grain of salt.

I’ve known those words of wisdom for years, but I often forget them. If I start up a new company, I ask for loads of advice and eat up every word. If I want to get tips on how to market my new book, I ask around, and I pay close attention to what people tell me. Fortunately, though, I remember about those salt granules and once I collect all of my intel from the experts and pros, I trash most of it and move forward.

When I launched The Founding Moms, it was my third venture but my first foray in community organization. I asked questions of organizational “experts” and got stellar answers. But had I listened to them, we would not be at 2,500+ members in less than 2 years.

When I decided to write my new book, Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs, everyone told me to find an agent. That agent would find a publisher and fame and fortune were sure to follow. But had I listened to them, Barnes & Noble would not be selling my book in their stores at the time of this writing.

When I wanted to grow my speaking platform, I asked every speaking professional I could find about how they did it. They suggested joining this club and that networking group, finding a speaking agent and paying thousands of dollars to join their favorite speaking organizations. But had I listened to them, I would not have a TEDx Talk under my belt or 10+ speaking engagements coming up this summer of 2012.

Here’s my advice to you, dear reader: stop listening. Start doing. Make it happen, and I promise you it will.

I started The Founding Moms by accident. It was late 2009, and I was running two unrelated businesses — a music management company and a baby jewelry company — when I had an idea. I’d just had my second child and was yearning to find other women who ran their own businesses and had kids. I had questions for them, and until then, I didn’t know a single mom entrepreneur. So, I headed to Meetup.com and launched a group called “The Momtrepreneur Meetup.” I invited anyone who self-identified as a mom entrepreneur to meet me for coffee. Plain and simple.

Six months in, we had 200 members join our group. So, in the Spring of 2010 my lightbulb moment hit: why I don’t I open up these groups anywhere that mom entrepreneurs need to meet up? (Everywhere!) Fast forward to what has grown from a small meetup in one village to groups in 30+ cities around the world, including cities in Canada and Australia. There are already 2,500+ mom entrepreneur members, and we’re just getting started.

Once I formalized the organization and named it The Founding Moms, I knew I’d need to keep in touch with our members. Social media was my first go-to outlet. It’s free, and its exponential reach is incredible. Our Facebook fan page is growing, and I’ve become a bit of a Twitter addict. Then came the blog. I use it as a way to announce any press that comes our way, any upcoming news or events, and from time to time I feature an interview I’ve done with a Founding Mom.

Once those channels were humming along, I began speaking. I speak for many reasons. The ability to promote The Founding Moms is invaluable. The practical, actionable advice that I can give to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-to-be is a form of community service that I didn’t realize existed until I began to do it. And the message I can bring to others is profound: that mom entrepreneurs are not just cutesy bon-bon-eating housewives who like to dabble in fun ideas at their kitchen tables, but that we’re serious business people who want and need to be taken seriously by business communities even if we are raising children at the same time as we’re growing our companies.

I’ve since been reaching outlets I never dreamed I’d be participating in. On 11/11/11, I gave a TED talk called “Why Moms Make The Best Entrepreneurs.“ Last month, a piece I wrote on “mompreneurs” was published in The New York Times. I’m now gunning for a daytime talk show. How’ve I gotten all of this? Purely by persistence. I do all of my own marketing without any publicists. I reach out to anyone I come across on the web who may potentially be interested in my book, my organization or my message. Google is my best friend and I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn these days, having only recently discovered what an invaluable tool it is.

Now that you know a bit about my story, go and make your own. Ask and ask again why and how people have done what they’ve done, and then trash most of it and move forward to forge your own path. It works, and it’ll get you more attention than you ever bargained for.

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