The Year of the Military Mompreneur
If you are a military spouse who has toyed with the idea of starting your own business, let this be the year for you.
Take a page from the playbook of these military spouses. It is time to get started. Successful entrepreneurial military spouses like these are emblematic of a new reality: You can have it all and you can do it all in military life, even with kids.
So What's a Mompreneur?
At first glance, the name may make you want to laugh. It may make you think "an entrepreneur, but less serious."
That's what Navy wife Joelle thought when she first heard it. "I remember an article a few years ago about 'mompreneurs,' " she says. "I thought, 'You have to be kidding me. You're taking all the hard work of business a woman does and dumbing it down by calling it a 'mom job.' So she's an entrepreneur, but less serious."That was then. Now, Joelle takes the neologism as a point of pride. "I'm still trying to get my consulting company off the ground, but now I wear the label 'mompreneur' as a badge of honor. Yeah, I'm starting my own company. I'm volunteering on the PTO, too. I want everyone to know my family is still the most important thing in my life, but that doesn't mean my dreams are on the back burner. It all matters to me."
Balancing Work, Family and the Military
Navy wife Lakesha, who pitched her company Mango Mango on Shark Tank and sells her wares on the shelves at Whole Foods, says that entrepreneurship, motherhood and military life are an intuitive combination.
"A typical day at work has become a wonderful symphony of different elements of multi-tasking at its best," she says. "The perfect marriage of being a mommy, a milspouse and an entrepreneur are seen every day in my world."
Much of that is due to her schedule. Because she is in charge of it, Lakesha can work her business demands around those of her family.
"I start early in the morning with the telephone ringing off of the hook, to the lovely chime of my texts or iMessages flowing in, and I continue with managing multiple calls about new accounts, production appointments, media calls to managing social media to coordinating the tasks of our Mango Teammates (our staff) and the list goes on and on and on. All while taking my daughter to and from school, helping her with homework, fixing dinner and spending time with my Navy hubby."
If being able to schedule your workday around your family day is not tempting enough, consider yet another perk: Being the boss means you do not have to worry about leaving your job behind when you PCS or transition out of the military.
And when it comes to transition, that entrepreneurial spirit may be a huge boon for your family.
From Concept to Company
While many of us harbor a Million Dollar Idea or two, getting from idea to business can be the challenge that keeps many military spouses from launching their own companies. Luckily, there are resources aplenty to help you get started, no matter how new to business you are.
The Military Spouse Business Association offers peer-to-peer counseling, accounting advice, a small business incubator, and even one-on-one business counseling for all military spouses (active, retired, reservist, and veteran spouses).
Notably, MSBA offers a community of support from other military spouses like yourself - a spouse with a million dollar idea, with a DOD ID, and with the demands of military life ever-present in their life.
At Syracuse University, home to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, a number of excellent programs have been developed with the Small Business Administration specifically to help you develop and grow your business venture. Operation Boots2Business -- "from service to startup" -- offers an Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans Families that is open to all military spouses.
In conjunction with the Small Business Administration, Boots2Business offers a two-day entrepreneurial intensive course or an eight-week, in-depth, online training course in entrepreneurship to help you get your idea off the ground. Additionally, they have teamed with and developed brick-and-mortar institutions where you can turn for even more help, from Small Business Development Centers to Women's Business Centers and Veterans Business Centers. Whatever your dream, EBVF can help you achieve it.
Operation Endure and Grow is an eight-week online crash course in business development and management from the Whitman School of Management and the Small Business Administration intended for National Guard, reservists, and their families, so no matter where you fall in the military family, help abounds.
If you aren't sure what kind of skills you have that might translate into an entrepreneurial business, you can consult with one of the SECO counselors provided by the Department of Defense free for military spouses.
Even if you have no business experience yourself, these resources can help you get your idea from concept to company. Once you have officially launched, make sure you list your company with the Rosie Network, a network of military-family owned businesses across America.
"Resources like these aren't available to everyone," says Joelle. "As military spouses, we have to use them or they will disappear. And right now, having programs built specifically for us keeps us above the competition. Who else is getting free business classes?"
Keep It In Mind for Transition
"Two jobs ago, when we PCSed, a supervisor advised me that if I couldn't find the job I wanted, I should make it," says Natalie, a Marine Corps spouse who did find employment but has not been happy with it.
"I took a good job that had equal pay, but it has not inspired me like my last job, and now we are looking at transition. I keep thinking about how we could make our own jobs. What do we offer that no one else does? Could we make a business out of that?"
Questions like these are the kind that spur big ideas, and the newest generation of transitioning veterans is known for them. Consider Marine Nick Taranto, one of the brains behind meal-delivery service Plated, and Anthony Hatala, of Military Traveler. Among recent veterans, entrepreneurial ventures abound.
We know that for every veteran with a big idea, there is a spouse with one too. If your family is among the 200,000 leaving the military this year, your Big Idea could be more than just a dream. It could be the thing that propels your family forward into civilian life.
"I'm taking my dreams seriously now," says Joelle. "I never really thought that I could have my own company. Now it's why not? We need something to turn to next. This could be it. As a mom, I take a lot of comfort knowing that my dream could actually help my family."
If you are a military spouse with a big idea, now is your time. What are you going to do to make that dream a reality?