Moms network across country through blogs

Jill Asher never set out to build a publishing empire.

She and three other mothers were just looking for a way to channel their creative energy and share among themselves their crazy stories of trying to raise families in California's Silicon Valley. It was 2006 and so, of course, they started a blog.

"At the beginning, I didn't really expect that it was going to be anything more than my friends jumping in and joining a site," she says. "I didn't have any real vision of it."

So, they wrote, adding posts to Silicon Valley Moms Blog, a compendium of parental worries and wonders. And a funny thing happened. Other bloggers started linking to the blog,, which is what bloggers do.

A year after the spring 2006 launch, Asher says, a group of moms in Chicago approached her. "Hey," they asked, "do you want to do a Chicago moms blog?"

She did.

Asher, who blogs from her Palo Alto, Calif., home, recruited friends and friends of friends. More regional groups of bloggers — in New York, D.C., the South, Canada — asked to join the Silicon Valley network. In all, 10 regional sites and one for moms over 50 joined. Asher and associates put together a stable of 350 bloggers.

"Then it really started to behave as a business," she says.

Not a business that makes very much money. But thanks to ad sales, corporate sponsorships of regular blogger events and a largely volunteer work force, Silicon Valley Moms Group, is profitable.

"Am I making a fortune? No," Asher says. "Am I making enough to keep me going with this? Getting there."

The truth is, Asher says, running and writing for the blog still is fun, which is why she does it.

Silicon Valley proved the perfect hothouse for an enterprise that required contributors who were smart, articulate, tech-savvy and not at all shy. Asher gravitated toward circles with fellow moms, and a few dads, who had busy and important jobs that they had left or scaled back to raise their children. These were people who were used to doing stuff. They were fiercely focused on schools and mildly obsessed with parenting practices. And they craved grown-up conversation.

Asher had been a company vice president. She was the mother of two young daughters. She had been president of an extremely active parents club. The other moms were high-powered executives and professionals who'd scaled back work for family.

And so they threw themselves into the blog. Though the bloggers aren't paid, Asher says they do get something out of the deal. The blog provides exposure for the writers, many of whom also work on their own and other blogs. Some mom bloggers have landed jobs through their work on the site, Asher says. And, of course, the blog, which Asher says attracts 5,000 page views on a good day, also provides an outlet.

Beth Blecherman left a partner-track job at consultancy Deloitte after her now 7-year-old twins were born. It was tough leaving behind her business network, she says.

"I need that community, and I felt isolated," says Blecherman, of Menlo Park, Calif., who also has an 11-year-old son. Blogging brought back a sense of community.

It's a varied community that tells stories beyond the typical parental tales of spit-up and play dates. The posts talk about surviving cancer, dealing with midlife crises, the need to keep priorities straight. Mom bloggers regularly take local and state officials to task for California's deteriorating public schools.

"It gets read," says Simon Firth, a work-at-home Palo Alto writer and one of two dads on the SV Moms Blog.

And getting read, after all, is the key to building a publishing empire — no matter the expectations back at the beginning.

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