Why are so many military spouses turning to entrepreneurship?
Many of you who follow Busy Nest News already know that Ariel and I are military spouses. While our product (awesome book club kits) is unique, our decision to strike out on our own and blaze a trail as entrepreneurs is not. The internet has made it easier than ever for anyone to start a business or cultivate a side hustle. For military spouses, in particular, these opportunities aren’t just nice to have; they’re often essential for family stability, a sense of identity, and maintaining mental health.
That sounds pretty dramatic, but Blue Star Families has the numbers to back this up. In their 2019 survey, 38% of military spouses were not in the labor force (most not by choice). Of the spouses who reported being employed, 77% were underemployed. These numbers are very dramatic compared to the rest of the country. To learn more about why these numbers are the way they are, check out Blue Star Families’ latest survey results here.
With the unique set of challenges that come with developing a career while being married to a service member, it’s no wonder so many MilSpouses choose to start their own businesses. Here are some reasons why entrepreneurship is so attractive to military spouses.
Some of us are attracted to the flexibility of setting our own schedule, so that we can work around our spouse’s 24-hour duties, deployments, and trainings. Working weekend shifts when you have kids is basically impossible when your spouse is away, as even base daycares are only open five days a week. Some of us also need to be able to pack up our businesses and take them on the road to a new state or country, without worrying about getting recertified every time. There have been some small, but significant, moves to make recertifying cheaper or free for moving military spouses, but it’s still a time-consuming process that can leave one out of work for much too long- and when you anticipate moving again in two or three years, time is of the essence!
Sometimes we just need a little something that gives us an identity outside of parenthood and marriage, even when it’s impossible to get childcare. We definitely benefit from having a team of colleagues, teammates, or coworkers around us that share a common passion, and not just because they’ll be living next to us or working with our spouse for the next year or two. And who doesn’t feel a sense of achievement when they conquer a big project or goal? Our lifestyle has made us creative problem-solvers, and it’s very soul-nourishing to have a dedicated outlet for that creativity when there is no family problem to tackle.
As I said above, part of the draw to working in general is bonding with a team of colleagues over a shared interest. Sometimes this requirement is met through an MLM company; people sell a product they’re personally drawn to, and they build a team of fellow believers around it. They share a culture, values, and purpose. The best leaders develop their team members both personally and professionally. Sometimes the team isn’t found within a specific company, but rather in an industry full of entrepreneurs who are eager to support each other, such as photography, personal fitness, or custom clothing design.
Anyone who has started their own business or side hustle knows that it takes time to develop it into a steady income stream, so the money isn’t instantaneous. Still, a well-tended business can become more reliable than traditional employment when you account for the instability of constant moves and solo-parenting. Plus, military paychecks are not known for being huge (and if you think they are, the pay charts are public information), and with the now-regular threat of government shutdowns, they’re not as reliable as they used to be. With so many jobs in military communities being either directly or indirectly reliant on government dollars, owning one’s own business allows the family to diversify their income streams and make it through tough times a little better.
Ariel and Brianna are friends who met while working in a library. Now they collaborate to develop life-enhancing book club experiences.
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