Friday, July 19, 2013

OPERATION: Create Your Own Path

As military spouses, we often face unique challenges and one of those challenges concerns our careers: How do we establish our own careers with steady second income to support our families while the military moves us all over the globe?

We have all been there, "permanent" isn't really in our vocabulary anymore and our résumés are probably a little spotty or maybe include a huge gap or three. That doesn't have to stop you from pursuing your own career on your own terms and it doesn't have to prevent you from being successful. Home based businesses are just one of the ways military spouses have conquered that challenge!

As part of OPERATION: Create Your Own Path by Red, White & Blue Pages and Military Spouse Business Association, I spoke with Michelle SchrockIndependent Scentsy Family SuperStar Director, about her decision to start her own business while living as a military spouse:

Michelle Schrock is a vivacious and goofy but no-nonsense mother of two; she is the quintessential military spouse and very dedicated to her United States Marine Corps husband, their family and her Scentsy business. She is the ideal entrepreneur for the Scentsy line of wickless candles and it's very clear within minutes of speaking to her that she really stands behind her business and its products.

When asked why she decided to go into business for herself, she replied quite frankly, "...I like to do things my own way.  In my professional life before this I was fired 6 times in a 9 year period.  I don’t like to be told how to do things.  I much prefer to be given and objective and left to my own devices to get it completed.  Bosses don’t like that, [but] micromanagement crushes inspiration."

Four years ago, she was a stay-at-home mom while her family was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. "My life was cooking, cleaning, the gym, toddlers, and more diapers than should be legal. I had two small children, a constantly absent husband, and a life that felt really small. I knew I needed to do something more, that I had more to offer, but had no clue what and how."

From there, she found Scentsy, a direct sales company that offers its consultants a flexible business model that can include one, two or all of its incorporated brands while simultaneously building a thriving sales team. "I chose to join this company because to me it made logical sense to me. The start up cost was low. It was an affordable renewable product that people loved and I would buy myself. No one I knew had ever heard of it and the company was only 5 years old."
She feels that one of the things that has helped her most in this business model to be a "subject matter expert." "
I need to know the how, what, and why behind everything so that I can effectively and honestly share that with my customers. I also need to understand thoroughly so that I can teach my team better ways to share our products to develop their businesses."

The key to her success, though, is having a fantastic mentor who brought her into the Scentsy family. "I was very fortunate to join the company under an amazing woman, Karen Fettes. From day one she understood me and completely 'got' how my mind works…and trust me, there is nothing more empowering than feeling 'gotten.' I have been inspired by her accomplishments and my own. Having a strong mentor has been the number one key to my success. She builds me up, she reigns me in, she challenges me to grow, and she has taught me how to own who I am and what I have to offer."

Her best advice for others starting out is about branding: "Branding yourself is key. My business is not what I do, it is who I am. Start branding and sharing immediately, especially when you are new, because your enthusiasm is contagious and it will never be at a higher point than when you are just starting out." 

She has a great plan for implementing her own advice: "I introduce myself to people and let them know I am a USMC wife, mother of two, and I run a candle business out of my home. Then they start asking me questions. I also tell people that I am new here and I own my own candle business and ask if they would mind helping me get my name out by sharing my catalog. [Also], donations; I love to give product away to help others. [The Organization] makes money and I get my product and name in front of a new customer."

While any PCS1 spurs challenges on its own, spouses stationed overseas face even greater challenges like Michelle did when she first started. "They run into a lot of problems doing business on base, especially with the post office ... The regulations are not clear overall, nor [are they] easy to find, and [they] vary from post office to post office at the whim of the current reigning postmaster"  She calls for much-needed additional support for entrepreneurial spouses stationed overseas, "I would like to see clear and beneficial communication regarding operating a home business OCONUS2, [communication] that specifically outlines the rules of what NOT to do as clearly as what we CAN do. This [would ideally be] a single sheet document that could easily be included in the 'Welcome Aboard' brief that is mandatory when you arrive."

Michelle is part of a growing trend of spouses who have decided to make their mark and carve out their careers on their own terms. They've not only overcome the challenges of military life, but they've used those challenges to establish a unique market and a flexible business model. Want to create your own path, but don't know where to start? Comment below, contact Michelle or find a mentor at your base or post and start asking questions. Be sure to visit 
Red, White & Blue Pages and Military Spouse Business Association for resources specifically designed for military spouses.

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your experience with us! Be sure to check out tomorrow's blog featuring Lareece Long of Life Within, interviewed by Heather Wagner at Everyday Patriotism!

Acronym Translations: 1. PCS - Permanent Change of Station, moving; 2. OCONUS - Outside the continental United States

Links & Resources:

© 2013 Little Bean. All rights reserved.