by Jill Salzman
Networking is a dirty word. There are no two ways about it–and there seem to be two camps about it: those who network, and those who don’t. If you don’t, it’s because you don’t want to be considered a lowly business-card-handling chatterbox who’s just out to self-promote. If you do, it’s because you don’t want to be considered a hermit and anyway, you have more important things to do. Right?
For most of my career, I’d considered myself an anti-networker. Who has time, I thought, to introduce themselves countless times to people who don’t listen anyway? Why put all that energy into it when I don’t really have time, anyway?
And then the tables turned. Big time.
After launching my second business, I was approached by friends about helping them launch their business ideas since I’d done it twice, and with babies in tow. It was then that I realized I didn’t know any other women who had kids and ran their own companies. Where were they hiding?
I started up my very first group on Meetup.com and called it The Momtrepreneur Exchange. It was my intention to meet 3-5 fellow mom entrepreneurs with whom I could swap business ideas, get advice on social media or accounting, and do so wearing outfits covered in spit-up. I made it a monthly meeting. And six meetings in, there were over 200 members of the group.
Since that point, I’ve grown my third, accidental business into a full-grown, global organization. We changed our name to The Founding Moms, opened up Founding Moms’ Exchanges (or Meetups) in any city where I could find a host, and we’re still growing. We’re now in 27 cities with over 1,600 mom entrepreneur members. It should be obvious from these numbers (that we’ve collected in just over a year) that there’s a serious desire for women who run their own companies while raising families to connect with each other.
Has this changed my view on networking? Tremendously. I’ve been converted from someone who shunned the term to someone who welcomes any and all meetups. Why? Because we do more than hand out business cards or promote ourselves. We’re focused on educating one another about how to make more money. We’re a group of great listeners, and we’re earnestly there to help each other build a better business. There’s no better launching pad for talking about your new idea than to other entrepreneurs. Networking is really a side-effect of these Founding Moms’ Exchanges, not its main purpose. And those business contacts and friends I’ve made? Priceless.