Tuesday, 3 October 2017

How Military Life Has Impacted Me and My Business

I committed to writing a blog post on how military life has impacted my business for a Military Spouses Business Support Group I am part of on Facebook so I thought it would only make sense to share it here on my blog too. I am kind of giving you my life story here but here goes...

I know there are a lot of military wives who are quilters so hopefully some of you can relate to my story.

How Military Life Has Impacted Me and My Business

I have been a military wife for 17 years and a common-law spouse for years before that. Military life did not impact me much, other than the heart ache factor of having my spouse deployed, until I started experiencing postings and had children. For the first eight years of our relationship my husband and I lived in a house that we owned and there were two overseas deployments but no postings. I worked full time throughout this time. Having my own business was always an inkling in my mind but I had no idea how to make it happen.

That all changed in 2004 when we were posted across the country, over 5000 km from my friends and family and on the way there I became pregnant with our first child.
 
Photo of Lake Louise in Banff, AB Canada from our recent family vacation.
We had bought a house in New Brunswick thinking that I would be able to find a job and that we would enjoy the dual incomes we had all along. Little did we know.

For most of my life I have been a big city dweller apart from five years as a teenager where we lived in small towns. I have always been able to find full time work. When we arrived in Oromocto, NB full time work became something like the Holy Grail. An impossible dream. I couldn’t even get hired on at McDonald’s. This was partly due to the economic situation in the province and partly due to the fact that I was a military wife and “from away”. So for four years I did not have full time work and spent quite a bit of time volunteering for the MFRC (Military Family Resource Centre) where I made friends and built relationships with people. I took in babies to babysit and my own child had playmates his own age. I also delivered newspapers very early in the morning in desperation. This was in order to buy groceries because after my husband’s parental leave he had to pay back pension payments that were missed on his leave and we could not afford to eat and keep our house. Still I did not know how to start my own business up.

In 2008 we moved back to Edmonton but I was pregnant with our second child and knew I would be staying home with my kids. My husband deployed overseas again. I tried to work part time but I was having to rely heavily on my parents, specifically my Dad, to help me with childcare because my husband was away so much that even trying to arrange my work schedule around his military schedule did not work out well. Working was very difficult.

My family at Lake Louise. (There was forest fire smoke on this day so it is hazy.)


In 2010 I discovered the world of quilting blogs online. Etsy was in full swing. Suddenly I had a whole new community to talk to. If they could have blogs and Etsy shops so could I! The internet opened up major opportunities for me. I started my Etsy shop and blog in 2011. Even then I was floundering around not sure how to build my audience and any sales I made on Etsy were by chance. It was very difficult to work on both the blog and the shop with two small children and a husband who was away more than he was home.

It wasn’t until 2013 when we were posted to Wainwright and my husband no longer deploys anywhere that I was finally able to start building momentum with both the shop and the blog. I finally felt like I knew what I was doing. With the posting though came a very large pay cut to the tune of about $1,200.00 per month! We had debt based on our Edmonton income. In Edmonton we had LDL (land duty allowance - for all those deployments to the field) and we had PLD (Post Living Differential). For whatever bizarre reason moving two hours away in the same province meant we lost the PLD and we lost the LDA because he no longer deploys. We couldn’t afford our bank loan payments and still put food on the table. I had to find a part time job.

As with so many of my part time jobs I had a “boss” and not a “leader”. A boss is someone who feels that they wield control over others. A leader leads a team of people and inspires them to work together and to do better. I do not work well under bosses. I left the first job to go to a second where I had more of a leader but not an effective leader. When the leader was away the “supervisors” started thinking of themselves as “bosses” and made life difficult at work. Meanwhile, I became pregnant with my third child.

We managed to pay off the oppressive bank loan before the third baby came and I could stay home again. Once I came out of the haze of becoming a new mother again I was able to focus more on my blog and business.

I tried another part time job to raise money to put into my business but all that did was expose me to one of the most unstable “bosses” I have ever had to work for. It was a distraction from my business and the money, what little there was on minimum wage, never seemed to stay around long enough to be invested in anything. After leaving that job a year ago (almost to the day of me writing this) I threw myself into my business whole heartedly.

This year I bought courses online from an Etsy expert which has made a big difference to my sales. I also started my own Shopify site and am in the top 11% of shops who opened at the same time for traffic volume. I am currently taking a Pinterestcourse to learn more about the amazing traffic driver that Pinterest is. I ordered wholesale stock to sell alongside my handmade items. I wrote many quilt patterns and compiled ten of them into an eBook which has sold a few dozen copies already in the two weeks since it was released.

Support from the military community has come mainly from online as I have posted some of my work in military spouses group and my Canadian flag quilts and pillows have been very well received thus bringing me a few sales from the military community. A couple who are ex-military members have also invited me to consign handmade items in their new shop that is opening this week so that is another wonderful support. Opportunities are around every corner.


My Canadian Flag pillows were a hit this year. I am definitely keeping them in my inventory.


I am happy to report that this year is the most revenue I have ever made as a self employed person and September was my highest earning month so far. Hard work, focus and dedication is paying off. I can see that things are working and momentum is building. Now my goal is to keep that momentum going into the holiday season and take everything I’ve learned this year and apply it to an even more amazing year next year.

One of life's struggles: Sometimes in life your tire blows out. A flat tire happened on the way home from a craft show this summer. We were over two hours from home (with kids and dog) and had to abandon our utility trailer on the side of the highway while we raced to a tire shop to get a replacement before they closed. We felt like we were on an episode of "The Amazing Race." We have learned to always have a spare!


While I have great resentment towards the military for the hardship and strife it has caused in my life I must also be thankful. The military has provided my husband with a steady income which allows me to work from home and without the hardships and struggles I would not be as driven as I am today to succeed in my own business. I have always been strong and independent but I am even more so now because of life as a military wife. My children are also learning to take the good times with the bad and to be resilient and resourceful. I will be encouraging them to start their own online businesses in the future using their unique talents. It is a great thing to have to fall back on when times get tough and the sooner you start the more success you will have in the future.

4 comments:

  1. I was sad as I read this post, but also happy that you found your niche. Great meeting you in Edmonton at the Etsy fair.

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    1. Thank you Ioleen. It has been a struggle. The prejudice I have encountered as a military spouse has been shocking and hurtful but I think things are in a pretty good place right now. It was so nice to see you and your husband at the Etsy show too!

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  2. What an inspiring post, Anita. I am so impressed that you never gave up and continued striving for your dream, and achieved it with grace and great success. (With three kids in tow to boot!!) I wish you even greater success in the future.

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  3. A really interesting read, I'm glad things are looking up for you now.

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