Webinar on PCS Employment: Taking Your Job With You
by Lizann Lightfoot - April 11th, 2022
What is the Rosie Network?
We empower active duty veterans and military spouses with the tools and resources they need to successfully launch or grow a business. We focus solely on self-employment, entrepreneurship, and small business ownership. It began behind not being able to get a job or re-start my business after the frequent moves. We PCSed 11 times during his career. It became impossible to have a traditional job. Even entry-level work was difficult because I would end up spending more money on childcare.
I realized the only way I would be fulfilled--and I knew this was true for others after watching people get frustrated financially and struggle with their identity as a spouse--that I needed to pave my own way and help others pave the way to their own entrepreneurial solution.
And we are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Rosie Network this year!
Why is entrepreneurship a great solution for military spouses?
If you really want to see some numbers, the Rosie Network did a nationwide survey on military spouses who were self-employed or business owners, and you can visit our website to view that data that paints a picture of entrepreneurship for military spouses. It is much more portable than working for a traditional company or a brick-and-mortar shop where you will lose that job when you move.
Entrepreneurship allows you to envision your own success, and then create that around your own schedule, your kids, your spouse, etc. It doesn’t mean you have to invent or create something--there are many different types of entrepreneurship! When I first started creating our programs, I was asked if we would accept spouses that were selling things like Tupperware, and I said, “Yeah, why wouldn’t we?” That sort of experience is the gateway to being a small business owner, because you learn a lot of business skills.
We are here to embrace any spouse who doesn’t want to do a traditional 9-5 job in an office, and is looking at self-employment, being an independent contractor, etc. There are so many endless creative ways, and the portability of it and flexibility of it really appeals to military spouses.
We don’t all need to create a business that we will take in front of Shark Tank, but if other military spouses have done that, then we can too! But it really depends what success looks like to you.
Where should you get started as an entrepreneur?
When you think about the big picture of entrepreneurship, it’s like an elephant. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! It’s about determining what you want to do, what makes you happy, and what skills you have. Do you have a passion for helping other people, or a craft you really enjoy? How can you turn that “hobby” into a business? Becoming an independent contractor lets you do side jobs like writing, photography, babysitting, dog-walking, etc. But you have to really enjoy it and love doing it.
My advice is: it might not be totally solidified in your brain, but don’t wait for the “perfect time” because there never is a perfect time. Start researching and writing things down now. Create a journal and write down your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). You don’t have to take over the world, maybe you just want enough money that your family can take vacations. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Just think about what makes you happy and what you want to achieve.
Then look at others who are doing that. Research who is doing it or selling it, and who is doing it well. Make lists of pros and cons. Decide how much money it will take to start, how much time it will take. If you hang in there, 6 months to a year later you can look back at your goals and celebrate any you have achieved! These details will change as your business grows.
Next, start to look at ways to do something in that industry better. It doesn’t always have to be cheaper! Cheaper is not always best. What makes you unique? A lot of people prefer to patronize military veteran and spouse-owned businesses. Find that niche, what makes you different, and write that out. Then figure out, what’s the next step: a line of products? A collaboration with someone else? It all begins with you and your goals.
Do not give up and get down on yourself if you don’t achieve that big goal right away. You break it down into small pieces. I had a mentoring session with a military spouse who had created an incredible product for military spouses. I helped her create a list of small things she wanted to accomplish today, in a week, in a month. It helps create a path or a journey to help you move forward. With entrepreneurship, you are in control of your destiny!
When I became an entrepreneur, my kids started looking at me differently. I stopped being the sandwich-maker and the chore nag. I had a lot of resentment and depression about unemployment that was affecting my marriage. When I did my first keynote at a conference, I brought my 12-year-old son with me, and he said, “Wow, you’re an entrepreneur! I expect brave and awesome things from you!” That was probably the biggest compliment I ever got from him.
Don’t talk to yourself in a demeaning way: I “just” do this little thing. You need to go after what you love!
How can the Rosie Network help military spouses struggling with entrepreneurship?
Our program is called Service2CEO, and it’s available to veterans and military spouses. They are virtual, and free, and we have some classes that are just military spouses. We have participants from all over the globe. It is eight modules, and we start with Entrepreneurship 101, which is the terms and logistics you need to know, such as how to register your business, different types of licenses based on your type of business. Over the years, we have identified these eight modules as the core curriculum for any entrepreneur to help you flesh out an idea, how to price your products, doing market research, etc.
If you have an existing business and want to expand it, come to us and we will help you grow it! People usually end up saying, “Wow, you covered so much that I never even did!” Most customers buy because of the why, so you need to take the time to define your why, make your mission statement, and learn how to create a profit/loss so you understand financial basics, like what you can write off on taxes when you are self-employed.
Turn that hobby into a business, and you’ll be shocked at how much you can write off! We talk about different entities, like what is a C-corp, what’s an S-corp, how do you start a non-profit? We cover trademark, copyright, and legal minds to help you create your own Pitch Deck. This is one of the best tools an entrepreneur should have, and you can have a different pitch deck for customers, banks, investors, etc. So we are helping you create that, then at the end of the course, you present your pitch deck, and we film it.
When you graduate, you can join our national alumni program to network and collaborate with military spouse entrepreneurs around the world. And it’s all free!
Can you talk to our audience about the importance of finding mentorship?
A staggering amount of startups that don’t have a mentor fail within the first few years. So that should tell you how important it is. A mentor is different from a business coach. A coach is someone you pay for services and time. A mentor is almost always free, but it’s important to find a mentor that you trust to tell you that “your business baby is ugly.” It doesn’t have to be in your field, but it should be someone you can learn from, or a cheerleader for you. It should be someone you can be open with, who will give you honest feedback and questions to challenge you.
I used to do an hour of mentoring with everyone who went through Service2CEO. I don’t have time to do that anymore, but I loved it! You can always become a mentor to someone else too! We require a minimum of three mentorship sessions as part of Service2CEO. We partner with Veterati, and we usually hear amazing feedback.
It’s also important to build a team. That doesn’t have to be employees, but it can be an advisor, or someone who is phenomenal in ways that you are not as strong. Build that team, and be a part of someone else’s team!
What qualifies a business as being self-employed?
There’s no minimum income requirement. You don’t have to make any money, you just check that box for taxes. We do bring in tax experts for Service2CEO, and the tax laws are different in each state. But to be self-employed, you don’t technically need to file your business or have a certificate. We recommend you do this, and it can be done through the state’s website without paying for a 3rd party to do that for you.
If you have a hobby where you sell things at craft fairs, you are self-employed, and everything you purchase for that--including computer, printer, and office supplies--those can all be write-offs for your taxes. You can write off part of your mortgage or rent if you have a designated room in your home for that business. But always talk to a tax professional.
One tip is to keep your personal business money separate from your business money. Spend the small investment to open a separate account to use different cards for business expenses. It makes it easier to track, and it’s also more legal!
When you’re self-employed, you can create any business title you want, and it can be much more useful on a resume than claiming that you were unemployed or had a huge resume gap for several years.
What is Rosie’s List? How do I sign up?
You can find almost anything you need or want from a service to a hand-crafted or personalized item in one place, and all of those businesses are veteran or military-spouse owned. That’s what Rosie’s List is! We have thousands of businesses, independent contractors, creators, etc and you can find so many services and products there--all from people who are verified to be part of the military community.
It was initially built in 2004, but last year we took it down to update it and to add a shopping cart. You can purchase directly from the businesses, all the money goes to them, and you can get your products that way. We had 60,000 businesses on the list, and it is a huge task to update it and verify every vendor. It’s free to create a profile, and it’s free to search. The update should be finished later this year!
What is the Kidpreneur Camp? April is the Month of the Military Child!
Kids are resilient too, and I was a military kid, so I can relate. Military Kidpreneur started when we got questions from people going through our program asking if their teen could join in too. Our age group is for military-connected teens in grades 8-12. We had a lot of interest, and decided as a tem that we need to raise up and support our military kids. It has been so fun meeting these young people and seeing their passion and the amazing ideas they have. But they don’t have the business aspect--how to set it up, insurance, etc. So we cover all of that in the kidpreneur camp. Last year was our pilot program, and they all wanted to do it again. You can learn more about Kippreneur Camp here.
What words of advice do you have for military entrepreneurs?
Don’t wait for the perfect timing. Just take that leap of faith and take the first step. Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We have created the Rosie Network to support each other. So build that team of mentors and advisors. Join a chamber like the Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce. We do a monthly webinar with Hiring Our Heroes and small business owners, so you can hear from subject-matter experts there. Don’t be willing to settle, and don’t be afraid.
Our Guest: Stephanie Brown, Founder and CEO of the Rosie Network
I grew up in the military, my father was a Vietnam veteran, and when he retired he opened up a small music store in California. I loved working in the store, and I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug at a young age.
Later, I became a military spouse, and my husband was stationed first at the Pentagon, then overseas. And I’ve raised two boys in the military. But I owned a business when I met Tom, and I made more money than he did. I ended up selling it to move overseas with him. I quickly realized that it was difficult to have a portable job. I couldn’t even get a job at the NEX on the Navy base! I spent a long time unemployed or underemployed.