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Using Collaboration to Unlock Your Entrepreneurial Potential

Season 2: Episode 31


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With hectic work hours and unique challenges, entrepreneurship can often feel like a lonely endeavor. After experiencing the struggles of solo entrepreneurship first-hand, Jill Salzman was inspired to create The Founding Moms, a community with the goal of connecting mom entrepreneurs. On this week’s episode, Jill shares her takeaways from her journey of “serial entrepreneurship” spanning almost 20 years and how she used networking and collaboration to unlock her potential.

On the Yelp Blog: Get Jill’s quick tips for talking to people about your business effectively, including your peers, support group, and your kids.

EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. Behind the Review features conversations with business owners and customers who wrote one of their Yelp reviews. In our discussions, we talk about lessons they’ve learned that can be used by other businesses to improve their own reviews…and their bottom line. Occasionally I talk to industry experts on topics like digital marketing, social media, and leveraging technology. Today I’m talking to Jill Salzman. An entrepreneur, an author, a friend of mine! She is the queen of networking, and has created her own global network of mom-entrepreneurs. I don’t want to spoil the episode, soooo…

Let’s give our conversation a listen.

EMILY: Today I’m super excited for this guest, Jill Salzman. We actually met each other before the pandemic. I had just moved back to the Midwest and I was trying to build a business owner community in the greater Chicago area and Jill and I found each other, I know we’re gonna cover so many great topics for my entrepreneurs, but to set the stage, introduce yourself and tell me about your own entrepreneurial journey. Where did you start? Where did you go? What are you doing now?

JILL: I am a wacky wild serial entrepreneur who has one of the crazier stories. I launched my very first business in 2005.

And I want to back up and tell you that I have a biology degree from Brown University. I then went and got a law degree from the best music law school in the country. And I decided I’m going to do nothing with either of those. This is where we start getting into the craziness of my story. I just thought, “you know what?” I love the job that I had after college, which was working at a major record label. I worked in A & R and I got to decide who the next big band was going to be. So if you’ve heard of Jason Mraz… He would not be famous if I had not taken his demo out of the garbage bag and made my boss listen to it.

So, I realized years in, you know what, I want to keep working with artists. I can’t really start my own label at this moment because you need a lot of money, so I’m going to manage bands for a living. Started to do that, realized pretty quickly that if your bands go out on tour, you’re making money because you’re making a percentage of their income. But if you send them all into the studio in the same month, they’re not making any money. And what does that mean, Emily? You’re not making any money.

So I realized about three or four years in that I needed a side gig to my brand new business. So I ended up… Long story short, importing baby jewelry from Thailand and starting an entirely new business. Now I’m running a product based business called The Bumble Brand, where we sold bumblebells, which were little sterling silver anklets with bells on them. And I would sell them online, eventually we got them into stores.

And as we were sort of, I want to say rising to the peak of the business, which by the way in total was three years. I realized two things. Number one, when you get a hit in People Magazine because Gwen Stefani puts your Bumblebells on her baby and the paparazzi gets a shot, your sales can go sky high and rush to the top, and then when you think you can retire and move to an island, they just come crashing right back down, if you don’t know how to market what you’re selling.

But then beyond that! I realized, and this is absolutely no offense to anybody listening, I disliked selling products very much. I realized I’m very much a service based person. You can hear it in my voice. I love to talk to people. I love people. And so I ended up, where are we now? 2010. So I just want you to picture this. I’m running two unrelated businesses. I’m pregnant with baby number two. And I’m standing in my home office going, “How am I going to run two businesses with two babies? I’m going to lose my mind.” I know it already sounds from this story like I did already. But I got very panicked about, “How does anybody take a sales call if you have a screaming baby in the background? How do you do this?”

So I started a little meetup on and I just said, “if you’re a woman with a business and a baby, come and tell me how you’re surviving because I’m a little worried about how I’m going to survive.” Lo and behold, there weren’t just five of us wondering the answers to this question. About 20 women walked into that meeting and I went, “huh, there’s a business idea in here.”

So, I’m just gonna hit the fast forward button. I ended up, after six years, shutting down my music management company. I ended up selling the baby jewelry business, very happy to report. And I focused on a little meetup that turned into lots of meetups, that turned into an online community that is now called The Founding Moms. And here we are.

EMILY:  Can you just talk a little bit about when you were doing the record label business and the jewelry business, did you have goals or points that you were like, “in six months I wanna be doing this or I’m gonna need to do something else.” Or at that time were you just kinda putting your time where you could. And either is okay.

I just think we have a lot of people listening who maybe still have a full-time job and are side hustling and they don’t even know how to like maybe make those decisions of, “is this working, is this silly? Do I move on to something else?”

JILL: So you know I’m a very transparent person and my experience can be advice to you. But I’m just gonna be honest and tell you I had zero goals. I did not goal set. But it’s because… I knew in the depths of my soul that something was going to work, something was going to pop.

And I functioned that way, and I think the reason I’m explaining it that way is because I think some people are very logical and linear and they love lists, and while I love a good list on a sticky note, some people need that to drive them. That is not a driving force for me. What’s a driving force for me, which, back in the day as a brand new entrepreneur, I didn’t realize, was just labeled with fancier terms. So, really, what I loved was digging into my market, figuring out who my audience was, talking to my audience, and asking them questions so that I could continue to build a business that actually truly served them.

But at the time, I just thought, “Oh, I’m going to talk to these women showing up to my meetings.” Or in the music management business, ” I’m going to talk to my artists and see what they need managed” where I didn’t yet understand that there’s all this terminology, all this fancy stuff. But I think I innately knew if I can ask what they need, I can serve them in the way that they will be satisfied. I will be able to deliver it delightfully. And they will continue to buy and pay me. And that really was the goal. I guess I did have one goal, was to make money, frankly. And I knew it would go somewhere, but I wasn’t specific.

EMILY: Well, and for many entrepreneurs, what you just said is the goal. To make money, to try to figure out a way to not have a cap on what you can bring home and do. And for a lot of entrepreneurs, they’re taking all of their profits in the beginning and putting it right back into the business.

JILL: Oh yeah.

EMILY: which makes a lot of sense. But you do also sometimes have to figure out like “Okay. If we’re not making X, we need to get out of this.” Like you said, with the baby jewelry business, there was this huge rise where you’re thinking “this is it.” But then you kinda get brought back to reality.

And I think owning a small business of any kind is like that. Some months you’re like, “oh my gosh, this is amazing.” And then a month later it’s like, “I don’t even know if we’re gonna be able to pay rent in a couple months.”

JILL: Yeah

EMILY: How did you emotionally navigate that and keep yourself positive to just keep trying new things and keep going out there? Was it just the simple fact like you didn’t have another choice?

JILL: That’s a lot of what forces an entrepreneur to continue to wake up and thrive. I will say that I do believe that a small business owner is somebody who is kind of ready for a mini roller coaster ride throughout this career. If you truly need stability and a risk free life, you’re not going to go into entrepreneurship. You’re not going to start a small business. You’re going to go get a job at a bank.

So you know and are okay and accepting of some little ride that you’re going to take. And I think as we build our businesses, our entire job is all around this idea that if I can just limit that rollercoaster ride to not have such peaks and valleys along the way, I’m going to feel more solid and stable, but we need to know that they’re going to come. Because in fact, that is how we learn, that’s how we make more money. So I was very open to a lot of that ride at the beginning. And I think over time, I have figured out how to not take such dips or get to places of such heights where I can’t handle it afterwards.

But, again, I don’t know how I would have come to that even if I had read every book in the world and listened to every podcast or experienced person like me. I would not have listened and I would not have believed them. So, to some degree, a lot of this is you have to sprinkle in patience and time throughout all of this.

EMILY: I think a big theme that a lot of entrepreneurs feel is loneliness. And I don’t mean like sitting on your couch at home lonely. You’re busy. It’s not lonely like “I wish I had more friends.” It’s lonely like “I’m grinding. And does anyone else really understand this?” And it’s the relatability because how do you just find a ton of entrepreneurs that know what you’re going through, but that’s effectively what you did.

Not only did you find entrepreneurs, you found females who were moms, which narrowed your relation even further. Talk to me about why that was important to you and also maybe address that misconception that other entrepreneurs are your competition.

JILL: Right off the bat anybody listening that thinks that anybody out there has the time to be competitive with you has the same exact knowledge and experience that you do. Just chuck that right out of your head because every single time you walk into a room and you feel like, “Should I reveal what I’m working on? Should I tell people what I’m building?” You absolutely should. Because if you don’t, it’s withholding. If you don’t, it’s not generous. And the only way that other human beings can connect with you is generosity, is serving one another in a way that can help one another. So the more that you can give, the more you’re going to receive. That’s just a basic fundamental fact.

I don’t want to sound like I started off and knew exactly that I needed people in my life. Y’all, I spent eight years, I think, standing at my standing desk, staring at a laptop, truly believing that I didn’t have to interact with other people, except via email, and at the beginnings of Twitter, which, it was a magical time.

I don’t know anybody who is more confident of the fact that I could do it all myself. And I think our culture teaches us, “you can do this, you’ve got this.” There’s a lot of individuality in America in general. There is no encouragement to go and chat with someone else.

But I will tell you, I am almost two decades into doing this. There is no way you can build a business alone. You have to reach out, you have to learn how, if you haven’t done it before, to be vulnerable with somebody else and share with them, not just the stuff that’s going well, okay! But the stuff that’s not going so well and ask for help.

And you know what? let me flip it around. When somebody comes to you and asks you for help, like, “Hey, do you have a contact? Hey, do you have a piece of business advice?” Are you sitting there going, “I’m not talking to you,” all you want to do is help them, all you want to do is share advice. So I encourage you to ask for the same and get better at receiving, because you’re going to watch your business blow up.

EMILY: We’re going to take a quick break. Be right back.

EMILY: I think that we need to talk a little bit tactical for a minute about networking. Like let’s say a listener is gonna set a goal to go to a chamber meeting in their neighborhood for the first time. What advice do you have for when you go to that? When you’re in person? How do you make those connections happen?

JILL: Okay, first fun fact, if you didn’t know this, when you get your name tag, if they offer name tags, you need to put it on the side of your body, where when the other person reaches out their arm, they’re going to see it. Do you follow what I mean? So when I stick out my arm, you’re probably looking at what is, for me, the right side of my body. That’s where you put the name tag. It is so subtle and tiny, but very helpful for people to remember who you are.

You are going to walk into this room and you are not going to hand your business card out to the first person that you see. And I’m laughing because so many people do this, thinking, “well, that’s why we’re here. Isn’t it?” You want to do what you would do with a close friend on a weekend in your living room. You would want to sit down, you would want to turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself, hands free, no business cards, and say to them, “how are you?” Or, “what brings you here?” Not, “what do you do?” I wouldn’t even dive into that yet because you want to talk to somebody like they’re a human being, not a business robot that populates the meeting.

You also don’t need to make sure you meet everybody in the room. You can sit and listen and focus on the one person that seems interesting to you. If you leave that meeting with one connection, that actually does…  Introduce follow up between the two of you, that does lead to a coffee, that is worth that meeting ten times over. So you’re doing it right if you’re doing it real simply. There’s nothing to this, people. Nothing.

EMILY: And I think honestly, people who have had these super wildly successful connections that turn into a life changing moment, a lot of times it’s not intentional from the start. Like you could be talking to this person and their husband is the ultimate connection. And that’s why you don’t wanna only look for people that you think are gonna be able to serve you or give you what you need.

JILL: Yes, and I have a really good example of that. Because as I told you, we started the Founding Moms by opening up a meetup on Then we were in 30 cities. And so that meant I was running 30 pages. And soon enough, you can imagine, there’s tons and tons of tech issues. And I’m emailing Meetup support all the time.

The team over there starts to get to know me, right? Then they stop responding because “Jill is emailing us too frequently” and I stop hearing from them and I’m now building a business on their platform and no one’s getting back to me. So what happens, Emily? Nothing.

And one day I go to the dentist on the recommendation of a friend at my Meetup. And I get to the dentist and I fill out that little form. You know, my name, my insurance info, how did you hear about us? So “I heard about you from Michelle at my Meetup.” The dentist comes out, this is the first time I’m meeting her, and she’s in her lab coat behind the desk, and she says, “I see that you heard about us through Meetup. Uh, what’s Meetup?”

So I started to tell her what Meetup is. And I’m talking, and I’m talking, as you know that I do. And I’m just going off explaining what Meetup is, and she pauses and I notice her face hasn’t changed, and I stopped myself and said, “I’m sorry, why are you asking me what Meetup is? Aren’t you my dentist?”

And she said, “my name is Dr. Heiferman. And, my brother is Scott Heiferman, the founder of” I lost my mind. And I said, “Wait, can I meet Scott?” And fast forwarding the story, not only did I meet Scott, but then I met the whole staff, and then boy did I get all the help that we needed.

I’m sad to say now we’re no longer partnered with, but we were for many, many years. Because I didn’t walk into the dentist looking for a business contact. That’s how beautiful just being yourself and being open to the world helps you find the people that you need.

EMILY: Absolutely. And you know, even just like you mentioned earlier, being excited to talk about something you’re excited about can open up that door, you know, (ding, ding, ding) and your enthusiasm really is infectious. If you’re amped about something that’s going on in your business, the other people are gonna feel that, and that’s how those conversations get started.

JILL: Right. Exactly!

EMILY: Let’s talk a little bit about this space you’re currently in, which is more of a coaching/consulting. You’re really giving back now to entrepreneurs to help them further their own businesses. Tell me about how you decided that was the right next move for you and maybe how that’s been going.

JILL: Yeah, I would love to, because after running the Founding Moms for 13 years, and building businesses for, again, almost two decades, I have really gotten a handle on all of the things that are prohibiting people from moving forward, or moving up in the world, or scaling their businesses, or figuring out why it’s working, but they just can’t seem to figure out how to get to the next level.

I’ve worked with thousands of entrepreneurs at this point, and I have to say, after spending years giving practical, tactical advice, like, “here’s what you can do on social media,” “here’s how you can set this email marketing campaign up,” etc. I realized, “you know what? These are not the things blocking people.”

And I now have so much experience. I just really like, as you said, to give back. But sort of dive in and figure out the BIG stuff. Like, “what are the fears that are holding you back? What kind of guilt are you carrying as a working parent? What is the story you’ve been telling yourself over and over about why you really don’t like asking people for a lot of money?”

There’s a lot of this stuff that, in fact, most of the people listening to my voice right now are all sharing with other people. Everybody thinks that their own challenges are so unique. They’re not. All of that deep, dark stuff that’s holding you back is very similar to other people’s. Not exactly the same form, but similar enough that I feel like I can pull people out of those dark and scary places and have them have their own insights to be able to go, “You know what? I got this. I can do this. And I’m gonna go make a hundred times more than I was able to before.” And I love it.

EMILY: What do you think is the first thing holding entrepreneurs back from getting help? Because I feel like the people who have finally found you and they’re working with you, they’ve already kind of unlocked this need to ask for help or to get support.

JILL: Great point, yep.

EMILY: So talk to me about before that stage. What are some signs maybe that an entrepreneur is in this kind of stalled out place where maybe getting some help or advice from an expert would be a good next step?

JILL: I honestly mean this, and it sounds like I’m drinking our Kool Aid right now, but listening to podcasts like this, where someone gives you permission to go and ask. My first piece of advice for any entrepreneur always is literally just go talk to one person about what’s really going on in your business. That could be your mother. That could be your partner. That can be, eh, don’t burden the kids. But that could be anyone in your life. Talk to your dog. The practice of saying out loud what’s bothering you helps to awaken this area inside of you that you have been just shoving and pushing down and not being honest with yourself.

And then I think the folks that end up joining the Founding Moms, calling me for a coaching call, are the folks who maybe are at just the last straw. And they’re going, like, “I’ve banged my head against the wall long enough. I actually just can’t figure out what’s going wrong, and I’m a really smart person.”

And so then they are able to start opening up, and it’s not an instant massive reveal. You don’t have to walk in and share everything ever that’s happened to you since you were four years old. But, there is a way to be able to start small and get to know yourself and what’s blocking you from moving forward so that you can start helping yourself.

EMILY: Absolutely. And you know something, you talk about earlier is something I think every business owner can do beyond just picking a person to talk to, and that’s hearing what your customers have to say about what you’re currently doing or maybe what they’d like to see from you, what they need, what problem you can solve. And I think a lot of businesses don’t even know how to go about asking their customers.

JILL:  Yes! Because I was just gonna ask you! I don’t usually suggest that, and it’s a brilliant suggestion, because I often get, “well, but how do I even talk to them? Like, what do I do?” So here’s the thing. You just do it. Open up your email, and email a couple of customers, and I would lean into the recurring ones.

You can do a very simple three line, “Hey, I had a question about when you walk into my store. Do you like the lighting?” You know, something very simple, starting a convo. Here’s another thing that I’ve seen people do a lot where they’ll buy $50 Amazon gift cards and say, “hey, for this $50 Amazon gift card, I’d love to reward you for your time. Will you spend 15 minutes on the phone with me having a quick convo?”

I think there are many ways to do it. Just have a convo at the counter, if you work in a retail establishment. Just ask them. You can put a little cute sign in front. You can start offering 10 points to your customers every time they give you a bit of feedback. You can have a Submit a Feedback box.

There are a thousand ways. I’m sure there’s some article you can Google on like the top 50 ways to talk to your customers. But I think that just to point out the thing that is scaring you from asking is your fake story that you made up in your mind about how they’re going to judge you as somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing or they’re going to have a weird reaction like “well why is she asking me” or “why is she picking on me?”

Your customers want to help you. And if you need to tattoo that to your forehead, I give your permission. You can have your artist just put Jill right under it. You need to make sure you know your colleagues, your team, Emily, everybody in your life wants to help you build.

EMILY: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, and I think the whole keeping it simple to start, like just ask a customer when they’re in the store, send a follow-up, whatever it might be. Just start with the one-off. It doesn’t need to be this whole campaign for customer opinions, you know, it can just be the one person who came in today.

As the Founding Moms founder, I know beyond your own experiences, you’ve met a ton of business owners who are also parents. And I know a lot of my listeners are business owners who are parents. (WHOOO HOOO) What’s some advice you give for those people? We always hear you feel guilty no matter what. You’re not doing enough at the business. You’re not doing enough with your kids.

How do you navigate that? What are maybe some benefits or positives to being a parent entrepreneur? Just gimme what you got in that field.

JILL: Yeah, yeah, and I don’t like to throw any judgment anywhere because there are lots of wars between work at home parents, stay at home parents, work at office parents, work at retail establishment parents. Everybody’s doing it differently. One underlying theme that I always see with every working parent is the guilt.

And I can’t tell you to just stop having the guilt, because it’s there, because you’ve built up the guilt, for whatever reasons. Your kid makes you feel guilty, your parent… Here’s a few things that I’ve done over the years to work with it, rather than fight it and ward it off.

I have spent a lot of time since my kids were speaking age, at 2, 3, 4 – I talk to my kids about my job, all the time. And I bring them in, and I let them know what mom is doing, so it’s not foreign to them. My kids now feel some ownership in what I do. They’re proud of what I do. I involve my kids. I went so far as to launch the Founding Kids newsletter. So I have them write for it, so that they can feel a piece of the action! Because I’ve never wanted them to feel left out.

I have had to work on my… Staring at a screen. I’m saying that really slowly because I know everybody listening is doing the same. Really try and be mindful of that. Like, put it in the kitchen drawer when you get home and don’t stare at your phone. Because your kids are learning a lot from seeing you pay more attention to a device than to them. And then, honestly, reaching out and talking to other parents about it. And, yes, you can complain. Yes, they get in the way.

The other tip I want to give that actually doesn’t apply only to parents, but it mostly applies to parents. Mind your time and be aware that you don’t have to be productive every two seconds of your day. I talk to a lot of parents who will say, you know, “I take the time off Jill, I do put my phone away, but then when the kids go to bed, I’m back at it, and I’m working deep into the night.” Don’t do that. Stop doing that. There’s no point. You’re not gonna remember that when you’re old. You’re not making things better. Leave space in your schedule for you because you are going to be a much more productive and lucrative founder. And it sounds really counterintuitive, but the less you do, the more money you make. And if anybody wants to challenge me, call me on that.

EMILY:  So as we wrap up the episode, I’d love to hear if you have any final pieces of advice for our listeners, most of whom are business owners. Give us your final words of wisdom.

JILL:  I think the thing that resonates the most right now, post pandemic, where everyone is back – a little bit worried about the economy, always feeling like they’re always struggling as a business owner.

I want to say that I am witnessing what I have labeled the rescheduling epidemic. Where people are not committing to what they’re doing. They’re not committing to other people. They’re stuck in social media. They’re stuck on their screens. They’re stuck in their home office. They don’t even want to go out.

And I want to say to those of you who are even… Just constantly reworking your schedule day in and day out because you can’t keep up with yourself. Take that as a signal that you need to slow down. You need to give other people more of your attention. And you need to give less attention. Attention to all of the distractions that are going on in your life.

And you can count the kids as a distraction. I count social media as a distraction. I count the worries you’ve concoct about, “I’ve gotta go redesign my website. I’ve gotta make sure the counter looks really, really gorgeous this week.” Like, there are tiny little things we tend to focus on that are really just taking us away from the big meaty stuff. So, focus again on people. Respect their time. Respect your time. Connect.

EMILY: How can people connect with you? Stay in touch with you? Where can they find you? How can they go to Founding Moms?

JILL: Yes! Please come connect with me. You can’t not find me on the internet, but we’re if you’re interested in a community for mom entrepreneurs. I am also at, but you can find me on LinkedIn. You can find me on… X? Are we calling it X now? You can find Quitter? I don’t know.

There are all kinds of fun names for it. Instagram, Facebook. You can find me anywhere, but honestly I encourage you to just email me at 

EMILY: Incredible. We’ll put all of that in the show notes so that people can connect with you. Thank you so much for making the time. I feel like this experience and knowledge was great for anyone.

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