It’s graduation day in Virginia.
Members of the Rosie Network Fort Belvoir cohort just completed a 16-week entrepreneurship program at the USO Warrior and Family Center Thursday night. Chapter members presented their pitch decks to the audience, briefly explaining their businesses before receiving a certificate of completion and a parting gift. The group consists of military spouse entrepreneurs, each with a unique vision, passion, and purpose.
The participants’ resumes include diverse backgrounds with varying levels of business and life experience. Chapter Lead E’Beth Goad, a personal wardrobe stylist and active duty spouse, says many of the graduates landed on self-employment after facing difficulty with traditional employment — an ongoing challenge plaguing those married to military members.
“The underemployed and unemployed rate for military spouses is the highest in the nation. We are seeing more and more turn to entrepreneurship because it’s portable…. (As military spouses) we’re resilient and we’re used to starting over. … We’re used to trying to figure out how to make things work; so why couldn’t we run a business?” Goad said.
For Goad, moving 15 times as a military family imposed difficult obstacles for her own career.
“I got tired of being the bottom of the barrel each time I wasn’t able to progress in my career. … I really had a passion for teaching other women how to dress on a dime. Also, being a former plus size, I had to learn how to camouflage how I looked so that people saw me and not just my size; that just sort of turned into a business,” she explained.
Since 2012, Goad has styled over 1000 clients and remains committed to building the confidence of other military spouses through their wardrobes.
Military spouse Christina Tello launched Unleash Your Truth after struggles with her own identity. The online business teaches women how journaling can be used to achieve wellness goals.
“When we first joined the military and we PCS’ed to our first duty station … I didn’t know who I was; I didn’t have my family, I didn’t have my friends there, I wasn’t working. I couldn’t find a job. I was kind of just left with myself and I was kind of like, ‘I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know who I am’ because I had based who I was on my job and what my friends and family thought of me or how they saw me. That’s how my journey started, by working on my own personal mindset,” Tello shared.
Rosie Network cohort members work to strengthen one another’s confidence, in addition to building the confidence of their clients. For example, LeeAnn Marie Lemoine, veteran owner and operator of You Are My Sunshine — a custom cake business at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, who says this program has given her encouragement and helped her make a powerful realization.
“I don’t just make cake; I provide a service.”
Taking pride in one’s own work and talent is important to Lemoine. Early on in their Rosie Network journey, another cohort member spoke to Lemoine saying, “Oh, I just embroider.”
Lemoine recalls, “I said, ‘Oh no, no no – take the “just” out!’… Now she just says, ‘Hi, I’m the owner and creator’ … She took the “just” out.”
This is one of many examples of how the group has come together as a whole.
“I felt like this cohort helped me really kind of find myself through the journey but also figure out how to help other people. I think being surrounded by all of these military spouses and other veterans, it really – it’s like a little family. I really enjoyed my time being part of this little tribe.”
Sybil Jones, owner of Mamas and Coffee, echoed a similar sentiment, clarifying that this isn’t simply superficial friendship.
“The Rosie Network gave me a true, core support of a few women … I really feel that they have pure love of what I’m doing and showing that support and listening when I need that.”
The sense of acceptance that participants gained from the program directly impacts them in their daily work, too. Tomaika Abraham, who creates personalized gifts through Jack n Al Embroidery, finds strength in her community.
“Some of my cohort sisters that I talk to on a weekly basis, we all motivate one each other. If one (person) is feeling down, it’s like, ‘Girl you’ve got this! Go ahead and do it!’ These relationships will not end. We’re in it to do great in the future with what we’ve started. That just makes me want to build my business and grow,” Abraham said.
The Rosie Network is unique among organizations trying to address military spouse unemployment and underemployment because of its focus on entrepreneurship. Stephanie Brown, founder and CEO of the Rosie Network, explains, “A lot of folks are focusing on traditional employment; we just happen to be one of the only ones out there focusing on entrepreneurship. But 48% [of military spouses] are entrepreneurs, so we have a full plate.”
Moving forward, the Rosie Network plans to continue growth plans, which includes establishing chapters everywhere that has interest.
“I know that seems kind of lofty,” Brown said. “But it’s the job of the entrepreneur to think big.”Read comments