Building and maintaining a career is one of the most challenging aspects of a military spouse’s life. The statistics show that nearly 26% of military spouses are unemployed (more than 3x’s the national average) and many that are employed, find work that is either outside of their preferred profession or the pay is much lower than what their non-military spouse colleagues are earning. The impact is felt on the entire family and their communities as well. For this reason, many military spouses turn to virtual assistance or another type of remote work solution. My co-founder, Alana, and I decided to pursue entrepreneurship, and we launched The Six Box last year.
Our desire to form The Six Box was two fold: create a business that supported military spouses, while also creating mobile careers for ourselves as military spouses. We formed the business while living in the same neighborhood, but with the knowledge that as military spouses, it is guaranteed one of us would move sometime within two years of our launch. While we had the benefit of starting a business side by side, we knew we needed to be forward thinking and create a business with flexibility. In order to build a business that can survive across the miles we decided to focus on four challenges from the beginning. They may be similar to ones that you experience in your virtual assistance business as well!
Challenge 1: Shipping
Since we sell a physical product that requires shipping and receiving, we knew that would be one of the obvious issues to consider. In order to decide who would end up having this task, we discussed all areas of the business first and evaluated how much time we felt each area added up to. We also took into account our strengths and likes, i.e. who was more organized and could handle tracking inventory, storing products and packing materials, as well as keeping track of packages.
Challenge 2: Taxes & Banking
Paperwork and finances can be a huge burden and source of fear and contention in any good working relationship (especially, when two people are putting their heart and money into a project). We discussed finances up front and did our homework. Two important factors we knew we needed to determine were; how taxes would impact our mobile business and which banking institution would be the best in the event one of us moved. We researched online, called several banking institutions, met with a local CPA and asked for advice from business owners running similar businesses before making our final decisions.
Challenge 3: Meetings
Thankfully, operating a business remotely in today’s world is much easier due to video technology. Even though we are neighbors, we have already utilized Skype and FaceTime for meetings during times when our kids were asleep and our husbands were gone. We have become comfortable meeting online, so when the time comes for one of us to move, the transition to no longer meeting in person will be smoother (although we will miss it so much)!
Challenge 4: Military Seasons of Life
While everyone faces challenges in life, the military spouse is uniquely positioned to have things suddenly change due to a PCS move, deployment orders, intense training schedule or when additional unforeseen challenges arise. We make sure to communicate with one another if we know a change is coming and shift workloads accordingly. This year alone, we have each needed maternity leave, had a husband return home from deployment and another husband’s training schedule constantly change throughout the year. Communication is key to our business relationship and we check in regularly.
We strive to be proactive when it comes to challenges, so we can get ahead of them as much as possible. However, when you add military life on top of day jobs and the ebb and flow of life as mothers, wives and business owners, it can get pretty crazy sometimes. A large part of our mission is to show grace and support to military spouses and this includes ourselves. We know we can’t get ahead of every challenge and some things happen that we weren’t anticipating. We work hard to be honest and move quickly to resolve any issues that come up, while also giving ourselves permission to be human. Some of the best lessons learned have come from challenges we could have never anticipated. We are thankful for our combined resourcefulness, resiliency and an ability to shift as needed, all thanks to lessons learned as women married to the military.
I hope you can be inspired and apply some of these lessons to your own business as well!