Washington-area military spouses can now apply for the Rosie Network Chapter program that provides free support and training for entrepreneurs. The Fort Belvoir, Virginia, chapter is the newest addition in the expanding program that is aiming to establish six new chapters across the country.
Rosie Chapters are part of the Rosie Network, which was founded by military spouse, mother and entrepreneur Stephanie Brown. Chapter members complete a 16-week Service2CEO entrepreneurship program that is tailored specifically to military spouses and provides the basics needed for any entrepreneurial endeavor.
Applications are open to all military spouses including active duty, veteran and previous spouses of any branch, from all backgrounds and interests. Potential candidates may have a current business, an idea or even just the will to innovate. Approximately 20 candidates will be selected to participate in the Fort Belvoir chapter. They’ll commit to attend a total of eight, three-hour sessions, occurring every other week, beginning in late August.
The Rosie Network is an outgrowth of Rosie’s List, which Brown conceptualized in 2011 while her husband was deployed. Brown found herself scrambling to deal with a home plumbing issue; she wanted to hire a veteran or a military spouse to do the work and was frustrated at the difficulty of finding one.
Eventually, she located a company, called Stripes and Pipes. This organization ended up being the first included in Rosie’s List, a searchable database of verified veteran- and military spouse- owned businesses that Brown launched in 2014 with the help of a veteran web developer. According to Brown, Rosie’s List is “the largest non-profit, totally free search tool of its kind … that verifies that [listed business owners] really are veterans and military spouses.”
Brown wanted to do more than just catalogue companies. She also wanted to help other military spouse entrepreneurs launch and grow new businesses.
With her team, Brown worked to design a program that would address the most essential basics of entrepreneurship. The Service2CEO curriculum is based on their own answers to questions like, “What would I want to have known, and what would I want to know, if I were starting a business right now?”
The Rosie Network team also reached out to the community to find subject-matter experts, mentors and business champions who would prepare program participants for success. The team worked to develop a strong curriculum, organize the course into modules, identify what would be taught and determine how the material would be best learned, consistently revising their practice as needed.
After three years of operation, the organization is now opening six new Rosie Chapters in places such as Los Angeles, California, and Seattle, Washington.
Ellen Lemieux, Site Manager of the USO Pathfinder Program at Fort Belvoir, says she is especially impressed with the Rosie Chapter program.
“One of the things I think is great about the Rosie Network is that [the Chapters] are designed to support military spouses — specifically for them, to empower and educate them in a professional way to prepare the spouse for doing something that they really want to do,” Lemieux said.
Military spouse Erica Ewing seemed equally appreciative of the program at the Open House at the Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Center. When given the chance to speak, Ewing stood and praised the Rosie Network for its work.
“I want to thank you for finally addressing the needs of the military spouse,” she said. “After so many years of supporting our husbands, who have always had a clear path to follow while we have fragmented stepping stones, [the Rosie Chapter and Service2CEO program] can help us make a clear, coherent path forward for ourselves.”
She went on to explain, “You take away the shame of being entrepreneurial … of being a jack of all trades but king of none. [The Rosie Network] team helps us to pull all of those talents together and answer the question of ‘Who am I? What makes me happy? What do I want to do?’”
Through the program modules, coursework, homework and mentorship, participants not only learn the basics of starting and running a business, but also sharpen their ability to clearly articulate their ideas. Each of the eight modules helps prepare participants for their pitch deck — what Brown calls “a modern version of a business plan” — and students present their pitches at a culminating event.
“We empower with training that [program participants] need; we make an impact by helping bring sales and consumers — money — in the door; and we advocate for them out in the world,” Brown explained.
Brown says she also believes in the mission and purpose of the Rosie Network.
“No one employer is going to solve military spouse unemployment problems or underemployment; it’s not going to happen,” she said. “We have to solve it for ourselves. This is us creating an alternate solution for our lifestyle. … We are [working to end] military spouse unemployment as we know it.”