Nurturing Small Businesses and Small Humans

By: Lakesha Cole

I caught myself this morning putting on makeup with one hand, the other occupied with a toddler whining because she can’t wear red lipstick to school, all the while remaining fully engrossed in a foreign conversation about anime with my STEM-loving 13-year-old daughter. I’m a work-from-home-mom, author, speaker, and retail entrepreneur. These post-military days, I raise my kids in Tampa, Florida and run businesses in North Carolina and Virginia. Are you exhausted yet?

Moms everywhere are making it happen and “having it all,” concurrently starting and nurturing small businesses and small humans—both of which are never-ending jobs.

Meet Tiffany Eve Lawrence, mommy and founder of Covered Cubs. She’s a Marine spouse and mom to twin 6-year-old daughters, Lyla and Ava. She’s known among her friends as the outgoing and outspoken one who makes friends easily. Her interpersonal skills suited her well for military life and led her to start her own business. Tiffany is hands down one of the most genuine and inspiring examples of mom entrepreneur success I could share with you today.


2018-10-30T14:16:13+00:00 October 25th, 2018|

Guardsman Uses Minimalist Style to Accessorize Military Uniforms

By: Bianca Strzalkowski

Amy Slinker understands the sacrifices attached to military service, but her entrepreneurial spirit didn’t think fashion sense had to be one of them.

The longtime serving citizen-soldier launched an entrepreneurial venture in 2014 to give her fellow service members accessories with military regulations in mind. WILCO LIFE’s namesake combines the military jargon of “will comply” with inspiration from the unique military lifestyle. Now Slinker is setting her sights on growing her brand to include a larger national customer base.

Her military connection

Slinker, originally from the Midwest, moved to Alaska in 2005 when her husband Dustin received orders there with the Army. Today, Slinker is attached to the Alaska National Guard, but has traveled much of the world in her two-decades-long career.

“I spent most of my Guard career in public affairs and have had the opportunity to travel to South Korea, Romania, Mongolia, and Australia for missions with the Guard. I also responded to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster,” she shared.

Like many military spouses, Slinker faced the daunting task of finding employment when the couple first relocated to Alaska. She started temp work that eventually led her to a present-day job with Pfeffer Development, a multidisciplinary commercial real estate development firm.

“My career before moving to Alaska was in photojournalism. When we PCSed to Alaska, I struggled to find a job. I understand firsthand how difficult it can be as a military spouse to maintain a career while following a military service member’s career,” she said. “I realized I needed to look for other opportunities outside of photojournalism. I started temping at Anchorage business offices to network and broaden my search for job opportunities where I could apply my marketing and public relations skills. That’s how I started at Pfeffer Development—I was a temp for the receptionist and eventually was hired as the Director of Marketing.”


2018-08-06T16:22:40+00:00 August 6th, 2018|

Accessories Company Hits Break-Even Point at Six-Month Mark

By: Rebecca Alwine

When Shelly Nicholas was growing up, she spent way too much time trying to keep her hair secured in a hair tie. Years later, when taking a venture consulting class in grad school, she developed a business plan to make a hair tie that actually works. Fast forward 10 (yes, 10!) years, and Pretty Knotty’s FIT TIES are part of a flourishing company.

Most of the business owners we see in the military spouse community are either selling a product that has already been developed or selling a service. Nicholas not only sells FIT TIES, but she also created the product. With her partner Jacob Eberhart, she spent almost eight years in design and development.

“We lost a lot of time trying to develop a brand-new product,” Nicholas explained. “We had several designs that could have been effective, but they were ultimately dead ends.”


2018-04-23T20:19:53+00:00 April 23rd, 2018|

Entrepreneur Uses Digital Tools to Grow Business Academy

By: Rebecca Alwine

“Facebook is the one piece of technology I use every day,” Kayla Roof said.

Roof, a business advisor and creator of The Work from Anywhere Business Academy™, praises technology and social media and has used both to launch several successful ventures. As a military spouse and entrepreneur, she knows just how important it is to be able to communicate with clients—and market to customers—no matter where she is.

Leveraging social media

Since 2005, Roof, who earned an MBA from San Diego State and a BBA in marketing from the University of Georgia, has been helping companies develop by using social media. By 2012, she started her own firm. Then, two years later she launched and turned her blog into a television show. Today, as the creator of The Work from Anywhere Business Academy, Roof helps other business owners thrive by offering classes, programs, and online trainings.

“I have a [Facebook] group with all of my customers where I provide extra help and guidance. I provide education through Facebook Live, and I utilize Facebook ads to reach a larger audience,” Roof said.

Social media is what really helped her get started. “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest have all been essential in creating relationships with potential customers and driving traffic to my website. I teach classes to people all around the world, and I’m able to do so by utilizing Zoom meetings and webinars,” she added.


2018-01-17T21:14:24+00:00 January 17th, 2018|

Founder Uses Technology to Streamline Functions of Business

By: Rebecca Alwine

Technology is making operations easier for business owners, though Shannon Siriano Greenwood admits digital cannot replace human capital.

“My iPhone is the only way I can do what I do,” Greenwood said. “As a business coach, I have the flexibility to be where I need to be.”

Greenwood is a serial entrepreneur. Technology has really helped her balance all her passions, including several businesses that she founded across several industries. And technology was instrumental in the success of her fitness studio, Boho Cycle Studio in Richmond, Virginia.

Technology that serves clients

When Greenwood launched her first business, she was balancing a full-time schedule with the opening of her new indoor cycling studio called Boho Cycle Studio. After just six months, the company was making a profit, and it received recognition as “Best Start Up” by Richmond Magazine. Soon, Greenwood found ways to streamline antiquated processes.

“Technology played a major role in the success of my fitness studio,” Greenwood said. To appeal to the desires of her customer base, she used MindBody—online management software that allows clients to reserve a space for class, which created an expedited experience and eliminated the inconvenience of arriving half an hour early to wait in line.


2017-10-30T14:47:09+00:00 October 30th, 2017|

Business Owner Delivers Spa Experience at Home

By: Bianca M. Strzalkowski

The hustle of life keeps people on the go from one commitment to the next, leaving little time for self-care. Donna Ferguson is hoping her products will offer some relief, albeit brief, from all those responsibilities.

The Maryland native first started making and selling spa-like products out of her home nine years ago. Ferguson, owner of SALT—Soak Away Life Troubles—sought to give busy customers a way to take a time out from their day. She sells handmade items online and at a brick and mortar location in Jacksonville, NC, where she moved when her husband, a United States Marine, was stationed there in 2007. By 2014, she expanded her virtual business to include a physical location and she has been a one-woman show ever since.

“I was sitting at the dinner table when I thought, I’m doing this. I always had the bug in me, so I literally jumped in,” Ferguson said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. It didn’t dawn on me until after I was in here and all the adrenaline had subsided, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I got to keep books… and I didn’t know how to keep a budget as far as projections, so I spent my budget for three years in probably less than six months.”

With no formal business training, Ferguson relied on her own research and resources from the local community college. As many owners can relate to, she does everything from the accounting and marketing to the inventory and budgeting. The learning curve has been challenging at times, but she looks forward to walking through those doors she built every single day.


2017-07-17T19:44:29+00:00 July 17th, 2017|

The Ebb and Flow of Owning Your Own Business

By: Jennifer M. Morrison

Working for yourself seems like a dream job—and it can be, but it can also be fraught with situations and issues that trip you up. Entrepreneur Mylene Hollick, a military wife and mother, knows about those potholes firsthand.

A graduate of North Texas University, Hollick put her career on hold after her two children were born. As a military spouse, she says it was important to be home for their family, while her husband’s service required him to travel often. As her kids have grown, she felt the urge to refresh her identity by founding Jetset Destinations, an independent travel agency, in late 2015.

Hollick saw current and future flexibility as a top priority when it came to re-entering the workforce, something that employment at an established travel agency couldn’t necessarily guarantee her.

“I started my own company because it gave me the flexibility to set my own hours. I still have kids at home, so I want to be able to be there for them whenever they need me. Also, starting my own travel agency means that I can move as my husband moves. All I really need is my laptop and really good Wi-Fi,” she said.

Starting this business wasn’t clear skies and smooth sailing, though. Quieting her inner critic has been important in finding success. 

2017-04-30T02:43:30+00:00 April 29th, 2017|


By: Bianca Strzalkowski

Branding evokes a feeling in customers that can create a loyal—and lucrative—following.

Entrepreneur Tom Geist understands the value of proper branding. The owner of SoCal Hot Sauce, formerly TG’s Hot Sauce, recently rebranded his entire company in anticipation of increased growth in the new year. His branding strategy focused on representing his product line in a way that resonated with potential customers.

“We would often get the question, ‘TG’s Hot Sauce? What kind of sauce is that?’ We needed a new name and logo that was more professional and let the customer know what kind of sauce they were looking at. SoCal Hot Sauce™ was the answer,” he said.


2017-01-23T16:26:29+00:00 January 18th, 2017|

Navy Wife Grows Business Through Brand Awareness Strategy

lakesha-renfro-and-team-shark-tankBy: Bianca Strzalkowski

Spread it! Mix it! Shake it! Stir it!

Lakesha Brown-Renfro delivers a party with every order. Whether it is one of her products or services, the Navy wife of 18 years gives customers an experience that has helped her grow and build a diverse business empire. She and two partners launched their first company—Simply Panache, an event planning firm—in 2011.

She said she had the entrepreneurial spirit since she was a young child, first starting with a lemonade stand, followed by a hair bow business, and then she created a teen membership club. Brown-Renfro and her friends eventually coordinated parties that caught the attention of friends, family, and even strangers.

“At this point, I started thinking that I could do this as a business, and the event planning company was born,” she said.

Front and center of Simply Panache was a product that would ultimately become the signature item and foundation of the brand. Mango Mango is a gourmet mango preserve with over 100 uses. It earned the reputation of a “party in the jar” with Brown-Renfro’s robust marketing plan. She started by selling the product online, at farmers’ markets, and in local and national stores. As the business grew, so did the opportunities.

Three years ago, her team appeared on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank. Valuable learning lessons came from the experience.


2016-10-25T01:57:12+00:00 October 24th, 2016|

Behind the Brand

Krystel Spell photo credit to HMM Portraits LLC

Photo credit to HMM Portraits LLC

By: Bianca Strzalkowski

Krystel Spell’s 100,000+ followers would be surprised to learn that the brand empire, known as Army Wife 101, actually began as a personal video project. The branding expert says she initially started vlogging (video blogging) on YouTube to share cooking videos and document aspects of military life. She never imagined that it would turn into a lucrative business with earnings in excess of $5,000 per month.

“I had no idea that blogging would ever be a business,” Spell said. “I remember the first time another blogger, and military wife, called me for a campaign with Sears and told me I would get a dryer in exchange for blogging. I literally screamed. I felt like I was getting gold, so you can only imagine the feeling of receiving my first paycheck.”


2016-07-18T15:50:20+00:00 July 18th, 2016|