By Fran Gulick
It was a nice December afternoon and as I walked from my car to the post office entrance, I reveled in the fact that it finally felt cold. Our duty station at the time, El Paso, TX , is not known as “The Sun City” for being cold, after all. As I finally got inside, I cringed at the long line. I should have expected it; it was the holidays after all and every day for the last 10 days there had been a line no matter what time of day it.
I should know. I had been there every day with more and more packages and envelopes.
When I got to the counter, I said, “They’re ready to mail; they just have to scanned!” The postal worker smiled and said, “You again?! Girl, what are you sending so much of?” As I took a deep sigh of relief and unloaded all of my bounty on the counter, I smiled: “I run an online business!”
Fast-forward three months: that sweet postal worker told me she had started paying attention to the pre-paid envelopes and noticed I am one of at least eight ladies who also run small businesses (the big ol’ “Etsy” on the top-left corner of our labels was the dead-giveaway). That week she was on a mission. She wanted to know how to look us up online so she could support us.
When it comes to small businesses, support from the community is key. Everyone knows buying from and supporting a small business is great. Maybe you’re not sure how to specifically support a military-connected small business? Just read on!
It’s Not A Hobby
The first thing to know and understand is that we are small business owners. Whether we run a 100% online business or run a brick-and-mortar store– this isn’t a hobby. In my nearly six years of running a business I have encountered a mix of reactions.
The one that still surprises is the assumption that, because I’m a military spouse, my business is not really a business. It’s just “for fun”. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I have yet to meet a military spouse that didn’t take her business as seriously as a non-military spouse, if not more seriously. We know, first hand, the ups-and-downs that come int0 our careers with the constant moving. Our small businesses are our way of battling that and supporting our families. Step one in supporting a military-connected small business is to take it seriously.
Spread The Word
One of the biggest ways you can help a military-connected small business is by helping spread the word. Most people are shocked when I tell them I haven’t paid for marketing or advertisement to grow my business. It has all been 100% word-of-mouth and I owe a very big part of my business growth to fellow military spouses spreading the word.
Seek Us Out
In a related point, a big way to support military-connected small businesses is to seek us out. As you get to know your new area consider asking around about small business run by military families. I guarantee, no matter where you go you’ll find photographers, doulas, web and graphic designers, makers, and creatives that move their business every few years as the military dictates.
We are there. We just might be a little bit harder to find as we establish our presence in whatever new station duty we are at… so ask around! The military is a small world and chances are someone you know knows someone from a military family that does or sells the thing you need.
Offer A Helping Hand During The Holidays
The holidays are a big deal for small business owners. That is when most of the sales happen, after all. On average, during the months of November through January, I sell three-times more than at any other time in my business. My bank account enjoys this but I always feel like a chicken with my head cut off.
A lot of business owners ask family and friends to pitch in during this time, especially when there’s inventory to ship out before shipping deadlines. However, as military families we are, by and large, away from family.
If you know someone with a military-connected small business, offer a helping hand! You will be loved forever and may get some pizza out of the deal…and who doesn’t love some pizza? But in all seriousness, having that extra set of hands will be infinitely impactful to that small business owner.
Fran is a military spouse, mom, and graphic and web designer by trade. She’s a lifestyle blogger at Freeborboleta.com, where she shares bits about her life and family, as well as, blogging and social media tips, crafts and recipes. When not working, Fran enjoys a reading a good book, traveling, or simply spending time with her family at home – wherever that may be.