An entrepreneur is marking more than 11 years of tapping into the military spouse and veteran talent pool to provide cost-effective solutions for businesses seeking growth.
Midwest native Jessica Bertsch, president of Powerhouse Planning, knows firsthand the skills today’s military spouses possess. She joined the community after meeting her coastie husband by accident.
“I was a poor grad student at the University of Arkansas and my friend brought me along on an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas,” Bertsch said.
When she spotted a man on the ship sporting a Michigan ball cap, she just had to talk to him. His Coast Guard cutter had just pulled into the Bahamas after a mission.
“We became friends and talked on the phone for about six months. All this happened while he was deciding if he was going to go to graduate school, and I was about to take a job with Purdue University. He chose to go to Purdue and then we decided we liked living around each other and we got married a year and a half later,” Bertsch said.
Years later, she had an established and successful career in corporate America but made the decision to step away.
“My husband’s job has always been a fast paced, high optempo, and we were ready to start a family. But I really wanted to maintain a career and was battling with myself on what I should do,” she said.
A former client approached her and asked if she’d do some freelance marketing work for him. Thinking she could turn it into something worthwhile, she made it an official business.
“It was just going to be me doing marketing, PR and then fast forward a few months into it, I started to find all these other military spouses and veterans that were overly qualified and underutilized. They just couldn’t get a job for the life of them,” she said. “I kept thinking if I created this workspace with these men and women to keep their jobs, move after move, and they can just be on multiple contracts and fill in holes and whatever they’re talented in. It just took off.”
Powerhouse Planning marked a decade of operations last year. Initially, the company pursued small businesses to build up credibility and brand awareness. Soon Bertsch was negotiating government contracts, working short-term rentals and supporting nonprofit organizations.
“I have no intentions of selling or shutting down. I just want to grow at a healthy rate and continue to make an impact,” she said.
Since its founding in 2012, revenue has grown by more than 2,000%. She employs almost 30 remote team members across the country. In 2022, her team met in person for the first time for a retreat and celebration of the company’s decade milestone. But even with the virtual day-to-day distance between them, they find a lot of time for fun.
“We do book clubs and power hours where we learn how to paint or make charcuterie boards together. The company wants you to grow professionally but have fun together virtually, too. We’ve done virtual escape rooms,” she said. “I think another thing that sets us apart is we truly get the military life. If you have to take time off for a PCS or your spouse is deployed and you’re not yourself, we know.”
This savvy business woman wasn’t always aiming for the corporate ladder. Once upon a time, she wanted to be on television.
“My undergrad was in radio and TV film, so I really wanted to be a news anchor. I truly thought I was going to be the next Katie Couric,” she said with a smile.
Bertsch was also a ballerina all the way through college. She credits a lot of her dedication, work ethic and discipline to the rigorous commitment it required.
As for what she hopes other potential entrepreneurs take from her story, it was simple.
“You have to decide if what you’re doing is a hobby or a career. Once you make the decision to turn it into a career, go all in,” she said.