Constant relocation is a major factor that can have a deep impact on a military spouse’s life and career. Employers typically want someone long term when filling a role. Ultimately, leading to you not able to find and establish a career. In addition to the financial strain this can place on a military family, it can be easy for a spouse to lose their sense of self and purpose outside of their role at home. The military spouse unemployment rate is expected to rise to 35% in 2022, it’s no wonder why military spouses are turning to entrepreneurship and programs like Aspire when crafting business models that work for them.
Business Impact NW's free Aspire program works with budding and existing military spouse entrepreneurs who are looking to start or grow their businesses. By providing access to free business coaching, an approachable curriculum, and opportunities to network, the Aspire program creates a space for exploration, development and expansion of business ideas.
The Power of Entrepreneurship for a Military Spouse
When a military spouse becomes an entrepreneur, it's a bold feat. They seek a purpose where they don’t have to quit their job every 2-3 years but instead they get to pick up their passion and bring it with them anywhere they go. Entrepreneurship offers a unique flexibility where they can go from constantly having to solve child care issues to making their own schedule and never missing one of their spouse’s pinning ceremonies again. They want to free themselves from those ever-missing pieces of community support and build a special camaraderie that can only be found with the fellow entrepreneurs in their area. Entrepreneurship is uniquely positioned to benefit military spouses as it presents opportunities to create their own salary, build their own community, and pursue their own career goals.
Unfortunately, although resources are widely available in the military spouse community, they can be hard to find. Amber Bittner, a Loan Readiness Center and VBOC business coach at Business Impact NW is an avid supporter and military spouse entrepreneur herself who recognized this in her tenure. Not wanting others to struggle as she did, Amber has made it her mission to create opportunities and educate military spouses on the resources at their disposal.
“What it essentially translates to, can I take care of my family? There is a way that spouses can actually have a career. They can make a purpose for themselves, make it work with their lifestyle so that that military service member who's deployed doesn't necessarily have to worry so much about what’s happening at home. So that you can say, hey, if you can't find a job, make your own! This is how you do it,” Bittner said.
After going into business for herself, Amber initially found that just keeping busy was a great start, but the benefits only grew. Not only had she built secure, consistent, and fulfilling employment for herself, she found her purpose: educating military spouses on the advantages of entrepreneurship.
Tips for Military Spouses Starting a Business:
Design Your Business to Be Portable
A portable business is key for military spouses to make it work for them. When examining the portability of a business, spouses will need to consider their legal business structure and the taxation requirements that come with it, educate themselves on their state’s laws for provisional licenses and permits, determine whether to reside on or off base and research the varying regulations that accompany that decision. If relocating overseas, spouses will need to be sure they’re complying with foreign government taxations laws and upholding their privileges to live in a host country.
“Getting educated on how to make a business portable can be overwhelming, but the knowledge of how you do that is also hard to find; which is one of the reasons Aspire is so great - it helps to bridge those gaps.”
Take Advantage of Resources Near You
There is a vast network of resources available to military spouses, the tricky part is knowing where to look. Oftentimes, you will have to do some digging to find out about state and federal provided programs, given that they aren't usually in the same place. Find networking opportunities at local events through ticketing platforms, local USOs, libraries, chamber of commerce and more.
Find a Support System
Having a solid support system can increase a military spouse entrepreneur’s network tenfold with shared knowledge, new opportunities, and finding fresh ideas. Building a strong network means making strategic connections with those who can advance your career, creating advantageous relationships with fellow entrepreneurs, following up and staying in frequent contact, and taking advantage of professional database services and social networks.
“You have to get out there and ask for help. I just introduce myself. You have to put yourself out there. You have to be willing to talk to people. But don't be afraid. Just extend. There’s a yes out there, you just have to find it. It’s out there."
Gather a Team of Experts
Business success doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn't happen alone. On the road to success, learning from other’s mistakes, evolving, and consistently building knowledge is crucial. Surrounding yourself with a team of experts can mean the difference between idea and implementation. Core members within your team that will likely provide the most benefit include a bookkeeper, lawyer, accountant, insurance professional, and a content marketing expert. These services can be found from low-cost to absolutely free. Business Impact NW’s Grow with a Pro series provides an opportunity to meet with an expert and ask questions for free. Additional resources abound from programs like VBOC, SCORE, WBC, The Rosie Network, SBDC and so much more.
The Aspire Program is supported by The Boeing Foundation.
Thank you for being there for those in active service, our veterans, and their families.
About the author
A Seattle native, Faith graduated from Central Washington University with a BA in Tourism Management. She used those skills working in various hotels and then transitioned into the medical and dental fields. In 2014 she moved to Panama City, Florida where she continued to hone her administrative and supervisory skills at a local otolaryngologist’s office. Four years later, Hurricane Michael hit, and she was ready to return home to the Pacific Northwest. After watching so many businesses crumble due to hurricane, she returned home with a new outlook and a strong desire to do what she could to help keep the small business dream alive.