Meet Gem Collins, military spouse, and business strategist. Gem has some words of wisdom for starting your business. And she shares her milspouse journey.
“Foreign-born” sounds so odd to me, even saying that I am “foreign” seems bizarre! I’m from the UK, so on the surface, the USA doesn’t seem like a foreign land. But that’s what I am: a foreign-born, alien resident.
My journey to getting here is one of my favorites to tell, so if you’ll indulge me for a minute.
As I said, I’m from the UK, but I actually met my now-husband in the UAE. I had been living and working out there for five years, part of the team starting up and establishing New York University Abu Dhabi. I was having drinks with a friend and it was actually her who bumped into him first—she shares the same name as the beer he was ordering at the bar!
Anyway, I joined the conversation and we hit it off immediately—we spent the rest of the evening talking then went our separate ways. Really separate. The next day he returned to the US, so we weren’t able to meet up again. So began months of WhatsApp messages and Skype calls until he invited me out to visit him after Christmas. Most people thought I was crazy, I mean did I really know this guy? No. But when you know, you know!
Making the Transition to Military Spouse
Anyway, long story short, I quit my job in the UAE, visited the US back and forth whilst doing long-distance from the UK until he asked me to marry him, yey! Then began the immigration process; which involved a lot of paperwork, proving the validity of our marriage, a great deal of waiting around and then our final interview.
The hardest part of all of this was the fact that I was not legally authorized to work in the states until certain approvals were in place. For someone as career focussed as me, this was EXTREMELY hard! I lost my sense of self-worth, lacked confidence and couldn’t see my own value. They were fairly dark times! Once I was given the approval to work, I got a job and three months later we PCS’d….sound familiar?
I recently got my green card, which was a longer process than we had anticipated – but it was worth it for so many reasons, here are the two main ones: I am here and can live with my husband every day (when he’s here!) and it led me to start my business!
RELATED: How to Move Your Business When You PCS
I believe that if I hadn’t experienced the struggles I have, I would not have been so driven to create my business, to help others through the same, or similar situations. Starting my business was one of the best things I ever did. It has given me a major sense of purpose, I am fulfilling my reason for being – to help other people.
I have my independence, but my business compliments this military lifestyle and fits in and around my husband’s career. I feel empowered, I am changing people lives for the better and I know that everyone has the ability to do the same thing—we all have the ability to become extraordinary!
If starting a business is something you are considering, or have already started, here are a few things that you may find helpful during those early days.
5 Things To Consider When Starting a Business as a Military Spouse
Is Your Business Model “PCS-Friendly?
When the time comes to move you’ll need to have processes in place to either keep your business running in the background during the move or have the ability to shut it down altogether, until you’re at your next location.
If you have a physical building where you do business, consider the implications of this. If you’re renting space, when will you need to break your lease and can you write this into the agreement from the start? Embrace technology and social media for the ease it will bring you during these times of PCS!
Find Your Tribe
Believe me when I say the milspouse entrepreneurial community is the best! They offer support like you wouldn’t believe, and everyone truly wants to see you succeed and will do their best to get you there. So, find your people.
Find those who will cheer you on and embrace your motivation. Those who don’t mind if you miss a coffee date or girls’ night because you’re working on your dreams. In-person or online, make sure you put yourself out there, find your tribe, and love them hard!
Ask for Help
Whether that’s taking on a consultant (like me), or asking as many questions on as many forums, to as many people as possible. Do it.
There is no such thing as a silly question and chances are you’ll find someone who has asked and answered it already!
Be Prepared For a Few Setbacks
Business-building can be tough. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it! Know that there will be failures, times you want to quit, and times when you wish your spouse would stop leaving you on your own to handle it all!
If you’re prepared for these moments, you’ll handle them like a boss and carry on no matter what. This is where your tribe comes in and why they are so important. Reach out when times get rough, once you put it out there things don’t seem half as bad.
Look for the Lessons
There are lessons to be learned in everything you do. If you can learn from mistakes, take the positive from every situation and make it a point to adapt and overcome; you will experience success beyond your wildest dreams.
See it as a lesson, not a setback. See it as a way to improve and not a failure. Seek positivity when it seems bleak and you will only ever see positivity.
Starting a business can be hard, but with these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to a successful military-spouse owned business. Do you have any other questions on how to start a business? Let me know!
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Gems Collins is a Business Strategist for Military Spouses, helping spouses all over the world to step into their greatness and create the business of their dreams. To help them live their most fulfilled lives and reach the highest levels of professional satisfaction, whilst navigating this crazy beautiful military life. Follow Gems on Facebook or Instagram.
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