If you are like me, you love the handmade movement going on right now. With services like Etsy and Big Cartel, people are able to use their creative and entrepreneurial skills to build a business in the handmade marketplace. This career path is particularly desirable to many military spouses because it would allow them to work from home anywhere in the world and is a portable job that works well with constant PCS moves. However, many regulations and rules make the dream of running a creative business difficult to near impossible for many military spouses.
Many bases, particularly those overseas, have made strict rules that work against those who wish to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. They require approval for any home based businesses that operate on base, and personal businesses are not allowed to be operated through the APO postal system. If an online seller wishes to run a small handmade business out of their living room on an overseas post, they must gain permission and then utilize the postal service out in town, essentially driving shipping prices too high to remain competitive. I have heard stories of people losing many of their base privileges like commissary and fuel usage when they do not comply with the home business regulations set in place. Many people find work-arounds to use the APO system for their business but they have to watch how successful their business gets because they run the risk of being discovered if their sales volume climbs too high.
It isn’t just those that live on base or are stationed overseas who have rules to comply with when it comes to running an online business. Beyond the state and federal tax regulations that apply, it is important to check the regulations in your homeowner’s insurance policy or rental agreement to make sure that at-home businesses are allowed. My husband and I rented our home at our last duty station and we had to get permission in writing from our rental agent in order to become foster parents. Many rental contracts have other clauses that disallow at-home business. While many insurance policies do not allow businesses to be run out of your home, these regulations typically refer to businesses that have customer traffic in the home or have high liability risks and probably do not apply to you sewing solo at home.
I know many people advocate a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to rules such as these. I would agree that it would be best for you to do your own research first before asking questions because I believe that it is best for you to know your rights and information before you ask for permission or clarification on a rule or regulation that could stand in the way of your creative business dreams. However, as a former insurance agent and police officer, I have seen people lose lots of money and get in serious civil or criminal trouble for choosing to not comply. It is difficult to deal with the roadblocks that are in place to start a creative business online. It can be even more frustrating when the roadblocks are in place during an overseas military assignment where we, as military spouses, already face career limitations.
While it is understandable, to a certain extent, that the government is footing the bill for the APO system and has to consider liability concerns on base, do you think that the military should be more supportive of military spouses developing portable careers with an in-home business? Do you successfully run a creative business despite PCS moves? Or have you not been able to grow a business because of rules and regulations? Tell me your thoughts on the subject!