As a military spouse, traditional employment is something that is not guaranteed. Most of us have left the stability of a typical 9-5 to jump aboard this crazy ride with our significant other. Self-employment is not only desirable for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, but it gives some freedom from needing to explain the “gaps” in our resume. You know, the ones from living OCONUS, to taking leave when your spouse deploys, to being at a duty station for only 6 months for a school.

Being your own boss comes with the flexibility to ebb and flow with all of the curveballs of military life. However, it can add an extra level of stress when it comes to knowing how to move your business properly during a PCS. Below, we share our best tips for how to successfully move your business and keep the small details from falling through the cracks!

Federal and State Rules & Permits

One of the most challenging aspects of moving your business across state lines (or oceans if you are going OCONUS) is navigating the many intricate federal and state laws. So as not to delay opening up shop once you arrive, create a checklist for any permits needed and forms to file before the move. Below are some helpful tips, however we highly recommend consulting an attorney for all legal advice.

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Permits & Licensure

Most states and counties require industry-specific permits or licenses to run an active business. Check out the Small Business Administration for a searchable database of proper permits needed in your new area. Plan on living in base housing? Call the housing agency to ensure that your type of business is allowed to operate on base. If so, they can provide the proper information to get the approval process started!

Business Registration

Depending on how your business was legally formed at conception will determine the steps needed to successfully move your business to a new state. If you are a sole proprietorship or partnership and operate under a business name, you will need to file a DBA (Doing Business As) Declaration.  Own an LLC or corporation? Your re-registration becomes a bit more complex. You can see your options here.  One popular choice is to file as a foreign entity in your new state, which allows you to keep your business incorporated in its original state. Please note that in this instance, you will most likely need to file annual reports and taxes in both states. Check out the SBA’s licensing guidelines by state for more information.

Taxes

Regardless of your new state, there’s no escaping the fact that you will have to pay taxes! Here is a handy guide for determining which taxes you are required to pay. If you have questions, contact the IRS, or your state’s Department of Revenue for clarification.

Change of Address

About 2-3 months before the move, start a running list of every vendor, business, utility company, or government agency that sends you a piece of paper mail. Once you have a new permanent address, you will need to go online or call each of these entities individually to update your mailing address. Often times when we PCS, we do not know what our new address will be until we get there and receive our house assignment from base housing or house hunt out in town. If this is the case, contact the post office to forward your mail to a friend or family member willing to collect it for you until your new address is confirmed.

To do so, visit your local post office or enroll on their website. This is especially helpful if you will be spending some time traveling/road tripping between duty stations. Just remember to have them ship this mail to you in bulk once settled!

Pro tip:  keep a spreadsheet of all bills/outstanding balances and important due dates. This ensures that you do not miss a payment during the transition as you move your business.

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When you finally do have a new address, fill out another change of address form that will redirect mail from either your old mailing address, or the temporary mailing address if you have decided to use one. In addition to filling out a form for every member of your family, you will also need one with your legal and/or dba business name. Mail forwarding is good for one year, so mail sent to your old address after this period could be lost!

Lastly, do you have any raw goods or business materials that you receive on auto ship? Place a hold on your subscription!

Vendor Fairs & Networking Groups

Vendor fairs are a great way to introduce your product to a new market! Start to research your new duty station and any local vendor fairs in the area. By doing this in advance, you can reverse plan the timeline for preparing/making new product and having it ready to make your debut!

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Make lady boss friends and get your business name out there by joining networking groups! A quick search on Facebook should reveal lots of options based on your priorities. Want to meet like-minded milspouse mamas hustling their business? Ask around in base-specific groups for recommendations.  Not only can others help you find opportunities to share your business, but they can also guide you on some of the best-selling items or challenges near your new duty-station!

Inventory Management

Does your business involve keeping a certain amount of inventory on hand? If so, take this opportunity to count and keep record of everything! While counting ready-to-sell goods is important, it is also necessary to track all components.  For example, if you sew girls’ dresses, take note of all of your fabric, zippers, thread, and patterns. If the movers lose or damage anything, you will have a complete list to reference when filing a claim!

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If you find that you have more ready-made products than you’d like, organize a sale before you move! Set your prices low enough to entice a quick sale, but high enough to give yourself an acceptable profit. For items that are slow-sellers or inventory clogs, think about putting them out at a deeper discount. Red-lining goods not only makes for fewer moving boxes, but it will put some extra cash in your hand!

Update Your Business Materials

Once you PCS and start networking in your new ‘hood, you’ll want to make sure people can easily contact you! Order some new business cards with your updated address. Be sure to change your email signature to reflect the same. If you have an “About Us” section on your website, take this chance to make sure it is current.

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Re-evaluate Shipping Times

If you own a business where you are personally responsible for fulfilling orders, your move will affect your shipping time frame, so plan accordingly! First, determine if you want to increase shipping times. If so, make sure this is detailed prominently on your website/social media. Another option is to put your shop on hold so that no orders can be placed during this window.  Send an email blast to your mailing list to let them know the news. To entice them, offer a discount code that can be used when you are back up and running!

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Social Media

You work hard to keep your social media game on point. So, you don’t want a busy PCS move to de-rail that momentum or cause your followers to lose interest. While we can have the best intentions of keeping up with our posts, let’s face it, moving is tiresome. And, without fail, you’ll be in the middle of a cell signal dead zone somewhere when you remember that post you just have to publish. The solution? Schedule your posts in advance! Platforms like Facebook will allow you to set up your posts for any day/time you’d like. If you use multiple platforms, services like Hoot Suite will schedule ALL of your posts and even provide analytics to see how each post performs.

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Do you have other tips for fellow spouses who will soon PCS? Share your go-to strategies on how you move your business in the comments!

Looking for some meal inspiration before you PCS? Check out 5 easy meal ideas for PCS season for tips on how to feed your family while your kitchen is being packed!

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Christina is a Marine Corps spouse currently living in Southern California with her husband and two children (they're not bossy, they have leadership skills!). She started The Set Table, a meal kit delivery service in Okinawa, Japan in 2014, then opened Meriwether's, a coffee shop, cafe, and market, in Leavenworth, Kansas in 2015. When she is not cooking up new recipes in the kitchen or buried in receipts in Quickbooks, you can find her on the hunt for cute work out clothes in the hopes they will motivate her to go to the gym more frequently. In her spare (hahaha) time, Christina enjoys reading professional development books, spending time being active outdoors, and a good "that's what she said" joke, and thinks that there is never a wrong occasion for a glass of wine.

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