THROUGH the pages of Army&You, we consistently showcase military spouses and partners who are running their own businesses whilst living army life.

As AFF prepares to launch Forces Families Jobs (see pages 14-15), we spoke to Sarah Walker, project manager at the University of Wolverhampton, which has helped many of those companies through its Supporting the Unsung Hero (SUH) business start-up programme.

“The University is proud to sponsor Forces Families Jobs in support of spousal employment,” she said. “For more than six years it’s championed spousal education and employment initiatives, working closely with the MOD and families federations to influence policy. The SUH community network is very supportive and has made a positive impact on the lives of many of our members.”

The SUH programme continues to grow and its training course and mentoring programme, sponsored by HSBC, is delivered free to forces families in the UK and overseas.
So, what’s it really like to be self-employed and juggle all that army life can throw at you? We met a few military spouses to find out…


Daisy Rogers, Artist and tutor, West Hampshire School of Art

About me
I’ve been an army wife for 10 years; after six moves we settled in our own home with our three sons.

Starting my business
After A-Levels I had planned to study art, but life took a different path. I hadn’t picked up a paint brush for 15 years until 2016. A drawing class reminded me how much I love it, so I started drawing children and pets of friends on the patch, and from that came my first commissions. I’ve since set up a non-profit fine art school.

Fitting it with army life
My husband went on a tour last year and amongst the family dramas that seem to happen when your soldier leaves the country, I started the art school from my kitchen! I’ve made the most of his post-tour leave to really focus on the business.

My top tip
Surround yourself with positivity, but also those who will give you honest feedback.


Robbie Sturman, Plasterer, RS Plastering & Rendering Services Ltd

About me
Stacey and I have been together for 16 years and have two daughters. After leaving school I worked in an abattoir whilst she went through basic training.

Starting my business
When Stacey fell pregnant, I trained to be a plasterer and after a few years I became self-employed. I’d worked here and there and built a good reputation. Then recently everything took off and I needed to find guys to work alongside me – my business became a limited company this April.

Fitting it with army life
My biggest challenge is starting again every time we move. I see it as a positive because it got me away from my home town and helped me to better my career. The army has always helped Stacey with any dramas such as childcare problems and time off.

My top tip
Don’t hesitate to give it a go. Failing is all part of learning.


Gemma Riste, Beautician, The Beauty Lounge

About me
I’ve been married to a soldier for ten years and we have three children. I’ve always had an interest in the beauty industry.

Starting my business
I used our posting to Germany as the catalyst and converted our cellar into a beauty salon. But as is the way with army life, two years later it was time to return to the UK. I had to re-establish my business almost from scratch and I’ve now renovated a former post office into my own salon.

Fitting it with army life
There have been tears, laughter and uncertainty, but with some stubbornness and determination, the salon is now award-winning.

My top tip
It’s easy to use the instability and transient nature of forces life as a reason not to follow your dreams. If the opportunity allows, the circumstances are right and you’re prepared to take risks, go for it.


Nic Kellock, Counsellor, Talkmoves Counselling

About me
I’m married to an army chaplain, and this month we’re moving for the fifth time. I’ve worked in schools, for a charity combating addiction and been an AFF co-ordinator.

Starting my business
My passion for counselling developed years ago around the kitchen table where spouses spoke honestly about their struggles with military life, its isolation and relationship challenges. I studied a part-time degree in humanistic counselling. Encouragement from my husband as well as support from friends spurred me on.

Fitting it with army life
Finishing the course seems incredible to me given that I was juggling work, four children and my husband on an op tour. Passing the course was a high point and now I will be able to offer professional therapy wherever we find ourselves.

My top tip
Sign up for free courses, join social media and surround yourself with people who believe in you.


Kate Herbert, Picture framer, Well Hung Framing

About me
I’ve been an army wife since 2004 and had no idea what I was letting myself in for! I’ve been an estate agent, corporate event manager and have worked for an investment bank; nothing particularly transferable.

Starting my business
I needed something which I could fit around the children; I didn’t want to go back to an office environment. I did a short course in picture framing before taking the plunge, initially as a hobby before growing the business into a full-time job which I love.

Fitting it with army life
I hate losing my clients whenever I move, but I love being able to ‘down tools’ for a few weeks when the family are all at home. By the same token, I take on loads of work when they’re away.

My top tip
Do your research and choose something that you feel passionate about.


Jess Smithers, Coach and business mentor, Jessica Smithers Coaching

About me
I joined the army as a single mum to my three-year-old boy and served for five years. I also met my now husband, a corporal in the REME.

Starting my business
I was pregnant at the time I was posted and moved alone with my son. I fell into a state of loneliness and depression and began to think there had to be another way. It led me on a journey to becoming a neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, mindfulness coach and business mentor.

Fitting it with army life
I get the best results when I’m 100 per cent focused on one thing at a time. When we moved house, I told my clients I’d be taking the week off and then resumed the business as normal.

My top tip
Find a mentor who you can connect with. There needs to be a mutual bond to know they are the right one.


Harriet Westcott, Business owner, Cover Me Baby

About me
I’ve been a military wife for eight years. We’ve had three children and seven house moves.

Starting my business
Having left my job as a primary school teacher to be a stay-at-home mum for five years, I got to the stage where I needed to get my baby brain working again. I wanted to create a multi-use baby product to allow parents like me to carry less stuff around. I found a manufacturer and Cover Me Baby was born in 2018.

Fitting it with army life
My children are my priority and squeezing everything into an already busy day is full on. Being in a military community is an advantage as everyone helps each other out.

Top tip
Make the most of the many people and resources out there to help you.

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