Military spouse-run businesses are growing at a fast rate

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

It takes a lot of work to keep a military family functioning at high speed.

With the continual relocation, keeping kids busy, or even deployments, being a military spouse is a full time job in itself. But they’re up to the challenge.

Considering the mobility of the military lifestyle, many spouses have a difficult time maintaining employment from duty station to duty station.

More than 25 percent of military spouses are currently without a job and actively pursuing work.

But, what do you do when you move constantly and can’t find a job? Create your own!

Spouse-run businesses are popping up at a fast rate, allowing spouses to work in the fields they love and contribute to the military community – from the comfort of installations and cities all over the world.

Interested, but wondering how to get started? Here are a few ideas.


Do your research

Do you ever watch TV shows or infomercials and think: "I could do that?" You’re probably not alone.

To avoid being that one uncle we all have "with all the great ideas" that someone has already gone to market with, do some research on what businesses and ventures are already out there.

This will help you get perspective on what concerns and issues are already being addressed, and where there is still need.

It will also help you avoid naming mix-ups, or moving forward with an idea that is too similar to an already successful business.


Get organized

Keep your big dreams, but start small. Make a list of personal interests, goals, and ideas.

Not feeling inspired? Look around you – what needs or opportunities do you see in your community? Are there any tricks or methods you use to keep your own family in order? Even if it seems little, that one tip could turn into a valuable resource for many other families when shared.

The key is to make sure that you have a personal connection to what you want to do.

The old adage about doing what you love in order to make work feel less like "work" is true in most cases, and it will be especially important to have a personal or emotional investment when you are putting in the hard work to make this endeavor a success.

Further corral your ideas by creating a business plan with distinct goals and ideal deadlines. It will be helpful to have concrete plans to reference as you move forward.


Get out there

Idea in hand, now it’s time to create visibility for you and your product.

One of the greatest complements to a portable career is the ever-expanding social networking opportunities available to you.

Consider building a web presence through social media networks like Facebook or Twitter, or stay connected and engaged with your military spouse community through websites with forums like NextGen MilSpouse (www.nextgenmilspouse.com).

Share what you know – there is a growing community of military spouse bloggers, and you could be one of them. Many spouses are as also blogging as their business; creating a brand as an information resource and earning a profit through advertisements and readership. MilSpouse Bloggers, a spouse-run professional networking community, provides military spouses with the tools, guidance, support, and exposure they need to build a portable and sustainable career in social media marketing.

Many of these online opportunities could provide you the ability to reinvent your career and pursue your dreams, all while maintaining the career portability you need.

Think this all sounds great. But, maybe it’s a little too good to be true?

We spoke with El Brown, Military Spouse Magazine’s 2012 Army Spouse of the Year and creator of KinderJam® (www.kinderjam.com), a music and movement enrichment program for children aged from birth to kindergarten, about what it takes to get an organization up and running as a military spouse.


What gave you the idea?

I am a teacher by trade and the majority of my career was spent teaching military children on U.S. military installations overseas for DoDEA.

So creating a program for military children was a natural fit. I was working with my then toddler son at home and I designed a program that catered specifically to his developmental needs and interests.

A fellow military spouse saw me working with him and suggested I teach a class, so I did.

Soon my classes grew and some of the military spouses taking my class told me if I packaged KinderJam they would like to teach it at their next duty station. So we did.


What got KinderJam started?

KinderJam was an organic process. There were apparent needs in the military community that KinderJam could address: quality, affordable "Parent and Me" preschool enrichment classes on and near military installations, and completely mobile careers for military spouses.

In meeting my own need as a military spouse, I met the need of many others. Word spread and KinderJam grew from there.


What are the roadblocks?

Time was the most difficult roadblock for me. Fortunately, KinderJam is a business that utilizes my personal and professional talents, but there still are only so many hours in the day. In the beginning I was a one woman show, but now, I have team of dedicated military spouses who help me keep the machine of KinderJam moving every day.


What advice can you give?

Find something that you love to do. Then do it so well that people will pay you for it. KinderJam is a byproduct of my passion for Early Childhood Education and my desire to help my son, the absolute love of my life, maximize his personal potential.


How do you find the time?

I have a wonderful husband who supported me 100%! While I was building KinderJam, he became a laundry, bedtime routine, and all-day-Saturday-Daddy-excursions expert.

Now, the KinderJam Leadership Team, comprised of military spouses all over the globe, helps me with the work of maintaining KinderJam.

Creating a rewarding career that will move with you could be just within your reach. Consider joining the growing community of spouse entrepreneurs meeting their career goals and making an impact from wherever the military takes them.


Family Strong – Army Strong!