I have a saying I use when describing my life as a military spouse facing another relocation: If you want to be invited to a party, throw one yourself. It’s my way of reminding me that friends and job opportunities are not going to just appear on my door step at our next assignment. I have to get out there, meet new people and create opportunities myself.
I know this to be true, but I recently spoke to someone that is living my own personal proverb. I’d like you to meet Lisa Diaz, a former paralegal turned small business owner. Lisa’s story is a typical military spouse story; continually relocating, starting employment over again and never really finding the employment groove.
In Lisa’s case, she was a paralegal. With every new assignment came a new set of job challenges. Keeping up with each state’s drastic changes in laws and codes was impossible. However, Lisa decided to take charge of her life and dive in head first into a completely different career -- she was going to throw her party.
For years, Lisa hosted trunk shows (a special event in which a designer or artist puts on special display of their products to a select group) as fundraisers for Navy organizations. She said she had a knack for finding unique, affordable and incredibly stylish handbags, clothing and accessories that women loved. Finally, after eight years, she decided to start a company that gives military spouses and civilian women the opportunity to work on their own terms, not dependent on their location.
Many people told her she couldn’t do it. Many told her that the cost and risk was too high. But she didn’t let that stop her. Lisa formed her company, Homecoming Trunk Shows -- named after the elation military spouses feel when their servicemember comes home -- and began buying clothes and handbags while working out of her garage.
She says it’s been a “labor of love,” but she’s grown the company from 12 stylists (sales reps) to 131 stylists in 29 states and several overseas locations. In nine months, her company has made of $500,000 in sales. She employs 15 military spouses and one civilian in her office in California. In just a few short years, she’s moved from her garage and a depleted retirement account to a warehouse full of product and flagship office. Lisa Diaz is definitely throwing her own party.
We’ve all been to parties featuring cooking gadgets, beauty products, jewelry and more. Lisa’s business model is similar to other well-known companies who have consultants or sales reps, but the big picture is different. She is one of us, not some faceless company that has pyramid hierarchy. She is a proud Navy wife who understands the complexities of military life and job frustration. She built something from the ground up and in turn created hundreds of opportunities for other military spouses to meet new people, gain employment no matter their location and look great doing it.
I spoke with one her stylists, Krissy Hoffman. She is also a Navy wife, stay-at-home mom and a civil engineer by trade. Krissy says she’s not a naturally born sales person, but she wanted to meet people at her new station. She became a stylist after buying a Homecoming scarf from a friend and decided that the job would give her a chance to meet people and make a little extra money for vacations. Krissy loved the idea that there was a fellow Navy spouse behind the company and the products were trendy and fun to wear.
Lisa began doing trunk show as fundraisers for mostly Navy organizations. Now that she has her own business she’s continued the tradition by offering specifically made jewelry for most of the service branches. They are adorable, stylish and a subtle way of giving back to those organizations that support military members and their families. To date they have given back over $20,000 to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, the Wounded Warrior Project and the American Cancer Society, just to name a few. They’ve also helped raise thousands of dollars for other organizations, such as schools, athletic teams, youth groups and more with fundraising trunk shows.
Clearly, Lisa Diaz is in the throes of her own party. She is also helping others to plan for their party, too. She’s made me re-examine my own life and change what I should expect in the future. I’m thinking bigger now. After talking to Lisa, I know a military spouse can carve out a new design for their life that still allows them to support their hero at home and build their own career. Thanks, Lisa, for taking my little proverb to the next level. I’ve got run, I have a party plan!
For more information about Homecoming Trunk Shows, visit www.shophts.com.As a side note, Lisa Diaz is looking for Air Force spouses to join her company as well as spouses to grow fundraisers into all branches of the military.
Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman is a freelance writer and consultant with a passion for military spouses and families. Being married to the Air Force for almost a decade has given her the inside perspective into the life and struggles of the military family. Huisman worked in public affairs for the City of Las Vegas for 14 years before she became the Executive Director for the Las Vegas Centennial celebration in 2005 when Las Vegas celebrated its 100th birthday. Huisman currently writes for Goodfellow Monitor at Goodfellow Air Force Base and local papers. She works full time raising her two preschoolers and managing her military life. You can contact Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.