By Stephanie Brown, CEO and Founder
My journey to The Rosie Network began the day I met a handsome man standing in line at a Hallmark store.
One year later, I was packing for our first overseas tour. When I became a military spouse, I was also a business owner.
Have you ever walked into a model home and “oohed and aahed” over the beautiful decor? Well, that’s what my company did; made homes beautiful. I also specialized in commercial and retail space design. I loved my job. But with our overseas move, I went from being my own boss to being unemployed and unemployable. I became depressed, frustrated and even resentful. Fortunately, I realized I wasn’t alone and pulled strength from other spouses who, like me, were struggling with having a career and a sense of self.
Years later, things changed for me when I needed a plumber and my husband was deployed. After spending hours on Angie’s List and Craigslist, I realized that while most consumers preferred to patronize a veteran-owned business, there was no way online to do so that verified military affiliation. Like many entrepreneurs, I saw a problem and set out to solve it. I wanted to bridge the gap between consumers and the vast field of veteran and military spouse-owned businesses around the country.
Two years later, Rosie’s List was born. It was not an easy task, knowing almost nothing about technology. But I didn’t let that stop me. I found a veteran who understood my vision and was willing to help. Recognizing the skills I brought to the table – my strengths – and finding others who shared my passion, and had the skill sets I needed, was key to our success. I couldn’t do it alone.
Soon after Rosie’s List went live, I learned that there were practically no resources for military spouse entrepreneurs. In fact, so much attention was being paid to traditional employment, that 10 years ago, no one wanted to hear about those of us who, whether out of necessity or passion, knew we didn’t fit into a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, lifestyle. We wanted freedom and the opportunity to shoot for the stars.
The Rosie Network set out to create a program that would help military spouses become successful business owners – whatever “success” meant to them.
Which brings me to what I consider a key factor that every entrepreneur should identify early on. Success. Define what it means to you first and foremost, not what it means to other people. Is it money? Fame? Changing the world? Or, do you want to make just enough money to pay the bills? This is your starting point – or, as Simon Sinek likes to say, your “why.” My “why” was ending military spouse unemployment as we know it.
The Rosie Network, through its Rosie Chapters, is doing that. After almost 10 years, we’ve built a trusted network of fellow military spouses who want to see each other succeed and combined that with best business practices and mentorship. All the things I wish I had known when I started my company.
What do you want? How are you going to get it? What sets you apart? We help you answer these questions, then build the tools to make it happen. There is no greater feeling than watching a talented and passionate, yet unemployed military spouse take control and create something truly amazing. And if The Rosie Network played a small role in that? Wow. That’s my definition of success.
Every military spouse has a different reason for choosing the entrepreneurial path. In my opinion, being an entrepreneur means anyone who answers to themselves at the end of the day. That includes self-employed, independent contractors, and yes, direct sales. So rather than get caught up in the definition of the word, I choose to celebrate those spouses out there working to make a difference for themselves and their families.
The Rosie Network is a publicly supported nonprofit whose mission is to empower, impact and advocate on behalf of our nation’s veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs.