How did you start?
I started out by building educational programs. My last company was the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, an organization that connects military spouse entrepreneurs with the tools needed to become successful in launching their businesses. We had a little over 2,000 spouses go through our programming.
I exited last December. After my husband retired from the Navy after 20 years, I moved on to work outside of the military space–in women’s entrepreneurship programs.
How you became an entrepreneur?
I was originally supposed to go to medical school. I have two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Michigan, a bachelor’s in biology and a bachelor’s in psychology. I took my MCAT and I couldn’t go to medical school because my husband was attached to Seal Team Three and was never home.
Employers shy away from hiring military spouses because we have funky resumes with gaps in employment and stints in different cities. And typically, they think, “Well, I’m not going to hire and invest in you because you’re going to move in two years, right?”
I started by preparing meals out of my home kitchen for friends, and then I moved to a commercial kitchen and hired staff. This resulted in a first-year revenue of a million dollars.
On the one hand, I made a million mistakes. You name it–I did it wrong. I never took a business class. And I didn’t know what I was doing. But it’s really trial by fire. And this led to great things. In the first two and a half years, we hit over three and a half million dollars in revenue.
Then, my husband got stationed in a different location. So I exited that business and went on to do other things like building entrepreneurial curriculums, and consulting businesses.
What do you like the best about being a business owner?
When I started my first business ten years ago, I was an unemployed, overeducated military spouse looking for a job. I should note that almost 30% of military spouses are unemployed–it’s a big problem in our community. Once I started my own company, I began thinking, “Nobody told me I could just hire myself! This is great!”
“Once I started my own company, I began thinking, ‘Nobody told me I could just hire myself! This is great!’”
At my first company, I had 100 employees, who were all military spouses. That’s why I was sure to give them flexible work options that suited their lifestyles.
Then I went on to advocate. I thought, “How come nobody is telling military spouses to become entrepreneurs? Everyone’s telling us to get a job, but that’s a terrible idea! Go hire yourselves! That way you can do things your way.”
You can stop in the middle of the day and pick your kids up from school or you can work from a U-Haul truck on your way to the next duty station. There are countless ways that entrepreneurship helps military spouses.
Do you operate remotely?
Yes. I lived in Southern California for the last 10 years, but I’ve lived all over the country because my husband was in the Navy for over 20 years. Now that he’s retired, we don’t have to move all over the place and have settled back in Upstate NY. I operate my business here. I have a team of eight military spouses. They work for me as contractors and help me with the business.
What population do you typically work with?
One-half of my business is for corporate clients that can pay corporate rates. And then the other half is helping veteran and military spouse-owned startups at costs that align with their marketing, PR, revenue models, operations, and growth budgets. Typically, they can’t afford to pay market rates if they were to hire an agency, so this work allows me to do the best of both worlds. I work with a lot of different types of people, helping them build and scale their businesses so people who can pay me, pay me, and the people who can’t pay, pay what they can.
Would you say the pandemic has impacted your business in any way?
Prior to the pandemic, we had advocated for virtual education because spouses are located all over the world – not just near major cities with easy access to schooling. Before the pandemic, people found this concept confusing. But now they understand.
“So in a nutshell, the pandemic had a positive impact on the work that I do.”
Our programming opened doors for spouses who were working from home. It also reinforced that all you need to build a business is a laptop and WiFi—regardless of where you are in the world. So in a nutshell, the pandemic had a positive impact on the work that I do.
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing small business owners?
I think the biggest challenges are always time, money, and people. Typically, small business owners don’t have the money or expertise to pay people to do the things they need, like marketing, PR, sales or financials. But they also don’t have the time to learn how to do it themselves since they’re wearing so many hats.
So I do everything from website design to financials to marketing and PR. Anything that I can physically put my hands on in someone’s business is in my job description. Small business owners need more access to support services, resources, education, and good mentors that are willing to help them and not take advantage of them.
Do you think there are other sets of problems that military spouses face, just like small businesses?
Well, military spouses tend to live in places where they don’t have access to childcare, family, or support. They’re often solo parenting and have to scale their businesses up and down on their own. They also have to deal with things like moving from duty station to duty station, deployments, and a death or injury in the family.
“You have to reinvent yourself in new locations every two to three years.”
So it’s not a traditional business model where you plug into one location and then you build a network of people who buy from you. You have to reinvent yourself in new locations every two to three years. Plus, you have to do this all while scaling your business up and down and managing your family and your lifestyle by yourself.
Military spouses can’t necessarily open brick and mortar shops for the reasons above. That’s why they tend to be marketers, graphic designers, PR agents, consultants, or run Etsy shops.
What is your business’s main goal?
Now that my husband’s out of the military, it’s growth, financial stability, and opportunities for those that work for me – allowing them the chance to do something that they love, at any hour of the day, from anywhere in the world. In other words, my goal is to create a positive economic impact for me and the people around me.
Flossie is a Veteran Navy spouse and accomplished serial entrepreneur.