How The Founding Moms turned a casual meet up into a thriving community

The Founding Moms is a site and newsletter dedicated to helping mom entrepreneurs build better businesses. It was founded in 2011 by Jill and has since grown into a profitable enterprise with a strong team, a podcast and over 10,000 subscribers.

We caught up with Jill to learn about her journey and to understand what it takes to become a successful newsletter.

Tell us a bit about The Founding Moms?

We’re an award-winning platform that helps mom entrepreneurs build better businesses. In cities around the world, our members join us to attend local, in-person monthly Founding Exchanges—our twice-monthly masterminds. They also have access to a robust online universe full of video courses, coaching, virtual assistants, and a community brimming with positivity and supportive fellow mom entrepreneurs who are building alongside them.

What is your background and what made you start The Founding Moms?

I never intended to start The Founding Moms. I have degrees in biology and law and worked in the music industry before launching my first business in music management. Then I launched a baby jewelry business. After running two businesses and becoming pregnant with baby number two, I thought I’d lose my mind. How does any woman with a business and a baby get anything done? How does she grow her sales? Improve her marketing? I sought to answer those questions for myself. I launched a local meetup in Chicago to meet with others so they could tell me how they were doing it. Turns out, there were plenty more people wondering the same thing. After six months of meetings and a lot of interest, I decided to launch the community. That was a decade ago. We’ve grown quite a bit, and there are still thousands of mom entrepreneurs who can’t build a business flying solo. I’m thrilled that we have so much support available to them now!

What media does The Founding Moms use to deliver content to its readership?

So much media. Our most well-received medium is our newsletter. We send a daily newsletter, as well as a weekly newsletter, to our members and subscribers so that they can get updates on the latest tools, tips and tricks for growing a business. We also use social media platforms to get the word out—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest—so that folks know we’re pretty darn social. We host webinars, boot camps, and live events of all kinds, and I host the Why Are We Shouting? podcast, too. 

How have you monetized The Founding Moms?

We charge a monthly membership fee and have advertisers and sponsors whom we promote via our newsletter, blog, podcast, and social outlets.

What benefit have advertisers derived from advertising with you?

Our advertisers have loved most that they get brand exposure to a whole lot of eyeballs and earholes that comprise a very niche, very attentive audience. It’s very targeted, and since our audience is quite savvy, they don’t take well to the “buy two get one free!” kind of enticements. They want real opportunities, tools, and software that can help them build businesses and that truly offer them tremendous value. We won’t even advertise certain brands or promotions if there’s not a match.

What was the biggest hurdle or surprise you faced when you first started?

What isn’t a big hurdle or surprise when you first start a business? Frankly, I don’t remember thinking that there was a single hurdle. It’s all new, it all moves fast, and you have such awesomely naive optimism that everything seems like a manageable challenge. It’s only in hindsight that I can see how impatient I was to get going—and if I could go back and tell myself to CALM DOWN, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. That said, I also don’t think we’d be where we are today without that need for speed.

Was it expensive to start The Founding Moms? What are the costs involved with running The Founding Moms?

I’ve launched three businesses, and none were expensive to launch or I wouldn’t have done it. I had to pay for hosting and a website designer. I paid Meetup.com fees since we partnered with them and opened up Founding Exchanges in different cities using their platform for the first five years. I paid a newsletter provider and for internet connectivity. That’s about all. 

How did you grow and retain your readership? 

I started my readership several years into The Founding Moms upon request. One member asked, “Where’s your newsletter?” and my response was: “No one reads newsletters.” I didn’t even listen to her for several months. But after more than one inquiry, I thought I’d try it. I wrote a newsletter that I’d want to receive—fun, playful, not a lot of words, but an awful lot of helpful links—and it was a hit. I sent it out once every two weeks for years. It was in 2019 that I decided to up my own game and send it weekly. It increased readership and improved the retention of our members. What we include resonates with them, and I adore every single one of them for reading it.

What tools do you use to help you run The Founding Moms, and which is most underrated in your opinion? 

I love using Slack but I’m not sure it’s underrated. We use MadMimi.com for our newsletters and have done so for years. And I absolutely love the very underrated Duck Duck Go browser for privacy purposes. 

Finally, any top tips for people starting a new newsletter?

Stop copying what other people are doing. It’s so easy to fall into the “well if they are sending that, I must be sure to send something similar” game. That’s a waste of time. Make it your own. Make it spicy. Funny. Serious. Snobby. Witty. Whatever your tone, also make it chock full of stuff that people will want to read. The folks who go over how well their business has done in the past month? We don’t care. The folks who write about their favorite quotes and don’t connect it to what it has to do with their businesses? We don’t care. Make it something that I care about, and you’ve got me as a reader for life. 

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