The Military Spouse and Entrepreneurship – Eight Do’s & Don’ts

By Guest Contributor Renee Nickell

 

For 17 years, I had been a stay at home mom and military spouse.  My days consisted of homeschooling my kids, chauffeuring, meal-planning, budgeting, making sure life was stable during TDY’s and deployments, and supporting my husband through three college degrees.  While these things gave me great fulfillment and I loved my role in the family, I had always had dreams of my own.  Our family made a lot of sacrifices for me to stay at home with my children.  Society says you can’t survive on one income and we proved them wrong.

About two years ago, my husband and I really started talking about leaving the corporate world. He was now a reservist and disabled veteran and he wanted to support me in accomplishing my hopes and dreams.  We haven’t gotten to the point of him leaving his job yet, but we are working towards it.  I went full steam ahead and began writing my first non-fiction memoir.  It was published in July 2018 and it was certainly a dream come true.  Since that time, I’ve had to teach myself how to market, grow my tribe, advertise, and everything else that goes along with being a new entrepreneur.

Just two months before I decided to start writing my book, my husband was suddenly told that he would no longer be “fit for duty” until he underwent a medical review board.  This meant our monthly military pay was gone with zero notice!  This was a huge blow for him as a commander and 17-year veteran.  We had to make things work with a sudden drop in income.  This was a huge risk.  It’s been 18 months and still no medical review board, but we are still making it without his military pay.

If you are a military spouse who may be considering starting a new business on a limited budget, I want to give you a list of eight do’s and don’ts that will help you make that decision:

 

1. Don’t rely on the bank account for you to start your business.

Now some may say, “Renee, this is NOT wisdom.  Every business needs cash!”  Well, no they don’t.  How many dreams have been born around a kitchen table?  How many bakeries have started with mixing the flour and sugar in a small home kitchen?  Many businesses now are started on one-income families with small investments.  Start small, but dream BIG!

2. Don’t expect to get rich quick.

With the social media, coaching craze happening right now, all it takes is one look at your timeline to believe you can become an overnight sensation on YouTube and make 6-figures in two months.  It may happen for some, but for most of us, that isn’t realistic.  What is realistic, if that is your goal, is to grow in what you know.  What you don’t know, learn.  Long-term success takes time, energy, knowledge, and patience.  Remember that turtle that was slow and steady?

3. Do plan on working long hours with no pay.

Startup businesses do not start making revenue right away.  Like I mentioned before, I’m 18 months into “the dream”. I haven’t made any profit thus far, but that doesn’t keep me from moving forward.  Your desire to turn “the dream” into a reality MUST be stronger than the desire to get rich quick.  What this has taught me, is that I am showing my children delayed gratification.  They know mom works A LOT, but I am always teaching them that it’s perseverance and hard work that will eventually pay off, not giving up when you see little results (this can go for weight loss or building up savings).

4. Do expect to make sacrifices.

Have you heard those stories of incredibly successful entrepreneurs that have sold everything they own to make their dream a reality?  Yes, I can relate.  When I was publishing my book, my husband would come home from work and wonder where our furniture went.  I’d tell him I had to pay the editor.  This went on for months until we finally put in for a job transfer and sold our home…providing us with funds to market the book.  You will learn to do what you can to make it work.

5. Don’t expect everyone to understand or be supportive.

Let’s face it…no one will be as excited as you about your new venture.  Friends may think you’re crazy or possibly be upset with your new time constraints.  Naysayers may be jealous and Facebookers may get annoyed.  So, what?  Only ONE person needs to believe in your dream…YOU!  You WILL grow your tribe…don’t try to appease everyone (and most of the people on your social media won’t be your tribe, that takes time to grow).  Those that do support you – keep them close.

6. Don’t give up.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your small business.  If you are dedicated to doing what you believe in and you’re aware that building a business takes time, you WILL eventually see results.  I promise.  Hang in there and know that you will have good days and bad days, but the good days make the bad days worth it.

7. Do take the risk.

Maybe it’s because of my life experiences, but life is too short to not take the risk.  I mean, I’m not talking about bungee jumping here.  Sometimes the greatest results happen because of the greatest risks.  Six months after I published my book I wrote my favorite author and asked for an endorsement.  Guess what, she said yes.  I was so scared to ask, but my husband always tells me, “if you don’t ask, your answer will definitely be no, but if you do ask, you may get a yes.”  He would remind me this after all the “no’s” I have gotten.  I still take the risk and it’s really been incredible to see what doors have opened.

8. Do have the time of your life!

Always remember your “why” and enjoy the journey.  It’s truly the journey that you have to learn to appreciate, because that journey never ends.  Make small goals and celebrate when you meet those goals.

 

I hope this insight will help the new entrepreneur.  If you are a military spouse venturing into new territory, know that you can do this.  Remember that incredibly painful deployment when the kids were puking and the roof was leaking and the car broke down and it was still 10 days until payday?  Well, if you can get through that…you can do this.  The military spouse is resilient and strong.  Be encouraged and go out and make your dreams happen!

 

Renee Nickell is a military spouse, Gold Star sibling, and author of “Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following My Brother’s Death in Afghanistan.” Renee has been featured on FOX & Friends, The Brian Kilmeade Show, and SOFREP Radio; her mission is to increase awareness of the difficulties that military families face, to better help them endure, recover, and heal.  For more about Renee, go to www.reneenickell.com.