By Jill Salzman

Lesson of the month:  you never know what people will pay for until you ask them.

A few months ago, I attended a networking event where I met a tall, elegant entrepreneur who told me that she charges people to have coffee with her. 

“You do WHAT?” 

She explained that she receives several requests a week to have her brain picked.  She was tired of giving up her free time and thinkpower to people she barely knew.  So, she threw a link onto her website and advertised “Coffee” for $12 per person.  The fee did not include food or beverages.  It was for her time.

“But don’t you offend the people you refer to your link?”

She giggled at my question and shrugged.  “If they’re offended, they probably don’t sign up.  But I haven’t had a problem hosting Coffees, and people keep signing up.”

With that, I asked her if I could attempt to offend people, too.  “Can I steal your idea?”

In the three weeks that I’ve had a Coffee link on my site, I’ve had over a dozen requests.  I’m astonished that anyone would pay money to sit down with me and several strangers but the outcome is truly awesome, each and every time.  We don’t waste time talking about our children or our family histories.  There’s no shooting the poop.  We come together to discuss issues pertinent to our business situations.  And since I limit them to 4 people, everyone gets an in-depth analysis and tons of suggestions thrown at them.  No one has left hungry for ideas yet, and I’m confident that I may begin to see repeats soon.

What’s fascinating is that this is not news.  Event planners charge for meetings, conferences and forums every single day.  Folks happily pay their way to network, brainstorm and educate themselves.  But when it’s put in the context of what is normally a free exchange of ideas—literally and figuratively—and fees are introduced, it turns the tables a bit.  It brings focus to a meeting.  It adds value that wasn’t there before – both to the attendees looking for feedback, and to the host whose time is valuable. 

While my new Coffees are not going to break the bank when it comes to income, I’m thrilled to finally put a value on my time, energy and brainpower.  I’m more thrilled that others value it, too.  The funniest part?  I don’t even drink coffee.

Jill 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 a baby jewelry company before her current venture. Jill has been featured in national media outlets including People Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Daily Candy Kids, and WGN TV.   In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, baking, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.