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Entrepreneur Helps Spouses Start Businesses

WASHINGTON -- An entrepreneur who has moved around with her Marine Corps husband and now calls Camp Lejeune, N.C., home is using her small-business success to help other military spouses get started with businesses of their own.

"Being a military spouse breeds an excellent opportunity for reach and really working with a community that shares the same love and support that you have as a business owner," Roxanne Reed -- founder of the All Fired Up Candle Company, Jane Wayne Gear and Marketing to Military Group -- said in an "ASY Live" interview on BlogTalkRadio. "I have found that to be a great blessing,"

"ASY Live" is part of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

Reed, a mother of two whose Marine husband was her high school sweetheart, has decided to help other military spouses realize their dream of becoming a business owner. She has helped small start-ups in pursuits ranging from scrapbooking to Web design to music.

"The most difficult thing about being a military spouse is the constant relocation," Reed said. "Additionally, having our spouses deployed often places most of the household responsibilities on our shoulders as well."

As a result, her company designed a business roadmap that teaches spouses how to be realistic and use their strengths.

She warned new small-business owners to guard against being discouraged by the ups and downs of business ownership.

"Don't beat yourself up if you have to slow the business down a bit or put things on hold," she said. "At the end of the day, if it is a well-thought-out plan, it will come to fruition."

The frequent moves associated with military life actually can work in favor of a spouse's small business, Reed said.

"One of the benefits of being a military spouse and having a community that supports you is that from a marketing perspective, you can spread the word very quickly, because you do move base to base," she explained.

Reed started her first company with only $300 and a lot of "sweat equity," she said.

"I had a friend of mine help me wrap my hands around a concept that I had developed called 'Designed by Military Wives,'" she said. "We started making candles in our kitchen. I had a home party, and I was scared to death, like any creative person just hoping that everyone likes what you made. It went off like wildfire."

Some might find the processes of candle-making intimidating, but Reed said it's not so hard. "If you can bake a cake, you can make a candle," she said.

Reed's candles include some that are particularly relevant to the military community, including one called "Deployment Blues," which smells of men's cologne, or another called "God Bless America" that smells like apple pie.

Her other company, all under the umbrella of the "Designed by or Made by Military Wives" banner, features clothing, purses, and gear for "military brats," she said.

"I was at a 'Jane Wayne Day,' where military spouses get to live their spouse's job for a day, ... and I said, 'Oh my gosh, we should have girl gear.' We are now known as the design company of military wives, or 'The Camo and Pink Girls," she said.

The company makes everything from camouflage handbags to baby outfits that say "That's how my Daddy rolls." The clothing sells at military exchanges and civilian department stores, and the company is run by members of the military community, she explained.

"When someone sends an e-mail or calls the 1-800 number," she said, "they are talking to a military spouse."

Reed said she encourages military spouses looking to start a business to pick something they love and make it a dream.

"If you are going to invest in a business, make sure you are doing something you love without being paid for it," she advised. "If you love it, you will naturally get up every day and do it." They might find their business in something they already do, such as volunteer work, she noted, or perhaps in something they do part-time for another business owner.

"Whether you like planting flowers or like writing grant programs, it's just about finding what you are passion about," she said.

Reed said the key to starting a successful business is to be persistent and patient, "working with your position as a military spouse instead of against it."

"I have had a number of business meetings with one child under my arm with a lollipop," she said. "You just have to go with it and not be scared."

(Jamie Findlater, who works in the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activity, is the host of "ASY Live.")

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