Spouses' skills translate to successful, enjoyable work
June 5, 2014
FORT GORDON, Ga. (June 6, 2014) - From frequent moves to finding employment and building new relationships, military spouses are synonymous with change and challenge. But with the right attitude and approach, those challenges can be overcome -- even in employment, where spouses tend to struggle.
"There are a lot of opportunities in the military," said Melissa Smith, Army Community Service employment readiness program manager.
Obtaining meaningful employment is not as difficult as some think. Smith has connections with companies local and nationwide who are adamant about hiring military spouses. The employers value their sacrifices and understand their unique needs. Many of them offer part-time, full-time, intermittent and work-fromhome positions.
"It really depends on what the family is looking for and what's going to meet their needs to meet their goals," Smith said. "People have to find what fits within their parameters and their family."
When applying for a job, matching your skills with the company's position is crucial, Smith said. Employers need to know why you are a good fit for their company. The ERP can help spouses do this using assessment tools and other techniques. Applicants should tailor their resume to each job and employer.
On the other hand, some spouses prefer to manage their own business. Spouses Kelly Lawson, Amanda Seals and Tera Bonsell are proof that it is possible and can be rewarding.
Kelly Lawson has a steady flow of clientele doing what she loves: making women feel beautiful. The mother of two and homeschooler has been applying makeup and styling hair since her early teenage years. She started out as an assistant in a hair salon, then eventually attended and graduated from beauty school. Lawson and her sister co-owned Edges Hair Design in her hometown of Madison, Georgia, for about three years.
Now a sole proprietor and licensed cosmetologist, she enjoys the perks of being her own boss. The biggest challenge, she said, is building up new clientele with each duty station.
"It's really important every time you move to make sure that you develop a network of friends," Lawson said. "That's the most important thing if you want to have a business."
She travels frequently to Madison fulfilling clients' requests and makes herself available to the client base she formed in the Augusta area. She has everything providing hair and makeup service, and is gradually gathering pieces of larger equipment that she hopes to one day use for expansion. In the future, if the demand arises, Lawson said she will consider renting a booth at a local hair salon to keep up with clients. But for now, she's content traveling -- keeping her two young children top priority.
Her advice to other military spouses is simple: use your skills.
"Don't be afraid to use your talents, even if it's just for one person," she said. "Word spreads, and before you know it, you could have other people coming to you."
When Amanda Seals inherited a sewing machine from her mother-in-law last year, the inexperienced seamstress did what any responsible mother would do. She signed up for sewing lessons. Little did she know the impact it would have on her family.
Soon after, Seals' sister made a request for personalized pocket T-shirts and pillowcases. Word of her newfound talent spread quickly, and requests from people wanting T-shirts began pouring in. That's when the idea to start selling online came. Business was slow until she received an embroidery machine as a gift.
"That's when it really took off unexpectedly," Seals said.
The response prompted her to invest in a second machine and expand her line of products to include women's apparel and accessories. In less than a year, she went from filling a handful of orders per month to anywhere between 50 and 100. Her husband has been very supportive, going as far as responding to customers' emails and making post office runs.
"It's enough to have a supplemental income, and I'm really thankful I get to work from home and be with my daughter all day," Seals said.
Her merchandise has gone international, attracting customers in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom. She credits the success with her willingness to step out of her comfort zone.
"You have to put yourself out there," Seals said. "I really thought nothing would come of this, but I stuck with it, and it took off."
Tera Bonsell started with a home business, and it blew up before her eyes -- literally.
Bonsell, an Air Force veteran and mother of two, desired to continue contributing financially, but did not want to leave her small children behind.
After doing some research in 2011, she and her husband purchased five inflatable slides and obstacle courses for people to rent. It allowed Bonsell to stay home with her children while taking reservations during the week. On the weekends, she and her husband delivered and set up inflatables to customers.
As their customer base grew, Bonsell increased the inventory to include 17 inflatables. The response was so positive they decided to move their business to its own venue. Now they have a site allowing them space and time for specializing in private parties and open jump opportunities. Bonsell has three employees working for her and the freedom to stay home or work on site, which is within walking distance of her house.
She hopes to add more inflatables and expand the center's arcade in the future, but for now considers it "a perfect starter place."
While Bonsell acknowledges the future is uncertain, she is hopeful the business will outlast her husband's time left in the Navy as he looks forward to retirement. Regardless of the outcome, she has no regret.
"You never know what's going to happen unless you try," Bonsell said. "The biggest defeat is if you never try … then you've already failed."
Successful business owners understand the significance of networking and being aggressive. They don't require a business degree, and in fact, some of them lack college degrees. The key is to make the business a "focus and a daily effort."
"Having your own business can be really advantageous because it allows you to set what hours you work and gives you more flexibility," Smith said.
Tap into the Small Business Administration, Smith said. They have a wealth of information including how to get started, filing for loans and laws pertaining to taxes.