This article was first featured in issue 21 of Just for Her
Jess Sands is the founder of Design Jessica, a successful graphic design company. As an RAF wife who chose to follow her husband around the country, she knows first-hand how difficult it can be running a transient business while supporting the service person in the family. Her experiences inspired her to start The InDependent Spouse™, a podcast series that showcases other spouses who have become entrepreneurs while also living ‘the magnolia wall life’.
The podcast series aims to inspire, showing military spouses that there are others, just like them, creating amazing businesses despite what life is throwing at them.
In this article, Jess shares with us the best start-up tips from her guests during their interviews.
As military spouses, we often end up putting our career dreams on hold to follow our serving partner. With deployments, frequent moves and growing families, it can be difficult to keep great jobs or pursue careers that won’t move with us. In 2018, the MOD’s UK Tri-Service Families Continuous Attitude Survey (a survey of over 5,000 spouses and civil partners of regular trained Service Personnel) found that 50% of respondents said their family life was disadvantaged compared to the general public, especially when it comes to employment.
What if we could build a business that was posting proof? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a business that moves when you do regardless of when that posting notice arrives? It’s time to stop dreaming about working from anywhere and actually do it! But how do you start?
In series 1 and 2 of the InDependent Spouse, I spoke to a range of amazing spouses, from all around the UK, (and from all three Services) whom I believe are achieving some exceptional things with their businesses, charities and projects.
I asked all of my guests one very important question – if you could go back to the start, what would be the one bit of advice that you’d give your younger self? Here are their replies.
Heledd Kendrick – Recruit for Spouses. There have been so many ups and downs in the last eight years, so my advice is not to give up. If someone had told me where I would be now in comparison to where I was then, I would not have believed them! My other tip is to get a really good team around you early. It really helped me understand when my business started to scale up that if you’ve got the right people doing their job then that’s the key. And trust them.
For those starting out – just do it! Whatever you have that you want to do you can do it. If you can manage all those deployments, all those moves and deal with being away from friends and family, then you can do anything! There are big companies out there who spend millions on training their staff to be more resilient and resourceful and we already have that in bucket loads. We are constantly put in situations where we need to be adaptable, and being adaptable is such a great skill to have.
Natalie Trezise – Your Home Patch. Absolutely, without a doubt, it is to ask questions. Ask everybody, ask anyone, it doesn’t matter who it is, somebody will know the answer. There are so many experts out there and people are way more helpful than we initially give them credit for. People want to help, especially if they are another small business owner who wants to see another business thrive. Even if they can’t give you the answer, they’ll give you the encouragement and love to keep going.
Jo Lomax – Huggable Heroes. Believe in yourself. You can do it. I tell myself all the time “Dream, Believe and Achieve” and so if there’s anything that I am just not sure about I keep repeating that to myself. And it really helps. Sometimes I think I’m not sure that I can do this anymore because it’s so emotional (creating Huggable Heroes) and I repeat that mantra to myself and remember that I’ve helped over 3,000 families so far, I can do that again, just keep going. If you have a dream, believe in that dream and you will achieve it.
Mindy from ASALI. Not to have emotional reactions to business things. You’ve got to care but don’t create heartache for yourself. All it does is waste time and energy.
Louise Fetigan – Little Troopers. My advice is just don’t give up, you have totally got this. It’s not easy, but if you believe in something and you’re passionate about something, just do it. Nothing will happen overnight. I started the charity in 2011, I think it took 5 years to just get established and for people to realise that I wasn’t going to go anywhere. Just don’t give up, keep going and stick with it. If you are in for the long haul you’ll see success.
Be consistent, make sure you’re blogging every week, make sure you’re updating your website constantly, and just concentrate on you. Don’t worry what other people are doing, concentrate on what you’re doing, and if you are consistent with everything you’re doing, success will come your way.
Amy Nolan – Ginger Rainbow. If you’re a creative business, don’t spend time making things that people don’t want. It’s just soul destroying when you spend lots of time and energy creating a beautiful product and then no one wants it – it’s so depressing. So, what I would say is spend time getting into the head of who your customer is, think about what would really make them happy, what would delight them. Because it is all about your customer. Get to know what your customer wants.
Heather from Forces Wives Challenge. Just keep going. It has been an unbelievable roller coaster; there have been incredible highs like the Forces Wives Challenge 100 and seeing so many people having the best day climbing Pen Y Fan, but then the lows – the days and days on your own planning and wondering why you’re doing it. If you feel passionate about something then just keep going, keep driving forward, because there are so many incredible people out there who have supported me and totally believed in this and have got me through those low points. So I would tell myself to just keep going. If you passionately believe in something then always think less of what you’re doing, more why you’re doing it.
Grace, The Rainbow Tree. “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think” (Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne) – it’s so true. It’s so easy to feel like you have imposter syndrome and you think ‘what has my voice got to give’ but you really have to ignore that voice and take a step of faith. Trust your worth because you are worth it and if you put in the work your dreams can come true.
And me? I think my best tip for someone just starting out would be to take the leap. A few years ago, when The InDependent Spouse was just a small idea on the back of old receipt scribbled down whilst I was waiting for my husband to return from yet another deployment I never would have dreamt that over 1,800 people would be listening along to my podcast. I thought that I was ‘just another wife’ working away in my magnolia box. I know now, looking back, that if I could hear the stories of those who have gone before me it would help me realise that I could do it too. That it IS possible to grow an amazing business despite the pressures of this modern military life that I now live in. It took me forever to take that first leap but I am so happy that I have and I am so proud to be able to showcase these amazing spouses in business on the podcast series.
So, if you’re just starting out, or thinking of starting your own business, then why not be inspired too. If you want to hear the stories of others that are running their own businesses head over to www.theindependentspouse.co.uk