We all know that pleasant feeling we receive after doing a good deed; however, a recent study sheds new light on the benefits of giving. A wealth of scientific research shows that generosity can result in a ton of health benefits including decreased stress, lower chances of depression, and even longer life expectancy.
Personally I’ve found that giving makes my work more rewarding. Apparently I’m not alone. A study from the University of Wisconsin shows that people who help others regularly through their professions experience increased happiness. In line with theory, two of my fellow military spouse entrepreneurs have established flourishing businesses focused on helping others and say they have never felt better! Here are their stories.
Long time Army spouse Donna Budjenska thought a satisfying, flexible, long-term career just wasn’t in the cards for her. Despite a strong education that included a Master’s Degree in English and multiple awards received for her writing and editing work, the only consistent aspect to her career was its inconsistency. Over more than 20 years, the frequent military moves ripped her from a few career positions she’d been able to find, and more recently the publishing industry itself was shrinking and changing fundamentally.
So at the time we met, she was open to new ideas, and the Skincare business surprised her by its flexibility, portability, and intriguing mission: Changing skin, changing lives.
Why did that resonate with her? Earlier that year, Donna’s oldest sister was widowed by malignant melanoma. The year before, another sister also was widowed by the same disease. “I couldn’t help but want to do something to fight this deadly skin cancer. But I really didn’t know what I could do,” Donna explains.
“The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) had been helpful to my sisters, so I began making modest monthly donations to that organization in appreciation and support of their research, advocacy, and education efforts,” Donna says.
When she realized a Skincare business could open up conversations about skin health and sun smarts, she was sold.
“At the time I was primarily the homestead hub for my family, and I started working my new Skincare business — which I quickly loved — on a spare-time basis,” Donna says. “Soon I found I could cover the modest costs of my Skincare business and contribute my monthly MRF tithe.”
When she found out that the MRF gives scholarships to medical students researching melanoma, Donna had an epiphany: “Maybe I could fund a memorial scholarship to honor my family members and to spur exciting new ideas and discoveries in the battle against this deadly skin cancer,” she recalls. “Here was the kicker: I didn’t want to wait until my death 40+ years in the future to will the $100,000 necessary to establish the scholarship. And I didn’t want to raid our family budget, either.” That’s when the potential of her Skincare business really sank in for her.
Donna now stockpiles her Skincare business paychecks and is looking forward to the time she has accumulated enough seed money to start the scholarship. In the meantime, she also is using her earnings to pay off the loan on the Jeep she bought her husband when he returned from deployment and to continue donating monthly to the MRF.
Micaela is another military spouse turned entrepreneur. I’ve known Micaela for over 15 years. Our friendship began as roommates at USAF Academy. Her story, like Donna’s, is a great one and serves as motivation for numerous military spouses.
Micaela and her husband Matt currently run a cozy retreat on their property in Minnesota that serves military families called Holbrook Farms . Holbrook Farms serves as a way for both Matt and Micaela to give back to their dear friends they’ve lost in combat.
“I remember while in college at the USAF Academy, one of our military generals told us to look around the lecture hall because due to the nature of our profession, not everyone will make it to our 20-year reunion! About three years ago, I was sitting at a memorial service for one of our fellow classmates killed in an overseas shooting and realized, unfortunately that general was right. Shortly after that, we lost another classmate in a tragic airplane accident. In that moment we decided to turn our 47-acre maple syrup farm into a non-profit spa-themed bed & breakfast for military survivors,” says Micaela.
Micaela’s vision for Holbrook Farms was years in the making. She’d dreamed of the day when she’d be able to offer military veterans and widows a calming place to retreat from the chaos of war. The challenge was how to come up with the time and resources needed to make it happen. Luckily, I’d just begun working as a skincare consultant. I immediately saw the potential and shared the opportunity with her. Although Micaela didn’t initially see the potential benefits, her husband was on board right away. “I thought we were too busy with our full-time military careers — I’m a commander of cyber intelligence analysts and my husband is an Air Force pilot,” Micaela says. “I give a ton of credit to my husband, who saw the opportunity and blessing it could be to so many!”
Matt and Micaela are now surrounded by a team of driven leaders who helped them make Holbrook Farms what it is today. Thanks to their new found financial growth and success, Matt and Micaela opened the doors to their beloved Holbrook Farms four years ahead of schedule.
“We’re thankful to be able to provide a relaxing place for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation! Our goal is to offer one or two retreats per summer and continue expanding as our business grows. When we retire from our military careers, we’ll open it year round for weddings, family reunions, and more retreats!” says Micaela.
There are many military spouses who, like Donna and Micaela, are making their dream of helping others a reality through hard work. Their businesses have not only provided them with financial independence but also with the opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.
One of my favorite quotes about giving comes from the great Winston Churchill,
“We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.”
These women are true examples of lives worth living. I know their selfless actions will continue to inspire military spouses hoping to blaze their own path in years to come.