Category Archives: Serve.

Mission Entrepreneur

Mission Entrepreneur

★★★★

Applying Lessons from Military Life to Create Success in Business Startups!

I am beyond thrilled to share my latest project with you!

As a military spouse, veteran, entrepreneur (and now author!), I’ve always been inspired by amazing stories of military families who’ve overcome obstacles and succeeded in starting a business.  So I decided to write these (and my own) stories down.  However, as I was writing this book, I discovered that these lessons aren’t only about business…they tell a story of resilience, perseverance, and giving that applies to everyone.

So, whether you’re looking to launch your next great startup idea, you’re already a business professional, you’re a community leader, veteran, or military spouse, or maybe you’re just looking for a little inspiration, check out “Mission Entrepreneur” and discover how you can apply lessons from military life to succeed in your next venture!

Download your free chapter, “How to Overcome Your Fears Like a Navy Seal,” and become a 4-Star member of the tribe by clicking here!

And if you’re ready for more, pick up a copy (at limited pre-order pricing) at Amazon.

★★★★

This has truly been a labor of love and I am incredibly grateful for your support!

All proceeds go back to supporting the military community!  

XOXO

Build a Business & Continue a Legacy

Go After Your Dreams

Business Along with a Military Career…the Ultimate Freedom

With Memorial Day upcoming, most topics that come to mind are important to highlight, but heartbreaking, as they bring to mind those we have lost over the years…who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our Freedom.  They leave us unsure of what to do next, and how to carry on their legacy.  They leave us feeling lost and confused. 

Today I want to talk about something uplifting.  I want to talk about two people who decided to DO SOMETHING about that heartbreak, and to find a way to heal the families that are left behind.  Matt and Micaela are two dear friends who found a way to run a successful business alongside their military careers.  They are incredible leaders that I am proud to serve alongside, and I am the beneficiary of their leadership and mentorship as entrepreneurs as well.  I asked them to join us today to talk about how they balance their business with their military careers, and how they leverage their success to run a nonprofit, the Survivors of Heroes Retreat at Holbrook Farms, Minnesota.  More importantly, I asked them to share a little bit about their inspiration, and how they’re giving back to a community one hero at a time.

Click on the Video Below Watch Their Amazing Story

Thank you to Matt & Micaela for taking the time to share with us today!  From shuffling boxes out of the way of the camera in their new house, fitting in a video the night before Matt went TDY, my internet crashing last minute, filming with a phone propped up, sitting on the bathroom floor (with a baby sleeping in the next room)…it’s a miracle we pulled it off.

Learn More and Get Involved

Mission Milpreneur and Holbrook Farms Retreat

Holbrook Farms Retreat

To learn more about the retreat, check out http://www.holbrookfarmsmn.com, and see how Matt and Micaela redefined their ability to give back at http://redefine.rodanandfields.com/blog/micaela-matthew-brancato-finding-passion-serve/.  To contribute to their mission, click here.

Written by Angelina Stephens

Instagram.com/angelina.r.stephens.

100 WAYS TO CREATE IMPACTFUL LEARNING MOMENTS

Abe Lincoln


I’m going to show my age with this next question.  Have you ever lost a picture?

I decided what I wanted to write about today, for Lincoln’s birthday, and I got really excited.  When my sister and I were kids, we took a trip across the country that impacted our world view for the rest of our lives.  My favorite moment from that trip was captured in a photograph.  When I tried to track it down last week, I discovered that the image is nowhere to be found.  It was taken in the age of film, when clouds were something you stared up at from a blanket on the grass.  The thought of losing that picture brought tears to my eyes.  And then I realized that the thing I was emotional about wasn’t the picture.  The tears in my eyes were tied to a memory:  when two little girls realized that their lives weren’t limited by lines on a map or lessons in a book.

PART I

THE SPARK:  EXPERIENCES THAT SHAPE YOUR CHILD’S FUTURE

Although he won't remember this trip, it's a memory I will cherish forever.

Taking my son to the same steps I visited as a kid was one of the most wonderful moments of my life so far.

With the picture hidden in the dark corner of a storage unit somewhere and the film long gone, all I’m left to share with you is a memory.  When I close my eyes, I can see it clearly: two girls, the smaller one with straight, brown hair, the older one with dark, frizzy curls, both wearing puffy 80’s winter coats, standing together on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Before our parents snapped the photo, I remember staring up at the massive structure, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the words etched on its walls.  I didn’t understand what they meant in the grand scheme of our nation’s history, but I felt the power behind the words.  Even with the cold air biting my face, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from those walls.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the figure of Lincoln, seated thoughtfully, watching me as I tried to wrap my mind around his words.  That moment sparked something inside of me that still shapes my life today.

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.  I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Standing in the shadows of Lincoln’s watchful eye, a tiny flame came to life in the back of my mind.  From that point forward, the most impactful decisions in my life were extensions of that moment. What started as a spark became a flame that lit the way to each turning point in my life.  To this day, I have trouble explaining why I chose to join the Air Force.  I just know that the thought of serving my country stoked the same flame that was lit 10 years earlier at the Lincoln memorial.  Both my sister and I grew up to blaze our own trails.  My sister is the ultimate expatriate, from the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan, to a nonprofit in Kathmandu, to growing her family in New Zealand, stretching her influence as an entrepreneur and pioneer in global education.

My thoughts still go back to that picture.  I could have read the same words in a book and they would have gone in one ear and out the other.  I would have been intrigued, but not captivated like I was standing in the cold air that day almost 30 years ago.  As I sit typing with my 7-month old son in my arms today, I am in awe of his curiosity.  As he grows older and opportunities for learning go beyond grabbing a spoon, or learning to put one foot in front of the other, I wonder what moments will shape his journey.

Written by Angelina Stephens

Instagram.com/angelina.r.stephens.

Stay tuned for Part 2…with an exciting perspective on how to build character through impactful, engaged learning.  Get a glimpse into an education revolution that is building innovative leaders for the next generation!

The Oscar Goes to…The Real-Life Wives of ‘American Sniper(s)’

It was a Friday night like any other at the local movie theater. The difference was that Kevin and I had extra motivation to arrive early because the movie was a true military story with ties to people we knew. And good thing we arrived early, because the seats were filled nearly 30 minutes before the movie began. We ended up in the front section looking straight up at the screen, but neither of us complained. At least we got seats!

For 2 hours, neither of us moved as the true story of Chris Kyle mesmerized the completely packed theater. As the movie progressed, Kyle’s real-life heroics and difficulties made for one of the most compelling combat movies I’ve ever seen. Even more importantly, the movie did a great job of depicting the aftermath his wife and family felt after his 4 deployments as Kyle bravely battled the effects of PTSD. As the movie concluded on the tragic note of Kyle’s death, I remember feeling absolutely numb as the credits began to roll by. As a fellow military member and spouse, I thought I would have experienced tears, or anger, or sadness. But instead I just sat there in silence….paralyzed and unable to coherently think or feel anything. What was even more shocking was the rest of the theater sat quiet and motionless as well. It was something I had never witnessed before; complete and utter silence in a room packed with people. And I can guarantee that it was a feeling that anyone who attended the movie will never forget.

This room full of silent movie-goers had just gotten a taste of the lessons many military members and families know all too well; teamwork, patriotism, selflessness, and sacrifice. One might argue military members and Navy SEALs know these hardships accompany a chosen life of combat on the front lines. But what ‘American Sniper’ truly brought to life was the reality that military families don’t get a choice in so many other aspects of combat. As depicted in the movie, they faithfully endure a laundry list of challenges that most often, nobody could anticipate.

As we neared the exit of the theater, my emotions returned in full with nearly uncontrollable tears as I thought about Taya Kyle and the fact that at the conclusion of the movie, a long road lay ahead for her as she entered a battlefield of her own……single-mother, legal decision-maker, sudden public figure and broken-hearted widow. How does any military spouse in a situation like this keep it all together? How do you survive? Is there any way to be ready?

Thankfully, for Taya Kyle, the wives of Navy SEALs are one of the closest-knit groups of women in the military community. Given the dangerous nature of their husbands’ jobs, they are conditioned to rally around crisis, they support each other through inevitable hard times, and they stand together no matter what. I can only imagine that the support network of the SEAL wives, undoubtedly had to have been comforting for the Kyle family as they recovered from their devastation.

But, what about the rest of the military spouse community? Given the same situation, would my friends be equipped to pick up the pieces as gracefully as Taya? Would they be okay emotionally? Would they have the financial means to support their family? What if they gave up college or careers for the military life? Would they be ready? Unfortunately, as difficult as it is to admit, in a lot of situations, the answer is no.

Military spouses are accustomed to sacrifice. Often they trade careers and dreams to be the bedrock for their military family, providing the stability needed in an ever-changing and stressful environment. Many military spouses think it is an either/or decision between having a career or staying devoted to the family. But, is there another way? The reality is that in today’s world, military benefits like healthcare and retirement may not be a sure thing forever, PTSD touches many military families, and more and more families are in need of a second income. Could we do a better job of developing military spouses as individuals to have skills and abilities independent of their military member? As sad as it is, on any given day, any one of us could be in Taya’s shoes. I would hope any spouse’s support network would be as good as the SEALs to support her emotionally, but I think it is time we become even more passionate to encourage military spouses to pursue their education and career goals. Whether it is going back to school to finish up a degree, maintaining a certification they may have put on the back burner, or starting a business to share their talents with others, I have never felt more strongly that the movement for military spouse development should become a top priority.

American Sniper is a 6-time Oscar nominee (including Best Picture), and I can’t help but hope that the film wins them all. Not because of amazing actors, directors, writers or music scores. I hope it wins because it touched us all and its depiction of a military family is real. And in reality, military life is hard. It’s filled with countless sacrifices, relentless dedication, and even death. But emerging from these sad realities are beautiful stories of resilience, unfathomable strength, and new discoveries about the depth of the human soul. My prayer is that we can all be as prepared and poised for our uncertain futures as Taya Kyle. And tonight, regardless of all the Hollywood glitz and glam, in my eyes the true red carpet recognition goes to Taya and the many military spouses she represents.

Bringing Home Service For The Holidays

As our family prepares for the upcoming holidays, I always challenge myself to keep ahead of the increasing commercialism of the season.  Between the Elf on the Shelf, the Christmas toy guides that seem to appear after Halloween, and even the advertising within the Macy’s Day parade, I feel that my kids are bombarded with things that encourage them to think only about, “Me, me, me!”  So this year, I have made an extra effort to incorporate some of the tenants of military service, like giving, service before self, and sacrifice, more resolutely during the holiday season to keep the true spirit of the season at the forefront of our family’s mind.

When I thought more about this, I set a goal to find several ways in which I could turn holiday conversations around our house from “What I want for Christmas” and “I hope I get….”  to “Where can I help?” and “What can I do?”  Once I put my thinking cap on I found several good ideas:

  • Heifer International: This organization was not new discovery for me.  My Mom and the church I grew up in as a child were big supporters of this effort on an annual basis.  Although I didn’t remember the exact details, I remember people making it a major priority every year to support Heifer projects.  As I revisited their website, I found that Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth.  An excerpt from their site summarizes their efforts:
    • “We empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity – but our approach is more than just giving them a handout. Heifer links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market.  When many families gain this new sustainable income, it brings new opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural cooperatives, forming community savings and funding small businesses.”
    • Heifer provides a catalog each year of possible animals to purchase at every price level.  They have everything from bees, to bunnies, to water buffalos and it quickly became a hit with my kids—it’s already become the most popular Christmas catalog in the house.  It is a fun and easy replacement to the toy catalogs that easily find their way into your kids’ possession.  This is a perfect option to replace their infatuation for toys with a desire to find the perfect animal to donate to a community in need.
  • The Pointsettia Project: Every year at Halloween, our family gets “Booed.”  You may be familiar with this concept–a mysterious friend puts a basket or bag of random, fun, Halloween candy and treats on a doorstep with no sign of who left it other than the “You’ve been Booed” poster that accompanies the package.  Once you have been “Booed,” you are then encouraged to pass on the fun to another family within a short period of time.  Using this same logic, my daughter and I picked up a slew of $0.99 poinsettias at Lowe’s this year on Black Friday and came up with a plan to covertly deliver poinsettias to friends’ houses with the accompanying letter that tells the story of the Legend of the Pointsettia.  We had so much fun and it only took a couple hours from start to finish to spread the good cheer, but it made us both feel wonderful for days!  We even picked up a few extras for my husband’s secretary, and other key co-workers.  We figured the Pointsettia Project can work for just about anyone!  You can find the “Legend of the Pointsettia” here: http://www.just4kidsmagazine.com/poinsettia.html.
  • Pay it Forward: Another easy way to show your kids the spirit of giving this holiday season is to allow them to pay it forward to people at locations you frequent.  The possibilities of how you can do this with your kids are endless.  Some convenient places include Starbucks, the grocery store, the post office, or through donations in the mail.  You can do it by either paying for the bill of the person behind you, whether it is a drink, groceries, etc.  Or, in the case of sending a donation through the mail, you put your allotted amount of money in the envelope with a note that says, “The gift of giving is priceless!  Please use this money to pay it forward to a deserving person this Christmas season.  There are no rules on how you do it, just that you warm someone’s heart with your thoughtfulness.”
    • This exercise is not as much about the actual donations as it is about the spirit of service felt when you go the extra mile to pay it forward to someone you may not even know.  It truly warms the hearts of everyone involved.
  • Send Holiday Cards to Troops: As military children, my kids know that not all Moms and Dads are able to be home with their families during birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.  So one easy way to keep our deployed troops in mind during Christmas is to put your kids’ art or authoring skills to work and create cards, books or letters to send overseas.  Operation Gratitude is an organization that sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation to Veterans, New Recruits, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas.  This is a great way to lift the spirits and say “Thank You” to members of our Military.
  • Let Your Kids Decide: After talking with my kids about all of the aforementioned ideas, it was heartwarming to hear my daughter come up with her own idea.  As we were driving to get poinsettias, out of the blue, she states, “Mom, it’s really cold outside.  Maybe we should buy some blankets to keep people warm who need them.  And maybe other kids would like to buy them too!”  What a brilliant idea?!  And it was exactly the mindset I was hoping to achieve this season.  We discussed how we could ask her 1st grade class to participate by bringing a blanket to class and we would take the donated blankets to a Homeless Shelter or Soup Kitchen in order to share the goodwill.

WWII Vet and Federal Judge Opens My Eyes To Our Country’s Secret Weapon: Women

There I sat, listening intently to a WWII Marine hero.  At the age of 91, his years of service may have shown in the curve of his back, but his sharp, Marine-like confidence was evidenced in the depth and delivery of his words.  With much anticipation, I awaited his stories of combat and valor, his recounting of turmoil and triumph, and his inspiration to support our husbands in their valiant efforts.  So I was completely and utterly stunned, when he said this truly poignant statement:  “if there is a way we are going to fix the state of the world we’re in, it will be through the power of women.”

This surprising scene occurred just weeks ago in a meeting to honor approximately 250 military spouses and veterans at my company’s annual convention in Atlanta, GA where we had gathered to celebrate the launch of a new proprietary anti-aging product.  Judge Harry Pregerson, they keynote speaker, recounted his days as a Marine who was wounded in Okinawa in nearly the same location from which several of those present had traveled.  As he delivered his message about the power of women, his words hung in the room and landed directly on our hearts.  He struck a chord with us all as he put words to the unspoken energy that had been building within this particular group of women over the course of several years. His unexpected speech reflected our unorthodox approach to “employment” as military spouses perfectly.

You see, this particular group of ladies had forged a new path for military spouses, a group who suffers from underemployment due to frequent relocations.  As social entrepreneurs, they have found a unique intersection of big business and stay-at-home flexibility in a cutting-edge new business model that hinges on social selling.  At the beginning, the company’s military spouse pioneers were looked at by others with raised eyebrows and little support.  But four years later, the mold has officially been broken and the company is seeing new military spouses join all over the globe.  And, they are bringing their military leadership and discipline with them to the business, which creates healthy and thriving business teams.  Their success is evidenced by multiple women out-earning their military member or replacing their full-time income.  So, it is safe to say, the tide has definitely turned.

This day will stand out in my memory as one of the best days in my professional life.  Not because of the recognition or because we had proven ourselves or even because we had seen success.   That moment will live on because in that room, I could tangibly feel the wave of empowerment hanging in the air.  It was strong, it was bold and it was contagious.  Each of us left with a formidable sense that we had started something wonderful, something historic and something much bigger than ourselves.  Thank you Judge Pregerson.  Your message was simple, yet perfect.  And you’re right, the power of women, and undoubtedly this group of women, can change the world!

The New Military Spouse

Across the United States, and many parts of the world, the days of the Stepford wife are long gone.   The modern woman is exalted for her superhuman ability to juggle motherly duties and professional careers without breaking a sweat. Military wives are no different.

While many military spouses sacrifice blossoming careers to stand by their revered husbands, there’s a new breed of military spouses who are determined to do it all by turning to entrepreneurial endeavors.  Military wives turned military entrepreneurs like myself, are highly educated and have great business skills that they are dying to put to use, however constant relocations often make it difficult for us to maintain a standard “9-5” job.  Like numerous military spouses, I  knew there was something better for me.  A former Air Force maintenance officer, I , wasn’t going to give up easy.  After failing to secure part-time work, I started a wildly successful  home staging firm, designing homes for local military families and those outside of the base.  Several years into my design firm’s lifetime, the call of duty sent my family packing to a new location.

I found my true calling after being introduced by a friend to a unique opportunity to build my own business as an Independent Skincare Consultant.  Ignited by the possibilities ahead, I committed  to give half of all my earnings to a nonprofit micro loan organization, making sure my donations were set aside for military spouses specifically.

As time progressed, I saw an even greater opportunity for my skincare consulting.  I’d always had a soft spot for military spouses and with my newfound team of entrepreneurial military wives, I set out to educate millions of military spouses on the possibilities of entrepreneurship.

My fellow military entrepreneurs, Lauren Myers and Melissa Parent who have also experienced entrepreneurial success as Independent Skincare Consultants joined me in my cause to raise awareness about the options for military entrepreneurs.

Lauren Myers is a former Air Force pilot and currently serves in the Air Force Reserves. Throughout 12 years of marriage to a Naval officer, Lauren and her family have moved eight times making it impossible for Lauren to find and keep any kind of employment.   Lauren was always on the lookout for a portable career and started with a fitness business, while simultaneously dedicating most of her time to a non-profit focused on the health and well-being of military families. These ventures were fulfilling, but still had her tied to someone else’s schedule.  Finally, Lauren found the flexibility she wanted was an Independent Skincare Consultant. Now Lauren is her own boss. Moving to new locations helps her to grow her network and she’s helping other spouses to do the same.  Her favorite part is creating the same supportive culture military spouses enjoy with each other and using that collaboration to help them grow successful businesses.

Yet another military spouse who has forged her own path, Melissa Parent, like Lauren also found success as an Independent Skincare Consultant,   “As a military spouse who left a promising career to raise my family, I always felt torn between being the mom I wanted to be and fulfilling the urge I had to maintain some of my professional life.  Until the idea of owning my own business was presented to me, I always thought it would be impossible to do both while our family had to pick up and move every three years.  Starting over and being paid less than I was worth each time we moved did not make putting my children into daycare worth it just so I could have a career.  Being an entrepreneur and working on my terms allows me to have the best of both worlds – I get to use my MBA, make my own business decisions and bring in an income for my family, all without sacrificing any time with my 4 young children as they grow up.”

Inspired by her success Melissa’s husband opened his own business, with her help of couse!  Melissa’s additional income will allow her husband to retire in four years and not have to get another stressful 9-5 job. “He’s been watching my business grow and watching my time freedom and decided he wants the same for himself.  We took my earnings and invested it into a hockey stick repair franchise that he runs out of our garage in his spare time.  I’ve given him lots of help with marketing ideas and inspiration, and in four years we’ll both be entrepreneurs, working from home and watching our kids grow up together,” says Melissa.

Each of these women has seen great success, making six figure earnings while maintaining an extremely happy family life. All four of us will have received Lexus vehicles as of this summer as a reward for exceeding expectations in their businesses.    With the rate of unemployment among military spouses three times higher than the national average, it is miraculous that we have made such a success of ourselves.  The mission of this blog and website overall is to give other military spouses looking for a way to quench their entrepreneurial thirst the resources needed to start building their success today.