The military provides opportunities to build discipline, commitment, and a unique skill set that can be used during active service and for careers post military. That training helped Raquel Riley Thomas become an entrepreneur and business owner.
Thomas, a former military officer, owns An Officer and Gentlewoman, LLC, a multipurpose production company. In all of her roles, including pageant queen and mother, her goal is to help and elevate women. This is especially true within her family. She has now inspired her two daughters to open businesses of their own.
Thomas joined the military following in her family’s footsteps — her mother, grandmother, and aunt all served — and she felt the call as well. Her nine-year Army career started in photojournalism, and she later completed ROTC and became an ordinance officer. After leaving the military, she used her photography skills to run a photography business. After going to modeling agencies in hopes of being added to a photographer’s referral list, she found herself in the role of model instead.
Family inspiration is what eventually led her to begin building another business. Thomas shared that in 2010, she wanted to inspire girls like her daughter.
“My daughter, Maria Raquel, who was 3 at the time, asked me a question I could not answer. She asked me, ‘How come there were not any princesses that looked like [her]?’ … and I did not have a good answer at the moment.”
This conversation stuck with her. She later saw a televised pageant, and her competitive nature and desire to be that princess for her daughter inspired her to enter a pageant at the state level. She went on to win Mrs. Maryland in 2010 and was the first runner-up for Mrs. America in 2011.
Thomas’ time in beauty pageants eventually led her and her daughters to current-day entrepreneurial endeavors. While COVID-19 changed how beauty tips are shared, she understood that women still wanted to continue wearing makeup at home. From the desire to continue to provide women a sense of normalcy during the pandemic, she began her own Raquel Riley Thomas Beauty cosmetic line.
Now her two daughters each have a business they are building. Thomas says both she and her husband are entrepreneurs, so it was “just a matter of time” before her children developed those skills.
“One thing I do is step back and let them make decisions on their own, with a watchful eye of course … I teach them to stand by their decisions. If they make a mistake, fix it, and keep moving.”
Her 14-year-old daughter, Maria, created, built, and now owns Maria Raquel Thomas Cosmetics. She started the business out of personal desire and need.
“I had a problem with my lips being chapped and brittle. My mom says to always come up with three solutions to every problem, so I took matters into my own hands, and Maria Raquel Thomas Cosmetics was launched,” Maria said. Her product line includes other cosmetics with names like Adventurous, Dreamer, and Beautiful to inspire other girls and young women.
Continuing the family skillset, Sophia (nicknamed “SJ”) built her own business out of a love of cooking. Through SJ Savory Kitchen, she shares her personal cooking journey on a YouTube channel that has extended the business to designing cooking gear.
“My goal is to see families not only have fun cooking but look good cooking,” she said.
As her daughters build their brands, they are also learning about philanthropy and community building. Raquel Riley Thomas Beauty, Maria Raquel Thomas Beauty, and SJ Savory Kitchen donate a portion of company proceeds to Victoria’s Voice, StandUp for Kids, and No Kid Hungry. Because of her veteran roots, Thomas has also been working with Operation Renewed Hope Foundation, an organization that houses homeless veterans.
“Being an entrepreneur is not easy. However, it is worth it.” Thomas said. “Do what you love. If you fall, brush yourself off and get back up again.”Read comments