On June 14, 2017, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes program held an exclusive event for military spouse employment and entrepreneurship.
The Military Spouse Employment Summit brought together the Nation’s best decisions-makers from across the private and public sector to discuss military spouse employment and entrepreneurship.
The event kicked off with Dr. Jill Biden, former Second Lady of The United States, speaking about her personal experience of being a mom of a service member and her work with Joining Forces and military spouses.
She shared that the Biden Foundation is excited to continue working with military and veteran families and help reduce the high unemployment numbers with the military spouse community.
The U.S. Chamber also welcomed Kellyann Conway, Counselor to the President of the United States, who shared President Trump’s commitment to the military spouse community to improve the unemployment issues and encourage small business growth among our military spouse and veteran communities.
Linda McMahon, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration, a keynote speaker on The Business Value of a Military Spouse shared her inspiring vision for the SBA empowering the military spouse (and Veteran) entrepreneur community.
The event continued with a powerful mix of panels highlighting the employment experience of the military spouses of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, employers of major companies sharing best practices for hiring military spouses and military spouses discussing the struggles and successes of military life with employment and entrepreneurship.
The Military Spouse Employment Summit covered all the bases – but it is just the beginning.
As a military spouse and entrepreneur, I am thrilled for this national conversation with the Biden Foundation, the Trump administration, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense working together to improve military spouse employment and entrepreneurship. As a military spouse entrepreneur I also hired military spouses to scale my company, therefore I am glad to see both issues being discussed at a national level.
I believe in the military spouse community, more than most communities – employment and entrepreneurship issues go hand in hand.
It is truly an exciting time for military spouse entrepreneurs and many are flexing their entrepreneurial muscle and starting small businesses across America, and while stationed overseas. Pictured below, Lakesha Cole, author, entrepreneur and military spouse shared her story of starting her business while stationed in Japan and then continued to serve the overseas military spouse entrepreneur community by setting up learning groups on the do’s and don’ts of starting a business OCONUS.
Lakesha recently PCS’d her family and her business to their new duty station in North Carolina – she is truly an inspiration.
In addition to the incredible information shared at last week’s conference (see link below for the Summit report), we need to continue working together to keep the conversation going.
Here are the top vetted resources for military spouse entrepreneurs to help deploy your business today – Go get em!
1. Bootcamps: Training programs for the new recruit or even the most experienced entrepreneur is a must. Fortunately, there are free programs for all stages of military spouse entrepreneurs.
- Dog Tag Bakery: Dog Tag Bakery is more than just the sweet treats they freshly bake everyday – it’s a work-study program for veterans and military spouses. From the early hours of each morning, our bakery is mixing up batches of handmade baked goods while providing valuable work experience for disabled veterans and caregivers. And they are looking for YOU The application for our January 2018 fellowship program is live, apply here!
- Techstars Patriot Boot Camp: Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit on a mission to equip active duty military members, Veterans, and their spouses with the education, resources, and community needed to be successful technology entrepreneurs. They provide an intense 3 day workshop at different locations throughout the year where you will connect with incredible mentors, speakers and fellow military spouse and veteran entrepreneurs. As a proud alumnus of this program, I highly recommend signing up for the next boot camp in September held in Denver, Colorado.
- IVMF – Institute of Veteran and Military Families – Syracuse University: The IVMF and its staff of more than 70 professionals deliver class-leading programs in career, vocational and entrepreneurship education and training, providing service members, veterans and their families with the skills needed to be successful in education, work and life. The IVMF also coordinates comprehensive collective impact strategies; and works with communities and nonprofits to enhance service delivery for veterans and their families. They provide specific programs for military spouse entrepreneurs occurring at different locations around the country throughout the year. RSVP early for programs- they are extremely popular and fill fast!
- Inc. Magazine Military Entrepreneur Program: In 2011, Inc. Magazine launched the Military Entrepreneurs Program to educate and mentor service members and their families about entrepreneurship. The program helps veterans, service members and their families start, grow and run their own businesses through mentoring, education, networking, resources and information provided through Inc.’s special events and business conferences. As an alumnus of this program, the fellow military spouses and veterans you meet at the programs each year truly become your entrepreneur family. This is also a chance to meet up close and personal some of the biggest entrepreneurs in the country with Inc. always rolling out the red carpet for the Military Entrepreneur attendees.
2. A Battle Buddy: “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” Unknown. Find a battle buddy AKA a mentor – who is not your spouse, your best friend, your co-founder or someone you work with. You need a mentor who has been in your shoes and can provide insight, empathy, and advice that no one else from your daily life can provide.
- SCORE: The great news – as a military spouse you have access to FREE mentors and programs through SCORE, an organization provided by your local SBA. I highly encourage you to reach out and make an appointment. I met my SCORE mentor, Walt Abbott, from the D.C. Chapter in 2011 and he is still my mentor – he has been there for me through the good, bad and the ugly. An incredible mentor like Walt, is truly priceless. Reach out and find a SCORE mentor where you are stationed.
3. Bootstrapping: I have been told many times, bootstrapping and retaining 100% equity in your company is the best solution. However, if you can’t bootstrap your venture or you are at a point where you need additional capital – you have some options.
- SBA: Check out the Small Business Administration (SBA) for their SBA loan and grant options. The SBA also provides incredible courses called “Boots to Business,” which are specifically available for the veteran and military spouse community – for FREE.
- StreetShares: A veteran owned and operated company. The StreetShares community brings together business owners in search of funding and investors looking for both financial and social returns. In the end, business owners get the best deal possible, and investors earn a solid return while supporting American small business – everybody wins. StreetShares also provides opportunities with contests for veterans and military spouses to win grants for their small business!
4. Home Base Operations: Many entrepreneurs work from home to save money – but there is a BRAND NEW opportunity for veterans AND military spouse entrepreneurs to set up shop at a co-working space.
- WeWork: WeWork in partnership with Techstars Patriot Boot camp is excited to offer the new Veterans in Residence program! This is an opportunity for veterans and military spouses to continue their mission as part of a new tribe – of creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs – and to create their place in the new economy. Whether you’re starting a new business, looking to build your network, or trying to find your next career – the WeWork Veterans in Residence program provides workspace, educational programs, 1:1 mentorship, services, and community for veterans and military spouses. Currently enrolling in Denver and Austin and coming soon to more locations – stay tuned.
5. But…the BEST KEPT secret weapon in military spouse entrepreneurship is… YOU – so keep growing! Military life IS the best training ground for resiliency – and resiliency is a must-have weapon of successful entrepreneurs.
Most entrepreneurs do not have access to this daily real-life resiliency training to prepare them for the massive uncertainties of entrepreneurship – but you do! The definition of resilient is:
- able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
- able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.
You will get knocked down more times than you can count – but if you are able to “recoil or spring back into shape” – you will be a successful entrepreneur…and an awesome military spouse to boot!
As Mrs. Amos, spouse of Former Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Amos, and Ambassador to Hiring Our Heroes said at the conference and in the video about military spouses…
well, just in a word…we’re just ‘damn’ good!
Cheers – Jen
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions – firstname.lastname@example.org