Twice a month at Counter Coffee on Madison street, a group of entrepreneurial women gathers to talk shop. It’s a come-as-you-are environment, children welcome, and the women who attend are all owners of their own businesses or thinking of becoming business owners. Whether consultants, bakery owners, stylists or acting coaches, all are encouraged to discuss work problems and accomplishments, as well as talk about work-life balance and promote upcoming events.
The group is one chapter of Founding Moms, an organization started by Oak Parker Jill Salzman. The meetings are referred to as “exchanges” because of the level of sharing and exchange of information and resources that goes on between members.
The exchanges at Counter Coffee are run by Christine Barnard, founder of What Now Advisors. After being in the corporate world for 15 years, she left to start her own business six years ago. She was “surprised by how isolating being an entrepreneur can be.” She wanted an outlet to socialize, learn, and network. To Barnard, the fact that the exchanges are run and attended by women is what makes the difference between Founding Moms and other entrepreneur meet-ups.
“It’s women helping other women. There’s an innate bond,” she says.
Although it’s called Founding Moms, women who aren’t mothers are welcome to attend too. Joining allows you to participate in the in-person exchanges, like the ones at Counter Coffee, as well as access to online resources. In 2015, Forbes listed the website as one of the Top 100 Websites for Entrepreneurs. There is a monthly fee, but to members, it’s more than worth it.
Forest Parker Chris Everett, owner of Everett Wealth Solutions Inc. on Marengo Avenue, has been attending Founding Moms meetings for almost a decade. The meetings were previously held in Oak Park, but she said she’s been coming to them at Counter Coffee for years.
“It’s a great group of ever-changing women at various stages in their business, willing to share and help one another,” said Everett. She calls the group a “good sounding board” and has gotten a few clients through attending. Like Barnard, she appreciates the fact that it’s a women-driven group.
“Women love to help. How cool is that?”