By Cara Bertozzi
Every Wednesday morning, a group of women can be found intently circled around foamy lattes and sweet treats, quietly engaging in demonstrably organized discussion at the DuPont Forza coffee shop. At first glance, it seems an eclectic group: some are young moms with kids seated nearby, some appear to have come straight from the gym, and others are well-heeled and perfectly coifed without an eyelash out of place.
These diverse women are bound by two common ties – a military spouse sisterhood and small business ownership or novice entrepreneurs. Each week, they gather to work through a business-oriented strategy exercise, such as practicing a short elevator pitch, reviewing marketing strategies, setting short- and long-term goals, or testing minimum viable product ideas on each other. This weekly meeting has appropriately been branded Power Hour, and the idea has already begun to spread to other bases, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
The group also ends each session with a simple recitation of Yes, Oops, and Help. In this way, the women intentionally share a positive moment from the last week, engage in reflection on missteps and learning points, and bring a challenge to the table for discussion. For these women, many of whom spend much of their time working alone or serving their customers without the benefit of a team with whom to brainstorm, this weekly meeting provides the structured training, discipline and collaboration that are key to the success of any business endeavor.
Alana Le is the mastermind behind this successful entrepreneurial support group. She started her own management consulting business after moving back to the Seattle-area following a multiple-year stint doing project management for international startups. Three weeks after marrying into the military last fall, her new husband deployed to Afghanistan. As a coping mechanism, she dove into volunteering and socializing with the other wives in the unit and was surprised at the preponderance of fellow military spouses who either owned or were contemplating starting their own business as a means to create a flexible, mobile career for themselves.
Military spouses have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, despite the fact that many are highly skilled. The sometimes unpredictable, frequent moves are disruptive, and many bases are located at a prohibitive distance from urban centers. Further, it’s challenging to hold a traditional job while managing regular family transitions between single parenting. Add in the stress of coping with having your spouse in a war zone and it’s clear to see why military spouses have a difficult time finding meaningful employment.
Alana identified the opportunity to use her business experience to not only encourage and equip other women to take calculated risks but also to establish her expertise and develop educational materials that she uses to empower other business owners to take charge of their content marketing in the digital age. She is results-oriented, and seeing her clients and friends successfully recruit customers is what drives her to run both the free Power Hour and her paid content marketing classes.
As impressive as Alana’s story is, she is quick to admit she keeps company with exceptional women. Pam Alvarado and Nicole Lee comprise the other original core Power Hour members. Pam started an online boutique for handmade dog collars after receiving an overwhelming response to a picture of her decked-out puppy that she shared on social media.
Pam learned as she went, and when a franchise opportunity that more closely matched her strengths-based interests arose, she jumped on it. Pam is now building a Juice Plus sales team of distributors and loves the chance to mentor her team and promote healthy, whole-food lifestyles through her social media prowess.
Nicole is an ACE-certified personal trainer/gym owner who is just finishing her degree in Exercise Science and recently started a personal training business, Strong Moms Fitness, out of her garage. She loves helping people set and reach their fitness goals and finds satisfaction in helping military wives cope with stress through physical exertion.
Pam and Nicole both believe that diet and exercise are important foundations of healthy living and have teamed up to offer various free events to the military spouse community.
I left Power Hour with the desire to participate in Meghan Milliron’s Restoration Wellness class teaching couples Thai massage techniques, Richelle Futch’s Time Management class, and Mabani Hernandez’s Makeup Application class. Each of these women believe that with a committed approach, it is possible to pursue your professional dreams despite the challenges that military life presents. And who better to do that with than your girlfriends?
To learn more about Power Hour at JBLM, click here.