Whenever I attend military spouse events or conferences, one of the hottest topics for discussion is the challenge of keeping a career afloat while embracing the military lifestyle. Many of us have left jobs to follow our service member around the world, changed careers completely, find ourselves returning to the workforce after taking years off to raise children, or hope to start our own business. If you’re a military spouse or veteran business owner, run a home-based business, or simply wish to expand the client base of your existing business, then meet The Rosie Network!
What exactly is The Rosie Network?
The Rosie Network is a non-profit founded by military spouses Stephanie Brown, Robin Elliott, and Jill Ivie after Stephanie spent hours searching online for a contractor to do repair work on her home. Preferring to hire a veteran if possible, a vision was born to promote military family-owned businesses and create the means possible to help the American public more easily locate those businesses.
Who is a Rosie?
Drawing inspiration from the iconic WWII-era “Rosie the Riveter” with her can-do attitude, Rosies are military spouses and veterans of our armed services.
How does it work?
One fact that its founders take pride in and sets The Rosie Network apart from other lists is just that…it’s a network, not a list. If you provide a service or have a product for sale, the website will help you promote it. Best of all, The Rosie Network is completely free to use! Signing up for your Rosie Network webpage gives you an online presence without the cost of maintaining a website.
What’s included on your Rosie Network page?
- A photo gallery
- Content tabs for business and contact information
- Room for testimonials
- Customization to suit your business needs
- Coming soon: e-commerce opportunities via a shopping cart
Through a network of like-minded partners, businesses are given access to valuable support and resources, small business and start-up expansion grants, online entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and more! Whether it’s the beginnings of a business idea or an established business looking to expand, all of this is done at no cost to military members or their families.
I recently met co-founder Jill Ivie at a spouse event and she was happy to share more information with Military Spouse readers!
MSM: What gave you the drive to start The Rosie Network?
Jill: We understand all too well the difficulties of maintaining a career while being married to the military community. When founder Stephanie Brown came to me with the idea of creating a database of military family-owned businesses, I was inspired to help other spouses build, maintain, and grow their own businesses. However, the mission became more relevant than we’d imagined when we witnessed spouses standing in line to receive free bread and groceries. This discovery was shocking and compelled us to start really digging into the needs of our families. We learned many were college educated but not working in their career fields due to the transient military lifestyle. Others choose to start home-based businesses that were portable and financially helped contribute to their household. However, to truly be successful, these businesses needed to reach clients beyond their neighborhoods and market themselves more professionally than just on Facebook. Seventy percent of the American public that would prefer to patronize a military family-owned business now have a way to find them! Although I use spouses as an example, we also address the needs of transitioning veterans and already established veteran-owned businesses.
MSM: How are you able to stay viable as a non-profit?
Jill: We’ve been questioned about our decision to become a non-profit. However, we felt passionate about providing our services at no charge to our families and eliminating any barriers for the American public to find and support these businesses. We genuinely believe in our mission and knew individuals as well as other foundations would get behind us. The first two years was primarily self-funded and obviously unsustainable. Recently, we brought on board a talented Executive Director, Leona Sublett, who has years of experience in the non-profit world. With the help of our great team and support from our most recent partnership with USAA, we’ve been able to grow to the organization you see today.
We continue our fundraising efforts every day, but it isn’t easy! Some of our growing member companies have donated back to The Rosie Network because they understand firsthand how our efforts impact our nation’s families.
MSM: I met you recently at a military spouse conference and thought what you were doing there was so great! Can you tell us more about what The Rosie Network does at those sorts of events and how you reach out to the military spouse and veteran communities?
Jill: It’s all about collaborating with organizations that make real and meaningful impact. At conferences, we do breakout sessions on entrepreneurship and small business ownership. And, since we all know that dressing the part is important, we’re introducing our newest program, Rosie’s Wardrobe! Thanks to the generous donations of New York-based Eccoci Limited Editions and sponsorship from USAA, we’re able to provide free professional clothing to the attendees.
Some other things we’re involved in:
- Our Military Family-Owned Small Business Showcase program features over 50 small business owners to crowds exceeding 30,000 from California to North Carolina.
- Our first Military Entrepreneur Networking Conference takes place this year. During this event, we’ll provide one military small business owner with a $1,000 business grant as part of our ROCK the DOT! Small Business Grant Campaign.
- The Rosie Network is part of the Assistant Secretary of Defense’s Spouse Ambassador Network. We’re also official partners of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes and Military Spouse Employment Program.
If you don’t see our information in your Family Readiness Support Center, please let us know so we can make sure our families are privy to the wonderful programs we offer!
MSM: With some of the issues in social media recently, can you speak to how The Rosie Network verifies and safeguards private information when registering?
Jill: Military affiliation is verified through ID.me (formerly TroopID), a veteran-owned company which provides verification services to VA, Overstock.com, and others.
The Rosie Network takes our members’ privacy and security very seriously. When a member creates a profile page with us, they use our Admin Tool which provides specific instructions on what we feel should and should NOT be included. Given recent issues and concerns, we’ve taken steps to strengthen our database security.
We’re constantly thinking of ways to promote our members. We believe that their success is our success, so whether we’re getting a member featured on a radio show or in a national magazine, it’s all for one purpose–to help them succeed and support their families.
For more information about The Rosie Network, visit their website at therosienetwork.org.
“Some are especially meaningful to us, for instance, former Navy SEAL, Eli Crane and his wife Jen. When we met Eli, he was operating his business, Bottle Breacher, with three other guys out of his garage while Jen did their finances between taking care of two young children. We featured them in a showcase event in California and promoted their company to several large firms that then purchased their products. Last year, they appeared on Shark Tank and received funding from Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary! They went from their garage to a 2,500 sq. foot warehouse and 35 employees. True to the kind of people Eli and Jen are, they now give back through their donations to The Rosie Network.”
“Andrea Gallagher of Andrea Gallagher Photography has been working with us since inception. Because we practice what we preach, we’ve employed her during different showcase and fundraising events. These opportunities have helped her reach new clients and grow her business. She has expanded her business and created the Better Business Babe geared toward helping other military family owned business with Branding. She continues to give back to The Rosie Network through her time and talents.”
“We’ve been fortunate to meet people like Carl and Lori Churchill who own LockNLoad JAVA. Although they were an already growing business when we met them, we have enjoyed the relationship we’ve built. We have a mutual respect and come together in support of the bigger picture when the opportunity presents itself. Not only are we customers–because they produce fantastic coffee!–but they send coffee packages to deployed troops.”
“Our members consist of law firms and landscapers, artists and architects. The scope of these businesses is fantastic. Lori Volkman, military spouse and former District Attorney turned entrepreneur, started Trajectory Communications last year. She ran our Veterans Day Twitter launch at HBO’s Concert for Valor in Washington, D.C. last November. In just over 2 days, our Twitter timeline deliveries reached over 5 million! This success is due to the contributions of military bloggers around the country.”
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