Who ever thinks you can change the world?

I certainly didn’t.  I used to think my labels weren’t worth much.  Air Force veteran, mom, military spouse, and aspiring entrepreneur.  What could I offer?  Little did I know that those very labels were the beginning of something brilliant.

I found my identity in the bumpy journey to becoming an entrepreneur.  In my particular line of work, I get to help coach women to create flexible businesses around their busy (military) lives.  In doing this over the course of the past few years, my posture changed.  In giving back to women by helping them realize their potential as business owners, I saw that I could change the world a little bit every day and they were inspired to do the same.  An encouraging word here, a piece of advice there, and an occasional kick in the pants to help someone reach their full potential….I was helping people learn how to live, give, serve and grow.  And these were nothing new to me; they were the skills I had gained as a veteran, mom, military spouse and small business owner.

Now, here is the fun part.  You’re probably thinking, “oh yeah, good for you”.  But, guess what?  You have your own set of special skills that someone is waiting to receive through your entrepreneurial venture.  Yes, it’s true.  You could be the CEO of your own passion-filled business.

Today I realize, that the little things we do to give back to our families, serve our countries and communities, grow our businesses and live fully are of great value to the world.   And when we use our successful businesses to share these values and “pay it forward,” we will create an unstoppable ripple effect that reaches much farther than you would ever imagine.

So I’m on a mission.  A mission to show you that your labels are a gift.  You can take them and create a business and a life centered around your passion.  The world needs more milpreneurs who pay it forward and here is where we’ll start.

Welcome to MISSION: Milpreneur…..let’s take a journey to live.give.serve.grow together!

The Most Important Job…

img_0483This kid.  Some days he frustrates the heck out of us.  He picks on his sister, only wants to play computer and can grumble about just about anything.  On these particular days, I wonder if anything I am doing as a mom is working.  And if his future job might end up being a grumbly garbage man.  But then there are the good days.   Days like today, where I can catch a glimpse of the extraordinary being inside that grumbly, developing body and it causes my heart to swell!

Last week was the first week in our new school and Cole’s 4th new school as a military kid.  It can be scary and nerve-wracking the first few days as the new kid in school and we all brace ourselves for impact with each move for what the first week could bring.  Luckily, for the most part we’ve weathered each move (CA, VA, NJ, and now back to a different city in VA) without too much trouble.  But as a mom, I tend to stress on their behalf each time.  I’m sure most moms, and especially military ones, can relate.imagejpeg_0

To make us all feel better, the kids and I attended the school’s “meet the teacher” day.  One of the hot topics there was what “job” each 5th grader was assigned.  As the oldest members of the elementary school, the 5th graders get the privilege of helping out in many different capacities (which sometimes even results in missing some math).  Since Cole was new, and didn’t get a job assigned to him at the end of 4th grade like the others, he would need to pick a job, so I thought it’d be good for him to hear about the options.  The other kids informed Cole that there was everything from technology team, to art assistant, to grounds helper, to PE assistant to crossing guard.  Some required you to show up to school early (insert Cole groan) and others did not.  But I quickly inferred from these 5th graders that your “job” was a BIG deal!  We left running through the pros and cons of each potential job and headed home to enjoy a long weekend before the first day.

After many nervous questions and a few pre-school jittery feelings, the first day seemed to go pretty smoothly.  I dropped the kids at school, and although I know both were nervous, they handled it like champs.  Me, though–I was absolutely lost with the quiet at home.  I had plenty of work piled up, but for some reason I was completely scattered all day thinking about all the things that could have been happening at school.  Are they making friends?  Do they have someone to sit with at lunch?  Is their teacher nice?  Are they making sure they don’t feel left out?  What would I do if a bully picked on one of them?  Etc, etc.  It was the normal ridiculous line of thought that happens in a Mom’s head when you get too much quiet time- lol!

Yet, all the worrying was for not, when I was met with smiles outside the school after the bell.  They did great!  The only complaint was that they needed bigger snacks!!  In fact, now that the first week has come and gone, it seems like they’ve been here forever.  Both are full-speed into their soccer teams, music lessons and morning routines.  Each have picked out kids they enjoy in their class and also the ones they don’t. And on Thursday, Cole came home elated to tell me he had picked his job!  I was eager to see which one he picked, guessing he would have gone with something in his normal wheelhouse, like the technology team (more time to be on computers). imagejpeg_3

To my surprise, he was jumping-out-of-his-skin-excited to tell me he chose to be a helper for the special needs class.  He would get the pleasure of aiding 4 younger boys with autism who would use his helping hand to assist throughout their day.  He was just beaming as he explained how on the first day they did yoga together, how one of the boys loved when Cole spelled his name instead of said it, and how they even had their own quiet fire alarm, so that it wouldn’t “hurt their ears so much.”  I was literally almost in tears listening to my kiddo truly loving recounting his experience and how he found such comfort in helping these kids.

And what I realized in that blissful moment is that no matter where we live, no matter what school we’re in, or who is there with us, if we love and pour into our kids, they will find their way.  Probably in their own way, and not in the same way we would do it.  But they will find their own, beautiful, and unique path every time.  And on days like this one, we’ll get a tiny little sneak peak into what their blessed future holds.

So as I reflect on a week filled with lots of emotions, I encourage every military mom to take a deep breath and know that all your toils and tribulations are creating something wonderful.  It doesn’t always feel like it when you’re in the middle of it, but the challenging days will come to pass.  They always do.  Just remember that what you’re doing matters.  Every new school you ease them into, every new friendship you help them develop and every hurdle you help them overcome matters.

Each experience is building a strong foundation of service and character that even if you can’t see today, will reveal itself in time.  At the end of the day, our journey as military families may look a little different than the civilian kids down the street.  It most certainly has a few more zig-zags and a lot more speed bumps, but it’s still just as beautiful.  And if my prayers are answered, these amazing little humans will be ready to inherit the world’s most important jobs of the next generation!imagejpeg_2

Why Traveling is Important to Business

As I take a moment to write down my thoughts after returning from an amazing trip to Australia, I can’t help but reflect.  For a blissful week, we explored everything possible in the city of Sydney; the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the fish market, the beaches, the amazing flat white coffees and everything in between.  Then we flew north to the Great Barrier Reef and stayed at the beautiful One & Only Resort on Hayman Island.  It was absolutely stunning!  And although we were only on Hayman Island for a day (my hubby’s job warranted an early return), it was totally worth the trek.  As I took in the Australian culture and warm reception from the Aussie people, it reminded me why traveling can be such a benefit to your business.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Solve problems and approach things in another way

There is something about traveling to a new culture that opens your eyes to so many new ways to approach life and business.  Take something as simple as how restaurants run, how toilets flush, how transportation works, or what apps are popular and you will find new examples of brilliance that can apply to the way you run your business.  For me on this trip, I was fascinated at listening how Huggies “nappies,” or diapers as we call them in the US, are so much more popular in Australia than in the US.  The explanation was all to do with marketing.  People in Australia like a much more laid-back approach to marketing and sales than Americans are used to.  Aussies need to feel like “a mate” before they will give you their brand loyalty and trust.milpreneur

  1. See how your business runs from afar without you

There is nothing like being absent to see the true stability of your organization.  As much as it can be hard to step away from the WiFi, social media and connectivity of your day-to-day operations, it’s worth doing.  That way you can get a true look at what you’ve built and how it operates in your absence.  I find that the leaders in an organization find their time to shine when you step away.

  1. Recharge by powering down

One of my favorite parts about international travel is the fact that I don’t buy a local phone plan and I take the time to power down. Now, this is major.  Because normally, I am connected to my phone at all times.  But on international vacation, I only check email and messages in my hotel.  I FaceTime my kids once a day and the rest of the time is meant for my brain to refresh and find its full capacity of creativity and passion again.  It’s amazing how rejuvenating it can be!  Now, obviously it doesn’t take an international trip to do this.  But, unplugging in our uber-connected world is a must-do for any business owner to find your passion and roots!

  1. Share your discoveries

I love coming home from a trip to recount all the details to my friends and family members who were watching from afar.  Luckily, social media provides a wonderful platform for them to follow along.  Not only does sharing my experiences help me more deeply connect with the joy of the trip, but it also gives those around me new ideas that may spark something great in them.  This trip, we brought back the discovery of an awesome Australian treat, Tim Tams, to our kids and summer house guests.  We also got to recount a great coincidental run-in with the Australian Rugby team in the airport. From this story, my son has a renewed love for Rugby after knowing that his new jersey was touched by an Australian Olympic player.  Subsequently, we scoured the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and found our Aussie connection on the TV.  And somehow, we spotted him!  The point is, you just never know what great new ideas your travel will spark in those around you!

  1. Travel = Fun

So often as small business owners, we are constantly doing, doing, doing.  Travel is a great reminder for the end goal of what you’re doing it for.  And that is a better life!  Even if you can only afford a small staycation, make it a goal to vacation at least once every year.  It feeds your brain, teaches you so many lessons, recharges your brain, influences those around you and reminds you that hard work really does pay off!

Warm regards and happy travels!

Milpreneur Karin Bourque: “Bad Wolf Bakery”

Milpreneur Highlight“Bloom where you are planted,” is the advice Karin Bourque offers when asked what one piece of information young, career-minded military spouses should know. It’s this philosophy that appears to have led her where she is today, sitting in her son’s Tae Kwon Do class being interviewed, while disciplining her 3-year-old, calculating what orders she needs to complete tonight for work, and determining what new items she needs to buy for her shop, Bad Wolf Bakery.

“My life is definitely fun. It’s never boring,” Karin explains as she contemplates how much more she has to accomplish today before she can finally find dedicated “me” time. Her positive outlook has been a guiding force as she created her own business in 2013—a business that now has a solid customer base and is continuing to grow and, well, bloom.

From Three Little Pigs to The Big Bad Wolf [Bakery]

Karin conceived of her idea for her bakery while in Hawaii for her logistician officer husband’s work. She has a Master’s in School Administration, and taught for four years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Then, in the process of eating gluten-free and paleo, she found herself “bound and determined to make something amazing out of coconut flour and almond meal.”

Even Karin admits that many of her first creations weren’t, well, edible. Her husband signed her up for a cake decorating class, which helped her flourish in the kitchen. Soon, people began to talk about her tasty creations, gluten-free and regular alike. Through a move to Kentucky and another pregnancy, she continued to wear her apron and get busy in the kitchen, making “cakes for our neighbors, holidays, celebrations, and pretty much anything I could think of.” She began to share her gluten-free/paleo treats, and before she knew it, people were telling her that they loved her product. Bad Wolf Bakery, named for her kids’ love of The Three Little Pigs, was born. “A talented friend offered to create my logo, I set up an email address, website, social media accounts, printed business cards, and hit the ground running,” she shares.

The Joy of Baking

Karin admits that sometimes, she feels like she has three jobs: mom, military spouse, and business owner. While this may be true, her love of baking keeps her job from feeling too much like work. Her goal in creating the bakery, which does not have a storefront but sells goods online, was entirely about finding a job she enjoys that also offers her flexibility. Sometimes, those are jobs you simply need to create for yourself.

“BWB isn’t making me rich,” Karin points out. “But it is funding my love affair with baking. Whatever profits I bring in go directly back into my kitchen (or donated to the cause of the month as part of “BWB Gives Back”).” This philosophy about business has enabled Karin to think of the endeavor as a sort of “test run, figuring out sourcing of ingredients, shipping costs and marketing.”

She may not know just what’s ahead. Her husband plans to retire in seven years, and in just a year her kids will both be in school all day. “I’m feeling out this business to see if it’s really something I want to pursue in the future,” she explains. And that’s part of the fun.

The Business of Cakes & Cookies

It’s not all sugar and spice and everything nice in the world of running a bakery. For Karin, it’s also about making smart choices. “For any military spouse, your ideal business should be something you enjoy, bottom line,” she explains. “But you also need a market for your goods or services and you should be able to set up reasonable price points.” According to Karin, that means having a clear business plan, and realistic expectations. She also advices including the spouse in the process. “Running a small business is going to affect your whole household, whether you like it or not,” she adds.

In addition to maintaining her business savvy, Karin also focuses on leveraging social media. She describes it as her lifeline since she doesn’t have a storefront. While she admits that some policy changes on Facebook have hurt the reach of small businesses, it has still been the key way for her to distribute information. “Generally, less than 10% of my followers actually get to see my posts, but it’s the best way to organize photos, information, and put stuff out there for people to find,” Karin points out.

Her business also implements Instagram to expand its reach, using hashtags to attract attention and interact with more people. She supplements Instagram and Facebook with a blog and email newsletter to maintain contact and forge relationships with new and repeat customers.

Through the social media management, business planning, and actual baking, Karin still values the experience of actually being “present” while at home with her family. Working from home, for anyone, makes it easy for personal and professional time to merge. “It’s very important to keep your work schedule manageable and be clear with your goals,” she advises. “You can make it work though,” Karin adds. “You could consider getting your kids into a day program or preschool. You might want to hire
help with housework. And make sure you set aside time to take care of yourself.”

Through all the juggling and commitments, Karin’s journey is undoubtedly a fun one, driven by risks, rewards, and a lot of fun. Perhaps her best advice is that she recommends seeing it all as an adventure. This philosophy inevitably makes everything a little sweeter.

Meet Our Guest Author – Jill Pohl

Jill Pohl is a freelance writer in Washington, DC…at least for now. Her husband’s Air Force career takes them all over the country (and hopefully all over the world!) She currently blogs at www.visionsofjillhanna.com and writes for Elite Daily, Wall Street Insanity, and a variety of digital marketing agencies. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her at the Krav Maga studio, riding horses, or binge-watching Netflix and eating doughnuts.

Milpreneur Lisa Bradley: R. Riveter

Milpreneur Highlight

Some military spouse organizations offer to help spouses find employment through workshops, meetings, and job fairs. Lisa Bradley’s business, R. Riveter, actually provides them with jobs. Leave it to a military spouse to find a way to tangibly help fellow military spouses provide a second income to their household.

Riveter, which sells elegant handbags and even dog collars and handkerchiefs, promotes the idea that there are mobile and flexible careers that spouses can take with them. Every product is hand-crafted by military spouses employed by R. Riveter. The finished item is elegant, durable, and made in America using military-inspired materials.

The Path to Fashion

For R. Riveter’s creator, this is a labor of love rather than profit. “My parents were entrepreneurs,” she explains, “So the ups and downs of running a small business are not new to me.” 12660476_10208976459515282_1924985504_nToday, R. Riveter remains a passion project, but is also a successful online shop. It was what Bradley describes as her first true career.

Prior to starting R. Riveter, Lisa had a string of jobs that she describes as “for now” work that left her feeling “deflated and always having to redefine who I was.” With the support of her husband, Lisa worked with her business partner to create a line of handbags that would give her something to be proud of.

“Moving every two or three years made it difficult to have a resume to be proud of—or that employers would notice.” Entrepreneurship provided the solution. “It was time to quit complaining and do something about it,” Bradley insists. R. Riveter came to mind as a way to help her create a career, and provide employment to military spouses in her shoes.

Four Years Later…

Today, Lisa and her business partner divide and conquer. While Lisa’s partner runs the “production side” from North Carolina, Lisa operates the business side from her home office in Murfreesboro, TN.

Lisa describes her business as incredibly rewarding: “When you grow a business it takes on a life of its own—under your guidance. Knowing that the pains and pleasures are a product of our own decisions and our creation is the most rewarding career experience I can imagine.”

Her love of the pains and pleasures alike has enabled her to grow a business that is so much more than she had conceived of for herself. She doesn’t see it as a business about numbers and profit. For her, R. Riveter was successful the moment it taught her that “being fulfilled as a military spouse isn’t about that dream job or title I thought I needed to define who I was. R. Riveter taught me that you can do so much in this world and have a huge impact on people’s lives.”


Her business has also taught her what the ideal business for military spouses is: one that’s both portable and flexible. This often comes, Lisa admits, with creating your own business (and employing other military spouses to share the experience). She envisions the perfect spouse-owned business as one that forges a community of spouses who work together, even across the country, to create something.

The process of collaborating with other spouses has been streamlined by social media, which enables all company employees to communicate easily. It has also enabled R. Riveter to share its message of positivity through hardship to military spouses stationed all over the world.

Making a Difference Matters

For Lisa, the entire effort behind R. Riveter is about making a difference. Her business shows her children the value of a strong work ethic, as well as American made products. It also shows them that a mother and wife can still be a successful business-owner. The day-to-day balance is hard, but possible.

She also prides herself on her company’s work to “forge a new way of manufacturing, where there are only goods and outputs. Traditionally the manufacturing industry is riveted with poor working conditions, low wages, and environmental hazards. R. Riveter is providing mobile income to military spouses to work from home, using recycled materials.”

For Bradley, her business is part of a mission to set a great example for other businesses, her children, as well as military spouses. She continues to encourage spouses to do whatever inspires them. “You have to follow your own instincts,” she insists. That’s what Bradley did, after all, and she created a successful business that gives to both its customers and its employees.

Meet Our Guest Author – Jill Pohl

Jill Pohl is a freelance writer in Washington, DC…at least for now. Her husband’s Air Force career takes them all over the country (and hopefully all over the world!) She currently blogs at www.visionsofjillhanna.com and writes for Elite Daily, Wall Street Insanity, and a variety of digital marketing agencies. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her at the Krav Maga studio, riding horses, or binge-watching Netflix and eating doughnuts.

Milpreneur Bridget Platt: Daddy’s Deployed

Milpreneur HighlightWe all aspire to spin the “negatives” that life throws our way into “positives.” Bridget Platt founded her entire business on her potent ability to do so. She never seems to dwell on the downsides of military life, instead pushing past them to secure her Master’s degree, establish a career teaching English, and ultimately start a business founded on bringing joy to children with deployed parents.

Sometimes, pilots’ spouses seem to have it particularly difficult. As many military spouses know, pilots are gone a lot. Bridget’s husband, an EA6B Prowler flight instructor, discovered that he would be leaving for four months, then deployed for seven, just 10 days after Bridget gave birth to their daughter. This is nothing new to many military families. The military has a way of turning a joyous event into a new challenge. For Bridget, this changed everything.

As she began searching for books to help her daughter understand her father’s deployment, she realized that there was nothing on the market that put a positive spin on this challenging subject. The books that existed to coach children through deployments were surprisingly negative. Bridget didn’t want her daughter to have any misconceptions that her life would be sad. With that, Bridget wrote what she describes as her “own positive story for her: one that would be brightly colored, a story that would show the strength of a military family.”

Helping The “Tiniest Warriors” Fight Their Battles

In August 2012, Bridget began her business to help the people she describes as our nation’s “tiniest warriors.”  With a tremendous cause but no business experience, she “read every book (The Lean Start-Up by Eric Reiss being her favorite), and learned how to formulate an LLC, register a trademark, obtain a text copyright, and operate a successful online business.”

With her business smarts and her passion at hand, she was able to find success “early on,” in spite of her struggle with being for profit while helping military families. She was able to overcome her concerns about profit after speaking with the president of a business/entrepreneurial magazine who reminded her, “You found a need for a product and you’re helping people. I have to imagine that any family would pay a lot more than $33 for such a fantastic coping tool.” This reassured that it was “ok” to charge for this valuable resource.

Mixing compassion with effectiveness, she has become the consummate CEO. She knows in her heart that she and her team are doing “great things,” which enables her to continue her effort to turn challenges into successes. Her obstacles have become learning opportunities for her. She explains that every misstep she made in the process of growing her business was because she didn’t trust her gut.


Late Nights & Early Mornings

When you’re a mother, wife, and CEO, sleep becomes elusive. In order to have sufficient time with her family, Bridget came to realize that she had to “stay up late at night and wake up early in the morning.” But she is quick to point out that balance will be different for every Milpreneur. The important thing to know is that it is attainable. She was able to obtain her Master’s while functioning as a full-time stay-at-home mom with a deployed husband. She still struggles with balance, as do many spouses, parents, and hardworking businessmen/women.

Her knowledge of social media was central to the process of making it all work. A great deal of her business’ traffic came through social media for quite some time; ninety percent was through Facebook. Since then, she has handed her social media management over to another successful military spouse-owned company, Pressed Branding. Remarkably, her business’ Facebook presence has blossomed into “too much” for one person to handle.

BridgetBridget is sustained in her endeavors by the personal relationships she is able to forge with nearly “every family that orders a book.” She explains that they become part of her own family. She is able to enjoy their homecoming pictures, photos of them reading her book with their children, and stories about how the deployment books have helped.

Bridget insists that any military spouse can begin her own business. “We have an unfair advantage,” she explains. “We have programs like Patriot Boot Camp, V-Wise, and INC Magazine’s Military Entrepreneur Program available.”

She has been able to find the distinct advantages in military spouse life, from the lessons spouses can learn from deployments, to the opportunities and resources uniquely available to veterans and spouses.

It may seem like a lonely journey sometimes, particularly when deployments and frequent moves take you far from friends and family. Fortunately, the start-up community is a helpful and welcoming one, and if you ask Bridget, “There is no reason you can’t start your own business.”  Ever the optimist, she believes that “if you take every opportunity available, you will succeed.” Judging by Bridget’s own journey to success, her advice is probably sound. Who knows what you’ll stumble upon simply by keeping your head high, your ambition strong, and your goals lofty?

Learn more about Bridget’s endeavor at www.daddysdeployed.com!

Meet Our Guest Author – Jill Pohl

Jill Pohl is a freelance writer in Washington, DC…at least for now. Her husband’s Air Force career takes them all over the country (and hopefully all over the world!) She currently blogs at www.visionsofjillhanna.com and writes for Elite Daily, Wall Street Insanity, and a variety of digital marketing agencies. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her at the Krav Maga studio, riding horses, or binge-watching Netflix and eating doughnuts.


The Waiting Game

Well, it’s THAT time again.

You know it, because you’ll find me obsessively checking my phone for the email with THE NEWS.

If you’re military, you’re nodding your head because you know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s assignment time!  And I’ve got a bad case of assignment-itis!

Assignment-itis (n.):  a condition periodically experienced by military spouses beginning anywhere from 3 months up to 3 weeks (depending on the severity) before a new assignment is announced.  Common symptoms include:  mild to severe anticipation, bouts of extreme excitement followed by bouts of equivalent dread, frequent daydreaming about life in each location, excessive hours of Facebook research, etc.

Every time we get to this point—and this is our 6th time going through a military relocation—I seem to jump on the same roller coaster of emotions.  But this time, for some reason, I have more anticipation than ever!  With less than 5 years left until the much-awaited 20-year point, life seems to be getting very real.  And now the looming assignment seems to have the ever-slight potential of permanence, which is ironic because stability and permanence are things that I’ve longed for for years, but now that it’s becoming a reality somehow it’s also intimidating! Oy!

If you have someone close to you that is military, it’s good to know what assignment-itis looks like so you can recognize their unique symptoms.  As for me, when I am in the thick of assignment-itis, here are the Top 5 Questions that you find me spending countless hours thinking about and toiling over:

  • Should We Rent or Buy?

Real estate decisions can be tricky as you move around the country.  There is the lure to invest and make money on property, which we have certainly done in the past and we currently rent out our first purchased house in WA state.  However, there is risk involved as well.  The moves are frequent and don’t always land during a healthy time to buy or sell.  Therefore, you can find yourself at the mercy of the market (we’ve been subject to this as well).  So, you just have to do your research and make a decision that fits best within your acceptable amount of risk.  Now that we are later into our career, we will only buy a house in a market that we can see ourselves coming back to!

  • Where Are The Best Schools and Neighborhoods?

As you decide on whether to rent or buy, you’ll also be interested in where to find a house in order to have access to the best schools possible.  Thankfully, we have always moved during the summer and we haven’t had to yank our kids out mid-year, but that is always a glaring reality, so quickly knowing how to find the best school is key.  When looking for schools, I tend to rely on two trusty resources:  1) www.greatschools.com and 2) the recommendations from friends.  Using both data points, you can usually find what you’re looking for!

  • What Is Fun To Do In The Area?

Honestly, this is my favorite part of moving!  There are so many treasures to discover in a new area, no matter where in the world you move!  I got some great advice early on in our Air Force life and was told to focus on the positive aspects of every move.  What can we get excited about?!  What teams can we go watch play?  Where are the best museums, restaurants, historical sites and theaters in the area?  Who do we already know living in the area that we can rekindle friendships with?   When living in CA we always made a point to visit the beach as much as possible and spent a ridiculous amount of time enjoying the sun outdoors (yes, skincare friends it happened).  In NJ, we have loved having access to Broadway in NYC to show the kids our love (aka addiction) to the theater!

  • Will It Be Hard On The Kids?

This concept scared the heck out of me as a young mom.  I grew up in the same small town, with the same friends and the same church for all of my childhood.  So the thought of multiple moves and schools was terrifying!   Add to that, that we frequently get asked if our kids have a hard time moving from outsiders as well.  But honestly, so far, I can confidently say that my response is NO!  My kids are 7 and 10 and they have loved every single move and have never complained (at least about the move….the drive, the weather or the food might elicit the normal kid complaints).  I attribute our success in this arena to some great advice I received from a spouse early on in our AF career.  She told me “that their attitudes feed off of ours.”  And she was right!  If I am positive about all the excitement of a move, then so are the kids!  They love to dream about what their new room might look like, what they can do in their new backyard and what potential friends will be down the street.  Other than the first day of school jitters, it has been rare that I hear anything negative specifically about the move itself.  Our system must be working pretty well, because my 10 year-old literally just months ago discovered that most people don’t move every 2-3 years.  He thought everyone did and that we were totally normal for doing so!IMG_0025

  • Is It Time To Use The F-Word? Could We Imagine Staying Here….Forever?

This last question is a new one for me.  As we near 20 years of Air Force life, the reality that we will finally land somewhere for good is quickly approaching.  And honestly, that brings with it a whole other set of questions.  Will I get antsy to move after a few years?  Is this the perfect location?  What if I don’t like it?  Will this meet our needs after we retire, etc.?

The questions go on and on…..but there is one thing I know for sure:  I will never regret this beautiful military life.  The vast experiences, the incredible friendships and the way it has bonded our family tight are things I wouldn’t trade for the world!  It may not look like everyone else’s life, but it’s been perfect for us!

PS….As I was writing this blog “the news” of our impending assignment finally arrived!!!!  It looks like we will be headed back to the Washington DC area in July!!!!!  Already online and infatuated!!!

Milprenuer Courtney Slazinik: Click It Up a Notch

You’re in Okinawa, Japan, a mother and military spouse in a foreign country. You’ve got a degree in education in your pocket, and ambition driving you. But where do you go from there?

When you marry a military member, you rarely think about what would happen if you moved overseas. You try not to dwell on what it could do to your career, your friendships, and your time with family members. Then the move happens and everything changes.

Courtney Slazinik made all of those changes work for her. She began her time in Okinawa exploring her love of photography. She started in the way a lot of successful people begin: by simply learning everything she could about something she loved. Her journey began photograph by photograph.

Courtney took photographs every day as part of a Project 365, taking one picture daily and posting it on a personal website.

She was at home with her kids, doing something she simply loved, not for money but for passion. This was in 2010. Five years later, she now has another website that has blossomed into a work of art, not only for the photos it showcases, but also in its elegant web design.

She turned it into a business, which is evident from the professionalism of the site, the photography workshop she offers online, and the eBook she launched. It has sold over 2700 copies.

“A Roller Coaster of Emotions”

Her journey was not without difficulty. Courtney recounts calling her mom regularly, telling her that she wanted to quit her business. “I spent that first year learning, reading, and working for zero pay,” she recalls. “But I knew it would be worth it in the end since it takes about 3 years to grow a successful website.”Courtney Slazinik at Click it Up a Notch

With this knowledge, she pushed through balancing business with her third pregnancy. Every time she said that she wanted to quit, a new opportunity came along that drove her to continue.

In one such instance during her second year of business, a camera lens company contacted her. They asked her to share their product on her website. It turned into something more when they purchased one of her images to use in magazine ads. These kinds of successes helped her stay resilient, buoying her confidence in her growing business as she moved from one country to another just seven weeks after having her third child.

She didn’t lose her career during this move. Instead, her online business continued to thrive.

Socializing on Social Media

Courtney’s business has grown due to good business sense, as well as a flair for social media. It’s a vehicle for socialization that’s especially pertinent for military spouses. As military spouses move, social media enables friends from old assignments to stay in touch, and facilitates long-distance connections between family members.

Her experience leveraging social media as a military spouse came in handy; Courtney used Pinterest-friendly posts like DIYs, tutorials, and recipes to promote her site. She also optimized Facebook for her business, doubling her likes from 20,000 to 40,000 per month by posting to her page at the ideal times of day for garnering attention.

Courtney also highly recommends using a newsletter list to interact with website readers. “Go do that right now,” she urges. “It should be your number one focus…to reach your readers.”

Otherwise, if a website like Facebook or Twitter is down or “closes up shop tomorrow, your community will be gone,” Courtney explains.

Balance, A Constant Struggle

Courtney Slazinik at Click it Up a Notch 4All military spouses feel like single parents at times. Imagine having kids while sustaining your own, at-home business. Courtney devotes herself to her work for most of the workweek, but allots time after 3:30 expressly for her kids. Weekends are also family time for her. It’s about “scheduling my time,” she acknowledges. It’s not about being the best businesswoman all of the time, nor is about being the best mom all of the time; it’s about finding a balance between the two.

Ultimately, being a military spouse entrepreneur and mom isn’t about being perfect and having it all. It’s about being happy. That’s why Courtney recommends to all military spouses that they explore what they love, and try to turn it into a profitable business. “It’s going to be hard, you’re going to do a lot of work for a little pay, and you may start to doubt your efforts,” she promises. “But don’t, because all that hard work is going to pay off when you create a business you love.” This may sound to some military spouses like a great promise. But it’s attainable, as Courtney’s experience proves. Military spouses are resilient and creative. Starting your own business is yet another opportunity to prove how true this is.

Check out Courtney’s website at www.clickitupanotch.com.

Meet Our Guest Author – Jill Pohl

Jill Pohl is a freelance writer in Washington, DC…at least for now. Her husband’s Air Force career takes them all over the country (and hopefully all over the world!) She currently blogs at www.visionsofjillhanna.com and writes for Elite Daily, Wall Street Insanity, and a variety of digital marketing agencies. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her at the Krav Maga studio, riding horses, or binge-watching Netflix and eating doughnuts.


STAY TUNED for Milpreneur Highlights!!!!!

Have you ever thought of starting your own business but shied away because you thought it would be too difficult? Are you wondering what it REALLY takes to be a successful military entrepreneur, aka. Milpreneur? Stay tuned to our blog, Mission:Milpreneur, to follow a new series where we will highlight everyday military entrepreneurs who are building successful businesses in all types of industries despite their commitments to families, deployments, crazy schedules, and military moves!

You will NOT want to miss their tips and tricks for how to grow a business around your passion (ex: blogging, writing, photography, home decor, online shopping and coaching) and find the awesome fulfillment of being your own boss! And if you have military friends who need to hear this, please share the word and tell them to keep their eye on the blog as well! There will be fun giveaways throughout, so STAY TUNED!

Enduring the Stayployment

So…..I’m just sitting down and taking a breather, after what feels like an endless three weeks with my husband’s absence for his Air Force work. I like to call them “stayployments.” Kind of like the opposite of a staycation? LOL! I’ve been doing stayployments for 15 years now, and much as I’d like to wish they got easier, the reality is that THEY DON’T!!! We are 15 years into this AF life, and when he is gone, I still miss him just as much as when we were newlyweds (sniff, sniff). However, over the years, I DO think I’ve gotten better at keeping things in perspective (aka, I’m not as whiney). And I have been through enough to discover some tips to make the monotonous days a little easier:

1. Give yourself a break

No matter how you slice it, time away from each other is hard. Parenting is a two-person operation and when it’s just down to one parent it makes life a lot harder, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I talked to a friend the other day whose husband is gone for a year and she was lamenting the fact that she and her daughter had a tough week as they transitioned into school. She described lots of kiddo button-pushing (isn’t that their job?) and lots of mommy frustrations, subsequent breakdowns and yelling! As much as we don’t want to admit it, this is what happens. It’s just the truth. We don’t want to have buttons pushed and we don’t want to yell, but in the end, kids are just kids and moms are just moms and we each have our limits. It’s okay. It happens. And believe it or not, through those trying moments we all learn a lot from it. So, take a deep breath and stop beating yourself up. Go find something to reward yoursef with when you make it through those extra challenging days (my personal guilty pleasure is Starbucks….and lots of it) and know you are just doing your best. That’s all anyone can ask!

2. Keep busy!11911157_10207951459010910_501396973_n

I know idle time at our house means lots of kid in-fighting and picking, and me nagging. The kids end up hearing a lot of, “Clean your room…..time for math…..how many times do I need to remind you to do XYZ.” Thankfully, we have a great neighborhood and my kids find many hours of entertainment playing with various friends on a daily basis, but the bottom line is that if we are at home together for too many days in a row, we all start to get sick of each other. So…..knowing this after many experiences, I went into this three weeks loaded with tons of ideas for how to keep us busy! We went sightseeing in our local Philadelphia area, I signed the kids up for fun camps, and we made a trek out to the Lancaster, PA Amish country. The thing I find about activity-filled days is that we all come home fulfilled and exhausted and we never find too much time to lament Daddy’s absence. Sleep comes quickly and nobody lets the emotions get the best of them. In fact, last night, nobody even fought the bed-time routine. Which means Mommy actually got a few hours of me-time to watch a show and get some work done in peace!

3. Look for the fun

11938880_10207951458970909_810566114_nNow, I self-admittedly am not the fun parent of the two of us. Daddy is THAT guy! I’m the eat-your-breakfast, do-your-chores, finish-your-homework, and get-everyone-where-they-need-to-go lady. Most days, I feel like if I goofed around as much as Daddy, we’d never get anything accomplished! But…..when he is absent, I recognize that I have to play both parents, so I am acutely aware of the fact that I have to find silly, fun moments during the days to fill that space in my kids’ hearts. Last night, I channeled my inner-Daddy in a goofy dance session where the kids critiqued my “Whip, Nae, Nae, and Stanky Leg” moves. And if you don’t know what those are, you need to immediately go Google them because your kids probably already know how to do them! If they don’t, you’ll win total “cool points” if you teach them!   Plus, they look absolutely silly to the uneducated dance novice, so either way you’ll win with your kids!

4. Remember, what we do is freaking cool

Many nights, as I lay down and feel like grumbling about the broken air conditioner I dealt with, the bee hive holding us hostage at the front door, and all the things I “wish he were here to do,” I have to remember that being a military family really is an honor that I can’t take for granted. What other work-family could tout the same caliber of people? And who else has a bigger reason for enduring hardship than protecting our country? We are blessed to surround ourselves with some pretty rad comrades….like the Airman and his friends who were ballsy enough to take out a lone terrorist on a train in France, with no weapons to protect themselves…or, the two women who busted through a long-running proverbial glass ceiling to become the first females to graduate from Army Ranger school. When you can step back from the current situation and remember why our military exists, there is no doubt ever, that we should be extremely proud of what we are all supporting! It truly is an honor! And you should fall asleep knowing each night that what your family is a part of is about as freaking cool as you can find!11909822_10207951458810905_546550705_n

5. Reach out to someone else…it will instantly make you feel better

Lastly, I will always believe that no matter how hard a deployment or trip feels, there is always someone else you can look to to instantly stop your own personal pity-party. There is no question; it is such a good feeling to reach out to someone else who might be in a situation longer, harder or more arduous than yours. In my case, as I was complaining about the hardships of a three-week trip, I was quickly stopped in my tracks after I was made aware of an amazingly strong military spouse who’s husband is on a year long deployment and she remains home with their daughter who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and requires frequent chemo treatments. As this woman’s friend describes, this military spouse has remained “fearless and so strong holding up the homefront during the worst storm of her life. Doing it ALL alone.” I plan to send her a little skincare goodie in the mail to make her day a little brighter. Little does she know, but being able to pay it forward to someone else in a tough situation has encouraged me to finish this three-week trip with a LOT less complaining and WAY more perspective.

So, we’ve just got one more day….and then Daddy will be home again and all will be right with the world. I’ll have my bee-fighting companion back, the kids will have their silly dance partner back, and I’ll relish in a little more freedom again. But, I know it won’t be long before we’ll do this crazy routine again soon and I’m certain it won’t get easier. But I DO know this for sure….when we can stay busy, make it fun, reach-out to help others and continue to be honored to do our best at this badass life we lead, we gain a whole new perspective on enduring stayployments!

Finding my “Wai” in Thailand

My husband and I just returned from a ridiculously amazing trip to Thailand as a reward for my work with Rodan + Fields this past year. On the trip, amongst all the fun we had, I learned a few important lessons from the Thai culture that will continue to influence the way I think about business and life:

1) Invest in people with small gestures of gratitude

I learned in Thailand that it’s not the big stuff that matters; it’s the little things. There, they show gratitude and respect by placing their hands together in a prayer symbol called a Wai (pronounced “why”). Whether it was hotel staff, market vendors, or elephant handlers, they would stop everything they were doing to Wai when we would interact. And always with a smile. Most Americans would be too busy, too engrossed in their cell phone entertainment, or just downright oblivious to make such a simple gesture, yet they did it consistently at every appropriate chance, and it never ceased to make me feel extremely special and appreciated! Couldn’t we all improve the way we treat those around us with a simple gesture here or there to go above and beyond? I guarantee, the recipient will remember your investment in them.


2) Happy has nothing to do with how much money you have

Our first day in Thailand was spent touring the famous canals of Bangkok. The people we saw on the river banks lived in modest shanty homes with very few possessions, they bathe and fish from a polluted and dirty river, and they live day to day barely knowing where their next meal may come from. In the US, people in this state of living would be devastated and anxious about their future.   Yet, these people were seemingly unphased. As we floated by with stunned faces at their living conditions, they were smiling, waving, and fully enjoying themselves. It was wonderful to see that the Thai people disassociate a relationship between happiness and money. They simply don’t have to affect one another. And they prove that you most certainly CAN be happy without money. Another great lesson for us Americans.


 3) Everyone can find fulfillment through giving

The final lesson I learned in Thailand is one I’ve always known in my heart, but it was beautiful to see it in action in another culture. In Thailand, children learn from a very young age, that no matter how little they possess, it is important to give some of it away to people less fortunate. As a result, our tour guide informed us that the wealthy people in Thailand feel a social responsibility to take care of the poor. This basic building block to the way people live and give in Thailand, I would argue provides a much more attuned social awareness than we have in the United States. It was admirable and something I was very eager to bring home and share with my own children. Overall, our trip to Thailand confirmed what I’ve always known: In the end, the mark we leave on this world has nothing to do with how much we have, but everything to do with what we give back.