Family Forum / By Elizabeth Scruggs and Judy Konitzer: Flexible work arrangements, technology, and the cultural shift to remote business arrangements are just a few of the reasons military spouses are finding entrepreneurship and business ownership a solution to unemployment and underemployment. According to the 2017 Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey, the unemployment rate for military spouses is 28%, and 55% are underemployed earning $20,000 less than civilian counterparts. Spouse employment is an issue that continues to top quality of life challenges for military families, and the following spouses from across multiple branches (Coast Guard, Army, and Marine) have found success, supplemental income, and additional revenue streams by making their business dreams a reality.
Kristen Windham, Cape Cod, MA
Relocating 8 times in 12 years, Kristen found that keeping a record of her temporary jobs, constantly updating resumes, and battling the continuous job hunt routine, made her feel as if she was always searching and never finding stability outside the home. In 2013 she turned an in-demand skill set into a home-based, portable business. Sew-Called Therapy, LLC. specializes in custom sewing, alterations, hemming, and mending, including military uniform patches and military dress insignia. Being a limited liability corporation separates business monies from personal monies and personal assets. It also allows write offs for numerous expenses on taxes each year, i.e., business square footage use in the home, internet for marketing and customer connections, phone calls, utilities, miles traveled for deliveries, supplies, and shipping costs and packaging. After finding her successful niche, Kristen added sewing lessons in the comfort of her home to assist those eager to learn the basics of operating their sewing machine and how to tackle small projects. Kristen says “My greatest piece of advice to those wanting to have their own LLC is so simple, yet terrifying at the same time, so just start! Follow your passion, for every step taken towards it, is one step closer to where you want to be.”
Erica McMannes and Liza Rodewald
Cofounded MadSkills in 2016 as a C Corp 100% virtual staffing agency that creates work opportunities for military spouses across the globe by placing them in companies with distributed teams. To date they have successfully placed 65 military spouses in work opportunities through client companies in various industries including web design, content development, bookkeeping, HR, program management, social media managers, virtual assistants, writers, copywriters, graphic designers, marketing assistants, customer service, etc. Through trial and error and with the value of a great legal team, establishing their C Corp set the stage. Erica is currently stationed at Fort Eustis, VA.
Liza is at Fort Lee, VA, both with upcoming PCS moves in 2018, so being virtual allows their business to flourish from anywhere in the globe. They agree that “Business ownership isn’t for everyone but the layers of experiences and diverse work opportunities make military spouses prime candidates for the world of entrepreneurship.”
Melissa Garn, Quantico,VA
Melissa is the business owner and independent consultant for a top selling anti-aging skincare multi-level marketing brand. Many people confuse this with pyramid schemes which are not the same. Multi-level marketing always has a real product that can be sold to the customer and consultants invest in their own business and encourage others to create their own business as well. You can make money off direct sales as well as those on your team. Pyramid schemes are illegal investments with no product and are based on a hierarchical set up which promises high returns that are not typically gained in traditional investments. If you love a certain product and you find that you are naturally telling people about it, you could have a future in multi-level marketing. This is just one of many ways military spouses can leverage their large networks into a career opportunity where you are your own boss and you create when you work. When you move, your business moves with you. With today’s technology you have the same influence capabilities as any major company does. If you utilize your social media and other tools the sky’s the limit. It’s not just telling your family and friends, it’s about creating a sustainable business.
Kristen, Erica, Liza, and Melissa are great examples of how military spouses can make a business or their entrepreneurship dream a reality. Many spouses postpone the idea of beginning a business, but un- and/or under-employment continue to be challenges and these women are finding solutions. While business ownership isn’t for everyone, it can be a fulfilling option which allows spouses to earn additional income and make a difference. We have acquired skill sets and experiences to find success and the resources are vast to assist making your business dreams a reality. As more and more spouses are empowered to begin their business journey, “Milspousepreneur” will be trending in 2018.
Elizabeth Scruggs is a proud Army Brat, Army Wife, and full time professional working towards finding solutions to military spouse unemployment and underemployment challenges; she and husband MAJ Andrew Scruggs and their 3 children currently reside at Fort Lee, VA.
Judy Konitzer is the family forum editor for ARMYAVIATION; questions and suggestions can be directed to her at