Advocates are usually intimately familiar with the challenges that face military spouses, mostly because they tend to be spouses of service members themselves. But not always. Sometimes, the most powerful forces behind change come from someone who didn't even know what they were getting into.
Rounding out our three finalists for the 2020 Military.com Spouse Changemaker Award is Abby Malchow, a senior program manager in Amazon's military affairs section, Navy veteran and the driving force behind Amazon's Military Entrepreneurship Program (MEP).
Malchow is a combat veteran who started her advocacy work in 2014 when living in Washington, D.C., where she worked with other vets lobbying for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.
"I lost two of my best friends to suicide, and that was what drove me into my advocacy work. I have a story to share that can help benefit the community," she said.
After working as a civil servant while in graduate school for her MBA, Malchow transitioned to Intel Corp., where she utilized her military experience in contract negotiations and supply chain management. In her spare time, she created the Veteran Employee Resource Group Board.
"In that role, I created opportunities for the military community to volunteer locally with veteran service organizations (VSOs)," she said.
Malchow was a Bush Stand-to Presidential Leadership Scholar and used the program to leverage artificial intelligence on social media to proactively identify veterans at risk for suicide and connect them to treatment options. During the fellowship, Malchow found herself in Seattle, working out of Starbucks' headquarters, and she met with an Amazon representative. She pitched him the idea to use Alexa in suicide prevention, and the rest is history.
"I wanted to help the military community, and doing it full time with Amazon was the best option," she said.
Amazon's Military Affairs Team and the MEP were founded when Malchow started with the company. "I knew the director was passionate about military spouses, so I started doing research and learned about the unemployment and underemployment numbers being so high. It made sense to target them first," she said.
Amazon had options for hiring initiatives outside of traditional employment. The majority of military spouse-owned businesses were not selling on Amazon, so that's where Malchow focused her efforts. "They wanted to learn, but there was a barrier. So I wanted to create an educational program, as well as a recruiting program," she said.
She made it her mission to prove how important this was, to help people see the missed opportunity of not collecting data on military spouse-owned businesses. Once the rest of the team came on board, it was easier to push a feature on Amazon. Malchow worked with the Rosie Network to identify military spouses who were already selling on Amazon, and they created a storefront.
Now, there's room to do more of what Malchow wants to do inside the military community. Her goals include raising awareness of the program and teaching spouses the steps, from starting a business to selling successfully.
Malchow has more big goals for this next year, one for each of her passions. She wants to make the military storefront more evergreen and robust, then expand it to a global storefront. She also wants to work on a solution to identify users who are at risk of suicide and provide direct intervention.
"I have a goal of recruiting military spouses and military-owned product business this year and continuing to raise awareness of educational resources," Malchow said.
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