An Army spouse and small business owner has been tapped to lead an organization that provides support to the military entrepreneurial community.
Second Service Foundation, formerly known as the StreetShares Foundation, named Lauren Hope, owner of Hope Design, Ltd., as its new executive director. Founded in 2016 by Air Force veteran Mark L. Rockefeller, the organization’s mission is to help veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs by way of coaching, capital, and resources. He says Hope “is uniquely qualified to lead this foundation.”
“We chose Lauren Hope because of her unique blend of talents, her personal experience as a serial entrepreneur, her knowledge and empathy for military families, and her energy and charisma,” Rockefeller said.
Hope met Rockefeller at the 2022 Military Influencer Conference, where she says, “he invited me to apply for the position. It was a whirlwind, but I bought the plane ticket for the interview, and took that leap of faith, and here we are.”
Like many military spouses, Hope has had an eclectic career. She trained as a chef through the Culinary Institute of America, competed on Top Chef, launched her current jewelry business, advocated for military families with the Shop Military program, and worked as a real estate agent.
Instead of seeing these diverse jobs as setbacks in her career path, Hope said they are valuable experiences and opportunities.
“There’s a Japanese concept called ikigai, which is a Venn diagram of what makes you happy, what you are good at doing, what the world needs, and what you can get paid for; at the center is your dream job. This position is that for me,” she said in an interview with Military Families Magazine.
In her new role as executive director, Hope said she is applying skills from all her previous business backgrounds — including marketing, branding, trademarking, and opening a business. She feels this should inspire fellow military spouses.
“Military life is about embracing various experiences and opportunities. Entrepreneurship is messy, it isn’t linear. You have to pull yourself together and find success on the other side. Look at each opportunity as a chance to learn,” Hope said.
Second Service Foundation’s programs provide access to capital opportunities, educational content, and mentorship, with more than 10,000 entrepreneurs educated through these initiatives, according to a press release. Through entrepreneurship, its community has worked to address a number of social challenges facing the military community including health care, mental health, waste management, children and families, unemployment, underemployment, transition, homelessness and disaster relief.
This year, Hope said the foundation is “moving forward while it is being built out.” She is working to make the speed coaching and pitch competitions more accessible to new entrepreneurs.
“Previously, large cash prizes attracted those established businesses who were seeking venture capital. The first few sessions at the beginning of the year will have smaller prizes, to attract start-up businesses,” Hope said.
She also announced a partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), powered by the Small Business Administration, to build an online coaching program so fewer people need to travel to events. And, in May, the foundation will sponsor a pitch competition at this year’s Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® Program’s town hall.
Hope explained that “Mark has very firm beliefs about hiring military spouses. He’s married to a great one.”
“Uniquely, military spouses often have a high level of experience and education but have had to sacrifice their own careers to follow their service member. So military spouses combine talent with grit and self-sacrifice,” Rockefeller said in a previous statement.
One of the goals of the Second Service Foundation is to amplify existing resources to connect military community entrepreneurs with the programs that will help them most. For those interested in building a business, Hope recommends the Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce, Hiring Our Heroes programs — particularly the Skillbridge internship that recently became open to military spouses — and the local SBA office.
“Walk into the SBA office and introduce yourself. They have local experience in that state. If your business is registered in your home of record, then talk to offices in both states,” Hope said.
When asked what advice she had for military entrepreneurs, Hope passed on a motto she learned from a military spouse with the Travis Manion Foundation: “Pick your donuts. There are so many opportunities in this life. You could eat all the donuts and take on all the things, but you’ll get sick. Take on just a few, not the whole dozen.”
For this reason, Hope said entrepreneurs need to know when to outsource and how to make that part of their growth strategy.
“Know when you are taking on too much. It’s ok to say no to some opportunities that aren’t for you anymore. It can be scary to hire a person for the first time, so start by writing down all the things you don’t like to do in your business. When you reach the bottom of the page, that’s the job description of the next person you need to hire.”